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Flesh Fly (Sarcophaga spp.)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Flesh Fly



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Some Flesh Flies are found on dead and rotting animal tissue, making them useful forensics tools when determining time of death for human victims.



Updated: 03/23/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Knowledge of the life cycle of certain genera of Flesh Flies can be valuable information. The presence of adults and larvae at a crime scene can actually assist a forensic specialist in determining how long a body has been in that area. The genus Sarcophaga lays live maggots, not eggs, on carcasses, and their size and life stage changes quickly. Noting both the time of a body's discovery as well as the life stage of the present flies may prove useful information in trying to determine time of death.

Adults in Sarcophaga have red eyes and clear wings. Their thorax ('shoulder area') has alternating black and gray stripes that may look metallic. The black abdomen ends in a brownish-red tip and spiky hairs. They are active all spring and summer. They can be found in open areas like fields, parks, meadows and parking lots. They may also be found in backyards and forests. This genus consists of almost 80 species and spans the entire North American continent. Adult Flesh Flies drink animal fluids and may also visit piles of dung. Flesh Flies are some of the first insects to visit a dead animal. Their larvae (maggots) eat the rotting, decaying flesh of vertebrates as well as dead insects. Many of them remain on the carcass they were born on until they pupate, crawling over each other at a single feeding site, the sight of which may cause nausea in some people.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Fast insect icon
Flying insect icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Diptera
        Family: Sarcophagidae
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          Genus: Sarcophaga
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            Species: spp.
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Sarcophaga spp.
Category: Fly or Mosquito
Size (Adult; Length): 10mm to 14mm (0.39" to 0.55")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black, gray, silver, red
Descriptors: fast, flying, carrion, rotten, corpse, eyes, silver
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 10mm (0.4in) and 14mm (0.6in)
Lo: 10mm
Md: 12mm
Hi: 14mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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Alaska  
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* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Flesh Fly may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Flesh Fly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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