Forensic Entomology

The year is 1855. You are Dr Bergeret d'Arbois, and have been requested to present a report to the jury for a case surrounding the death of an infant. The child's mummified body was found by the owners of an apartment who had moved in just weeks earlier. The jury does not know whether the new owners killed the child, or if it was the previous owners. In order to solve the case the following question must be answered: exactly how long has the child been dead for?Using forensic entomological evidence based on the life cycle of necrophagous flies, you are able to prove that the child has been dead for approximately 2 years, long before the owners in question had moved into the apartment, thus ensuring their innocence (Benecke, 2001).

This was the first ever reported case of using arthopods to determine the post-mortem interval (PMI) of a corpse, and since then it has been routine to include entomology in criminal investigations, including murder and other high profile cases (Benecke, 2001). While a wide variety of arthopod species can be used during forensic investigation, the most common, and perhaps the most useful are those in the order Diptera. In order to understand the importance the Diptera order is to forensic science, the biology of these insects must first be investigated, including:
  • The different families within the order Diptera, and how they each contribute to forensic entomology
  • The feeding mechanisms of Diptera that allow them to consume parts of a corpse (also their sense of smell)
  • The basic life cycle of species within the order Diptera, and how knowledge of this assists in determining the time of death of a corpse
  • The techniques used by forensic entomologists to identify the species of Diptera present, so they can use the information to determine important facts about their case.