A 2-yr survey of hymenopteran parasitoids associated with carrion-breeding flies was conducted to establish the parasitoid species of potential forensic significance in Western Australia. Host associations, seasonality, and rates of parasitism in the field were examined to assess the value of the identified parasitoids as forensic indicators of time since death. Four species of parasitoid emerged from dipteran specimens collected from carcasses: Tachinaephagus zealandicus Ashmead (Encryptidae), Nasonia vitripennis Walker (Pteromalidae), Spilomicrus sp. (Diapriidae), and Aphaereta sp. (Braconidae). Overall parasitism of carrion-breeding flies was 11.8%. T. zealandicus and N. vitripennis were the predominant species, accounting for 86.3 and 11.5% of parasitism observed, respectively. In contrast, Aphaereta sp. and Spilomicrus sp. were intermittently collected from carcasses throughout the study and the parasitism rates of both species were low (≤3.0%). Our findings provide forensically important biological and behavioral data of parasitoid—host interactions within carcass environments. The cosmopolitan parasitoids T. zealandicus and N. vitripennis have the greatest potential as indicators of time since death in forensic investigations based on their broad host ranges, rates of parasitism, and seasonal prevalence. In combination, these two species are present throughout the year and they parasitized nearly all of the dipteran species that colonize carcasses. Because both are cosmopolitan species, the data presented here are applicable to regions experiencing a similar Mediterranean climate. This work reports the first incidence of T. zealandicus and N. vitripennis parasitizing the dipteran species Calliphora albifrontalis Malloch (Calliphoridae), Calliphora dubia Macquart (Calliphoridae), and Hydrotaea rostrata Robineau-Desvoidy (Muscidae).
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Vol. 46 • No. 5