Applications To Death Investigations

In the preceding sections, the biological basis for using insects as evidence in estimating postmortem interval (time since death), patterns of decomposition, and several of the problems have been presented. An understanding of insect biology and ecology is necessary as a template for determining postmortem interval, but it does not always provide an accurate estimate. In processing insect data, a forensic entomologist must bear in mind that an estimate based on insect activity only determines the period of insect activity. This time frame may not correspond to the entire period of time since death. Each case is unique and must be analyzed on its own merits with careful attention to all data available.

As noted earlier during discussions of decomposition, there is great geographic and seasonal variation in insect populations associated with a corpse. Even in areas where the species populations are similar, there may be seasonal changes in developmental patterns which may complicate the analyses.

In addition to gathering and processing of entomological data, it is necessary to develop protocols for cooperation between the forensic entomologist and various law enforcement agencies, medical examiners, coroners, and the courts. As these individuals better understand the functioning of the forensic entomologist, the end results of the investigations will improve.

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