Maggot Art With Dr. Jennifer Rosati

It was a chilly autumnal day on October 29th when members of the Society gathered at John Jay College's campus. Led by Dr. Jennifer Rosati, a professor of forensic entomology at John Jay, and her two research assistants, the attendees' charge was two-fold: to explore the lifecycle of the blow fly, which plays an important part in time-of-death determinations, and to utilize third-instar larvae to create unique works of art. Dr. Rosati explained how blow flies are typically the first insects to interact with a body immediately after life is terminated. Within minutes, adult flies can lay up 350 eggs on the dead tissue. It is here that the maggots (larvae) remain until they have amassed enough energy to engage in their "wandering" stage. Taking advantage of the maggots' search for a suitable place to pupate, Society members dipped the maggots in non-toxic acrylic paint and watched them as they took off in all directions on canvas. The maggots had no particular direction to travel, and as such, they simply wandered all around and eventually off the edges of the paper. Everyone likely spent as much time chasing maggots as the maggots spent creating colorful trails. When the maggots stopped wandering, they were all collected so that they may continue on to become pupae. Dr. Rosati also provided a brief tour of the facility in which she works and showed off the extensive fly development collection in her lab. In the end, attendees were left with Pollock-esque works they could take home to show their friends and family - with a perfect backstory about bugs just in time for Halloween.


To view more photos from this event, check out our gallery. Photo credit to Glenn Doherty and Maurice Chen.