Here Are All Of The Gnarly Bugs That Love To Feed Off Of Human Flesh

When it comes to human-eating bugs, you might recall the awful scenes from The Mummy in which masses of scarab beetles devour people alive. Well, not to worry - that's a movie myth and those particular insects that feed on human flesh aren't real. That being said, there are still plenty of other bugs out there that do love to munch on people. In fact, bugs that eat people are more common than you might think. To be clear, some of these insects prefer to eat us after we're dead, but quite a few are fine with chowing down on us while we're still alive!

In the pursuit of facts about flesh-eating insects, there's a whole lot more to worry about than just the diseases you can get from bugs - many of these critters consume human flesh just for the calories. Please be aware that some of the following descriptions are quite graphic, and are not fit for people who are particularly squeamish. But, if bugs don't bother you, then read your own risk.


  • The Tumbu Fly Hides In Your Clothes In Order To Feed Off Your Flesh

    The Tumbu Fly Hides In Your Clothes In Order To Feed Off Your Flesh
    Photo: Internet Archive Book Images / flickr / No known copyright restrictions

    While most fly maggots are perfectly content feeding off of infected or decaying flesh, the Tumbu fly is an exception. This female fly seeks out clothing that's been contaminated by some amount of urine or fecal matter, and that's where it lays its eggs. Then, when a person wears the clothing, the eggs themselves will burrow down into their skin until they're ready to hatch.

    At this point, a person might notice a blister or boil on their skin, or they might think it's just a minor infection, but in reality, it's the larvae feeding on their flesh, blood, and other tissues. Some people only realize that they have the larvae living inside of them when they finally come out of the sore, along with a lot of pus.

    On top of how disgusting this is, it can actually be extremely dangerous as well. The flies can cause severe health problems, and even death, so ironing clothing that might be infected before wearing it is recommended, as it kills all the eggs. 

  • Jigger Infestations Will Leave You Looking Like A Honeycomb
    Photo: British Museum of Natural History / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Look up images of the damage that these creatures can do at your own risk. Also known as the chigoe flea, these little bugs most commonly attack the feet, where they initially burrow in and then do their damage. The female flee burrows into the skin, eating her way into the flesh. Once there, its torso swells with eggs and food, until it is the shape of a pea with its rear facing outward. She then feeds, lays eggs, and drops off. This can sometimes happen with large infestations, all of them eating away together at the flesh around the feet, knees, elbows, and ankles. They also like to target the fingernails and toenails as easy points of entry.

    Unfortunately, these critters can do some serious damage. When they finally drop off, they can leave the flesh looking like an empty honeycomb, and the chance of infection is incredibly high. Without treatment, which involves literally cutting them out of your skin, many people have actually died from jigger infestations.

  • Botfly Larvae Will Burrow Into Your Skin And Feed Off Of You From The Inside

    If you're in search of one of the most horrifying flesh-eating insects in the world, then look no farther. Human Botflies, once grown into adulthood, aren't much of a threat to humans, but when they're still larvae, their ravenousness is absolutely chilling. Here's how it all goes down: First an adult fly lays its eggs on a mosquito, and then that mosquito bites a human. The eggs then move into the hole made by the mosquito while it feeds, and slowly begin to grow inside of its new host. There, the larvae will drink the person's blood and eat their flesh for about three months or so, until they grow into adult flies and decide to leave. In some horrifying cases, botfly larvae have burrowed behind a person's ear, and could be heard munching and chewing on the living tissue.

    On top of all of that, to keep from being torn out of their host's body, the larvae are covered with a ton of little spines that hold them in place. This means that, as they feed, they will be nearly impossible to pluck out without specialized tools.

  • Carnivorous Bees Wont Leave Any Flesh Behind

    Carnivorous Bees Wont Leave Any Flesh Behind
    Photo: zenabir / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Yellow Jackets are a frustrating - and frightening - insect to many, and can be particularly aggressive in certain situations. However, to make matters worse, they can also sometimes be part of a group of insects known as carnivorous bees. While these carnivorous bees usually like to feed on other insects and bees like themselves, they will sometimes find themselves in the mood for a protein boost and try consuming other types of meat. This is why there have been so many cases reported of them swarming picnics where burgers or hot dogs are being served. In Central America, the Panama Bee is a carnivorous bee that consumes flesh not only to make nests, but as a means of nourishment. 

    But rest assured - the average yellow jacket isn't going to go around trying to bite off your fingers. Most carnivorous bees stick to insects their own size, and prefer to feed off of corpses rather than live animals. Because of that, bees are more likely to nibble on your flesh once you're dead.

  • African Driver Ants Will Suffocate You And Then Eat You From The Inside

    African Driver Ants Will Suffocate You And Then Eat You From The Inside
    Photo: giovzaid85 / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    One or two ants roaming about have never seemed to cause anyone too much of a problem, even if they do love the taste of human flesh. However, finding yourself under attack by a swarm of ants, such as Army Ants or African Driver Ants, can be a potentially deadly set of circumstances. African Driver Ants are particularly terrifying, because they are nomadic, carnivorous, and enjoy eating human meat.

    They can easily overwhelm an injured person and suffocate them under a massive pile of their bodies before crawling inside. They will then eat their victim from the inside out, and can strip the flesh off of bones in less than a day. And they don't particularly care if you are alive or dead when they start doing it.

    Of course, for this to happen you'd have to remain mostly stationary (or be horribly injured), there would have to be a whole lot of ants around, and you'd have to not try to fight them off. And you'd have to be in Africa. In other words, it's very unlikely to happen.

  • Fly Maggots Will Embed Themselves In Your Skin

    Fly Maggots Will Embed Themselves In Your Skin
    Photo: treegrow / flickr / CC-BY 2.0

    Before flies turn into the humming insects we all know and hate, they start out as tiny larvae better known as maggots. These maggots love to eat pretty much anything - and that includes our own flesh after we die. This is why you often hear about maggots appearing on corpses, be them human or otherwise. That being said, maggots can sometimes develop a taste for live flesh, too! In tropical, humid locations or places where there is particularly bad sanitation, maggots will sometimes infect wounds and eat living skin, muscle, and fat. When they manage to do this, they will most often be found living under the skin. Apparently alive or dead, we're just that tasty.

    Surprisingly enough, maggots eating at our bodies can actually be beneficial! They typically focus on eating dead flesh, so in cases where dead flesh is still attached to a person, such as after a severe burn, maggots can be used to help get rid of the stuff that would otherwise rot. It's a horrifying concept, but they've been used by doctors for centuries.