Holy Jumping Maggots!!
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.
Posted on November 5, 2011, in General, The Autopsy, The Crime Scene and tagged autopsy, cheese-skipper fly, Clandestine Grave, crime, Crime Scene, csi, detective, fiction, forensic entomology, forensics, larvae, maggot, medical examiner, murder, mystery, Piophila casei, police, thriller, tom adair. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.