By Tierra S. Briscoe
Humans aren’t the only ones who require special investigation when it comes to criminal cases. Yes, bugs you heard it right, bugs are also required for forensic investigations and analysis. Believe it or not they have been used in forensic investigations since the 14th Century but only in the last 30 years the study of insects has become more prevalent in forensic. This is referred to as Forensic Entomology, which is the study of insect and arthropod biology that relate to any criminal matters. These studies include but aren’t limited to homicide cases, the detection of drugs and poisons, the location where an incident occurred and to determine where and when a wound was inflicted.
There are three subdivisions in forensic entomology: urban, stored-product and medico-legal forensic entomology. Urban Forensic Entomology focuses on pest infestations in buildings gardens or agreements between tenants and their service providers. Forensic entomology is used to determine what types of pesticides are required to treat the area and who may be at fault for the infestation. Stored-product forensic entomology is the investigation of commercially distributed foods that are subject to insect infestation or contamination. Lastly, Medico-legal forensic entomology is probably the most relatable to the name. It deals with the evidence associated with insect studies at scenes including murder, suicide, contraband trafficking, rape and physical abuse. At murder scenes the different life stages of flies could help determine when the murder occurred and also where. Entomotoxicology is a new field covered under medico-legal forensic entomology which focuses on using entomological specimens found at crime scenes to test for possible drugs that could’ve been used to kill the victim.
As much as we hate flies they are one of the most depended upon insects when it comes to death investigations. They are the first insects on the scene of a murder and are attracted to a fresh moist body for their larvae to feed on. The different life stages of flies located at a crime scene could help detectives determine the post mortem interval. The next insects to show up are beetles that feed on a more decomposed body when it begins to dry out and can be replaced by moth flies. They are followed by mites and moths who are key factors in the last stages of total decomposition of a corpse.
From the stage of insect development to the type of insect present there are different factors that determine these things. Bugs aren’t the hardest to accommodate but they are picky when it comes to inhabiting bodies. Factors such as moisture levels, sun exposure, air exposure, bodies of water, geography and weather all determine the different insects present at death scenes and the stages of development. If the body is humid and low in moisture maggot levels will increase rapidly.
Whether we like it or not we all depend on each other one way or another. Investigators depend on insects to determine factors that are impossible to find out unless you were actually present and humans provide these pests with a means of survival. New techniques are being developed and advanced everyday thanks to new discoveries.