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Publication #4H-ENL-41

Forensic Entomology1

Erika Andersen and Russell Mizell with Jessica Kochert and Joy Jordan2


It has been said that humans and insects are the two most successful creatures on Earth. Insects have been around much longer — they were here about 350 million years before humans entered the picture, which was only about 100,000 years ago.

Humans attempt to manage their environment, which allows us to manipulate our success as a species. Insects, on the other hand, do not have the powers of higher thought or the use of tools, as far as we know! What insects do have is the ability to adapt to a variety of habitats and lifestyles because of their small size, fast rate of reproduction, hard exoskeleton, and, often, the ability to fly. These traits have made insects the dominant group of animals on Earth (both on land and in fresh water). Their abilities also make them a very useful tool in the world of forensics.

Forensics is a hot topic, with many movies and popular television shows (such as “CSI”) introducing youth to the tools, processes, and critical thinking skills needed to solve various crimes. Within this world, insects have a growing presence. The field of forensic entomology focuses on the information that insects provide investigators about the time, location, and criminal negligence within a wide variety of criminal cases (everything from food contamination to murder).

Using This Curriculum

This curriculum has been designed as a tool for teaching youth (grades 6–8) about the contributions that insects make to the world of forensics. This three-week series of lesson activities is designed for use in informal educational settings such as after-school programs, summer day camps, and 4-H clubs. However, this package also includes the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards for teachers within formal classroom settings who may wish to incorporate these activities into their current lesson plans.

For the full content of this package, download the PDF version at



This document is 4H-ENL-41, one of a series of the 4-H Youth Development Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date January 2011. Reviewed February 2017. Visit the EDIS website at


The Forensic Entomology curriculum package was developed by Erika Andersen, graduate student and Russell Mizell, professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology, with Jessica Kochert, graduate Student and Joy Jordan, associate professor and 4-H curriculum specialist, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences; UF/IFAS Extension. Special thanks to Anita Neal, county Extension director, UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County, Heather Kent, NW RSA, and Julie Dillard, Extension agent, UF/IFAS Extension Washington County for their assistance with material review and pilot testing.

This work was partially funded by a grant from the USDA–CSREES Southern Region Pest Management Center to Russell Mizell, professor, and Erika Andersen, graduate student, Entomology and Nematology, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.