It all started with Radiolab

5 years ago

Radiolab on NPR is my favorite podcast.  If you've never heard of it before or know of it but have never listened to it, you're missing out on something spectacular.

The point of Radiolab is to take science and make it fun by adding sounds and the modulations of different people speaking, almost a cacophony of voices and sounds that create a symphony of science.  Radiolab uses the people  actually involved in the particular science story they're talking about. It brings a certain quality of "being in the moment" to your listening.

The founders of Radiolab are named Jad and Rob. And they're geniuses. So I encourage you to take an opportunity to give them a listen. They're on Friday nights, on NPR, after All Things Considered. Or you can simply download their podcast from iTunes free of charge.

And that's how it all got started.

I was listening to them one day with Emma and they were talking to a biologist who had gone to South America. He had been bitten by a mosquito. Said mosquito had a bot fly on it.  The mosquito bit the biologist on the head enabling the bot fly to lay her egg on his pate.

The larva of the fly dug into the biologist's skin and began to grow.  At first the biologist wasn't sure what this was growing on his head.  He could even feel it moving around.

*Please take a moment to gag if you need to.

But when he figured it out, he was fascinated.  After all, he is a biologist.  So, he left the larva in his head.

Let's call him Nick, not the biologist, the larvae.

Nick was slightly painful but nothing that the scientist could not endure.  Nick grew and grew and grew (not unlike The Very Hungry Caterpillar) until the biologist needed to wear a baseball cap to cover his head so people run screaming as they walked by him.

You see, a bot fly larva needs air to breathe. Once Nick gets under your skin, he eats a hole through your flesh so that he can take in air.  Nick didn't  look like a lump on his skin.  Nick looked like a large pus filled sore.

Did I forget to tell you they ooze?  They do.  It's their excrement.  Boy this story just gets better and better.

The biologist lived with Nick until Nick was big enough to pop out of his head. He was ready for adulthood.

This is what scientists do. Things the rest of us would find revolting.  They find exciting. What would life be like without them?

Onto the next segment of my story. As Emma and I were listening to Nick's story on Radiolab and I was clearly trying not to run to the bathroom and vomit,  Emma mentioned to me, "did I not know bot fly removal was one of the most popular YouTube videos you can find?".  She then proceeded to type in bot fly removal into her laptop so that I could witness the grossest medical advancement I have ever seen in my life.

The funny part is,  it's so gross you can't look away.  I've become obsessed with bot fly removal. It's like riding a roller coaster. It makes you sick but you still ride it again and again.

I can't help myself. I have to watch them..., over and over and over again.

Then it struck me. We have bot flies. Our horses get bot flies. The bot flies lay their eggs in areas that the horses will lick. The horses then ingest the eggs. The eggs hatch in their intestines and stomachs, a perfect place to grow.

Before you gasp in horror, this really is nothing to worry about because our horses are wormed every month. Deworming horses kills the bot fly eggs.

But it got me thinking again. I've seen the bot fly eggs on MacKenna. You can get them off but it takes a special razor blade like grooming item. They're very hard to remove.  They stick to the hair and they have to be scraped off with this special razor blade. Since they're killed when MacKenna is dewormed, it's almost pointless to spend all that time scraping them off. They're very tiny. You can hardly see them.

But now that I'm obsessed with them, I've become a freak.

MacKenna is my baby. I rub all over her, just like you would a real baby. I rub my head against her neck.  I rub my head against her mane. I rub my hands over her body and against her face. I lay on her back. I groom her legs.

She's a very person oriented horse.

Can you guess what I think? I have bot flies. Every time I think about it my head itches.  My skin itches.  Every part of me itches.

Liz and Emma have both tried to explain to me that these are not South American bot flies. They are North American bot flies. And unless I picked them off of MacKenna and ate them. They can't harm me.  I know this is true.  I've googled it and we all know the internet never lies.

But what do I do now? I watch videos every day of bot flies. I cover myself from head to toe when I spend any time with MacKenna. I'm fairly certain this is going to cause MacKenna to question her superiority as a thoroughbred. But I don't care.

Moral of this story is - don't watch bot fly removal videos. I know I posted one but don't watch it. And never take science for granted. There are little beasties everywhere just waiting to eat us alive. It's my contention that one day they will conquer the world and we will all be sorry that we fell asleep in high school or college biology.

Forget Zombies, I'm running from bot flies.


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