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Forensic Entomology: The Use of Insects in the Investigation of Homicide and Untimely Death

NCJ Number
Prosecutor Volume: 22 Issue: 3 Dated: (Winter 1989) Pages: 41-48
W D Lord; W C Rodriquez
Date Published
8 pages
Insect scientists are being increasingly called upon to apply their knowledge and expertise in criminal and civil proceedings and to become part of forensic laboratories and medicolegal investigation teams.
Insect evidence collected from, in, on, and around the body of a victim of untimely death or homicide, when properly collected, preserved, and analyzed by an experienced and appropriately trained forensic entomologist, can provide an accurate estimate of the victim's time of death and other valuable information. Based in the analysis of insects and other invertebrates that sequentially colonize a corpse as decomposition progresses and on the rates at which various stages of their offspring develop, entomological information also can provide information useful in determining the manner of death, length of the postmortem interval, and the movement of a cadaver from one site to another. For instance, blowflies frequently arrive within a few minutes to a few hours after death, while other types of insects such as carrion and scarab beetles colonize drier remaining tissues. Representative samples of all adult and immature insects should be collected from on, in, and beneath the corpse. Two samples should be collected -- one for rearing to adult stages and one for preservation. Case histories illustrate how forensic entymology aided investigators in determining the time of death and more narrowly focusing efforts to identify the victim and bring the case to a reasonable conclusion.