As food sources become scarce the world over, insect farming has become a cheaper and faster way to food compared to conventional methods. Black soldier fly farming is gaining popularity due to its many benefits.
The black soldier fly is currently the most popular type of insect farming. This fly’s quick production cycle and high protein concentration make it the perfect candidate for food production. In addition, larvae are an excellent food source for many animals due to their high protein content.
The larvae have between 40 and 65% protein and other vital nutrients for humans and animals. Therefore, these insects are processed, dried, distributed, and further processed to create an insect meal.
What are black soldier fly larvae?
The black soldier fly, called Hermetia illucens, is a black fly from the family Stratiomyidae. It undergoes five main life stages namely the egg, larva, prepupa, pupa, and adult.
A mature female black soldier fly can produce anywhere from 206 to 639 eggs at once and hatch after about four days. Larvae that have just emerged are about one millimeter long and can eat a variety of organic materials, including adjusting to diets with different nutritional contents.
Depending on the foods available to the larvae, the stage can last between 18 and 36 days, with the prepupal stage lasting roughly seven days. Temperatures or lack of food can lengthen the larval stage by months. They are nutrient-rich at this stage as they consume as much food as possible before transitioning to adulthood.
The most famous characteristic of black soldier flies is their superior protein content. This is because they digest protein from the foods they eat rather than producing it themselves.
Black soldier fly larvae nutritional content
Below is the complete breakdown of the larva with its nutritional contents.
How to raise black soldier fly larvae
If you’re considering raising your black soldier flies for harvest, you probably worry about keeping them alive. Surprisingly, they require very little maintenance and can survive on practically any organic material devouring it. These flies can endure just about anything.
The life cycle of the black soldier fly has five primary stages: the egg, larva, prepupal, pupal, and adult stages.
The eggs typically hatch in 4 days, depending on the season, location, and temperature.
The larval phase lasts for 6 instars, and the six instars range in size from 1.8 to 20 mm, with 20 mm being considered the adult larval size. After emerging from the eggs, the larvae begin feeding on various organic debris, such as animal manure, rotting fruits and vegetables, and food waste.
Its consumption rates significantly rise after the third instar.
The larvae undergo melanization in their sixth instar, which darkens the cuticle’s color and transforms them into prepupae. The insect stops eating during this stage and empties its digestive system.
After leaving their food source, the prepupae move to dry crevices where they undergo a 7–10 day transformation into pupae. The pupal stage, which lasts for at least 8 days without movement or food, concludes with the emergence of the adult.
The adult fly only consumes water and relies on the fat stored during the larval stage. It lives far from people, maturing and mating. In 5-8 days, the fly mates and lays eggs. The female dies soon after she oviposits.
Breeding (Setting up a habitat)
Start by building a grow tub. This can be anything, even a wide and open plastic container.
Make small incisions on the bottom randomly to ensure any excess water goes through rather than accumulates.
Fill your container with up to about a third of organic compost and level it on one side. Place pieces of corrugated cardboard on top of the compost to hold their eggs.
The next step is randomly placing food sources such as leaves, leftovers, or anything you feel suitable.
The last step is to add your larvae, however, be sure to mist the habitat once in a while not to let it dry up.
Leave the tub in a 27 °C (80 °F) outdoor setting. They consume and grow at their fastest at that time. Black soldier flies are resilient and may thrive in temperatures between 32 and 113 °F (0 and 45 °C).
However, they stop functioning when the temperature drops below 50 °F (10 °C). It won’t be an issue in the spring and summer, but your farm stock may perish as the weather gets colder.
The best option is to start your farm in the spring when the frost has passed due to the temperature. Expect no new larvae in the fall if the temperature drops too low.
Ensure that the humidity stays at or near 70%. Purchase a hygrometer, then place or hang it close to the top of your tub. Hygrometers gauge the amount of water in the air or humidity.
Keeping the compost moist is the most straightforward approach to maintaining the humidity. The humidity level increases when you add something like moist rolled oats.
The tank’s bottom compost must be wet but not drenched. Mist it with water if it starts to become a little dry.
Fortunately, if your tub is outside, you won’t need to do anything to get your fly habitat to a humidity level of 70%. The flies won’t be affected if the humidity is between 30% and 90%.
Ensure that the humidity stays at or near 70%. Purchase a hygrometer and place it or hang it next to their habitat. About once every week, provide fresh wet food to the tank. More rolled oats or other food can be soaked in water and placed around the bottom of the tub.
Most of the time, a coating of around 1 inch (2.5 cm) thickness works nicely. Every time you find the food supply dwindling, prepare more of it. It is necessary for the soldier flies to continue developing and reproducing.
How to harvest black soldier fly larvae
Start by filtering out castings in the food bed. Then, all you have to do is separate the larvae from their poop and food bed. This can be especially tough if it is wet.
Use a sifter, preferably a wire mesh, and shake all the substrate off. If your food bed is moist, put the mixture in a mesh bag and have water run through.
After you are done sieving, place your larvae on a dry clean material as it helps clean their skin while giving them time to clean their gut.
If you do this commercially, the next step is to have them counted and weighed.
Uses and benefits of black soldier fly larvae
Below is a list of all the benefits for our little soldiers:
Packed with energy
Black soldier flies continuously consume food as larvae. As a result, they consume twice as much food as they do each day, allowing them to grow faster.
They basically won’t eat again until they turn into flies. Why are you concerned about this? Because you benefit from all that energy when you eat the larvae. Utilize this to your advantage and redesign their meal into what works for you.
Clean source of food
All creatures raised for human food must be clean before and after being harvested for their meat. This is a significant task that takes a lot of time, money, and effort in the processing plants when dealing with standard meats. This means you will spend significantly more on a decent, clean product.
Contrarily, it is much simpler to maintain black soldier flies at a level suitable for human consumption. This is because their digestive systems eliminate any bacteria they could come into contact with while eating their food.
They even have clean garbage. This implies that finding a clean food source from them is much simpler.
Easy to farm and harvest
They require little to no attention. You have to feed them, and they will take care of the rest.
Easy to control
You’ll have no trouble controlling black soldier flies if you raise them at home. The little larvae despise light. Therefore, all you have to do to get them to harvest themselves is provide them with a bucket as a refuge.
Easy to convert feed to food
The black soldier fly’s larvae are adept at turning feed into meals. For example, to manufacture 1 kilogram of beef, you need up to 10 kg of feed. Yet to make mealworms into 2 kg of food, you only need about 1.5 kg of feed and 1 kg of black soldier larvae!
Short life span
It only takes 6 weeks to make up the black soldier fly larva’s life cycle. Include the fly stage, egg, larva, and pupa. Mealworms, in contrast, take nine weeks to complete the same process. Again, this is much shorter than any bird or animal.
We’ve all heard the tales of animals being reared in subpar conditions. It’s terrible, and you are supporting this behavior by purchasing their meat. You can make a difference by cutting back on your meat intake and starting eating insects such as black soldier flies.
Black soldier flies are a lot simpler to farm and maintain. They naturally prefer to cluster together and flourish at higher densities. This makes rearing them more humane and ethical as compared to other livestock.
If you’re considering raising your black soldier flies for harvest, you probably worry about keeping them alive. Surprisingly, they require very little maintenance and can survive on practically any organic material while devouring it. These flies can endure just about anything.
Rearing and consuming black soldier fly larva is more environmentally beneficial than most other types of meat. Especially since with them, there is no need to bring specialized food for them as they will eat anything.
They also don’t take up much space, even if you’re farming commercially, and can be kept in small containers without problems. So basically, they barely make a difference.
Once you have black soldier fly larvae, you’ll most likely want to try them. However, most individuals consume them whole as a snack as the best way to appreciate them is in this manner. Although there aren’t many recipes online, cooking using black soldier fly larvae is rather simple.
By raising black soldier flies, you can create high-quality fertilizer for plants in addition to food and feed from organic food waste. In addition, their excrement, dead flies, leftover eggs, and so forth are excellent sources of nourishment for your plants.
They help deal with waste food
One of the greatest ways to handle food waste that has nowhere else to go is to farm black soldier flies. Farmers discover that they can feed their flies anything that cannot be used elsewhere, whether they are farming the flies for animal or human food.
In conclusion, raising and harvesting black soldier fly larvae is not complex and is fun if you dare. Though it makes us wonder how they eat and digest everything, even grease, not poop. That’s a story for another day!