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Forensic entomology combines the study of insects and other arthropods with the science of crime investigation. It entails any study of insects that interrelate with legal matters (Hall & Brandt, 2011). Whenever a murder crime takes place insects can accumulate in or on the body of the victim. In entomology, such insects are considered as part of the evidence. In this regard a major area of emphasis in forensic science is the use of insects in investigating geographical inferences and time estimation related to time and location of human death (John, 2012). Experts in forensic entomology can accurately estimate the time of death, and establish whether toxins or drug caused the death in question.
At the moment there are many police agencies within the United States security dockets using forensic entomology to help in answering issues relating to death inquiry (Goff, 2000). Even though forensic entomology is useful in unraveling crimes involving murder, it is not only limited to this field. It is also applicable in cases that involve child neglect where the wounds are infested with insects, in cases involving stored foodstuff damaged by insects and in structural (buildings) entomology (Hall & Brandt, 2011). In investigation of human death, pathologists identify the type of the insects in the or on the human body, use different methods to estimate its age and provide a relative accurate estimate of time and cause of death. In an a forensic investigation involving insects one major assumption is made; that the human body has not been dead for a very long duration, longer than the time taken by the insect to get to the body and develop. In this respect the age of the oldest insect in the human corpse is the one that is used to determine the post-mortem interval (Erzinçlioglu, 2000; Amendt, 2010). Postmortem interval is a scientific jargon that is used to refer to the duration (time) that has passed since the occurrence of death. Insects used in Forensic Entomology
Postmortem interval can be accomplished through use of different species of insects that are attracted to a dead human body. In forensic entomology, a scientist does not have to use only one species of insect to establish the post mortem interval (Boca, 2012). The interval can be established by knowledge of assemblages of various families and species of insects on the corpse that moves into the body at different times during the decomposition time (Gennard, 2013).
The main families of insects that are related to the decomposition of the human body are the Calliphoridae, which are referred to as blow flies in English. Under normal circumstance, this group of insects is the first to appear on the corpse a short duration after death. In addition, they are the most active insects that are found in the initial phase of the animal decomposition. As such, they are normally, the first insects that clear the soft tissues of a dead body. Therefore, these are the most important group of insects that entomologists in forensic science use to estimate the postmortem interval (Byrd & Castner, 2007). The table below shows the major flies (Order Diptera) and beetle ((Order Coleoptera) families used in forensic entomology.
Some of the major fly families used in forensic entomology
: Moth Flies
Small dung flies
Sepsidae Black Scavenger Flies
Black Scavenger Flies
Beetle Families used in Forensic Entomology
References: Amendt, J. (2010). Current concepts in forensic entomology. Dordrecht: Springer.
Boca, R. (2012)..Arthropods in Legal Investigations. FL, USA: CRC Press
Byrd, J. H. and Castner, J. L. (2007). Forensic Entomology : Utility of Arthropods in Legal Investigations.
Erzinçlioglu Z (2000). Maggots, Murder,and Men: Memories and Reflections of a Forensic Entomologist. Colchester, UK: Harley Books
Gennard, D. (2013). Forensic entomology: An introduction. Hoboken, N.J: Wiley.
Goff M.L. (2000). A Fly for the Prosecution: How Insect Evidence Helps Solve Crimes. Cambridge, MA,USA: Harvard University Press
Greenberg B, Kunich JC (2002). Entomology and the Law: Flies as Forensic Indicators. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press
Hall,M and Brandt,A.(2011).Forensic entomology. The Natural History Museum in London, UK
John,M. (2012). Use of insects to help solve crime. Retrieved from: http://www.einsteins-emporium.com/life/animal-info/insects/insect_identification.htm
Kiely, T.F. (2005). Forensic Evidence: Science and the Criminal Law. CRC Press.
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