• Microbial effects on the development of forensically important blow fly species

      Crooks, Esther R.; Bulling, Mark T.; Barnes, Kate M.; University of Derby (Elsevier, 2016-06-03)
      Colonisation times and development rates of specific blow fly species are used to estimate the minimum Post Mortem Interval (mPMI). The presence or absence of bacteria on a corpse can potentially affect the development and survival of blow fly larvae. Therefore an understanding of microbial-insect interactions is important for improving the interpretation of mPMI estimations. In this study, the effect of two bacteria (Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus aureus) on the growth rate and survival of three forensically important blow fly species (Lucilia sericata, Calliphora vicina and Calliphora vomitoria) was investigated. Sterile larvae were raised in a controlled environment (16:8 h day: night light cycle, 23:21 °C day: night temperature cycle and a constant 35% relative humidity) on four artificial diets prepared with 100 μl of 105 CFU bacterial solutions as follows: (1) E. coli, (2) S. aureus, (3) a 50:50 E. coli:S. aureus mix and (4) a sterile bacteria-free control diet. Daily measurements (length, width and weight) were taken from first instar larvae through to the emergence of adult flies. Survival rates were also determined at pupation and adult emergence. Results indicate that bacteria were not essential for the development of any of the blow fly species. However, larval growth rates were affected by bacterial diet, with effects differing between blow fly species. Peak larval weights also varied according to species-diet combination; C. vomitoria had the largest weight on E. coli and mixed diets, C. vicina had the largest weight on S. aureus diets, and treatment had no significant effect on the peak larval weight of L. sericata. These results indicate the potential for the bacteria that larvae are exposed to during development on a corpse to alter both developmental rates and larval weight in some blow fly species.