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Forensic Entomology - Insects Solving Crimes

CSI watchers might be familiar with the field of Forensic Entomology, the use of the insects to solve crimes. Find out how entomologists investigate crimes, and learn about some famous cases solved by insects.

How Crime Scene Insects Reveal the Time of Death of a Corpse
The forensic entomology is most often used to calculate the postmortem interval, or time of death, of a corpse in a suspicious death. Using known physiological information about the insect species found on a cadaver, a forensic entomologist can calculate the time when flesh-eating insects first invaded the body.

Can Crime Scene Insects Prove That Drugs or Toxins Played a Role in a Death?
Soft tissues decompose first, and any toxicological evidence disappears along with those tissues. When a body is found too late to recover tissue samples, though, there's still a way to test for drugs or toxins. Insects recovered from the cadaver may contain all the toxicological evidence needed to solve the case.

How Forensic Entomologists Use Insects to Tell If a Body Was Moved
In some suspicious death investigations, crime scene insects may prove that the body was moved at some point after death. Insect evidence may also reveal the crime occurred at the site where the body was found, or if it was transported after the murder.

What Crime Scene Insects Reveal About the Victim's Wounds
Forensic entomologists can use crime scene insects to determine whether wounds on a corpse were inflicted before or after the victim's death.

A Fly for the Prosecution
A Fly for the Prosecution, by forensic entomologist M. Lee Goff, is a highly readable and entertaining book about how insects help solve crimes. Goff covers everything from how researchers conduct decomposition studies to what it takes to be an expert witness on the stand.

An Early History of Forensic Entomology, 1300-1900
In recent decades, the use of entomology as a tool in forensic investigations has become fairly routine. The field of forensic entomology has a much longer history than you might suspect, dating all the way back to the 13th century. Here's how we went from believing maggots lived in meat to understanding how insects colonize cadavers.

How Are Accumulated Degree Days (ADD) Calculated?
Farmers, gardeners and forensic entomologists use accumulated degree days (ADD) to predict when different stages of an insect's development will occur. Here's a simple method for calculating accumulated degree days.

Beetles That Eat Bodies
For all the CSI fans out there, here's an introduction to beetles that eat bodies. Forensic entomologists study these beetles to provide clues about what happened to a corpse.

Dermestid Beetles, Family Dermestidae
Dermestid beetles have a nasty habit of eating museum specimens and preserved insect collections. But their ability to digest keratin also makes them valuable for cleaning bones and skulls for diplay. Learn the habits and traits of dermestid beetles.

Rove Beetles, Family Staphylinidae
People often mistake rove beetles for earwigs. These tiny beetles make up the family Staphylinidae, which may be the largest of all beetle families. Learn the habits and traits of rove beetles.

Carrion Beetles, Family Silphidae
Carrion beetles may seem gross, but trust me, we all owe a debt of gratitude to these industrious beetles for getting rid of all the dead stuff around us. Carrion beetles feed on, and sometimes bury, decomposing bodies.

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