Have you ever been field dressing or processing a deer and found a parasite or other noteworthy growth that did not seem normal? How about a large maggot in the nasal cavity? If so, you have discovered a nasal bot fly larva, a common parasite of white-tailed deer and other members of the deer (Cervid) family. Here is what you need to know about this parasite.
What Are They?
The bot fly life cycle begins when mature flies lay eggs on the muzzle or in the nostril lining of deer. After hatching, the larva migrate into the nasal passages and sinuses of the deer where they live until developed enough to drop out of the deer’s nose to the ground and pupate into adults. The larva can be identified as small white maggots as much as an inch in length and a ¼ inch in diameter living in the nasal linings of deer.
Are They Dangerous?
Nasal bots are a harmless parasite to deer. However, many biologists and researchers have noted observations of deer acting erratically when bot flies buzz by them, leading to the conclusion that being infected by bot flies is very uncomfortable to deer, as may be expected. However, consuming the meat from a deer having bot fly larvae in its sinuses IS SAFE. I have processed and consumed meat from numerous deer having nasal bots and this localized parasite does not affect the meat at all, so you can still enjoy your venison without any concern!
If you find yourself doing European skull mounts, extracting lymph nodes for CWD testing, or opening the nasal cavities of deer for any other reason, you will eventually discover bot fly larvae. Don’t be completely grossed out; while not visually appealing, it is cool to make such observations from harvested deer as it allows you to understand more about this awesome game animal we pursue!