Necrophagous blow fly species (Diptera: Calliphoridae) are the most important agents for estimating the postmortem interval (PMI) in forensic entomology. Nevertheless, the oviposition preferences of blow flies may cause a bias of PMI estimations because of a delay or acceleration of egg laying. Chrysomya megacephala (F.) and C. rufifacies (Macquart) are two predominant necrophagous blow fly species in Taiwan. Their larvae undergo rather intense competition, and the latter one can prey on the former under natural conditions. To understand the oviposition preferences of these two species, a dual-choice device was used to test the choice of oviposition sites by females. Results showed when pork liver with and without larvae of C. rufifacies was provided, C. megacephala preferred to lay eggs on the liver without larvae. However, C. megacephala showed no preference when pork liver with and without conspecific larvae or larvae of Hemipyrellia ligurriens (Wiedemann) was provided. These results indicate that females of C. megacephala try to avoid laying eggs around larvae of facultatively predaceous species of C. rufifacies. However, C. rufifacies showed significant oviposition preference for pork liver with larvae of C. megacephala or conspecific ones when compared with pork liver with no larvae. These results probably imply that conspecific larvae or larvae of C. megacephala may potentially be alternative food resources for C. rufifacies, so that its females prefer to lay eggs in their presence. When considering the size of the oviposition media, pork livers of a relatively small size were obviously unfavorable to both species. This may be because females need to find sufficient resources to meet the food demands of their larvae. In another experiment, neither blow fly species showed an oviposition preference for pork livers of different stages of decay. In addition, the oviposition preferences of both species to those media with larvae were greatly disturbed in a dark environment. If we removed the larvae that had previously fed on the pork liver and let the females choose, no oviposition preference was observed; but both species still showed a preference for the larger media in the dark. This suggests that female blow flies can use visual cues to recognize larvae on the media and decide on their oviposition site. Our studies point out the effects of some biotic and abiotic factors which were previously overlooked, and remind us to reevaluate these effects on oviposition, especially when using insect developmental data to estimate PMIs.
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Vol. 49 • No. 2