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A forensic anthropologist can gain a great deal of information about a scene by using bugs and insects found at the scene. It takes less than 24 hours for a body to be completely infested with insect’s life. Flies exploit the moist areas of the body to lay eggs in, which hatch within a day. Typically, these areas are the eyes, nose, mouth, armpits, genitals, and anus. By studying the stage of development of the insect larvae in these moist areas of the body, the entomologist can make a precise judgement about the time of death. Of course, related factors like temperature and moisture must be taken into account. Insect infestation is more pronounced in warmer and wetter conditions than when it is very cold.
In order for this to function as a viable method of information, the forensic anthropologist must make sure that areas teeming with infestation are photographed as early as possible. The infestation changes greatly with weather conditions. Mites leave bite marks on the victim’s body which offer clues as to the time of death. Maggots, whose infestation again offers a valuable timer indicating the time of death, get invisible under the flash of a camera, a process called “flash-out”. Hence flash photography is to be avoided in these cases.
While photographing larvae, it is important to use metric scale in addition to the inch scale on each picture, since the measurements in the database of many countries is in the international metric system. It is advisable that investigator gathers insect samples from at least three different areas in the crime scene, apart from the body and that these samples be placed in distinct and clearly labelled jars. Use a 98% concentration of ethanol to store insects in rather than using isopropyl alcohol or formalin as is generally the practice. Kill the insects in hot water before doing this. Store the specimens collected in a cool, dry place. Refrigeration is preferred. All the jars must be tagged with details such as the investigator’s initials, date, exact time when the sample was collected and where it was taken from.
Help from an experienced entomologist is invaluable in analyzing insect samples. An experienced entomologist will ensure that all features of fauna indigenous to a particular region are captured and exploited for clues. To develop such forensic investigation techniques, several body farms have been developed in the United States where the decomposition of bodies (generally donated by the deceased or their families) is studied by controlling and varying the conditions. This ensures that practice can be done to such a high degree that the applicability for forensic scientists is successful.
Black, Sue, and Eilidh Ferguson, eds. Forensic anthropology: 2000 to 2010. CRC Press, 2011.
Crowder, Christian M. “Review of: Forensic Anthropology: Current Methods and Practice.” (2014): 1449-1449.
Klepinger, Linda L. Fundamentals of forensic anthropology. Vol. 1. John Wiley & Sons, 2006.
Nawrocki, Stephen P. “Review of: A Companion to Forensic Anthropology REFERENCE: Dirkmaat DC. A Companion to Forensic Anthropology. Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley‐Blackwell, 2012, 716 pp.” Journal of Forensic Sciences 58.6 (2013): 1685-1685.
Spradley, M. Katherine, and Richard L. Jantz. “Sex estimation in forensic anthropology: skull versus postcranial elements.” Journal of Forensic Sciences56.2 (2011): 289-296.