America’s Never-Ending Battle Against Flesh-Eating Worms

I haven’t had the sensation of being both fascinated and grossed out in equal measure, at the same time before. But that’s what it felt like, reading this amazing article by Sarah Zhang entitled “America’s Never-Ending Battle Against Flesh-Eating Worms”.

I had never really heard of screwworms, and the danger they pose (across multiple countries) was news to me. The actual details of how they harm livestock (and well, any warm-blooded animal really) are definitely disturbing. But the lengths to which we are fighting against screwworms is nothing short of jaw-dropping.

Let me share a few quotations from the article. The first describes activity along the Panama-Colombia border:

Every week, planes drop 14.7 million sterilized screwworms over the rainforest that divides the two countries. A screwworm-rearing plant operates 24/7 in Panama. Inspectors cover thousands of square miles by motorcycle, boat, and horseback, searching for stray screwworm infections north of the border. The slightest oversight could undo all the work that came before.

And this, describing the author’s visit to the screwworm rearing facility:

“For me, beautiful,” said Sabina Barrios, the head of screwworm production, gesturing at the feeding pocket. What she saw were healthy screwworms that would grow big and fat. In a few days, they would turn into pupae, also big and fat, that could be sterilized with radioactive cobalt 60. And a couple of days after that, they would emerge as flies, vigorous and ready to mate. A hundred and fifteen people work to keep the plant operating 24 hours a day, every day, to produce 20 million of these flies a week.

This is some incredible reporting, and I’m in awe of both the breadth and scope of the effort to keep screwworms at bay. There’s a part of me that’s both relieved and terrified that such an effort exists.

[illustration by Cornelia Li, via MetaFilter]

The Worms Crawl In, the Worms Crawl Out
Buzzing and Alarms

This Post Has 0 Comments

Leave A Reply