The Effect of Plastic Bags on Decomposition and Necrophagous Fly Composition

Level of Education of Students Involved


Faculty Sponsor

Kristi Bugajski


Arts and Sciences



ORCID Identifier(s)

0000-0002-1518-0804; 0000-0003-2195-6952; 0000-0002-5513-0975

Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-27-2023


Forensic entomology uses insects to help estimate the post-mortem interval (PMI) based on blow fly colonization. The PMI provides an estimate of the time between death and discovery and is of extreme relevance due to its large role in forensic investigations. Nine fetal pigs were thawed from frozen 24 hours before the start of the experiment. Six fetal pigs were covered with plastic bags: three with thin plastic bags (average bag weight of 5.43 g) and three with thick plastic bags (average bag weight of 11.9 g). The remaining three pigs served as the control group. These pigs were placed outside, monitored for 6 days, and checked three times daily to look for the presence of blow fly eggs, adults, and maggots. Third instar maggots were collected for later observance. ANOVA tests were conducted to look for differences in the timing of blow fly oviposition between treatments. There was no significant difference found for any of the life stages in either trial. P-values ranged from 0.22 -1. The maggots were identified to species to look for differences in species composition between treatments. Lucilia coeruleiviridis was the dominant species found. Sarcophagidae flies were found only on bagged pigs. Sarcophagidae larvae have been found very rarely in this field site over the past decade, so this is an interesting finding. Scavenging of the pigs was a problem and future research should aim to reduce the effects of vertebrate scavenging. This research was repeated in the Fall 2022 and results from that field season will also be presented.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Kaylee Huyser is a biology major graduating senior. She is joining the Navy after graduation.

Maranda Powell is a biology major graduating senior who plans to attend PA school in the future.

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