Category Archives: Black Soldier Fly

When it comes to flies, mosquitos or other insects, we are exposed to plenty of information on their harmful effects on human health. However, this is not entirely the case for a certain insect species that benefits plants, animals, and the environment. It is the black soldier fly, or in this case, black soldier fly larvae (a.k.a the Calcium worm).

Get to know the black soldier fly

With high nutritional content, BSF has shone in its application as animal feed.

The black soldier fly is a unique insect, unlike other harmful flies. It has a full life cycle of 45 days, from egg, larva, pupa, to adult. Let BSF Smart Farm bring you more details of this species.

Life cycle of the black soldier fly

  • Egg: BSF eggs are of small size, and are hatched into larvae in 4 days.
  • Larva: After 14 days, the white opaque (or slightly opaque yellow) larvae reach the state that can be used as animal feed.
  • Pre-pupa: The Calcium worms continue to prepupate in approximately 14 days, as the white opaque now turns into black (black pupae).
  • Pupa: Black pupae are mixed with sand, and in about 7 days, will develop into cocoons, where the black pupae lie motionlessly.
  • Adult: Cocoons are transferred to rearing units and grow into adults in 5 days. Fly adults then shall be transferred to the breeding units for reproduction. At the breeding units, flies will mate and lay eggs. This marks the end of the life cycle.

Black soldier fly larvae

  • Waste and garbage treatment.
  • Animal feed.
  • Biodiesel oil production.
  • Organic fertilizer production.
  • Low-cost animal husbandry.
  • Rapid and robust growth of animals.

Is the black soldier fly harmful?

The black soldier fly, a non-harmful species found globally, does not carry any known diseases like its distinct counterpart, the housefly. Growing rapidly, a BSF larva can consume a fresh diet of 25 – 500 mg per day. It is reared on from livestock manure to all kinds of food waste and agricultural byproducts. Under optimal temperature (30ºC), BSF larvae take a growout cycle of 15 days to reach an average weight of 0.25g per larva. During prepupation, they are sanitized to eliminate pathogens, reduce odors, and keep houseflies away.

Nutritional value of the Calcium worm

Before prepupation, BSF larvae’s nutrition content includes:

  • 43 – 51% protein
  • 15 – 18% fat
  • 8 – 6.2% calcium
  • 1 – 1.2% phosphorus

With that profile, BSF larvae can provide sufficient nutrients for pigs, chickens, ducks, etc., and also is the best fresh diet for specialty animals such as shrimp, crabs, fish, eels, or frogs.

Other products from the Calcium worm

BSF larvae can be defatted, dried, and mixed with other nutrients to completely substitute fishmeal in aquafeed production.

This raw feed is a perfect choice for livestock, poultry, and aquatic animals. It also provides poultry such as chickens, ducks, or geese with calcium and phosphorus enrichment, nutritional supplements, resistance enhancement, and high feathering rate, etc.

Likewise, BSF is in preference for other pets such as ornamental fish, ornamental birds, reptiles, or shrimps. This beneficial insect also processes organic waste and generates high-value fertilizers for ornamental plants. Such multifaceted advantages of BSF have sparked many methods of rearing and producing animal feed from this species.

Benefits of the Calcium worm (BSF larva)

Outstanding benefits have put BSF on a pedestal as more farmers begin to purchase, use, and raise BSF in agriculture, particularly poultry farming.

What is the Calcium worm (BSF larva)?

The black soldier fly, Hermetia Illucens, can be found in our natural habitat.

BSF’s life cycle lasts more than a month, starting from egg, larva, pupa, and finally adult.

The rationale behind the name the Calcium worm is of its calcium abundance.

 

Agricultural benefits of the Calcium worm

Nutritional value of dried BSF larvae

  • 43 – 51% protein.
  • 15 – 18% fat.
  • 8 – 6.2% calcium.
  • 1 – 1.2% phosphorus.

In fact, as BSF benefits being recognized widely among farmers, the business of the Calcium worm is making waves nationally. However, the current capacity is still far from meeting the demand.

The Calcium worm is one of the prominent representatives of insect protein. It can be produced in mass quantities in contrast to narrow space facilities thanks to their rapid growth. This strength enables insect protein to outperform other animal protein sources such as pork, lamb, and beef.

The Calcium worm – A wealth roadmap

In aquaculture and terrestrial animal farming (pig & poultry), BSF larvae are a potential source of nutrient-rich feed ingredients. This species also joins in the treatment of waste from agriculture and craft production. A number of Vietnamese farmers have maintained a stable income out of BSF farming.

A global model

This fly species with its effectiveness in organic waste decomposition has been employed by many countries around the world. Available in our natural habitat, BSF adults are black, 12 – 20 mm in length, and bee-like. BSF’s life cycle lasts more than 1 month, from egg, larva, pupa, and then adult. Adults live about 3 – 5 days, without food and in shaded areas. Shortly after having laid a package of 500 eggs, the female flies die.

A friendly and harmless fly

The black soldier fly, unlike other members of the genre, does not bite into fruits or land on food for having greatly-reduced sponging mouthpart, therefore proving its safety. BSF rearing is not demanding as its larvae mainly feed on rotten fruits, rotten vegetables, or market waste. This species is known for its voracious appetite as 1 kg of larvae can consume 5 kg of food scraps throughout a life cycle. BSF larvae are identified as a protein-rich feed of poultry, livestock, and aquatic animals, etc. Besides, the BSF residue is also utilized as fertilizer.

A short life cycle

Interestingly, an adult fly enjoys a brief lifespan of merely 1 week; in contrast to its larval phase where larvae process organic waste (average 5 times of body weight) at a high speed and longer duration (from 2-3 weeks). Given the short life cycle, mastering the rearing technique is of significance, or else the larvae farming may meet a very bad end.

Standing out as an effective waste decomposer and a sustainable alternative to animal feed, BSF ensures a constant supply to the market. BSF farming has received flooding of attention from farmers and investors seeking ways to drive the economy.

BSF as nutritious food for edible-nest swiftlets

Numerous farmers are using BSF cocoons to feed edible-nest swiftlets. This alternative has alleviated food scarcity caused by the rapid depletion of natural resources. In fact, during harsh winter, and ensuing widespread shortage of food, the mass dying of swiftlet occurs more than usual. With a BSF-based diet and indoor BSF farming, farmers can easily control swiftlets’ feed source however the weather condition is.

The Calcium worm as a kind of superfood for aquaculture

The use of BSF larvae meal as a fishmeal substitute represents a long-term solution for the aquafeed industry. BSF larvae decompose organic waste into nutritious and high-quality organic fertilizer, and reduce 80-90% of the waste by doing so. In other words, by converting BSF frass into crop fertilizer or selling BSF larvae and fertilizer, we can make our part in reducing waste discharge into the environment while profiting handsomely.

The Calcium worm as a kind of superfood for chickens, ducks, quails, etc.

As a nutritional-dense pack, BSF provides adequate nutrients for poultry, ensuring product quality upon arrival to market, and its safety for human consumption. This is a competitive edge against other products in the same category.

Lauric acid comprises 53% of the BSF larvae fatty acid profile. Lauric acid, with its potent antibacterial properties, gives a much-needed boost to poultry’s immune system. Indeed, it is safe to say BSF larvae can act as a natural antibiotic in poultry diet, protecting the birds from certain diseases.

The Calcium worm as a food crusher

BSF, with its first record in South America,  has been globally utilized in agriculture, to decompose waste and to protect the environment. Today, let’s shed some light on BSF’s ability in handling waste.

While digesting waste input, BSF leaves a layer of residue behind, which aids in BSF’s development. Protein content in larvae peaks at 2-3 weeks of age. Utilization of this protein source benefits not only one’s own economy, but also the environment by reducing waste in nature. This yields a sustainable source of protein while having waste exhausted into the environment under control.

The Calcium worm is key to compost production

BSF larvae have promising economic value. Restaurant owners can use BSF larvae as a rapid and efficient method of waste decomposition. Approximately 50% of the waste can be decomposed within 24 hours, proving their ability to consume waste with a large quantity of about 100 – 200 tons per day.

In the natural habitat, BSF larvae are known to be voracious eaters. Their large and powerful chewing mouthparts allow them to shred and devour waste at a fast speed before the waste even has time to decompose and emit bad odors, thereby immediately eliminating trash smell. BSF larvae leave behind a fraction of waste – nothing if compared to the abundance of input waste. Studies and trials at project districts revealed that BSF larvae could reduce 80 – 90% of the waste, along with any potential disease problem, only by ingestion and digestion.

The Calcium worm as an efficient waste treatment factory

Using BSF larvae in organic waste treatment promises no odors, no wastewater, or greenhouse effect, yet reduces waste content by 90%. It also offers another advantage. If households adopt a BSFL-based method to reduce and recycle food scraps, the costs of waste collection, transportation and processing will see a significant decrease.

Interestingly, as a large population of BSF larvae digest and convert waste, they make it less suitable for the egg-laying and larval development of other pest flies.

Besides, given their voracious eating style, BSF larvae do not shy away from the direct competition with other larvae for food. BSF larvae are also a delicious and nutritious meal for chickens, ducks, fish, etc.

BSF frass (resembling black or dark brown spent coffee grounds) can be converted into organic fertilizer full of nutrients and good bacteria that can be used as plant supplements or soil amendments. BSF frass can be ground up and fed to earthworms, including Perionyx excavatus.

Using BSF in waste treatment is a novel and environmentally friendly approach that holds great promise. 

The Calcium worm causes no harm

BSF is harmless to humans, pets, plants, etc.

BSF adults and larvae do not carry any diseases, and so not transmit infectious agents to humans or pets.

BSF’s life cycle lasts about one month, starting from egg, larvae, pupa, and finally adult. Adults live about 3 – 5 days, without food and in shaded areas. They have no functioning mouthparts and therefore cannot bite or harm humans, plants, and pets. They do not feed on or interfere with human food nor fly around. They just spend much of their time resting. This explains why it is hard to catch a glimpse of this species.

The Calcium worm’s rearing area

It is no doubt that BSF larvae are some of the most voracious eaters by nature. Just one square meter of larvae can devour up to 40 kg of fresh pig manure per day, and every 100 kg of manure can yield 18kg larvae. BSF larvae convert waste’s nutrients into 42% protein and 34% fat feedstuff. BSF larval protein is particularly rich in lysine, and fat is comprised largely of lauric acid (54%), which kills viruses with lipid envelope (such as HIV or measles virus), Clostridium, and pathogenic protozoa.

The Calcium worm as a housefly control agent

BSF larvae can produce pheromones that are repellent to houseflies, resulting in no egg-laying or fly breeding, and decreased housefly population.

BSF farming is easy and low-cost. Everything that belongs to BSF is of high benefits: BSF larvae as a highly nutritious meal for livestock, BSF frass as crop fertilizer, and BSF model as a great source of income for smallholders who sell larval meals or adopt shrimp aquaponics.

Techniques for successful BSF farming

A black soldier fly can lay up to 500 – 800 eggs in her lifetime of 45 days. Keep this in mind, BSF farming model is a gateway to the future of agriculture. BSF lives under shade trees and adapts quite well to our climate. BSF farming has become viral recently, but have you really known everything about it? BSF rearing method is simple and straightforward. It only takes three steps and 18 days to have a batch harvested.

Step 1: Incubate the eggs

Before starting, you need to prepare egg hatching trough (4dm x 6 dm), 1 kg of chicken feed or 1 kg of cocopeat + 3 kg of water and, of course, BSF eggs. BSF eggs’ market price is about VND12,000/cardboard strip of 15 egg batches. With the size and amount of ingredients mentioned, 6 strips would be a great start. Mixing all ingredients together produces an ideal environment for BSF to thrive. Next, place eggs on the mixture, but not too deep. Lastly, cover the egg hatching trough with an insect mesh to keep other insects away. Notice: Keep the trough in a cool, dry place and away from light.

Step 2: Transfer to rearing trough

BSF eggs will hatch within 4 days. Transfer the eggs to the rearing trough. Add 2 kg of brewer’s spent grain + 2 kg of wheat bran + 4 kg of water to the trough. BSF will stay in the new environment for 14 days.

Step 3: Mix the feed

Inspect the trough every 7 days. As it is the time that larvae eat most voraciously, it is important to mix the feed constantly for the larvae to find their nutrients easily. You can even add food scraps or other organic wastes to their diet. After 2 weeks since step 2, BSF larvae are ready for harvest.

BSF farming with probiotics

Step 1: Incubate the eggs

Keep the eggs in a cool, dry place upon receipt. When you see tiny larvae crawling inside the box, it is the signing of egg hatching. You now can start to incubate the eggs by following the attached instruction.

After 4 days, the emerged larvae shall become bigger and start to search for food. Check the mixture, if it is dry and finely divided, transfer it to a larger trough for farming.

Step 2: Transfer to feeding troughs:

BSF eggs will hatch within 4 days. Transfer the eggs to the rearing trough. Notice: this method requires watertight and high-wall troughs to prevent the larvae from crawling out.

Ingredients:

  • 20 g of hatched eggs (after 4 days since step 1)
  • 50 L of Bio-V level II probiotics
  • 5 kg of chicken feed
  • 2 kg of larvae hydrolysate
  • 2 kg of bean residue
  • Adequate amount of water

Mix chicken feed with level II probiotics into a thick mixture to allow the larvae to adapt to the humid environment. Add 0,5 kg of hydrolysis to boost up growth.

Split the mixture of probiotics and hydrolysate into different parts to not shock the larvae. Pouring all at once might kill the larvae because they are still weak in the new environment.

Step 3: Harvest

If your farm is on a small scale, keep an eye on the larvae or they may crawl out of the troughs due to lack of space. Also, remember to mix the feed regularly.

Collect the larvae with a sieve and feed them directly to farm animals – what an effortless harvest. 20 g of eggs shall produce an estimated yield of 40-50 kg of larvae.

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