Entomology, Department of


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University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Entomology Online Masters Program Final Project. Lincoln, Nebraska.


Copyright 2018 Johnnie Erskine


The use of forensic entomology is one of the fastest growing methods used to determine the cause of death by law enforcement personnel. This paperexplores and examines the various insects that are found on dead bodies during different time periods. The purpose of this paper is also to analyze and evaluate how forensic entomology is beneficial when compared to the other methods of forensic science that are used in crime investigations. Goff (2000) states, “anyone involved in death investigations quickly becomes aware of the connection between dead bodies and maggots.” (Goff, 2000). Insects are used to help with the recycling and decomposition process of carcasses, and in the cleaning of the environment; this is particularly true when looking at the remains of corpses.

During and soon after the time of death there are many different species of insect that will quickly cover a corpse and break it to minute pieces. Maggots will start to appear from all cavities, open wounds, pubic hair, or hair on the head of the cadaver. It was only recently that many death investigations regarded insects as an indication of a dead body being present in the vicinity and this evidence being used in the solving of criminal cases. However, the use of insect evidence was not a first in criminal investigations - in the early thirteenth century- insect evidence was used to solve homicides. In particular in 13thCentury China, an investigator found that a victim was murdered with a sickle, which he determined by using different tools to kill animals to achieve the same patterns as those found on the victim. He further called together all those in the area who worked with sickles and asked them to lay down their tools.

Unbeknown to the murderer, his sickle still had traces of the victim blood which immediately attracted some flies, thus pointing the finger of murder to the perpetrator. (Tz'u, 2017).

Over the years the availability of forensic insects has become of paramount importance to investigators in solving crimes. Forensic entomologists examine the various types of insects that are found both inside and outside of dead bodies to help them determine the postmortem interval which in layman terms means the time that has passed since the death of a victim When bodies are buried or decomposed, “insect activity is always present; however forensic entomology is not just restricted to the grave or to remains found in the open, but it can be used to determine the cases where the time of death cannot be determined simply by studying the type of insect activity that is found. Some of the types of insects that are found around the grave or the pieces of decomposing remains are flies, beetles, ants and wasps" (Gardner, 2005).

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