Blowfly Life Cycle and Facts

Christine Liddell, Sujata Archer
  • Author
    Christine Liddell

    Christine Liddell graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2019 with a Bachelor of Science in Mining Engineering. She has tutored English and History, as well as STEM classes, such as Statics, Calculus, and Thermodynamics.

  • Instructor
    Sujata Archer
Learn what blowflies are. Understand how blowflies are born. Learn about the complete life cycle of blowflies. Know some interesting facts about blowflies. Updated: 12/08/2021

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Blowfly

What is a blowfly? Blowflies, also known as bluebottles, greenbottles, or screwworms, are part of the Calliphoridae family of the Diptera order, or insects with two wings. Blowflies are similar to house flies, but they are larger. Blowflies can be green, blue, copper, or purple in color. Blowflies thrive in warm, humid weather and do not do well in windy, extremely dry, extremely hot, or cold weather.

Example of a member of the Calliphoridae family, of which blowflies are a part

Example of a member of the Calliphoridae family

Blowfly Facts

Blowfly larvae are also known as maggots. The term applies to footless larvae of Diptera. Blowfly adults, however, are usually shiny and metallic-looking. The area between the head and the abdomen, or thorax, which bears the legs and wings, along with the abdomen, is usually colored blue, green, or black. Blowflies have antennae containing three segments with a shiny, bristly tip. All three of the antennae segments are feathery, or plumose, and the second segment is grooved. Blowflies have well-developed calypters, which are small membranous flaps or lobes that are located at the base of the wing. Blowflies can be distinguished from other members of the Calliphoridae family by the characteristics and arrangements of hairlike bristles. All blowflies have bristles located on the meron or a hard body part on the side of an insect's thorax. Blowflies feed off of cadavers and live in wounds or openings, such as the eyes and nose.

In the 1950s and 1960s, one to three percent of sheep were affected by myiasis or blowfly strike. This occurs when blowflies invade the sheep's living tissue by laying eggs, such as in a wound, causing skin and muscle damage. Myiasis could cause death in sheep. Signs a sheep had myiasis included different grazing patterns and subsequent rapid weight loss. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) solved the problem by eradicating the screwworm by introducing sterile male screwworms into the population, thus not allowing for reproduction. Blowflies do have some positive uses, however. Blowflies, particularly greenbottles, are used in maggot debridement therapy, or MDT. This treatment is used for diabetics who have wounds that do not heal. The maggot enters the wound and changes the pH, preventing bacterial growth. Blowflies also help solve crimes. Forensic entomologists calculate the time since blowfly eggs are first laid in a dead body since blowflies feed off of cadavers. Scientists take a sample from the cadaver to determine the species and stage of growth, using the life cycle of a blowfly. The insect-derived time of the murder is known as minimum post-mortem interval (PMImin). Although blowflies are most commonly used, forensic entomology can also use insects, arachnids, centipedes, millipedes, and crustaceans to determine not just the time of death, but also the presence of drugs or poisons, the location of an incident, or the time of wound infliction. Forensic entomology can be divided into three subcategories: urban, stored-product, and medico-legal or medico-criminal entomology.

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  • 0:04 Blow Flies Life Cycle
  • 2:09 Blow Flies Facts
  • 2:41 Blow Flies Uses
  • 4:01 Blow Flies & Forensics
  • 4:37 Lesson Summary
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Frequently Asked Questions

How long is the life cycle of a blowfly?

The life cycle of a blowfly lasts about two to three weeks. The cycle begins with a female blowfly laying eggs and ends with an adult blowfly looking to mate.

What are the 6 stages of a blowfly life cycle?

The first life cycle stage is when a female lays eggs in a cadaver or wound. Within 24 hours, the eggs hatch and become first-stage larvae or maggots. They then feed and molt and become second-stage larvae. They feed and molt again and become third-stage larvae. After the three larval stages, they become pupae. The sixth and final stage is adulthood.

What do blowfly larvae eat?

Blowfly larvae, or maggots, have enzymes that can break down protein. These enzymes allow them to consume semi-liquid material from a carcus.

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