UW students learn to place time of death through forensic entomology

Professor David Legg began teaching the forensic entomology class in 2008. The course is offered every other year.
Professor David Legg began teaching the forensic entomology class in 2008. The course is offered every other year.

Chinese peasants ordered by the local inquest official to gather together with their sickles that hot day in 1225 little knew they would be remembered across the next seven centuries.

Authorities were investigating the murder of a man whose body was found by the roadside, slashed 10 times bearing wounds similar to those that could have been made by a sickle used to harvest rice.

The investigating official ordered the nearest neighbors to submit their sickles for examination.

More than 70 sickles were laid on the ground that hot day. Flies quickly gathered on one sickle. He would not confess. The investigator pointed out that the other sickles had no flies, that there were traces of blood on this man’s sickle that caused the flies to gather.

The owner then confessed, leaving the “bystanders speechless, sighing with admiration,” wrote Sun Tz’u, a judicial intendant in 12th century China, in his book “The Washing Away of Wrongs,” written about 1247 or 1248, according to most sources.

The work is recognized as the oldest book on forensic or legal medicine in any civilization and carries cheery chapter titles such as “When the head and trunk are in different places,” “Deaths by beating and choking passed off as suicide by hanging,” and “Holding inquests on bodies too decomposed to serve as evidence.”

Bodies were sometimes manipulated in ways to throw off investigators. There’s no fooling insects, though. Blowflies lay eggs on a body or carcass – sometimes within seconds of death – and the length or weight of a larva helps determine time since death or postmortem interval.

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources entomology Professor David Legg and laboratory assistant Judi Diamond present their forensic entomology course every other spring.

Students learn television shows like “CSI,” “NCIS” and “Bones” don’t accurately show viewers how the investigative process works.

Continue reading UW students learn to place time of death through forensic entomology

New guides address pests, beneficial insects in Wyoming alfalfa

AphidsTwo new publications from University of Wyoming Extension give growers a closer look at pests and beneficial insects affecting alfalfa crops.

Damage from insects includes seedling death, stunted growth, skeletonization and other leaf deformity. “Insects in Wyoming Alfalfa” is available online at bit.ly/insectsinalfalfa. “Aphids in Alfalfa” is available at bit.ly/aphidsinalfalfa.

 “Insects in Wyoming Alfalfa” is an easy-to-use guide to eight leaf chewers, sap suckers
and the blister beetle, whose toxin is poisonous when consumed by horses. It also includes beneficial insects and spiders that aid alfalfa crops by serving as pest predators and parasites and plant pollinators. The guide contains descriptions, photos and actual-sized silhouettes.  

Insects in wyoming“Aphids in Alfalfa” gives a more in-depth look at this common and sometimes serious pest, noted for piercing, sucking mouthparts, rapid reproduction and ability to reduce yields by several means. Two tables in this bulletin guide producers in counting aphids and beneficial lady beetles to determine if insecticide treatment may be necessary.

For more information, contact Randa Jabbour in the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Department of Plant Sciences. She can be reached at 307-766-3439 or rjabbour@uwyo.edu.

Ask-a-scientist at UW research and extension field day near Lingle

Graduate student Cara Noseworthy discusses cheatgrass research at last year's field day at the james C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center near Lingle.
Graduate student Cara Noseworthy discusses cheatgrass research at last year’s field day at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center near Lingle.

Attendees can ask-a-scientist during the field day at the University of Wyoming research and extension (R&E) center near Lingle Thursday, Aug. 20.

The field day begins with registration and a welcome at 3 p.m. and ends with a 5:30 dinner, all at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) near Lingle.

“A recent report indicated people appreciate receiving information directly from a scientist because they are respected and a creditable source of information,” said Bret Hess, associate dean of research in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of the Agricultural Experiment Station, which directs four R&E centers in the state.

Three SAREC research projects will be presented in-depth followed by three-minute summaries of research, then tours of plots and research poster presentations.

The schedule includes:

3:20 p.m. – Cheatgrass Restoration Challenge at SAREC; blue tongue disease study; Rogers Research Site activities

4 p.m. – Fastest three minutes: Wheat variety trial and wheat weather monitoring results; beneficial insects for alfalfa; pollinator plot work; cultural practices influencing dry bean harvest efficiency; planting date and residential herbicide effects on inter-seeded winter forage crops; research associate Jerry Nachtman retirement appreciation

4:30/4:45 p.m. – Plot stops: Pollinator plots and high tunnel research; grass-legume mixture for improved forage yield, forage quality, soil properties and economic return; beneficial insects for alfalfa; Goss’s wilt (causes systemic infection and wilting of corn plants, as well as severe leaf blighting)

Research poster presentations: Management of Rhizoctonia disease of sugar beets; winter wheat/cover crop/compost study; beneficial insects for alfalfa

The field days bulletin showing research at SAREC and the centers at Laramie, Powell and Sheridan is at http://bit.ly/2015agresearch.

Powell Research and Extension Center hosting ‘Plant Adventures’ for youths

                 Hands-on youth activities in plant sciences and insects are planned for “Plant Adventures” Saturday, June 13, at the Powell Research and Extension Center, 747 Road 9.

            Activities are 9-11:30 a.m., said Jeremiah Vardiman, University of Wyoming Extension educator.

            “This is a fun family event providing hands-on activities in plant sciences, good bugs/bad bugs, soil and water, bees and honey and planting, focusing on children ages 7-10,” said Vardiman. “We will be covering basic plant parts and functions, insect parts and life cycles, soil types and the value of water, honey bees and their importance along with a hands-on planting exercise.” 

            RSVP with Rachel Olsen by emailing rolsen7@uwyo.edu or calling 307-754-8836. For more information, contact Vardiman in Powell at 307-754-8836 or jvardima@uwyo.edu.

Protecting landscape plants from notorious insects part of Laramie session

Scott Schell
Scott Schell

Helping landowners identify and manage insects that affect trees, shrubs and gardens is part of the Dirty Dozen Insects workshop Wednesday, May 13, in Laramie.

The session is 5:30-7 p.m. at the Albany County Extension office meeting room at the fairgrounds.

Instructors include extension entomologist Scott Schell and educator Kellie Chichester. Register at http://laramieinsectworkshop.eventbrite.com. For more information, contact Chichester at 307-721-2571 or kelliec@uwyo.edu.