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Hermetia illucens Black soldier fly edit1
Black soldier flies mating

The soldier fly has no functioning mouthparts and instead spends its adult life in search of mates and reproducing.

Wasp 1454

Female black soldier fly depositing eggs in tree bark.

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.[1]
  • 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 as Black Soldier Fly Larvae as well as under numerous brand names, for example:

  • Phoenix Worms is the registered U.S. trademark granted to Dr. D. Craig Sheppard in 2006. This was the first trademark issued for a feeder insect. Phoenix Worms are marketed internationally by Insect Science Resource LLC.
  • The term Soldier Grubs is claimed as a trademark by[2] but this term is/was used for the "Soldier Grub Starter Colony" sold at and "Soldier Grub" is used generically by ProtaCulture representative(s) (who also market the BioPod).
  • ReptiWorms is claimed as a trademark at
  • Calciworms is a registered trademark of Timerberline Fisheries.

Life cycleEdit

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.[3]

The larvae range in size from 1/8-3/4 inch. Although they can be stored at room temperature for several weeks, their longest shelf life is achieved at 50-60°F

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.

Commercial Grub BinsEdit

A number of commercial grub bins are available. These containers typically 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 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. Other sysems may use a removable container under the bin, to collect fluids. This must be periodically emptied, although some systems may contain attachments 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. (some commercial representatives don'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


BSFL larva are sold live primarily to the reptile market and dried or freeze dried for aquaculture and bird feed.

Variation in type and qualityEdit


When sold as live larvae, BSFL 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

The quality of BSFL brands can vary  in terms of nutrient levels[4] and safety of packing medium.[4]Some representatives advise 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.[5]Reptile owners who purchase BSFL should ensure the packing medium in which larvae are provided is not harmful to their reptiles.[6]


  1. Template:Cite journal
  2. At the trademark claim is made. is linked from the Worm Man blog and it uses the same Soldier Grub logo.
  3. Keynotes: BioPod Online Presentations
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Phoenix Worm Store
  5. BSFL food that is not suitable for poultry
  6. ReptiWorms FAQs

External linksEdit