Although not a pleasant topic of discussion, any curious mind will want to know which insects feed on dead bodies. It is common knowledge that decomposing bodies become attractive food sources for insects. After all, our bodies are buried underground, and there are plenty of insects that dig beneath the surface of the soil. You have probably seen maggots feasting on corpses in horror films. And you may have heard that forensic entomologists use flies as evidence in order to determine certain circumstances relating to a person’s death, usually a murder. These detection methods are sometimes portrayed in movies and television shows. For some of you, movies and TV are not enough; you want to know which insects really infest human and animal corpses during particular stages of post-mortem decomposition. According to the experts, the movies have some things right, and some things are left out, which is probably a good thing.
There is a place known as the Southeast Texas Applied Forensic Science Facility located at a large National forest owned by Sam Houston University. Two graduate students from this University, Sibyl Bucheli and Aaron Lynne, observe a variety of corpses littered throughout the forest in order to observe certain aspects about the decaying human body. According to Bucheli, a cadaver will form a sort of ecosystem with its own thriving insect populations. Some of these corpse-hungry bugs will live out their entire life cycles on the dead bodies.
Both blowflies and flesh flies are among the first insects to make a home out of a rotting corpse. Blow flies have smell-receptors that allow them to sense the liquids and gases that are emitted from decaying corpses. Both flies will lay their eggs within open wounds. Each fly will deposit around two hundred and fifty eggs that hatch within twenty four hours. Maggots erupt from the eggs and eventually become flies, the process then restarts.
The flies will attract predators, such as skin beetles, mites, ants, wasps and spiders. These bugs will then feed on fly eggs and larvae. The maggot population becomes so large that they generate heat, which can literally cook the body. Charming! Well now you know which insects can be found on dead bodies.
Do you believe that being buried in caskets protects bodies from insect scavengers and fly predators?
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