Forensic Entomology

M. Lee Goff

Chaminade University of Honolulu

In its broadest sense, forensic entomology includes any situation in which insects or their actions become evidence within the legal system. Medicocriminal entomology involves insects as evidence in a criminal case, most frequently homicide, and this is the area that has been most closely associated with the term "forensic entomology" by the general public and, in fact, most entomologists. The use of insects and other arthropods as evidence in criminal investigations dates from 12th century China. Other records appear sporadically in both the forensic and the entomological literature from various parts of the world until a resurgence of interest in the field in the mid-1980s. Prior to this period, the primary application of entomological evidence was to determine the postmortem interval of decomposed bodies. Although this remains the primary application of forensic entomology in criminal investigations, it is now recognized that insects and other arthropods can provide insights into movement of a corpse following death, assessment of wounds (antemortem versus postmortem), characteristics of a crime scene, and abuse and neglect of children and the elderly, as well as serving as alternate specimens for toxicological analyses and sources of human DNA.

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