How Bugs Solve Crimes
Scientists who study the clues left by bugs are forensic entomologists, and are moving the field – quite literally – forward by watching bodies decay. As a corpse lies outside in the elements, it is visited by a crowd of tiny creatures, and researchers in forensic science watch, and wait.
Researcher and entomologist Natalie Lindgren worked for a full year at the Southwest Texas Applied Forensic Science facility to observe what kinds of insects visit bodies, and the nature of the evidence they leave behind. She found some fascinating new facts.
What can insects and other arthopods (like spiders and tics) tell us about crime? More than you might expect, even if you’ve seen CSI detectives explore insect behavior. Bugs land and feed on dead bodies in a certain order, and hang out for a period of time that can reveal a lot about the stage of decomposition of the body. Knowing the timeline of corpse decay is a key factor in establishing time of death.
Lindgren watched as scorpion flies were the first to find the decomposing bodies, and stayed for more than a day and a half. Next, through extended observation, she discovered a type of caterpillar that left bite marks resembling wounds. Even trained crime scene investigators can mistake bug activity for wounds inflicted during the crime, so her insights have added important information to the field.