Updated: Jun 16, 2022
Our mighty Black Soldier Fly (BSF), also known as Hermetia Illucens Linnaeus can be found everywhere in the world and is also a species of fly native to Singapore. These flies enjoy warmer temperatures and are mainly found in temperate regions and the tropics. Because of their adaptive nature, they are resilient and are able to tolerate a wide range of extremes in temperature.
Hungry Buggers, Big Eaters
In their larval form, they are very hungry eaters of a pretty wide variety of organic wastes, including fruit peels, vegetable scraps, and tofu wastes, also known as Okara which they decompose.
The larval stage is where most of the magic happens and why the BSF are gaining the recognition they have always deserved. The Black Soldier Fly larvae (also known as BSFL) is not only a popular alternative source of protein used for pet food, aquaculture, livestock feed, and human nutrition, they may even solve our world’s food waste problem. The truth is, they can address all those things – and so much more.
At Insect Feed Technologies, we value the BSF by creating key solutions for everyday needs including the Black Soldier Fly Organic Fertiliser (Frass) for healthy plants and crops, as well as Black Soldier Fly Dried Larvae for animal feed.
When the BSF transforms into an adult fly they stop eating. This is due to the insect not having any digestive organs, stingers, or mount parts. At this stage, its lifespan is short and its key objective is to reproduce. Furthermore, because of its lack of mouthparts, they are not able to sting and bite and cannot be associated with disease transmission unlike its counterparts like the mosquito.
The Black Soldier Fly’s Life Cycle
The average lifespan of the Black Soldier Fly is about 45 days total and spends most of their lives in 2 main stages, the larva stage at 18 days and the adult stage at 8 days.
There are five main stages associated with the lifecycle of any BSF.
The larval and pupal stages are the longest part of the life cycle of BSF. The adult and egg stages are much shorter. They lay between 500 to 800 eggs.
The hatching of the BSF eggs varies and takes about four days to hatch. This may depend on the temperature, the season, and the region. The moment the larva hatches from the egg, it begins feeding on a variety of organic matter. They are hardy creatures that can break down a range of waste from rotten and decaying vegetables and fruits, waste food, animal manure, and even dead animals and plants. In our facility, we only feed our insects the good stuff, consuming highly nutritious clean food wastes including fruits and vegetables and tofu wastes. After the third instar, there is a significant increase in their consumption rate.
The BSFL undergoes melanization as soon as they reach the 6th instar. The role of melanization in insects includes wound healing and supporting their immunity. This stage is apparent when the BSFL turns a darker colour. Here, they are known as prepupae where they stop feeding completely and empty their digestive tract. The prepupae leave their food source to migrate to dry crevices, where they metamorphose into pupae, which can take anything between 7 to 10 days.
The BSF do not move or eat during the pupal stage which lasts anything more than 10 days. At the end of the stage the adult BSF emerges.
An adult BSF feeds only on water and relies on the nutrients of the food waste it has stored before becoming an adult. In the wild, the adult lives remotely from humans, and lives for around eight days, during which time it matures and mates, to finally lay its eggs. Within a short while after ovipositing, the female dies.
During its adult phase, the BSF does not invade homes, spread any diseases, pollute the environment, or even on any crops.
The Beautiful Benefits of Black Soldier Flies
1. As Antimicrobial Products
The BSF immense medicinal potential has been a fantastic area of research that is already taking place. These insects produce chitosan, chitin and antimicrobial peptides that work effectively against viruses, fungi, parasites, and bacteria. A good example is when feeding the larvae manure, they help to modify the microflora of manure. This significantly reduces the production of pathogens that affect the livestock. The BSF is truly a great source for further research on antibiotics.
2. As Animal Feed and Oil
BSFL helps convert organic waste into highly edible biomass such as polypeptides, vitamins, amino acids, lipids, proteins, and peptides. An interesting fact is that depending on the substrates that the larvae are fed with, the nutritional value of the biomass that they produce varies. Due to the oil’s high digestibility, they are now being used in the production of animal feed, fish meal, feedstuffs, and various types of oil for external use and consumption. These insects are an effective alternative for protein sources in commercial feeds and fish meal substitutes, decreasing costs significantly.
3. As Biofertilizer
BSFL could be the solution to our food waste management challenge. The BSFL is used for various bioconversion processes and bio waste treatment because of its effectiveness and simplicity.
BSFL is quicker to convert organic waste material than worms used in vermicomposting. While each BSFL can consume more than 200MG of food daily, it can accumulate and remove toxic substances from waste and create a significantly lower greenhouse gas emission rate.
4. As Food
BSF has great potential as a food substitute for humans as well. They can be ground into a powdered form and added to various types of food. One can even consume them whole when fried and salted. Since BSFL contains all the necessary amino acids, fats, and vitamins and around 50% of truly high-quality protein, they are worth a try. The rich medium-chain fatty acid content, the antimicrobial benefits, and the chitin in their shell are truly a great source of fibre and other benefits for the gut.
Black Soldier Fly farming is sustainable since BSF and BSFL thrive well in densely populated environments and produce significantly more feed while needing far less land, water, and energy. The best part is that BSF can be farmed locally and close to needed most.
The potential of the mighty Black Soldier Fly is immense, from tackling the world’s food waste challenge to increasing our food security. Let us see beyond the ‘eek’ factor and start giving these insects some loving.