Maggots Can Unlock Clues to Deadly Crimes

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Maggots Can Unlock Clues to Deadly CrimesWhile it might be difficult for some people to believe, maggots can unlock clues to deadly crimes. When someone brings up maggots or sees one crawling around, the typical response is a scrunched up face and an expression of being completely grossed out. However, maggots may actually be helpful little creatures. In a recent study conducted by forensic entomologists, published in National Geographic, results are showing that maggots are actually quite the crime solvers.

Maggots are the larva of flies, and have actually been helping people for centuries. They were used by the aboriginal tribes of Australia and Mayan Indians in making different medicines, and by placing the bugs in wounds in order to facilitate healing. While it might make some cringe, the maggots would clean away the dead flesh and tissue from the wound as well as bacteria that may have caused a second infection. They were also used by soldiers in WWI. According to an article published by the Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology, maggot therapy is extremely beneficial to those with severe infections where other treatments including antibiotics and even surgery, were completely unsuccessful. They are also used in diabetic patients who are suffering from a foot wound, which is a common issue people experience with the disease.

Now, maggots are fast becoming helpful in unlocking clues to deadly crimes. According to an article published by the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Forensic entomology is the study of how certain insects, including maggots, interact with dead bodies. This field has only recently gotten acknowledgment from lawyers and law enforcement as something that can assist in criminal investigations. There are numerous techniques for discovering the time of death and when a body had been moved after death, but if a body is found many years later, these techniques become less efficient. The presence of certain insects, including maggots and flies, are now helping pathologists to determine this important information.

One case of these helpful bugs assisting in crime comes from Dr. Bernard Greenberg, a professor at the University of Illinois, who has been labeled the bug expert by his peers. Nearly 15 years ago Greenberg was asked to help in a case of two murder victims who had been killed sometime in the late summer, three years earlier. The attorney who was working on the case was struggling with making a conviction because experts were unable to determine a time of death.

After being sent photos of the body, Greenberg identified the presence of the bugs from eggs belonging to the green blowfly. With this information, and knowing that the growth of a maggot is affected by heat, Greenburg then speculated and determined the temperature during the period of the two deaths. Within two days of first receiving the photos, Greenberg had calculated the estimated time of death. His testimony in this case helped put two men behind bars for murder.

According to the Natural History Museum, this is not the only case where maggots have helped police solve murder mysteries. The bugs’ position in the body, rate of decay, amount of eggs laid, life stage patterns, temperature when found and other physical signs can be the keys that unlock clues to the crime. Who knew maggots could be so darn useful?

By: Rebecca Savastio


National Geographic


Natural History Museum

Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology