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July 29, 2010 6:42 AM   Subscribe

Screwworms, once the scourge of livestock (as well as pets and occasionally humans [link to VERY GRAPHIC slideshow]) throughout the Western Hemisphere, have been eradicated from the United States since 1966. In addition to constant vigilance by veterinary services and livestock handlers, who treated wounds immediately and set traps [link to 1920s informational film], the method which ultimately led to control of this horrifying pest is sterile insect technique. Maps showing the progress of the technique can be seen here. The USDA's National Agriculture Library maintains a special collection on the Screwworm Eradication Program. Here is a good overview of the problem and the USDA's solution, complete with (somewhat gruesome) pictures and videos.

Annual producer benefits of the screwworm eradication are estimated at 796 million USD (USA), 292 million USD (Mexico), and 77.9 million USD (Central America).

However, the screwworm's eradication is somewhat tenuous, even in the US, Mexico, and Central America. Cases still present in animals shipped from affected areas, including Argentina, Jamaica, and Panama. A look at the final frontiers of screwworm eradication (PDF).
posted by fiercecupcake (58 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also, a fun scifi story. If my link stops working.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 6:51 AM on July 29, 2010 [6 favorites]


God, do NOT watch that slideshow. Jesus.
posted by Auden at 6:55 AM on July 29, 2010


Seconding Auden. Not only is it horrific, but you'll feel worse about the cats and the dogs than the humans, which won't make you feel like a good person.
posted by MuffinMan at 6:58 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've often wondered if a "dominant male" solution could be engineered for pest animals where the sperm determines the gender (XY). A male which produced only males which produced only males would wipe out the population pretty fast.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:00 AM on July 29, 2010


Wait, so since the fly uses live wounded animals, are the sterile male production facilities giant nightmare shows?
posted by a robot made out of meat at 7:11 AM on July 29, 2010


No, from what I read they're bred using massive pools of blood.... ok, that's pretty nightmarish.
posted by exhilaration at 7:13 AM on July 29, 2010


In the 1930s they set out traps to capture flies in the USDA Dallas and Menard stations and they figure, after accounting for lizard and other predation from the traps, that they captured 22,000 QUARTS of flies.

That's a lot of flies.
posted by norm at 7:13 AM on July 29, 2010


STOP DISCUSSING THIS! MAKE THIS THREAD GO AWAY!
posted by Astro Zombie at 7:14 AM on July 29, 2010 [4 favorites]


why you do this
posted by elizardbits at 7:18 AM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Could we talk about something a little less horrifying? Like drugged pet chimps who rip the faces off of unsuspecting passers-by?
posted by KokuRyu at 7:18 AM on July 29, 2010


D:
posted by Xany at 7:24 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


AZ, time to raise some sterile male MeFites and release them in this thread. ;]
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:31 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


oh hey guys whats going on in h OHMYGOD

no no no no no no no no no no
posted by castlebravo at 7:35 AM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


*irradiates own gonads*
posted by Sys Rq at 7:36 AM on July 29, 2010


I didn't even look at the pictures. There are some things you can't even unthink.
posted by gracedissolved at 7:48 AM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


My knowledge of Latin roots is pretty weak — does hominivorax mean what I think it does? If so, that just adds to my desire to hide in a corner and gibber softly.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:49 AM on July 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yes, it means "munches on humans". Mm, mm!
posted by norm at 7:50 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I safely avoided clicking on any photo links, so I can say thanks for this fascinating thread fiercecupcake. It's crazy things like this that have so vastly improved the quality of our lives that makes my blood boil at every anti-fedaralist. Ok, fine USPS isn't making money, when was the last time your infant was infected with parasitic maggots? Never? Ok keep paying taxes bub.
posted by fontophilic at 7:53 AM on July 29, 2010 [17 favorites]


After looking at that slideshow, I've never been more glad to hear about something being eradicated.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:54 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't google image search 'screwworm'. Trust me.
oh god the infected eye ugh
posted by tylermoody at 8:10 AM on July 29, 2010


i want to, but i know i shouldn't. i want to, but i know i shouldn't. i want to, but i know i shouldn't.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 8:18 AM on July 29, 2010 [10 favorites]


I agree with fontophilic, but remember, the United States Postal Service is self-funded through stamps
posted by leotrotsky at 8:22 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


does hominivorax mean what I think it does?

I'd rather not meet any of them, but surely cochliomyia hominivorax is less threatening than the dreaded hominivorax omnomnomnomius.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:33 AM on July 29, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh, dear. I got as far as "whose maggots eat live animal flesh" and started to get woozy. But I know I am probably going to come back and click some of those links. I'll probably do it shortly before bedtime tonight.

If human brains are that stupid and masochistic BEFORE being consumed by screwworms, well, I just don't know.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:34 AM on July 29, 2010


Oh, god. That slideshow is one of the most horrifying series of images I've ever seen collected in one place.

Dear Ask Metafilter: How do I rid myself of the lingering disinfectant odor that comes from repeatedly bathing my entire body in Lysol?
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 8:35 AM on July 29, 2010


So this is the origin of the scary nickname Screwface.
posted by bwg at 8:37 AM on July 29, 2010


Also, isn't "breed all _______ of only one sex" the technique used in Jurassic Park? Swell.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:38 AM on July 29, 2010


I don't know if it's better that I just ate rather than being on the verge of eating to click any of these links... or if it's worse to have a full stomach which could then be emptied.

I don't think that even SCIENCE could compel me to find out.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 8:39 AM on July 29, 2010


I agree with fontophilic, but remember, the United States Postal Service is self-funded through stamps

Plenty of stuff the anti-Federalists bitch about is done by fee-funded agencies or are fee-funded services, do you think it stops them from bitching?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:39 AM on July 29, 2010


This letter is a good description of the SIT as laid out by Knipling. Don't worry, no pictures of fly-infested wounds this time.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:55 AM on July 29, 2010


That sound you are hearing is me screaming.
posted by fuq at 8:55 AM on July 29, 2010


Someone needs to take that slideshow, rename it to "CutePuppySlideshow.pps", and send it to all their friends. Let's get a chain email going!
posted by blue_beetle at 8:56 AM on July 29, 2010 [2 favorites]


Don't google image search 'screwworm'. Trust me.

damn it now I have to do it.

MUST RESIST OMG
posted by Xany at 8:58 AM on July 29, 2010


Lately, MeFi has been all about insects and things that make your skin crawl. DO NOT VIEW the slideshow unless you have a strong stomach, those images will remain in my head for some while.
posted by Fizz at 9:11 AM on July 29, 2010


Wait, should I look at the slideshow?
posted by swift at 9:13 AM on July 29, 2010


the screw-worm radically changed cattle ranching in Florida. Before the infestation, which was caused by the importation of diseased cattle from texas/oklahoma (previously, the Mississippi River was an effective barrier due to screw-worm flies being unable to fly far), Andalusion (Cracker) scrub cattle were the dominant domestic bovine raised in Florida.

They were beloved for their ability to tolerate (and thrive on) virtually any kind of grazing, from open sand/pinehill habitat to oak scrub to deep palmetto thickets and produce adequate edible (dry, tough, gamy) meat. However, they were left to roam on open ranges of the above-described habitat, and then driven to market by horses and dogs. This meant the constant opportunity for small flesh wounds (walk though scrub palmetto some time and you'll see what I mean) which allowed screw-worm flies to lay eggs. For a while, ranchers tried to compensate by deploying children out after the cattle with fly whisks, but you can't send a child wandering for miles through the scrub, at least not indefinitely.

This was a major factor leading to the clearing of conventional grass pasture land and the confinement of conventional beef cattle like angus and charolais (cross-bred with angus for heat tolerance), and caused these otherwise unsuitable cattle to become the dominant beef breeds in Florida today. Cracker cattle have made a modest comeback due to the preservation of heritage specimens, and can be seen in many small ranches in North Florida today.
posted by toodleydoodley at 9:23 AM on July 29, 2010 [11 favorites]


chimps who rip the faces off of unsuspecting passers-by?

Really? Well, OK.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 9:54 AM on July 29, 2010


dammit, cross-bred with Brahma for heat tolerance - hence breeds like "Brangus"

bad fingers.
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:04 AM on July 29, 2010


At this point, I haven't looked at a single image, and I'm left with a quandary; is my imagination based on the descriptions here worse than the reality of what's actually pictured?

*looks at pictures*

Huh. Interesting. My imagination is worse than reality, but reality is pretty fucking awful.
posted by quin at 10:07 AM on July 29, 2010


Why isn't that sterile insect technique used to wipe out invasive species like japanese beetles or emerald ash borers? 'Cause if it's a money thing I would be very happy to vote in a tax increase on myself to fund their extermination.
posted by Esteemed Offendi at 10:09 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am too afraid to click on any of these links.
posted by HumanComplex at 10:10 AM on July 29, 2010


Why should we get rid of them when they all look so happy...
posted by JibberJabber at 10:13 AM on July 29, 2010


The next time some neohippie freak starts foaming and drooling about how natural some bullshit product* is, I'm just going to describe in graphic fucking detail the lifecycle of the 100% natural screwworm fly.

* and almost certainly produced by a company that is owned by ADM or ConAgra.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:47 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Curse the fact that my brain takes warnings of graphic content as a challenge. Thank gods that slideshow was only ~10 pictures.

Assuming global "pest" eradication programs are really effective, would screwworms ever be put on a threatened/endangered species list? "Kill them!" "Yeah, there's only two left. High five!" "Wait, there's only two left. Don't kill them!" "Here, give them a cow or something to eat." "Oh crap, they came back..." "Kill them!"
posted by efio at 10:48 AM on July 29, 2010


HERE'S ONE IN SOME INDONESIAN KID'S EYEBALL FOR YOU ALL TO ENJOY.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:54 AM on July 29, 2010


The slideshow pictures were blurry and low resolution.
posted by idiopath at 11:03 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


idiopath, that's a feature.
posted by infinitywaltz at 11:07 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've often wondered if a "dominant male" solution could be engineered for pest animals where the sperm determines the gender (XY).

I don't think so. Gender is determined by sperm, and as far as I know, there's no good way of distinguishing an X from a Y until they do the deed.

Also: did the Google Image Search thing. It's not nearly as bad as it sounds like it's going to be, and you get a whole bunch of really weird and random stuff. Like the Mona Lisa in a rugby helmet on page 21.
posted by valkyryn at 11:07 AM on July 29, 2010


would screwworms ever be put on a threatened/endangered species list

I don't think there's any legal reason why they couldn't, but I'm not sure that they would. I think most parties, environmentalists included, would be content with an "extinct in the wild" solution.
posted by valkyryn at 11:09 AM on July 29, 2010


Lately, MeFi has been all about insects and things that make your skin crawl.

Lately?
posted by krinklyfig at 11:21 AM on July 29, 2010


Curse the fact that my brain takes warnings of graphic content as a challenge. Thank gods that slideshow was only ~10 pictures.

I opened it in edit mode, then quickly browsed the thumbnails *without opening any of them*.

I recommend this technique for those in whom incurable squeamishness and insatiable curiosity intersect.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:34 AM on July 29, 2010


Gender is determined by sperm

Depends on the animal. In (most?) birds, females have a Z and W chromosome, and males have two Z chromosomes, so sex is determined by the egg. In sea turtles, sex is not genetic; it's determined by the temperature of the sand the eggs were incubated in.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:53 AM on July 29, 2010 [1 favorite]


Gender is determined by sperm
I'm not sure how diverse sex determination mechanisms are among the Diptera, but for the fruit fly at least this is true.
posted by atrazine at 2:50 PM on July 29, 2010


KILL IT WITH FIRE
posted by Ratio at 2:55 PM on July 29, 2010


Cringeworthy slideshow?

/lunch

posted by JV at 4:10 PM on July 29, 2010


Remember, Only YOU Can Stop SCREWWORMS!
posted by Sublimity at 6:35 PM on July 29, 2010


By the way, the Endangered Species Act specifically carves out cases like the screwworm. This is from the definitions section (3):
(6) The term "endangered species" means any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range other than a species of the Class Insecta determined by the Secretary to constitute a pest whose protection under the provisions of this Act would present an overwhelming and overriding risk to man.
posted by norm at 7:40 AM on July 30, 2010 [1 favorite]


oh god why did I click this
posted by spitefulcrow at 10:52 PM on July 30, 2010


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