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Last updated: 28 may, 2010 - 13:07 GMT

Crime Scene Insects

Forensic crime scene investigations

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Amoret Whitaker is a forensic entomologist.

When the phone rings, she drops everything and heads off to a crime scene at a moment's notice where she may find herself collecting maggots from dead bodies. Between cases Amoret works at the Natural History Museum in London as well as the Anthropology Department at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

She is called in as a specialist to help on cases where it is difficult to determine the time of death.

Hundreds of insect species are attracted to corpses, primarily flies, beetles and their larvae. Insects that move in on a body provide Amoret with clues. Amoret explains "As a body decomposes, it gives off different chemical signals which attract different insects at different stages of composition".

These animals feed, live and breed in and on a corpse depending on their biological preferences and on the state of decomposition. This opens a wide range of locations applications for forensic entomology, the investigation of insect recovered from crime scenes and corpses.

First broadcast on BBC World Service 11 June 2010.

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