In cases of suspicious death, forensic entomologists can use insect evidence to help investigators determine what happened to the victim. Carrion-feeding beetles provide an important ecological service by consuming dead organisms. Other beetles prey on the carrion-feeders.
Forensic entomologists collect beetles and other insects from the cadaver, and use known information about their life cycles and behaviors to determine facts like the time of death. This list includes 11 beetle families associated with vertebrate carcasses. These beetles may prove useful in criminal investigations.
2. Bone Beetles (Family Cleridae)
4. Hide Beetles (Family Trogidae)
7. Sap Beetles (Family Nitidulidae)Most sap beetles live near fermenting or souring plant fluids, so you might find them on rotting melons or where sap is flowing from a tree. A few sap beetles prefer carcasses, however, and these species may be valuable for forensic analysis. Surprisingly, though their sap beetle cousins prefer moist food sources, like decaying fruit, those that inhabit carcasses tend to do so in the later, drier stages of decomposition.
8. Clown Beetles (Family Histeridae)Clown beetles, also known as hister beetles, inhabit carrion, dung, and other decaying materials. They rarely measure more than 10 mm in length. Clown beetles prefer to shelter in the soil under the carcass during the day. They emerge at night to prey on carrion-feeding insects, like maggots or dermestid beetle larvae.
9. False Clown Beetles (Family Sphaeritidae)The false clown beetles lives in carrion and dung, as well as in decaying fungi. Their use in forensic investigations is limited, simply because the size and distribution of the family Sphaeritidae is extremely small. In North America, the group is represented by just a single species, Sphaerites politus, and this tiny beetle is found only in the Pacific Northwest up to Alaska.
10. Primitive Carrion Beetles (Family Agyrtidae)The primitive carrion beetles hold less value to forensic science, if only due to their small numbers. Just eleven species inhabit North America, and ten of them live in the Pacific Coast states. These beetles were once treated as members of the family Silphidae, and in some texts may still be grouped as such. Primitive carrion beetles can be found on carrion or in decaying vegetative matter.
11. Earth-Boring Dung Beetles (Family Geotrupidae)Though called dung beetles, Geotrupids also feed and live on carrion. Their larvae scavenge on manure, decaying fungi, and vertebrate carcasses. Earth-boring dung beetles vary in size, from just a few millimeters to about 2.5 centimeters long, and colonize carcasses during the active decay stage of decomposition.
- Borror and DeLong's Introduction to the Study of Insects, 7th Edition, by Charles A. Triplehorn and Norman F. Johnson
- Forensic Entomology: The Utility of Arthropods in Legal Investigations, by Jason H. Byrd, James L. Castner
- Forensic Entomology: An Introduction, by Dorothy Gennard
- Current Concepts in Forensic Entomology, by Jens Amendt, M. Lee Goff