My friend’s rabbit, Snowy, died today. The culprit was a blowfly. Any rabbit owner will be aware of blowfly strike, but few may realise how quick the blow of death strikes.
On Thursday Snowy was happily bouncing around the garden, being hauled back from the vegetable patch, and chased by two squealing toddlers. On Friday Snowy was not her bright, inquisitive self. She had no interest in the carrot pushed through the bars. On Monday she was buried not far from the lettuce she liked to nibble when no one was looking.
A maggot infestation (blowfly strike) can cause serious damage and as in Snowy’s case, death. Maggot infestations are worse in hot and humid weather, but the fly season generally runs from April to October. Maggots can occur at any time of the year. Eggs can hatch into maggots in as little as 12 hours in the right conditions. The maggots moult through three stages and feed on the rabbits skin, causing damage and disease, and in severe cases, death. Maggots pupate in a few days and produce new adults.
To avoid blowfly strike hutches should be kept clean and disinfected. But even in clean conditions rabbits may develop soiled hindquarters and attract flies which will lay eggs in the fur of a rabbit’s hindquarters. Ask your vet for advice if you suspect blowfly strike.
Flies will lay their eggs on anything that will nourish their maggots. I will never forget the evening when I returned back home late from work to feed a neighbour’s cat. Lightheaded from a drinks party where there was too much champagne and not enough food, I thought my eyes were swimming as I emptied the cat bowl. A far too detailed inspection revealed maggots wriggling in the pungent meaty chunks. Luckily, unlike Snowy, the cat lived to tell the tail (sorry couldn’t resist).
Prevention is the best means of fly control. As soon as you spot a fly swot it, and thus break the breeding cycle. Keep your kitchen bin lid closed and invest in good, old-fashioned netted fly covers for food. If you have a fly infestation there are a number of fly killers on the market which use ultra violet light to kill flies.