Can you eat maggots?

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “Can you eat maggots”. We will further elaborate on the taste, appearance, behavior, nutritional content and uses of maggots along with some recipes that include maggots.

Can you eat maggots?

Yes, you can eat maggots. In fact, maggots are treated as traditional super-food. Maggots are one of the most revolting insects. The taste of maggots is sweet and sour just like honey with a tang. 

The appearance of maggots

The color of maggots is usually gray or sometimes it might be white. Maggots are conical shaped insects. The head end of maggots is pointed. The purpose of this pointed head is burrowing since maggots are burrowers. The mouthparts are usually yellow. The back is hairy and the overall diameter is about 8–10 mm. The squamae at the base of the wings are hairless (1).

The nutritional content of maggots

Following are some nutrients that you can avail of by eating maggots.

  • Protein
  • Fat
  • Fiber
  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Selenium

Maggots are harvested by several methods. In the flotation method, the manure is mixed with water and the larvae and pupae float out to be collected with a sieve. In the screening method, the manure is spread in a thin layer on a screen net (3 mm) placed over a basin: the larvae try to escape the sunlight by passing through the screen and fall into the basin. The collected larvae are washed, killed in tepid or hot water and then dried and milled (2). 

A study showed that a maggot meal contains, on average, 50.4% protein, 5.7% fiber, 18.9% fat and 10.1% ash. In 1.0 g, contains: 4.7 mg Ca, 16.0 mg P, 5.7 mg Na, 5.2 mg Mg and 3.4 mg Fe, 1.0. The main amino acids are glutamic acid, aspartic acid and lysine. The mais fatty acids in the larvae meal are palmitic acid, oleic acid and linoleic acid (2).

The behavior of maggots

There is rapid reproduction of maggots in summer when maggots can appear in massive quantities, resulting in a maggot infestation and an increased risk of myiasis in some animals like sheep. Humans too can contract myiasis sometimes. The interaction of maggots with humans takes place close to garbage cans.

The eggs, at 27°C, take about 18 hours to hatch, following their deposition. Larval development requires approximately four days at 20°C and three days at 27°C. There are three instars through which the larvae develop. Once fully developed, the 3rd instar larvae leave the host or carrion and burrow into the soil or substrate surrounding it. Pupal development takes approximately 10 days at 21°C, after which the adult fly emerges. After mating, adult females lay clusters of up to 200 eggs at a time, on the host or carcass. There can be multiple generations per year (1).

The reproduction of maggots takes place exponentially if it remains unchecked. Parasites, diseases and natural predators control the number of maggots.  

Some uses of maggots

Maggots can be utilized for various purposes. Following are some uses of maggots.

Fishing: To catch non-predatory fish, commercial suppliers use maggots. By throwing maggots in the seawater, anglers attract fish to the area. Maggots are sold in large amounts by commercial suppliers in the UK. They are treated as ice fishing bait in North America.

Medical treatment: Maggots can be used for maggot therapy. In maggot therapy, live, disinfected maggots are inculcated into the soft wounds of humans and animals.  After incorporation, these feed on dead tissues while leaving healed tissues. Larvae are placed on a wound, the wound is then wrapped and the larvae feed on the necrotic (dead) tissue and bacteria that occur in an infected wound. Their activity in a wound increases the promotion of healthy tissue growth. This is achieved by not only eating the decomposing tissue but also secreting and producing antimicrobial enzymes while in the wound. Most patients receiving maggot therapy treatment have no pain. Initially, contamination of wounds was a concern, but proper use of sterile maggots has eliminated any chance of maggot-transmitted microorganisms (1).

Some maggots like three mid-gut lysozymes of P. sericata have antibacterial properties. The ability of bacteria to survive decreases when bacteria pass through the intestine of maggots.

Forensic sciences: To predict elapsed time since death, maggots can be used on a corpse. Forensic entomologists can get information about the time of death by observing insects present at crime scenes. This species is one of the first insects to arrive at a corpse, and may have appeared on carcasses in experiments within minutes of death (1).

But this must be kept in mind that maggots are effective after about twenty-five to eighty hours of post-mortem interval. This time can fluctuate depending on ambient conditions.

Some facts about maggots

Following are some interesting facts about maggots:

Intense life cycle: As soon as maggot larvae hatch, these can get to work feasting immediately. Maggots transform from a mushy mass to a fully grown insect, while being inside the shell.

Voracious eaters: Although there is no proper digestive system of maggots, they have an endless appetite. With the help of the front end of their mouth, they grab food.

Maggots can eat each other: Although not but some maggots can eat other maggots.

Heat production: Digestive juices of maggots have the potential to heat the surrounding environment. They deal with this by reverting to cooler places when the temperature gets extremely hot

Different recipes in which maggots are used

Following are some different recipes in which maggots can be used

Maggots in miasma: Rice, milk and sugar is combined in a dish. After placing these, it is covered with plastic wrap and then some holes are made into it with a knife. 

After heating it for ten minutes, plastic is removed and the bowl is returned to the microwave uncovered. It is then cooked for about forty minutes and is stirred three to four times. You must keep in mind that rice must be tendered and pudding must be creamy.

Maggot stew: Oil is placed in a stew pot. Flour, salt, pepper and garlic powder is mixed into a ziplock bag. The contents of the bag are placed into a stew pot. Then heat is turned up. Meat must be turned after every five minutes. A long spoon is used for this purpose. 

Meat is cooked until it becomes brown on both sides and becomes crusty. Carrots are peeled and cut into small coins by using a knife. After simmering the stew for an hour, carrots and green beans are added to the pot. Then it is covered and simmered again for forty minutes. 

Orzo is cooked in a saucepan following the directions written on the package. Once it becomes tender, it is drained through a colander into the sink. This step is performed to remove excess water.

Conclusion

In this brief article, we have provided an answer to the question, “Can you eat maggots”. We have further elaborated on the taste, appearance, behavior, nutritional content and uses of maggots along with some recipes that include maggots.

References

  1. Anderson, M and Kaufman,P.E. Featured Creatures, 2011. University of Florida.
  2. Makkar, Harinder PS, et al. State-of-the-art on use of insects as animal feed. Anim feed sci technol, 2014, 197, 1-33.

Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.