What Are Mango Worms? Causes, Treatments And Where You'll Find Them

Ritwik Bhuyan
Mar 04, 2023 By Ritwik Bhuyan
Originally Published on Oct 14, 2021
Edited by Jade Scott
Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi
A dog taking a shower with soap and water
Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.6 Min

Mango worms are parasites that can really irritate you or the skin of your pet dog, so take notice!

Mango worms are the larvae of Cordylobia anthropophaga (also known as the mango fly) and are found in large parts of Africa. C. anthropophaga is known by many different names such as the putzi fly, tumbu fly, skin maggot fly, or tumba fly.

Mango flies need high temperature and humidity to thrive, however, as they can be transferred via fruit, they can be seen anywhere in the world. The fly larvae, also called mango worms, are the main parasites of animals and humans. Infestation of these parasites has been seen in dogs, cats, foxes, goats, and even humans. The little eggs of the maggots can infest the skin of hosts and they can spread very quickly. The infection can quickly jump between people and animals too. The mango fly larvae burrow into the skin and cause irritating and painful pus-filled lesions (boils). To complete their life cycle, the larvae of a mango fly need animals as hosts. This helps them turn into adult mango flies (C. anthropophaga) in due time. Female mango flies lay their eggs on the soil or dirt in the ground that usually smells of urine or feces.

However, eggs have also been laid in clothing, bedding, towels, and any other clothes kept outside. Clothes with the smell of sweat can also be the perfect hosts for mango fly eggs. These eggs hatch and then the actual parasite, mango worms, come out. Mango fly larvae can survive without a host for two weeks. Until then, the whole purpose of their life is to lie in waiting for a host to come in contact with the surface they are laid in. Once an animal or humans touch the surface, the larvae burrow into the skin and feed off the living tissues of the host, continuing to grow. This can easily continue for two to three weeks and you might notice a red, swollen boil forming on the body of the host with a small hole at the top.

Once the mango worms develop and become mature, they fall off the skin of the pet or the human. The usual symptoms of a mango fly infestation are mild to severe itching, infection, pain, boils on the skin, bumps, and the feeling of something moving under the skin. As humans, you will be able to feel a tumbu fly infection but a pet dog or cat cannot speak of their problems. You can check your pet for reddened skin, lumps, blisters, severe scratching, bald spots, and pain. A dog might even show some behavioral changes. Dogs won't know about an infestation until the worms get bigger, so make sure to keep on checking their fur from time to time.

If you enjoyed this article, why not also read the answers to what are jiggers and what are grubs here on Kidadl?

Where in the world do you find mango worms?

Mango flies are known to live in warm and humid regions of the world. They can be easily seen in tropical regions of sub-Saharan Africa.

Although the African tumbu fly is seen in the tropical areas of Africa, the larvae or the worm can easily travel all around the world with the help of transport on clothing and other apparel. People visiting these areas can also bring the worm back with them and then spread it all over the home. As the worm needs a host in the form of humans or animals, it will search in the nearby areas and begin its infestation. Dogs are at very high risk.

Where do mango worms come from and what causes them?

Mango worms arise from the eggs of the mango flies/skin maggot flies (Cordylobia anthropophaga). They are parasitic larvae capable of infesting all animals and humans if given the chance.

The parasitic infestation by the worm in humans is called cutaneous myiasis. Let us talk about how these larvae or worms come to be. Female species of mango flies love to lay their eggs in dirt and soil in the ground. They love areas that smell of feces or urine, however, the larvae are also laid in clothing, bedding, and other soft fibers left outdoors. Clothes that smell of sweat also attracts these mango flies. The eggs laid by the maggot fly are so small that you cannot see them with naked eyes. Very quickly, these eggs hatch into larvae and the havoc begins right after.

Once the larvae get in contact with the skin of an animal or human, they burrow themselves under the skin and this process is painless. Living tissue of dogs and humans alike are fed on by these larvae as they continue their growth. A red boil will be seen in an infected dog or person. The boil will be seen with a hole or black dot at the top, and each boil on the body will have a maggot in it. The bumps will soon be filled with pus as the larvae continue to grow and you might feel the larvae moving under the skin sometimes. Once the larvae fully develop into maggots, they fall off the skin on the body and continue to grow.

Fluffy puppy scratches itself with its paw lying on the floor at home

How do dogs get mango worms and how dangerous are they?

Dogs and rodents are the most affected by mango worms in the animal kingdom. Humans are also at high risk of infection but due to our ability to speak and convey, we can more easily address the problem. Animals cannot let us know if they are infected by the parasite.

All dog owners should be aware of the risks of their dogs having parasites. Young and adult dogs alike all are known to get infected quite easily and mango worms can hurt your pet dog a lot. Mango worms can infest the skin of your dog when it goes digging in the soil or even just when walking on it. The larvae present in the soil burrow under the dog's skin and feed on the tissues. Dogs won't know what has happened until painful boils arise. The worms can be in your dog's body for two to three weeks. Boils are seen and then and within a couple of days, the maggots fall off. Serious consequences can arise from this infection if treatment is not received in time although it won't necessarily be fatal. Symptoms to look for in adult and young dogs are scratching and biting the skin, red boils, and changes in behavior. Go to your nearby clinic as soon as possible if you spot any of these symptoms.

How do you treat mango worms?

Seek professional help for the treatment of cutaneous myiasis as it is not easy to remove mango worms from a dog or human (although it is possible to do it yourself).

One way to remove the worms is hydraulic expulsion where doctors and vets inject the boils with epinephrine and lidocaine. This will let the fluid pressure push the larvae out. However, you might have to take the larvae out with something pointy such as tweezers. You can even squeeze the boil to force the larvae out. It is important to take the whole larvae out as any residue left can create an infection.

Covering the black dot or hole at the top with petroleum jelly or wax will block the air supply of the larvae. The larvae with no oxygen might come out to breathe and you can take them out with a pair of forceps. A course of antibiotics can help to treat the infection faster. The wounds left behind need antibiotics to heal.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what are mango worms then why not take a look at what are flies attracted to or Oregon giant earthworm facts.

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Written by Ritwik Bhuyan

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English

Ritwik Bhuyan picture

Ritwik BhuyanBachelor of Arts specializing in English

A skilled content writer, Ritwik holds a Bachelor's degree in English from Delhi University. He has refined his writing abilities through his past experience at PenVelope and his current role at Kidadl. In addition to his proficiency in writing, Ritwik has pursued his passion for flying by achieving CPL training and becoming a licensed commercial pilot. This diverse skill set highlights his commitment to exploring multiple fields. Ritwik's experience in the aviation industry has provided him with a unique perspective and attention to detail, which he brings to his writing.

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