4: Forensic Entomology
Published:30 Jun 2016
In legal cases forensic entomology is often valuable and potentially the only means of identifying the post-mortem interval of a dead human or animal, where time-of-death determination is beyond the time frame in which the forensic pathologist can operate. It also provides a means of determining the time since colonisation or infestation of a product or location, which is valuable in civil cases where food contamination or nuisance is alleged. Forensic entomology can additionally provide a means of determining the length of time an individual, human or animal has been neglected or abused and as a result is infested with insects, mites, lice, or ticks. The insect or indeed arthropod life cycle, and its ecology combined with how environmental conditions influence insect growth, provides information which allows evidential interpretation of crimes – both civil and criminal. Flies are the most frequent initial coloniser, especially where the body has been left or hidden on land. It is their life cycles which have been most comprehensively researched by forensic entomologists. Recent studies have focussed on differences in fly ecology due to geography and also the development of new identification techniques. Such developments, together with attempts to refine the current methods used to determine the post-mortem interval, and the use of other arthropods besides flies to solve crimes, have provided further insights into determining the time of death of an individual. This has strengthened the discipline.