Our unsung hero: the Blowfly

Author: Eric Wülfgang Schultz | August 6, 2015

Dermestid beetles do a wonderful job of skeletal preparation, but their sensitive nature limits their abilities. In the wild, Dermestid beetles are among the last of the insects to visit a body, arriving long after the blowflies have left. Road killed specimens found on a hot July day are unlike to be the pure, maggot free, fare that our dermestids require. The science must move forward however, and specimens must be collected. In this effort, we must rely on our unsung hero the blowfly.

EWS1Our most recent North American Raccoon (Procyon lotor) was found on the afternoon of July 4th 2015. He was a male weighing approximately 20 Lbs. His skeletal condition was good but he was in an advanced decomposition stage and was unable to be processed through our dermestid lab.

EWS2Fortunately, Blowflies are eager to go to work typically visiting the body within hours of death. Our Raccoon was visited by a species of blowfly known as Cynomyopsis cadaverine, the Shiny Bluebottle Fly. We took our raccoon’s measurements on the roadside and performed a minimum of specimen preparation work, removing his fur and internal organs. We placed him in our newly developed fly box.

EWS3After only one week, the flies reduced our specimen to a black liquid and bone. Research is ongoing as to why the fly box encourages the flies to completely breakdown the soft tissues. The current theory is that it retains enough moisture or fats to keep the maggots feeding.


After a quick rinse in a strainer, our racoon, who otherwise would have been left on the roadside, was ready to add to our comparative collection.


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