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What Are Maggots & Leeches?

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Maggots and leaches have been known to feast on living creatures, including humans. The less-than-appealing diet of these insects often gives them a bad reputation among humans, and most people avoid maggots and leaches whenever possible. If you do encounter maggots or leaches, it can be helpful if you are able to recognize them and understand what they do to survive.


Maggots are larvae that eventually will mature into full grown flies. Maggots can be up to 1/2 inch in length and often are a yellowish or creamy color. These larval insects look like worms, but they survive by eating decaying biological materials. It is normal for maggots to consume decaying vegetation, feces or even rotting meat. Some types of maggots, such as the larvae of the tumbu fly, also will eat live flesh and may burrow into living creatures.

Dealing With Maggots

Individuals living in warm climates or areas with a significant fly population probably will have to deal with maggots eventually. Keeping your local fly population down by using fly traps and pesticides can help minimize the chances of discovering maggots in your home or garden. Do not allow trash or dead animals to sit exposed outside. Dispose of all trash and any animal carcasses quickly and properly to prevent maggots from appearing around your home.


Leeches are small, slimy worms that live in damp areas. In the United States, you are most likely to encounter a leech if you are swimming in a pond or lake, or walking through swampy areas. Leeches have been given a bad reputation because some types of leech survive by feeding on the blood of mammals, including humans. Leeches can suck up to 10 times their original body size in blood if they are allowed to feed on a host for approximately 30 minutes. When leeches have finished feeding, they will release their prey and drop off of the skin.

Dealing With Leeches

Leeches sometimes are used in medical treatments, but most people simply find them to be a rather disgusting nuisance. If you want to avoid becoming a leech's next meal, wear clothes that cover your exposed skin when you are walking through damp or swampy areas. Avoid swimming in stagnant bodies of water. If you do pick up a leech, you can pry it off by sliding your fingernail under the end of the leech with the sucker and separating it from your skin. If you do not remove the leech, it will fall off on its own when it is full. Leeches are not poisonous, but you should make sure to keep leech bites clean and treat them with a topical ointment to prevent infection.