Society of African Journal Editors

African Invertebrates

The temporal occurrence of flesh flies (Diptera, Sarcophagidae) at carrion-baited traps in Grahamstown, South Africa

Authors: Martin H. Villet, Chrystal Clitheroe, Kirstin A. Williams

Journal: African Invertebrates

Africa, over a year. Sarcophaga africa Wiedemann, 1824, S. inaequalis Austen, 1909, S. exuberans Pandellé, 1896 and S. tibialis Macquart, 1851 showed well-defined peaks between early October 2001 and late April 2002, and only S. africa was trapped at other times of year. These peaks occurred when average minimum and maximum ambient air temperatures were above 12°C and 22°C, respectively, and showed no obvious relationship to rainfall. There were indications of population cycles in all of these species. Sarcophaga hera Zumpt, 1972, S. arno Curran, 1934, S. inzi Curran, 1934, S. langi Curran, 1934, S. freyi Zumpt, 1953, S. nodosa Engel, 1925 and S. samia Curran, 1934 were too scarce to assess their patterns of occurrence rigorously. Insects attending a corpse are reputed to assist forensic entomologists in estimating the time of year when the body died. Some flesh flies provide more precise estimates than others, so several species should be used for cross-validation. Insect activity at a corpse depends on the weather, so that presence of a species indicates particular environmental conditions and not simply calendar dates (particularly if climate changes). Absence of a species is not necessarily evidence of specific conditions because species may not be present at all sites simultaneously, populations cycle even when their members are active, and low population densities may hamper detection of a species.