Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I was looking at an article in a recent edition of Forensic magazine entitled “Forensic Entomology: Myths Busted!” It ran through 3 “myths” that weren’t “earth-shattering” and arguably the 3rd (forensic entomology only revolves around death-scene investigations) isn’t that big of a myth. The things I liked the best were the insect pictures and blurbs by the pictures.

I knew that forensic entomologists can at best give you an estimate of the minimum post-mortem time interval and sometimes a rougher estimate of the maximum postmortem interval. “Time since death” is always at best a guess unless the death is witnessed, no matter what TV and the movies would like to have you believe.

I knew that “entomology evidence recovered from decomposing human remains” (read maggots) can be used to detect, but not quantify, drugs present in the decedent. We have used maggots for detection of cocaine when blood, tissue and other bodily fluids were unavailable, never even considering quantifying the level.

But the insects featured were interesting: Phaenicia cuprina (bronze bottle fly) “a common species”…”prefer outdoor locations and deposit eggs (helping with time estimates)”. Sarcophaga haemorrhoidalis (flesh fly) “preference for indoor environments” (and) ”have the ability to give live birth (unlike most flies)” (and) “helped give rise to the early (false) theory on the “spontaneous generation of life”. Chrysomya rufifacies (hairy maggot blow fly) “is both cannibalistic and predatory”. Ah, great names and lovely mental pictures. Lastly something “prettier”, Enodia porlandia (Southern Pearlyeye butterfly) “may be commonly found at scenes involving human death where they feed on sugar rich body fluids”.

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