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Rabbit Bot Fly (Cuterebra buccata)

Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Rabbit Bot Fly

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Image Credit: Mike D. taken in Woodbridge, VA
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Image Credit: Mike D. taken in Woodbridge, VA
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Image Credit: Mike D. taken in Woodbridge, VA
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The parasitic maggots of a big-eyed Rabbit Bot Fly leave open sores on the host animals they grow in.

Updated: 01/05/2022; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
The Rabbit Bot Fly does not bite. It does not sting. The black, white, and gray fly is big for its kind. Its black eyes are large, and in certain light have a red band in the center. The top half of the face is black with white dots and the bottom half is white with black dots. Adults are non-feeders and focus solely on reproduction and are rarely seen. It is the larval form (maggot) of the species that gets all the attention.

Females will lay fertilized eggs on or around the burrow or scrape of a rabbit. These eggs are picked up by the rabbit in a variety of ways: catching its fur as it passes, possibly inhaled or maybe even swallowed. The egg migrates through the internal body of the rabbit and settles on an area just under the skin. This area could be on the neck, throat, stomach or appendages. Once settled, the egg hatches internally and the larva (maggot) grows. A large tumor-like bump forms. This bump is called a warble. A hole is created in the warble to allow the maggot to breathe called a warble hole. The maggot will grow larger and eventually push itself out of the animal through the warble hole and fall to the ground. There, it will encase itself and pupate. Once it has finished pupating, it emerges as a flying adult. The animal host is left with an open wound that is likely to get infected without proper care.

Rabbit Bot Fly eggs cannot select which kind of animal it encounters, so there are cases where small animals like squirrels and rodents as well as house pets are found with warbles. This parasitic fly does not kill its host and only resides inside it for a short time. Veterinarians can remove the maggot in a pet and treat the warble hole so it heals properly and does not create an infection. ©InsectIdentification.org

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General Characteristics

Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Flying insect icon
Hairy insect icon
Rounded insect body icon

Taxonomic Hierarchy

Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Diptera
        Family: Oestridae
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          Genus: Cuterebra
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            Species: buccata

Identifying Information

Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Cuterebra buccata
Other Name(s): Warble Fly, Heel Fly
Category: Fly or Mosquito
Size (Adult; Length): 20mm to 30mm (0.78" to 1.18")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black; white; gray
Descriptors: flying; large; fat; plump; round; big; hairy; speckled

Relative Size Comparison

Typical Size Between 20mm (0.8in) and 30mm (1.2in)
Lo: 20mm
Md: 25mm
Hi: 30mm

Territorial Map*

U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Rabbit Bot Fly may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Rabbit Bot Fly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.
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