4_Entymology - Bloodhounds Incorporated

Forensic Entomology
The Role of Insects in Medico-legal Death Investigation
Forensic Entomology
Forensic Entomology
Forensic Entomology is the use of insect
knowledge in the investigation of crimes.
Forensic Entomology is not only a useful
tool to decide how long human remains
have been undetected, but forensic
entomology can also be used to find out
whether the corpse has been moved after
death, the cause of death and also solves
cases of contraband trafficking (Catts,
Forensic entomology can be
divided into three categories
Urban forensic entomology
deals with insects that
affect man and his
immediate environment
Deals with pest infestations
where there might be litigation,
for example, landlord and
Stored-product forensic
entomology concentrates
on commonly found insects
in contaminated foods.
Legal issues on insect
infesting stored products
Medicolegal, which we
primarily focus on, deals with
the criminal component of the
legal system and with insects
that typically infest human
remains or corpses.
Use of insect development
and insect colonization to
solve crime(s)
Medico-legal Entomology
Helps determine postmortem interval
Movement of body???
Determine scene of death
Proves or disproves suspect, witness or
corroborating statements regarding death
 http://www.smithsonianchannel.com/site/sn/show.do?episode
 http://www.smithsonianchannel.com/site/sn/show.do?episode
=141561 - measuring-time-with-maggots
Some History
1200s – Sung Tz’u, a Chinese “death
investigator” uses the behavior of flies to
solve a murder. Everyone in the small town
where the murder took place is gathered
together with their sickles (blades used for
cutting grass). Though no obvious blood
stains appear on the tools, Tz’u releases
flies into the area which, drawn to the scent
of blood, buzz around the murder weapon.
The guilty person confesses.
1668- Francesco Redi disproves the
theory of spontaneous generation of
maggots in rotten meat. The prevailing
thought of the day was that maggots
appear from nowhere in the spoiled food,
as if by magic. His experiment showed
that the life cycle of the maggot is
associated with the rate of decay,
allowing scientists to better estimate a
deceased person’s time of death.
1750s – 1780s – Carolus Linnaeus
published a standardized system of
biological classification. Scientists use this
system to determine the location of a
murder, as fly species live in certain
1855 – Dr. Berger d’Arbois, France’s
premier coroner of the day, proves the
innocence of residents of a home in
which a body is found. By studying fly
larvae and mites in the body he
determines that they were laid before the
body was sealed inside the home of the
accused well before the current residents
moved in.
1894 – Dr. Jean-Pere Megnin publishes.
The Fauna of Corpses, describing eight
stages of bodily decomposition. Included
in these are the types of insects each
stage attracts. This further aids scientists
in determining a victims time of death
and if the body has been moved.
1935 – Dr. Alexander Mearns of Glasgow
University uses the development of
maggot larvae in a body to determine the
victim’s time of death. This, in conjunction
with witness testimony and other
evidence, allows a suspect to be
convicted in court.
1986 – The first textbook devoted to
forensic entomology, A Manual of
Forensic Entomology, is published. This
makes information on this branch of
forensics readily available, allowing
standardized training for aspiring
Maggot Mass
Medicolegal Entomology
Typically focuses on violent crimes
Determination of time of death
Determination of crime scene
A Forensic Entomologist:
Identifies the immature insects
Determines the size and development
of the insects
Calculates the growth of the insects
and the stages of the life cycle
Compares the growth against weather
conditions to estimate time of
ovipositions (egg laying)
Corpse as Insect Food Source
Bodily decomposition attracts flies
 Flies and related insects have highly sensitive
olfactory receptor sites on top of head.
 Attracted to protein-rich environment which corpse
 Insect activity on the corpse within minutes of
 Deposits eggs in natural or unnatural openings,
a.k.a., orifices or exposed wounds – eyes, ears,
anus, etc.
 Deposits eggs in orifices during daylight
Forensic Entomology
 After the initial decay, and
the body begins to smell,
different types of insects
are attracted to the dead
 The insects that usually
arrives first are the
Necrophages, which
includes flies (Diptera)
such as the blowfly
(Calliphoridae) and the
flesh flies (Sarcophagidae).
 Blowflies and flesh flies are
very important to the
forensic entomologist
Calliphorid Flies
Adult flies can be
identified by the
iridescent blue, green
Sarcophagid Flies
These flies are grayish
with longitudinal dark
stripes on the dorsum
 Omnivores, which include
wasps, beetles and ants
feed on the corpse along
with the maggots left by
the flies.
 Omnivores may slow the
rate of decomposition by
decreasing the
population of
Parasites and Predators
 Parasites and Predators –
beetles and wasps eat
immature flies
 Others – spiders, mites,
pill bugs and others use
the corpse as a source of
Forensic Entomology
 Eggs are laid around
the natural orifices
such as the nose,
eyes, ears, anus,
penis and vagina.
 If the body has
wounds the eggs are
also laid in such.
 Flesh flies do not lay
eggs, but deposits
larvae instead.
Insect Evidence
Some species feed on fresh corpse, while other
species prefer to feed on a corpse that has been
dead for two weeks.
Investigators also find other insect species
that prey on the insects feeding on the
Forensic Entomology
The usual sites of oviposition on dead
humans are natural openings.
Blowflies will most often lay their eggs in
the facial region, and more seldom in the
genitoanal region.
 If there is a sexual assault prior to death, leading to
bleeding in the genitoanal region, blowflies will be
more likely to oviposit in these regions.
 If there’s blowfly activity in the genitoanal region, a
sexual crime is suggested.
Forensic Entomology
The sites of blowfly infestation on the
corpse may be important in
determining the cause of death
 For example: if there has been trauma or
mutilation of the body prior to death, this
may lead to heavy infestation of other body
parts than the usual sites when the victim
is not mutilated.
 Under a knife attack, it is usual to guard
oneself with arms in front of thorax and
head. This may lead to injury on the lower
part of the arm. After death, blowfly may
oviposit in these wounds.
Blow Fly Life Cycle:
 Laid on a host
which is typically
 May be laid within
minutes of death.
 Eggs typically
hatch within 24hours of
Blow Flies
 Insects are cold-blooded so their
development is temperature dependent
 As temperature increases, they develop
more rapidly
 As temperature decreases, they develop
more slowly
Fly Eggs
Fly eggs look
cheese and
in moist
Fly Larva
 Eggs hatch within 24 hours after being laid
 Fly larva are also known as maggots
 1st Instar Stage – 1.8 days (5 mm long)
 The larva will eat until it gets so big it needs to
shed its skin
First Instar
Initially feeds on
fluid exuded from
the body
Migrates into
Hatching to first
molt takes 1 day
Fly Larva
 2nd Instar Stage – 2.5 days (10 mm long)
 For another 24 hours these maggots will grow
until they shed their skin again
Third Instar
Still moves in
Greatly increases
in size
Second molt to
pre-pupa takes 2
Fly Larva
 3rd Instar Stage – 4 –5 days (17 mm long)
 Feeding 3rd instar – maggots are eating
 Migrating 3rd instar – maggots stop eating and
start moving to the soil under the body
 Maggots are in the 3rd instar for about 100 hours
Once the maggots are deep within the soil they
will go through the pupation in order to become
an adult fly.
 10 –14 days after oviposition (lay eggs)
 Pupa (made of chitin; a hardened protein based
substance to protect developing insect that is encased)
 Many investigators overlook the dried, hardened
outer skin of the larva that is left in the environment
when the fly emerges.
Fly pupae are often discovered away from the
body since maggots migrate. These pupae
should be recovered at the death scene if time
of death is questionable.
Blow Flies
 Analysis of the oldest insect stage on the body, together
with knowledge of the meteorological conditions at the
scene, can be used to determine how long insects have
been feeding on the body, and hence, how long the
victim has been dead
Almost complete
skeletonization of
the head by
Young maggots resemble fly eggs but
are mobile.
Fly pupa and other
insects present on
Post-morten ant and roach
Activity leaves a typical
grouped pattern that
looks like an abrasion
Post Mortem Interval
 PMI – time interval from actual death to discovery of the
 Cadavers decompose in four stages:
 Certain insects are attracted to the corpse in each of the
four stages of decomposition.
 Succession = the order in which insects are attracted to the
decomposing body
 Succession pattern is useful to determine PMI
Post Mortem Interval
 Blowflies are attracted to a fresh corpse in order to lay
their eggs
 Carrion flies are attracted to the bloated corpse
 There is a succession database that can be used to estimate
Factors Used to Determine Time Since
4 factors must be taken into account
 Oldest stage of blow fly associated with the
 Look at old pupal cases
 Species of insects
 Each species develop at different rates so each
species of insects at the scene need to be collected
 Temperature data
 Must be able to determine temperature of crime
scene for a period of time
 Developmental data
 Must know how fast or how slow the specific species
Degree Hours
 Degrees since death
 The life cycle of the insect is measured by degree-hours
because temperature effects the cycle
Calculating PMI from
Accumulated Degree Hours (ADH)
Temp Hours
1st Instar 70° F
Cumulative ADH
23 x 70=
1610 ADH
1st Instar 2nd Instar
70 °
27 x 70=
1890 ADH
2nd Instar 3rd Instar
70 °
22 x 70=
1540 ADH
3rd Instar
70 °
130 x 70= 1610+1890+
9100 ADH 1540+9100
Adult Fly
70 °
143 x 70= 1610+1890+
10010 ADH 1540+9100
Calculating ADH from Climate Data
Using the Data
 3928 ADH in these three days (952+1488+1488).
 How many ADH of 70º are there in these 3 days?
 3928/70=56.11 hours
 72 hours at 70º would have the insects passing to the 3rd instar.
But 72 hours at colder temperatures and insects will only be at
2nd instar stage.
Determining Whether the Body has been Moved
 Insects present on the deceased body that are not
prevalent to the crime scene can indicate that the
victim was murdered elsewhere and was dumped at
another location
Linking Suspect to Scene
 Sometimes, criminals carry entomological evidence on
them unknowingly
 This evidence can place them at the crime scene by
examining the life cycles of the insects
 Insects that feed on the body of individuals that have
been poisoned can be examined to determine what
type of drug or toxin the person was poisoned with
 It is important to note that specific drugs either speed up or
slow down larval development
 Can influence entomologist’s final report
Forensic Entomology
 Analysis of larvae can assist in the
identification of drugs used by decedent as
well as their DNA
• Triazolam
• Oxazepam
• Alimemazine
• Chloripriamine
• Phenobarbitol
• Malathion
• Mercury
• Amyltryptiline
• Nortriptyline
• Cocaine
• Phenycyclidine
• Heroin
Forensic Entomology
Many of these chemicals will also
influence the life-cycle of the maggot.
 Cocaine accelerates the development of
some sarcophagids.
 Malathion, an insecticide, is commonly
used in suicide, and is usually taken orally.
 Amitriptyline, an antidepressant, can
prolong the developmental time up to 77
hours, at least in one species of
Collection of Entomological
 Evidence should be collected by an entomologist
 If not available, a police death investigator should collect
the evidence
 Different stages of larval growth should be collected
and bagged separately
 Sample of soil should also be collected from just outside
the area marked by body fluids
Challenges to Forensic
 3 challenges exist
 Temperature
 Temperature of crime scene and the temperature that the insects
have been exposed to us unknown
 Season
 Entomology is valuable only in spring, summer, and fall
 Exclusion of insects
 Insects are excluded based on condition of body
Forensic Entomology
Blow fly pupae were collected from
a body found.
The ambient temperature was
approximately 75°F and the
humidity was 20%.
Larva found on the body were
approximately 10mm long.
Estimate time since death.
Case Study (Decomposition)
On a hot August day (90°F), the body
of an elderly man was discovered in a
ditch next to a country road. He was
lying supine dressed in overalls, a
short-sleeved work shirt, and socks
without shoes. His abdomen and legs
were covered by a blanket. There was
marked maggot infestation of the head
and neck, partially obscuring a
posterior scalp defect, and a ligature
around his neck.
Case Study (Decomposition)
The skin of the upper chest,
neck, and head were markedly
darkened. The rest of the body
was not decomposed. There
was a slight greenish tinge to
the abdominal area. There was
no apparent blood on the
ground surrounding the victim.
Case Study (Decomposition)
The scalp defect was a four inch gaping
laceration with no underlying bone or brain
injury. The ligature was a small towel tightly
compressing the neck and knotted in the
back. There was no rigor mortis and livor
mortis was posterior. When the body was
turned the livor did not move with gravity.
Case Study (Decomposition)
Stomach contents revealed
fragments of sausage pieces, brown
liquid and white semi-solid food
particles. At least ten maggots were
saved in a container of alcohol. The
largest maggot was 4mm in length.
A diagnosis of ligature strangulation
was rendered and the death was
ruled a homicide.
Case Study (Decomposition)
When the wife came in to view his
body she made a spontaneous
statement, “I don’t understand, he
looks fatter than normal.”
Case Study (Decomposition)
The next day a deputy sheriff called
the pathologist to ask about the time
of death. The deputy was holding a
man in custody who had been seen
with the decedent two days before the
body was discovered. The suspect
claimed that he was out of town the
day before the man was found dead.
The suspect had a good motive for the
murder because of a soured business
deal with the victim.
Case Study (Decomposition)
Prior to making a formal arrest,
the officer needed to make sure
the postmortem interval was
consistent with two days. What
should the pathologist say about
the postmortem interval in this
case and why?
Case Study
One of the most frequently asked questions
during death investigation concerns the time of
death. Unfortunately, determining the exact time
of death from an examination of a body is
impossible. Numerous findings must be
interpreted to give a reasonable estimation of the
postmortem interval. In this particular case, the
time of death was key to the arrest because the
suspect had an alibi a day before the body was
Case Study
In this case, differential decomposition occurred
because a head injury caused an open wound.
Blood is an excellent source for maggot
proliferation, which accelerated the
decompositional changes in the head. Since the
rest of the body had not decomposed, an
estimation of the postmortem interval was made
by evaluating the area of least decomposition.
Case Study
Environmental temperature is the most important
factor in determining the rate of decompositional
change after death. The decompostional
changes in the head and the lack of rigor mortis
could occur in 10 to 20 hours in about 90F
temperatures. Therefore, in this case the
postmortem interval had to be less than 24
Case Study
The decedent’s stomach contained pieces of
sausage, brown liquid and white food particles
suggestive of breakfast foods. If he normally ate
these foods only in the morning then he probably
ate breakfast on the day of his death. Relatives
and friends should be contacted to discover a
decedent’s eating habits to help determine the
time of the day he was killed.
Case Study
Maggot samples were not sent to an
entomologist for study because the postmortem
interval was sufficiently narrow making this
specialized study unnecessary.
Case Study
The above discussion suggests the decedent
died the day before his body was discovered.
Therefore, the suspect with the strong alibi did
not commit the murder, the investigators need to
renew their search for the killer.
Case Study
 The skeletal remains of the buried
young girl from Hawaii
Case Study
The remains of a female child (30
months of age) were recovered from
a shallow grave on a narrow ledge on
the side of Koko Head Crater, Oahu,
Hawaii. The skeletonized remains
were buried in dirt and gravel, and
some bones were partially exposed.
Other bones were scattered on the
surface. The skull was facing upward,
and the mandible located several feet
from the skull. Also present in the
grave were four small stuffed dolls.
Case Study
Examination of the remains at the
morgue revealed largely skeletonized
material. Present were the skull and
mandible, most of the ribs, many
thoracic vertebral bodies, the mostly
skeletonized pelvis and lower
extremities, the left humerus, radius,
ulna and scapula. Absent were many
of the cervical vertebrae, right upper
extremity, and scapula.
Case Study
Small bones of the left foot appeared
to have been chewed and showed
signs of postmortem animal
depredation, as did the bones of the
left forearm. Apparent scalp hair
remaining adjacent to the skull was
blonde and straight, and measured up
to 15 cm in length. Clothing
accompanying the remains in which
the corpse had been buried
Case Study
 wore a hooded jacket and a pair of running
shoes. A second search at the dangerously
precarious burial site the day following the
recovery of the remains yielded the right
scapula and arm as well as additional
Case Study
 Examination of the remains at the morgue
yielded a limited assortment of arthropods.
Empty puparial cases of the calliphorid
Chrysomya rufifacies were attached to the
skull under the scalp, which had largely
been eaten away. Adult dermestid beetles,
Dermestes maculatus,
Case Study
were present on the bones, and late
instar larval skins of that species were
observed in areas under the scalp,
inside the cranial cavity, and on the
femurs. These cast larval skins of D.
maculatus were in good condition and
did not appear to have been exposed
to weathering effects for any period of
time. Larval scenopinids (Diptera)
were collected from the scull near the
bases of the hair.
Case Study
 Adult clerids, Necrobia rufipes, were
recovered from the bones of the left foot. A
silverfish (Thysanura: Lepismatidae) was
recovered from the body bag.
Case Study
In the hood of the jacket, there was a
quantity of soil associated with the
remains. This was processed in a
Berlese-Tullgren funnel and sorted by
hand. This sample yielded additional
larval scenopinids and adult D.
maculatus There was an adult histerid
beetle which represented an
undescribed species.
Case Study
 Mites associated with this sample included
species in the families Acaridae,
Histiostomatidae, Macrochelidae,
Pachylaelapidae, ropodidae, and
Case Study
Comparison of this assemblage with
results of earlier decomposition
studies conducted in xerophytic
habitats on the island of Oahu
resulted in a postmortem interval
estimate of 52-76 days. This estimate
was lowered to slightly over 52 days,
based on the condition of the cast
larval skins of D. maculatus. In the
decomposition studies used for
Case Study
the last observed larval activity for D.
maculatus was on day 51. The cast
larval skins of D. maculatus
disintegrate quite rapidly when
exposed to weathering. The fact that
these skins were in excellent condition
and easily identifiable to species level
indicated that they had been shed
Case Study
The window fly larvae (Scenopinidae)
were all late instars and of a size
comparable to those collected from
decomposition studies on day 51 in
one study and day 48 in another
study. This tended to reinforce the
estimate of slightly over 52 days. The
mites recovered also were consistent
with this time frame,
Case Study
and the absence of certain other mite
species was indicative of the shorter
portion of the computer estimate. The
final postmortem interval estimate of
slightly over 52 days for this case fit
well with the interval established
independently by confession of the
suspect in this case, the victim's
father. Death proved to have occurred
in the morning, 53 days prior to the
recovery of the remains.
Forensic Entomology
The exact procedure at the crime
scene varies with the type of habitat,
but in general we can divide the work
of the forensic entomologist in five
1.Visual observation and notations at
the scene.
2.Initiation of climatological data
collection at the scene.
Forensic Entomology
3.Collection of specimens from the
body before body removal.
4.Collection of specimens from the
surrounding area (up to 6 m from the
body) before removal of the remains.
5.Collection of specimens from directly
under and in close proximity to the
remains (1 m or less) after the body
has been removed.
Forensic Entomology
Collection of insects and/or maggots
Want to collect bug and fix it so it won’t
continue to grow.
Use a ball jar with formalin
Also collect a live specimen with food
and let it pupate to the adult species.
Is it indigenous to the location?
Use a ball jar with cheese cloth and a
rubber band for initial collection purposes.
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