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How to Get Rid of Maggots, Step by Step

Man taking out the trash with maggots
Alina Kruk / Shutterstock

What do maggots look like?

Maggots are baby flies or the larval stage of a fly. They are conically shaped and often a grey or creamy white color. It is hard to differentiate the species of flies from their maggots, but if this is your goal, the University of Kentucky has put together a guide to recognizing larval types. Most maggots found in or around the home are from the common housefly or bluebottle fly.

Close up photo of maggots

Holger Kirk /Shutterstock

Maggots are burrowers with their head-end being the more pointed end for digging in. Depending on the kind of fly, maggots feed on either live or rotting materials. They burrow in as they eat through the material, leaving circular, chewed holes scattered throughout.

How do you get maggots?

The top causes of maggots in or around your home include improperly stored trash, excess dog feces, or the presence of an animal carcass. The female flies are attracted to such materials and lay their eggs on them. When the eggs hatch, the maggots burrow into the material and begin to eat until their next metamorphic stage.

Although they are quiet invaders, maggots should be dealt with quickly. Some of the dangers of maggots include fly infestations and animal sickness if you have pets. If they get into any food meant for human consumption, they can cause bacterial poisoning.

How to check for maggots

In the home, maggots are generally easy to spot, with most of them being at least as big as a thumbnail. They will be crawling both in and out of any infested food substances. To check if they are inside of your garbage, take a stick or put on gloves to move the trash around and break food open to check inside.

To check if your pet has maggots, they will often be in a wound or under the skin.  You can also check by feeling the area to see if there is a hard bump under the flesh of the wound.

Some maggots eat plant material. You may notice plants that were once healthy are dying without anything else changing in their environment. To check for maggots, you may need to pull up one of these plants and check for maggots in the root mass and in the plant’s hole.

How long can maggot infestations last?

Maggots will only feed for three to five days. The process from egg to fly takes anywhere from 14 to 36 days and, if the material is still in an edible state, the process may start all over again. If the material isn’t properly disposed of, then an infestation will only continue to get worse.

How to get rid of maggots, step by step

Maggots can appear in many different areas throughout the home, yard, and — at worst — your pets. Each scenario will require a different treatment to rid you of the pesky invaders for good. Follow the guides below to learn how to kill maggots.

In the home

Step 1: Find all infested areas

As advised by Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, locate all areas where maggots are feeding or living. Search through food products that are in especially dirty areas of the home. If the foundation of your home is rotting in any area, you could find maggots in different rooms of the house.

Step 2: Kill maggots and eggs

If you find maggots in food or the trash, you can boil them and the eggs together to kill them. Another option is to thoroughly sprinkle them with salt or spray them with an insecticide. If you find them in carpeting or baseboards in your home, you will generally need to spray. You can use a spot spray treatment if the infestation is small, or you might have to use a broader spray to take care of a larger infestation.

Step 3: Clean thoroughly

Rinse or wash the area or garbage can out that contained the maggots. You can use a fly repellent to discourage future infestations.

In pets

Step 1: Check for the presence of maggots

As described above, before taking any treatment, you want to verify that your pets do have maggots. Look in recent wounds and between toe joints for anything moving or hard lumps under the skin.

Step 2: Take them to the vet

The best thing that you can do to ensure the safety of your pet is to take them to the vet. Veterinarians will be able to kill maggots and rid your pet of the infestation without doing any harm to the animal.

Step 3: Keep them clean

Keep your pets clean and repel further infestations by washing them with pet shampoo during high season for egg-laying flies.

In the yard

Step 1: Locate the region of the infestation

Even if you know that you have a maggot infestation, you need to determine the scope of it in your yard. Dig up the ground around plants that are suffering to check for any large holes dug into the root mass of the plants.

Step 2: Spray or dust to clear the region

To clear out the infected area, use a vegetable and fruit spray all over the soil of the area. You can also dust the area with a similar treatment if there is a concern the spray could drift.

Products You Can Use to Treat a Maggot Infestation

Don’t want to use chemical cleaners? Here’s how to get rid of maggots naturally

Maggots do not have a hard outer shell to protect them as other harmful insects do. This makes killing them by natural or organic means easier. Several home remedies are effective at ending a maggot infestation and cleaning out the infected areas.

If the maggots are in a trash bin, empty the trash bin and dispose of the materials that were inside. Then, fill the trash bin with boiling water. Another option is to set up a feast for the birds, putting out the trash can in an area where birds are common and can quickly pick through.

If you find areas infected with maggots outside of the bin, pouring lime or lemon juice over them should be enough to kill them. Make sure to spray it over the entirety of the area to kill any eggs that have not yet hatched. Another home remedy is to use diatomaceous earth, spreading it over the soil or infested area.

When to call a professional exterminator to treat maggots

The time might come when the maggot infestation is out of your control (or you just can’t stand to deal with it). This might be when the infestation has taken over several rooms in the house or if you have tried to clean an area out multiple times and the infestation has returned.

Another time that you may need to call a professional is if you are unable to identify the pest which will make it difficult to properly treat the problem.

How to keep maggots out of your home

To prevent a maggot infestation, it is important to prevent flies from being attracted to your home or yard. Be sure to clean up any food promptly and store it in sealed containers will keep odors from attracting flies into your home. If you have pet food out, you may want to keep the dish covered to keep flies out of it and remove old food quickly.

If you keep compost in your yard, be sure to keep it covered or sealed to keep the flies out. Finally, make sure to keep the yard clean of any animal feces.

The bottom line on maggots

Starting with prevention will be an effective way to keep maggots out of the home. If you do suffer from an infestation, treating it with a chemical spray may be the quickest way to get rid of the problem. If you would prefer to use a home remedy, lime or lemon juice, salt, and boiling water are all useful methods to exterminate the problem.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get maggots in a home?
Flies come in through open windows or doors if they sense any food or waste odors. They will lay eggs on the food and the eggs hatch into maggots.

Are there natural remedies to get rid of maggots?
Using lime or lemon juice will kill maggots. Sprinkling a large amount of salt over them also does the trick. Strong vinegar or boiling water will kill them as well.

What are maggots a sign of?
Maggots may be a sign that food sat out for too long or was not disposed of properly, or perhaps you left windows or doors open for too long. Keep an eye on any pet wounds to prevent infestation there, too.

How do I get rid of maggots in my pets?
You may need to shave the hair around their wound to effectively see and remove the maggots. Washing them with treated shampoo or applying a topical salve to the wound or infected area may also help, though the safest route is just to take them to the vet immediately.


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