Blow flies, the green, shiny, buzzy flies you’ll often see flying around on warm days, are generally the first insects that show up after an animal dies. This is because they are constantly flying around looking for an appropriate place to lay their eggs, and dead carcasses are the best choice for them. As soon as they smell a dead body, they will zero in on the area, land, and begin laying their eggs in warm, wet openings. Flesh flies might be the next on the scene, looking for freshly dead flesh to munch on. They will also lay eggs as they are eating the flesh.

Beetles are next to find the rotting body, followed finally by the scavengers such as vultures and opossums. The precise timing of these predatory visitors is necessary for identifying the length of time a body has rested in its current position, especially in the case of human remains, as is shown on TV shows relating to crime scene investigations.

In reality, the weather has much to do with the precise science. If it is it sunny, hot, and humid, the carcasses will decompose much faster than if it is shady, dry, and cool, or downright cold and rainy or snowy. Many insects have high metabolisms, and they have a high turnover when it is hot, rapidly flipping through the stages of decomposition and turning to mummification quickly, followed by the slow decay of the rest of the remains.

In shady, moist areas, the flies are more active, however, most likely not wanting to be burned in the hot sun. In foresty areas, decay will take place very quickly, without the mummification seen in the hot sunny areas. There is also a vast array of insects that crawl around in the shady and moist areas, allowing for the decomposition to occur quite quickly.

Rain can make the process go either way. It can wash away the maggots and other insects that are eating the remains, slowing the process of decay. If, on the other hand, heavy rains liquefy the body, it will greatly speed up the decomposition process. But if a previously-mummified body is rehydrated, the process has to start almost at the beginning.

Although it is not known exactly how long the different animals take to decompose, there are facts known about everything from whales on down to mice. A large whale that was observed during decomposition took almost 16 years to become skeletonized, while in warm weather, a large pig could take anywhere from a few days to two weeks. Human remains have been measured at about three months from death to skeleton, weather permitting.

Read the Pest Wildlife Home Page page for helpful information and to learn more about HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE FOR ANIMALS TO DECOMPOSE?


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