Biodiversity Day - Insects and Dead Bodies
Insects that feed on dead and decomposing bodies can be used to determine how long those bodies have been dead.
This process of using information gained from insects that can be used in legal cases is called forensic entomology. Blow flies (blue and green bottles) and flesh flies are the first insects that are attracted to dead bodies. The adult flies lay eggs on a body and the maggots that hatch, feed on the soft tissue of the body. As the body is consumed by the maggots and it continues to decompose and dry out, beetles that feed on skin and hair are attracted to the body. They complete the job of recycling nutrients back into the ecosystem. Research about the development rates of maggots, the seasonal distribution of blow flies and the effects of toxins on the development of maggots are some of the areas of focus for forensic entomologists. Research in forensic entomology in Africa is only being done in a few countries with South Africa leading the way.