Fishing Lines: Qualities that make the maggot a perfect pet

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MY apologies to those who rushed off to a fishing tackle shop this week, hoping to buy a pet that 'wriggles like Madonna'. The Independent Diary glowingly described this erotic creature (wrongly called a gozzer) as 'a magnificent beast'. But I have to say that such superlatives are a little excessive for - a maggot.

So while you're nibbling your cornflakes, I thought it opportune to produce the definitive digest of maggots. These make ideal pets because they do not require feeding and cost about pounds 2 for 1,000. Maggots are also good with children, do not bite, and will keep for ages in your fridge.

All, that is, except the squatt, the smallest of the bunch. This wimp, a mere quarter of an inch long, is the larva of the house-fly. It is so feeble that it dies if your fridge is too cold. Not recommended, except for those with one-bedroom flats or very limited exercise space.

Far more fun is the pinkie, the larva of the greenbottle. This little bruiser may only be half an inch long but it is an excellent climber and escapologist, and it's tough enough to crawl through neat Domestos without flinching. Pinkies are adept at clambering out of their baitbox home, especially at night, and exploring. They will even crawl right out of the fridge and up sheer surfaces, such as kitchen walls. You can have great fun watching them drop into the hair of other members of the family first thing in the morning. Generally, more popular with bachelors.

The ordinary maggot is probably the wisest choice for beginners. Buy them in colours from base white to red, yellow and even fluorescent pink, called 'discos'. You will easily discover their parentage by leaving them in their home for a little bit more than you meant to. Their fascinating ability to metamorphose through the chrysalis stage into a bluebottle in just a few days is not only educational but will provide excellent exercise as you chase them through the house after inadvertently opening the lid.

The best breeders will cosset these youngsters on fruit syrup and glucose, and bring them up in air- conditioned rooms where they grow plump on fish scraps and condemned meat. The result should be a shiny, healthy maggot that will entertain you for hours with its happy wriggling. Watch out for shady dealers palming you off with a blackfly larva. This is a nasty mongrel maggot often sold as a bluebottle baby. You can easily spot them because they are like a caddis, sticking bits of sawdust and feathers to the rough skin. Unfriendly and difficult to train.

Much publicity has been given recently to the Mammoth Maggot. These creatures, described in this week's Independent article as the apex of eight years' selective breeding, are more than an inch long and twice the size of an ordinary maggot. But they make disappointing pets and their Rottweiler reputation is totally unjustified. Big they may be, but tough they are not. This is probably due to their upbringing (highly secret, but rumoured to be a diet of fish and water, making them big but flabby). I would be very worried about someone who found them as alluring as Madonna.

The gozzer is far more challenging. Described in Match Fishing Our Way (Ken Giles and Clive Smith, 1979) as 'sophisticated' and 'the aristocrat of maggots', this can only be home-bred. It comes from a fly that only lays its eggs at night. True enthusiasts, who claim the elite bug is best attracted by a dead pigeon, will actually stay up through the night to swat off unsuitable flies.

When the eggs have been laid, experts recommend protecting the newborn with bran soaked in milk, and covering with a soft muslin to produce the perfect gozzer. This is a soft, delicate, white-skinned creature that needs careful handling but will certainly give the neighbours something to talk about, especially if you've forgotten about the pigeon.

The great thing about all these maggots is that if you get bored with them as pets, you can even use them for fishing bait (always assuming that you haven't become too attached to them).

The great thing about maggots is that if you get bored with them as pets, you can use them for fishing bait. Enjoy your breakfast.