Stuff You Should Know | Podcast Review | November 16, 2015 | By

Stuff You Should Know: Maggots

Maggots are like Godzilla when he fights for the good guys.

Josh and Chuck have touched on topics concerning leeches in previous episodes, but this week the discussion goes to another level of creepy crawliness. If you didn’t like hearing about leaches a few weeks ago, maggots probably aren’t for you either. As Joshua and Charles advise early on, almost everyone should stay away from Google image searches though. Thankfully, podcasts are audio only! 1

But hopefully you aren’t freaked out too much, because maggots are actually an amazing medical weapon when used properly. They’re like Godzilla when he fights for the good guys and protects Tokyo from whatever monster is worse than Godzilla. Josh and Chuck are both pro-maggot—Josh can probably be called a fan—and do a great job dispelling any reservations the squeamish listener may have.

Who knew that not only are maggots a completely viable treatment technique for the removal of dead flesh, but we’ve actually been able to determine the best maggots to use! There’s actually a specific species of fly that has the best maggots for necrotic human flesh consumption. Like most great things in medicine that sound, especially from the 1700s, the beneficial powers of maggots were discovered almost unintentionally. A doctor that apparently didn’t give a shit about his patients’ wounds, discovered that those that had been festering with maggots, actually ended up with less dead tissue. However, as you can imagine, it took a while to for maggot use to become accepted. And it still isn’t widespread. There’s a “long history of necessity and disgust.”

While it’s not uncommon for Josh and Chuck to have an opinion or take a side on topics from time to time, it was fun to listen to them defend the humble maggot this week. They do a nice job highlighting the history of how maggot use in medicine has ebbed and flowed as different alternatives have emerged. Time and time again, people keep coming back to them. It helps that studies have shown that maggots not only remove dead tissue, they actually improve living and healthy tissue. My favorite fact this week, and there were many to choose from, was that maggots are classified as medical devices, rather than drugs.

But kids, if you’re going to use maggots to help clean out your dead tissue, you have to do it the right way. You need to bandage up healthy flesh and make sure that proper infection-prevention techniques are used. Yes, there are such things as sterilized maggots. They are raised from birth in a pathogen free environment. How cool is that. We can—and do—use a biological and living medical device to aid in the healing process.

However, maggots are still maggots. And they are nasty. Seriously. And what they leave behind is worse. Dissolved necrotic flesh has to go somewhere. And obviously something being digested by a maggot isn’t going to make it smell prettier. The digestive enzymes of the maggots will liquefy the dead tissues. Which then has to be drained out periodically.

If you’re a little sick to your stomach, that’s okay. Chuck seemed like he was too. Wondering if Josh was a little squeamish or grossed out? He was happy to say, “I am not in the least!” Josh might get a little too excited about maggots. But enthusiasm is why I tune in to these guys.

Sadly, the maggots live a thankless life with no rewards. When all is said and done, they are sent to the proverbial farm. 2 Like the Lorax speaking for the trees, thankfully the maggots have Chuck and Josh 3 to give them the well-earned praise that they deserve.


How the Voynich Manucscript Works

A codex is a collection of pages that were originally loose but have since been compiled and bound into a book. Some have secret codes. And some have unsolvable secret codes. Sound interesting? It should! Tune in to this week’s other SYSK episode to learn about “How the Voynich Manucscript Works.”


  1. Thought the word maggot, when said enough times, is not exactly pleasant ^
  2. sad face ^
  3. especially Josh ^

About the Author

Nick Wade is a founding writer at Audiologue, where he writes about The Sporkful and Stuff  You Should Know. You can find him at

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