FlyEvidence works voluntarily with the Royal Entomological Society (RES) to provide identification services to RES Fellows & Members and members of the general public.
Insects are invertebrate animals, that is, animals having an external skeleton or hardened outer shell. All insects have six legs (three pairs) and many have two pairs of wings. Sometimes the number of wings is reduced to one pair. This occurs where a pair is structurally modified e.g. the front pair of wings in beetles (Coleoptera) are modified into hardened wing covers called elytra; the posterior pair of wings in flies (Diptera) are modified into gyrating balancing organs called halteres.
There are very many insects - potentially 9 out of every ten organisms on Earth are insects. Just over one million insects have been described to date and there may be as many as 10 million on Earth. So, it is no easy matter to identify an insect.
The first step is to be sure it is an insect (check that there are only three pairs of jointed, locomotory legs). The find which Order the insect belongs to: there are 29 different Orders of insects dominated by four hugely diverse Orders: beetles (Coleoptera), flies (Diptera), moths (Lepidoptera) and ants, bees and wasps (Hymenoptera).
It is usually necessary to ask a specialist if an accurate species identification is needed. Contact FlyEvidence.co.uk for more help.
All insects have six legs - that is three pairs of legs.
This differentiates them from other Arthropods, such as spiders, ticks and mite that all have four pairs of legs (eight in total) and all crustacea (crabs, shrimp etc) which have at least five pairs of legs.
Insect bodies have three sections: the head, the thorax and the abdomen.
Insects have one pair of antennae (or feelers).
One pair of compound eyes (and sometimes other eyes too).
Insect life cycles are divided into nymphal or larval growing stages and adult reproductive stages, between which some insects have a pupa stage in which the larval body re-arranges to form the adult insect.
It is not uncommon for children to pick up head lice at school or for the school to repeatedly send home notices that there is a head lice or nit infestation.
A long term preventative, even if your child does not have nits or head lice, is to rinse hair once a week with a dilute solution of vinegar in warm water (1 part vinegar to 2 parts water e.g. 250ml vinegar:500ml water).
To find out more about head lice and nits, see the article below the FAQs
True bugs (Hemiptera) have multi-segmented sucking mouthparts and four wings. These are aphids, cicadas, stink bugs, bed bugs and water bugs.
Flies have only two wings - the hind wings are reduced to balancing organs called halteres. Flies and creatures like beetles, butterflies, bees, wasps and ants are often called bugs, but this is a poor name for them. Along with bugs, these are all insects.
There are also many non-insect species that are loosely called bugs, such as millipedes, centipedes, ticks, mites and spiders. But of course the word ‘bug' is also used to describe pathogens that cause disease (loosely 'germs’) or things that cause computers to go wrong, such as viruses and Trojans, or simply bad coding.
Relative to the volume of blood in the host that a female mosquito feeds from, the portion of blood taken up by the mosquito is extremely small; despite the irritation being so big.
Aedes aegypti draws approximately 0.002ml of blood. A human has about 4-5 litres of blood (that is a ratio of 2 x 10^6). It’s a minute amount that the female mosquito draws off.
For viral diseases such as HIV, the levels of viraemia are too low by about six orders of magnitude for successful insect transmission. In other words there isn’t a high enough proportion of viral cells to blood sub-sample taken by the mosquito for effective transmission to occur.
Not only that, the virus does not invade the mosquito salivary glands and hence does not get transmitted along with anti-coagulant when the mosquito bites.
Probably not. It is untested. Nevertheless, when mosquitoes bite, they inject an anti-coagulant from their salivary glands. Blood from a previous victim is in the crop (part of the digestive tract) and is not injected along with the anti-coagulant. There may be traces of blood on the outer parts of the mouthparts, but these are likely to be too minimal to transfer the virus.
For the successful transmission of a disease parasite such as malaria plasmodia, which are very small, via a small amount of the host blood fed on by a mosquito, the parasite has to be very abundant in the host blood. The plasmodia are so small (100-600 nm) that they invade the liver and blood cells in the host and breed there!
To reach high abundance in the host blood, the plasmodia proliferate to enormous numbers, flooding the blood with parasites, which is what sets off the body reaction leading to fever. The invasion of parasite into the blood is known as parasitaemia.
Within the mosquito, the plasmodia travel from the gut to the salivary glands and hence are transmitted into a new host when the mosquito feeds
For viral diseases such as HIV and coronavirus, the levels of viraemia (the medical condition where viruses enter the bloodstream) are too low by about six orders of magnitude for successful insect transmission. In other words there isn’t a high enough proportion of viral cells to blood meal taken by the mosquito for effective transmission to occur.
The dangers posed by use of a synthetic chemical such as DEET, is regarded far lower than contracting a disease such as malaria. So if you are visiting an area of high mosquito activity, or of known malaria endemism, it is better to be safe using a chemical, than to contract the disease.
DEET (N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide or C12H17NO) is the most common active ingredient in insect repellents. Although health studies have shown no significant harm to humans, anyone exposed to large amounts, or using DEET for prolonged periods, should be carefully monitored for side effects.
Always read the label; avoid contact with eyes and broken or sensitive skin; take care (and think twice) when using on children.
It’s a brilliant name for a product, but they call it octenol instead!
Mosquitoes and biting flies are attracted to (among other things) the carbon-dioxide that mammals breathe out. An octenol trap uses carbon-dioxide and the chemical octenol to lure mosquitoes and other biting flies (such as midges) into a trap, where they are then disposed of by electric current.
The efficiency of the traps can be increased by using airflow and thermal or color-visual properties which increase the attraction to the insects.
Head lice (Pediculus humanus capitis) are small, wingless parasitic insects in the family Pediculidae. They infest the human scalp and feed on blood from the scalp, which is essential for the females to produce eggs. The life cycle of head lice consists of three main stages:
Head lice are primarily transmitted through direct head-to-head contact with an infested person. They cannot fly or jump but can crawl quickly from one head to another when people's heads are in close contact.
Head lice do not survive for long away from the human scalp, but they many be spread through shared objects like hats, combs, or pillows, though this is less common.
Head lice are common among in children, especially those who attend schools or childcare centers, but they can affect people of all ages. It's essential to understand that head lice infestations are not a sign of poor hygiene or cleanliness.
Head lice infestations can happen to anyone, regardless of how clean their hair is. The key to preventing and controlling head lice is early detection, prompt treatment, and taking preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of transmission.
Head lice are specific to humans and do not infest pets or other animals.
Controlling head lice can be a challenging task, but with consistent efforts and proper techniques, you can effectively manage and prevent their spread.
Here are some steps to help you control head lice and nits that your children pick up at school:
If your child comes home with nits, or if the school notifies you that there is an outbreak of head lice, it is worth caring for your entire family as if they have an infestation, even if they do not. This way you can rest assured that the whole family is nit free.
Check all household members: Conduct head checks for all household members, and treat those who are infested. It's important to check everyone, as lice can easily spread among family members.
Launder bedding and clothing: Wash your child's bedding, clothing, hats, and other personal items in hot water (above 130°F or 54°C) and machine dry them on high heat. This will help kill any lice or nits present. Recent advertisements promoting cold water washing overlook this need and the anti-bacterial soaps promoted by these advertisements, do not effect nits and lice.
Seal non-washable items: Items that can't be washed, such as stuffed animals or non-washable hats, can be sealed in a plastic bag for 2 weeks. Lice can't survive without a human host for more than a few days. If you have a large freezer compartment, these items wrapped in plastic bags can be placed in the freezer for four days to a week. This quickly kills the nits and adults.
Vacuum the house: Vacuum carpets, furniture, and car seats to remove any fallen hairs that may carry lice.
Remember that head lice and nits are not a sign of poor hygiene; they can happen to anyone. Be patient and persistent in your efforts, and if infestations are difficult to manage, consider seeking advice from a healthcare professional or a licensed pest control specialist.
Many European Association of Forensic Entomology (EAFE) members use the European protocols set out in the Best Practices paper written by some of our colleagues. (J. Amendt, C.P. Campobasso, E. Gaudry, C. Reiter, H.N. LeBlanc, M.J.R. Hall, Best practice in forensic entomology–standards and guidelines, Int. J. Leg. Med. 121 (2007) 90e104, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00414-006-0086-x.)
A 'modern' method of larval measurement was recently published: Bourne, D. R., Kyle, C. J., LeBlanc, H. N., & Beresford, D. (2019). A rapid, non-invasive method for measuring live or preserved insect specimens using digital image analysis. Forensic Science International: Synergy, 1, 140-145. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fsisyn.2019.07.006
My question is, does this 'modern' method of larval measurement stand up to the needs of the EAFE community, is it sufficiently standardised to replace the hot-water kill method and should it be adopted as standard protocol?
Working within the forensic disciple brings specialists into direct contact with deceased members of the community. It is critical to protect against infection in these circumstances and the CDC in USA has released clear instruction on how to do so during the current COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) crisis. Such recommendations should really be rolled out internationally, so this document is a worthwhile and relevant read.
FlyEvidence is regularly asked if flies can transmit coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). A recent study by Balaraman et al. (2021) investigated the potential role of house flies (Musca domestica) in SARS-CoV-2 transmission. House flies were exposed to virus-spiked medium or virus-spiked milk for 24 hours under laboratory conditions. It was found that viral RNA (but no infectious virus) could readily be acquired and harboured by the flies. These data suggest that house flies are unlikely to play a significant role in transmitting SARS-CoV-2 to humans and susceptible animals, but that studies are warranted to determine if house fly transmission occurs naturally. Under natural conditions, exposure is very much shorter than the experimental exposure (24 hours) measured in seconds or at most minutes, making the transmission even less likely.
Balaraman, V., Drolet, B. S., Mitzel, D. N., Wilson, W. C., Owens, J., Gaudreault, N. N., ... & Nayduch, D. (2021). Mechanical transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by house flies. Parasites & Vectors, 14(1), 1-9.