Plenty of us have asked ourselves, as we swatted away flies that kept landing on our picnic sandwiches, “Just what are flies good for, anyway?”
The Arizona Science Center exhibit “CSI: Crime Scene Insects,” which ends Sunday, reveals how insects such as flies and beetles assist forensic entomologists in establishing timelines in suspicious deaths.
Inspired by the TV show “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and its spinoffs, the exhibit features a bevy of live creepy crawlies such as huge cockroaches, beetles and a hatchery buzzing with recently hatched flies.
“I’m not really a fan of bugs,” says Renee Gardner of Bisbee, who was visiting the center with her husband, Peter. “I am more a fan of forensics, so we came down to see what (the exhibit) was all about.”
While some of the staged photographs of murder victims might be a little shocking to youngsters — the photos are graphically realistic — plenty of classrooms have visited the exhibit to learn how insects are used in police work.
“They love it,” says center marketing manager Catherine Desberg. “They have a great time.”
Forensic entomologists — the science was developed in 13th-century China — are able to determine how long a person has been dead by which insects are found on the corpse and in which stage of life they’re in when the body is examined. Certain species of flies and beetles are generally the first to arrive on a corpse, becoming in effect key witnesses to a crime.
Exhibit curator M. Lee Goff, a consultant on the hit CBS drama and professor at Chaminade University in Honolulu, is featured in a video at the exhibit giving testimony in court, and appears in an introductory video with “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” star William Petersen.
One of the most popular pieces of the exhibit is the kiosk describing the deaths of two hikers in the middle of the desert who, it was determined, drowned. Through forensic entomology, investigators were able to determine that the hikers were the victims of a flash flood, which had completely dried up by the time investigators found the bodies in the scorched desert.
The exhibit has plenty of information for people interested in insects, forensic science and fans of “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” and there is an eyeful for people who just want to see some live maggots wriggling around.
“I’m not into forensics,” said visitor Peter Gardner. “I like the bugs.”
‘CSI: Crime Scene Insects’
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today through Sunday
Where: Arizona Science Center, 600 E. Washington St., Phoenix
Cost: $11 adults, $8 seniors and kids ages 3-12
Information: (602) 716-2000 or www.azscience.org