How To Get Rid of Maggots In Your Home

Updated: Apr. 04, 2024

Maggots have a serious ick factor, but the bigger problem is what they turn into. Here's how to stop the maggot-fly cycle in your home.

For those of us who stumbled upon a cache of maggots, it’s an unforgettable sight. There’s something particularly disgusting about them. Maybe it’s because they signal spoiled food or dead animals. Or maybe we just don’t see them often enough to normalize them as a regular process of nature.

Regardless, they make poor home companions, especially when they turn into flies. And because houseflies breed in just a few hours, maggots can perpetuate a cycle, leading to generations of infuriating, buzzing pests.

We asked two experts how to rid your home of maggots and stop the ensuing cycle of flies.

About the Experts

Eric Braun, a board-certified entomologist, has worked as a technical service manager for Terminix for nearly three decades.

Frank Meek is also a board-certified entomologist and 30-year veteran of the pest-control industry. He’s a technical services manager for Orkin.

What Are Maggots?

Maggots are baby flies, aka fly larvae. Legless, plump and white, they resembling tiny worms. You can usually see a black spot or two on one end. Those are their breathing holes.

If you look at them through a microscope, maggots actually look a little like walruses, with two hooks protruding from their toothless mouths.

“Some maggots are large enough to see, or they end up in visible areas of your house, but most don’t,” says Braun. “The most common ones we see come from houseflies.”

It’s typical to find up to a couple of hundred maggots at a time. After molting several times, they become pupae, their final life stage before becoming a fly.

Here’s the timeline of a maggot’s lifecycle:

  • A fly lays its eggs.
  • Eight to 20 hours later, the eggs hatch into maggots.
  • In three to seven days, maggots become pupae.
  • Three days to four weeks after that, pupae emerge as flies.

What Causes Maggots in the House?

Flies lay eggs in rotting meat and other spoiled organic matter, because those provide ample food for maggots. That means you’re most likely to find maggots in a garbage can, old cat food can or even a plate of food lost in a teenager’s bedroom for a few days.

In your yard, you might also find maggots in dog poo, a dead animal or the compost bin.

Will Maggots Eventually Go Away?

Technically, yes. If you ignore them long enough, a few things can happen:

  • They will turn into pupae, then into flies.
  • They will eat all their food source, so flies can no longer lay eggs there.
  • They will die if the weather changes and it gets too cold or dry for them to survive.

Still, you should get them out of your house ASAP. What they’re eating is unsanitary to have in your living space. Plus, they won’t remain maggots for long.

“Once they turn into adult flies, they will find a suitable food source, lay eggs and continue the cycle,” says Meek. “So while the maggots will go away, they might stay a nuisance as an adult fly.”

How To Kill Maggots Immediately

Meek and Braun recommend removing them with a vacuum or a paper towel. If they’re contained in something that’s easy to move, you can also relocate them away from the house. Outside, they’ll make a protein-packed meal for wildlife, including birds.

If you’re squeamish or if you can’t reach them with a vacuum, you can also kill maggots with:

  • A large dose of salt, which will dry them out;
  • White vinegar (three parts water, one part vinegar);
  • Boiling water;
  • Most pesticides. Use these as a last resort, to minimize chemicals in your home and prevent harm to wildlife that might eat the poisoned maggots.

If the situation feels more complicated, Meek recommends calling a pest control expert who can “comprehensively assess your unique situation and determine how the adult flies got into the structure.”

How To Prevent Maggots

Clean. Clean. Clean. To prevent maggots, and especially after you’ve removed them, cleaning is the key success. Get rid of anything that attracts flies. “Make sure there is no material for them to breed in and limit access to open food sources,” says Braun.

FAQs

Are maggots harmful to humans?

Not typically, but the decaying materials they’re eating could contain bacteria and pathogens. In some cases, flies can also transmit disease.

How long does it take for maggots to turn into flies?

It depends on the species, plus temperature and moisture conditions. In the fastest-case scenario, it’s about seven to 10 days, but it can take up to two months.

What are maggots attracted to?

Rotting organic matter, especially meat and other high-protein items like dead animals, feces and garbage.