Holy Jumping Maggots!!

The Cheese-skipper fly Piophila casei

This is one of those posts that is very focused but may be good for a laugh or squirm for your readers. I have written previous posts on forensic entomologists and the role of insect development in death scenes but this posting is about a particular behavior of a particular fly larvae. This species is commonly referred to as the Skipper Fly or Cheese-Skipper fly (Piophila casei) from the Family Piophilidae. This is a relatively small group of flies (about 70 species) found commonly in cooler temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere (although they can be found anywhere). In non-forensic settings they can be associated with stored products like cheese (hence the name). In forensic cases they are more common in the later stages of decomposition when the body is drying out.

The particular behavior I am interested in is this larvae escape mechanism. When these larvae are disturbed they do the coolest thing. They fold their body in half and by rapidly flexing their body they propel themselves through the air. It’s quite a site to see a body infested with multiple maggots “jumping” all around.  Watch the video below to get an idea of what this might look like. These little guys can propel themselves several feet away from the body.  You can probably see where this is going.

I had a colleague of mine squirm and almost scream as one of these little guys launched into her hair while examining a body. It’s kind of a hazard of the job we all come to expect but when you consider where they’ve been crawling it can soften the knees of the most hardened professional. God forbid one launches into your mouth! If you are writing a scene with a body in the advanced stages of decay in a cooler climate you might consider adding this little character actor for the desired effect. It’s a tiny thing but your reader will appreciate your attention to detail and added depth to the scene.

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About forensics4fiction

Hi there. Thank you for visiting my BLOG for crime writers. I hope you will find it interesting. I would love to hear your questions and thoughts regarding forensics and criminal investigations. I hope that the information here will help answer your questions or ignite your imagination. I am a retired senior criminalist with 15 years of forensic experience. I have served as the president of the Association for Crime Scene Reconstruction, Rocky Mountain Association of Bloodstain Pattern Analysts, and the Rocky Mountain Division of the International Association for Identification. I am triple board certified in forensic related fields and one of only 40 board-certified bloodstain pattern analysts and 80 board-certified footwear examiners worldwide In addition to writing over 60 scientific papers, I have worked as the editor of the Journal of the Association for Crime Scene Reconstruction, been interviewed by and consulted for television, books, magazines, and newspaper articles including documentaries on the Discovery Channel and National Geographic.

Posted on November 5, 2011, in General, The Autopsy, The Crime Scene and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. “When these larvae are disturbed, they do the coolest thing.” ! See, that’s a scientist talking. I would have said “they do the freakiest thing”… Thanks for this, I have to go brush my hair now….


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