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The black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens, a common and widespread fly, and quite possibly the best-known species in the entire infraorder. There are several reasons for this:
- The larvae are common detritivores in compost heaps, since decomposing matter is their food of choice.
- The larvae are used in manure management, for both house fly control and reduction in manure volume, and the mature larvae and prepupae raised in manure management operations are themselves useful as feed supplements.
- The larvae are sold as live pet food or as composting grubs and can be used as fish feed in aquaponics.
Names and trademarksEdit
A generic term for Hermetia illucens is black soldier fly larvae, abbreviated as "BSFL". Black soldier fly larvae are marketed under several brand names:
- Black soldier fly larvae were developed as a feeder species for exotic pets by D. Craig Sheppard. Dr. Sheppard named them Phoenix Worms and they became the first feeder insect to be granted a U.S. registered trademark in 2006. Phoenix Worms are marketed internationally by Insect Science Resource LLC and are served to animals in major zoos throughout the United States.
- The term Soldier Grubs is claimed as a trademark by www.wormman.com but this term is/was used for the "Soldier Grub Starter Colony" sold at www.compostmania.com and "Soldier Grub" is used generically by ProtaCulture representative(s) (who also market the BioPod).
- ReptiWorms is a trademark used at www.reptiworms.com.
- Calciworms is a registered trademark of Timerberline Fisheries.
Black soldier fly eggs take approximately 4 days to hatch and are typically deposited in crevices or on surfaces above or adjacent to the food source.
The adult fly is a mimic, very close in size, color, and appearance to the organ pipe mud dauber wasp and its relatives. The mimicry of this particular kind of wasp is especially enhanced in that the fly's antennae are elongated and wasp-like, the fly's hind tarsi are pale, as are the wasp's, and the fly has two small transparent "windows" in the basal abdominal segments that make it look like the fly has a narrow "wasp waist".
Waste and manure conversionEdit
BSFL are used to convert wastes into a high quality animal feed. The wastes include manure, food wastes and garden wastes of both animal and vegetable origin.
ProtaCulture holds a patent on a few containers for raising black soldier fly larvae, including the BioPod, the ProtaPod, and the BioPod Plus. These containers have ramps on the sides and filters to separate liquids from the bottom. The young grubs are attracted to the BSFL colony but when they are ready to pupate the grubs migrate away from the colony in search of a dry area to pupate. This instinct is utilized by the BioPod for auto-harvesting the grubs. When the grubs enter the pre-pupal stage they climb the ramps and fall into a collection container.
Homemade grub binsEdit
Poultry farmers have used the same technique to build grub bins with collection containers that are accessible to poultry, for automatic feeding. Fish farmers may allow the grubs to fall into the pond or tank. The grubs devour waste and grow very quickly. They can greatly reduce a number of odor causing chemicals as well as E-coli and other pathogens, or they prevent these from ever developing while the waste is being stored. This holds great potential for future waste management and food production solutions even for residential kitchen waste, if consumers are willing to separate their wastes instead of contaminating organic wastes with toxic materials, in garbage bins.
Establishing and building BSFL coloniesEdit
The main difficulty is obtaining BSFL or eggs to start or replenish the colony. This is usually done by enticing the soldier flies to lay eggs in small holes over the grub bin. In some regions it is possible to start or maintain adequate BSFL colonies from native soldier flies, however pest species such as houseflies and blowflies are also drawn to many of the foods used to attract soldier flies (such as fermented chicken feed).
In tropical or subtropical climates they might breed year-round but in other climates a greenhouse may be needed to obtain eggs in the cooler periods. The grubs are quite hardy and can handle more acidic conditions and heat, as compared with redworms. BSFL can survive cold winters particularly with large numbers of grubs, insulation, or compost heat (generated by the microorganisms in the grub bin or compost pile). Heat stimulates the grubs to crawl off, pupate, and hatch, and a great deal of light and heat seem to be required for breeding. Many small-scale grub farmers build their BSFL colonies from eggs deposited by "wild" soldier flies (which they may have released). Captive breeding has been done in a space of at least 2 meters tall and a meter square and most have used a greenhouse. Captive soldier flies may be evolving to breed with less space. Captive breeding can also keep pest flies away if done carefully.
Liquid and remaining residueEdit
One thing that attracts the soldier flies to lay eggs is the "scent" of the BSFL colony. If the soldier flies can detect the residue or liquid from the BSFL colony they may lay eggs near it. Some grub bins or mesophilic composters are buried in the ground and open on the bottom to drain liquids directly into the ground, so that the soldier flies would lay eggs in the bin without the liquid being moved or drained to a sewage system. The BioPod uses a removable container under the bin, to collect fluids. This must be periodically emptied, although CompostMania sells attachments (for ProtaPods) to automatically drain the fluids.
Large BSFL colonies can devour rotting waste and manure so quickly that a lot of liquid is released. This has been problematic in some situations. Poultry manure piles composting (on cement) may "leak" unexpectedly when they become inhabited with BSFL, and there may not be a suitable place for the runoff. This may be remedied by adding or mixing in dry brown plant material (sawdust, pine shavings, leaves, chipped tree trimmings, etc) to absorb or evaporate the liquid and compost the plant material. To auto-harvest the grubs the manure may be shoveled into grub bins (with ramps), or ramps and walls may be built around the manure pile. (ProtaCulture representative doesn't advise feeding grubs grown in manure or offal back to the same "genus" of animal who produced these however BSFL are not known to be intermediate hosts of any parasites unlike most insects and worms that poultry find when "free ranging" or grazing their manure.)
BSFL and redwormsEdit
Worm farmers often get BSFL in their worm bins. A few have complained of foul odor perhaps resulting from anaerobic conditions brought about by the quick release of liquids with inadequate drainage or sorbents. BSFL tend to convert "high-nutrient" waste quickly into animal feed. Redworms are better at converting high-cellulose materials (paper, cardboard, leaves, plant materials except wood) into an excellent soil amendment.
Redworms can thrive on the residue produced by BSFL. Most attempts at raising BSFL and redworms in the same container, are unsuccessful. Without a lot of worm bedding the BSFL tend to overheat or otherwise kill the redworms. However, one hobbyist reported that when using a worm bin with the bottom cut off and buried partially in the ground, worms are able to survive under BSFL.
Marketed soldier fly larvaeEdit
Phoenix Worms are the most popular BSFL sold and the larvae are available throughout the year. Some sellers only market the larvae seasonally.
Variation in type and qualityEdit
Phoenix Worms and Reptiworms are sorted by size so that herptile owners can choose the appropriate size needed as food for their pets.
Nutrient levels, sanitation, and packing mediumEdit
Phoenixworms.com claims the quality of BSFL brands can vary greatly, in terms of nutrient levels and safety of packing medium. A ProtaCulture representative advises that grubs raised in manure or animal remains, not be fed to sensitive reptiles or the same "genus" of animal who produced the manure or the remains. Reptiworms claims their grubs are fed a "custom milled organic grain meal" in an environment that is "100% controlled" so they do not harm over 2,000 of their own Bearded dragons who are fed these every day. Their packing medium is not food so that it stays clean and they claim it will not hurt the animal being fed the grub. 
- ↑ Template:Cite journal
- ↑ At http://soldiergrubs.com/ the trademark claim is made. Soldiergrubs.com is linked from the Worm Man blog and it uses the same Soldier Grub logo.
- ↑ Keynotes: BioPod Online Presentations
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 The Phoenix Worm Store
- ↑ BSFL food that is not suitable for poultry
- ↑ ReptiWorms FAQs
- ProtaTM Culture & The BioPodTM
- The GrubCycle Solution
- Black Soldier Fly Blog – Bio-Composting with Black Soldier Fly larvae
- Forging a New Food Chain
- Report for Mike Williams (2005)
- Bioconversion of Food Waste : Black Soldier fly
- 'Grubby' Research Promises Environmental, Economic Benefits
- Black soldier flyon the University of Florida / Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Featured Creatures website