Maggots are small, creeping insects that you're likely to find swarming all over your garbage, rotting food, or an animal carcass. They look like squirming grains of rice.
Technically speaking, maggots are the larval phase of insects in the order Diptera. Diptera are flies, but the word is often used to describe the larvae of other insect species, as well.
The insects lay eggs in rotting or dead plant or animal substances, and these eggs hatch in 8 to 20 hours into maggots. The maggots have no legs, but possess a hooklike appendage that helps them grasp food. They eat as much as they possibly can, and go through three phases of maturation before entering the pupa stage, in which they sequester themselves in a cocoonlike structure.
Maggots can cause serious health problems for pets, livestock, and even people. Flies breed rapidly during the summer, and an infestation can crop up quickly. Using a garbage disposal or containing garbage in an airtight bin can prevent the maggot population from spreading.
Maggots are bred and sold for use by fishermen, who use the creatures as fishing lures.
"Maggot therapy" is an ancient practice in which maggots are placed on a wound that's not healing properly. They eat away the dead skin, leaving the new skin intact.
While this may sound like an archaic practice, maggot therapy is still in use in thousands of medical centers across the globe today, including hundreds in the US.
Several commercial preparations can be purchased to rid your home of flies, and this of course interrupts the life cycle of maggots. Most of these preparations have very little effect on the larvae, however.
Pouring boiling water on maggots will generally kill them, and some swear by a formula containing both water and cleaning solutions. Other more exotic maggot killers include carburetor fluid and antifreeze.
The most important maggot management tool is garbage hygiene. Don't leave dead or rotting animal or plant matter out, and make sure to seal your trash as well as possible. Keep pets and children away from areas where garbage is stored.