Death Stinks: Characterizing the Volatiles that Attract Blow Flies During Decomposition

Faculty Sponsor

Kristi Bugajski


Arts and Sciences



ORCID Identifier(s)


Presentation Type

Poster Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 5-3-2019


Blow flies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) are attracted to the volatile compounds (organic compounds that easily become airborne) given off by decomposing matter. Baits are often used as human substitutes in forensic entomology, and a bait should approximate the volatiles given off by decomposing human bodies as closely as possible. This fact has led us to investigate the different volatiles, and how the volatiles change throughout the process of decomposition in chicken liver. Based on this, we will assess how well chicken liver approximates the process of decomposition in a human body. Chicken liver was placed in a sealed mason jar for gases to accumulate in the headspace. A small hole was punctured in the lid of the mason jar and gases were drawn into one of three different solid-phase microextraction (SPME) fibers. After the SPME fiber was left in the jar for five minutes, Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry was used to analyze the volatiles. Preliminary results that show the most common compounds being released from the liver are methyl disulfide, dimethyl trisulfide, dimethoxyflavone, and 1-(3-hydroxypropyl)-2-piperidinone. The results are being compared with published literature to identify important substances in gases that attract blow flies and which sample gives the most reliable results in comparison to a human cadaver. The knowledge gained will be used to assess the appropriate amount of time to age baits to best simulate human cadaver volatiles found in the literature.

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