Black soldier fly larvae have incredible potential to serve humans

The purpose of this blog is to expose people to the surprising facts about this beneficial arthropod. A good place to start is the fact that black soldier flies (BSF) are not disease carrying pests like house flies. You may read more about that here: LINK

handful of black soldier fly larvae

Sustainability

If we want future generations to inherit a healthy planet then there is no alternative but to embrace sustainable technologies. Black soldier flies have the potential to transform the way we process organic wastes. These beneficial insects represent an elegant solution to a nasty problem.

Black soldier fly larvae want your garbage

I think we should let them have it. According to the EPA over 12% of the garbage buried in landfill is wasted and spoiled food. Recycling can be used to recapture most types of waste, but how do you recycle old pizza? Food waste didn’t even make it onto the EPA’s recycling graph:

epa recycling graph

Traditional composting works well with yard waste, but it isn’t practical on a municipal scale for food waste, and it can’t be used for meat and dairy products. We could feed all types of food waste to black soldier fly larvae and they would reduce it’s volume by up to 95%. The compost that is the byproduct of their digestion makes a super medium for raising earthworms, which in turn produce an even higher quality compost. Using BSF larvae this way could mean the end of food waste slowly decomposing in landfills. Combining BSF composting with vermicomposting (earthworms) results in the most efficient processing of putrescent organic waste available to us.

What was once garbage becomes black soldier fly larvae

If we use black soldier flies to process food waste we’re actually converting the waste into black soldier fly larvae, and that’s a very good thing. Meal made from dried BSF larvae is similar to fish meal in nutrients and has been successfully tested as feed for poultry, livestock and commercially raised fish. Black soldier fly technology turns a stream of waste into a stream of nutritious animal feed. This is the essence of sustainability.

On the residential level

Since I started keeping a colony of BSFL there is no such thing as wasted food in my life. If something ceases to be food for me it just becomes food for my colony. With the exception of bones and eggshells, all food scraps go into the BSFL colony, and even a fairly small colony can process a lot of food. A 60cm/2 foot diameter bio-converter can hold enough larvae to process approximately 5 pounds (2.2kg) of table scraps every day. It’s consumed so quickly that it doesn’t have time to decompose to the point where it smells bad. I tested this by adding a whole fish to my colony on a hot day and the odor was not even noticeable a few feet from the composting unit. Keeping a BSF larvae colony is fascinating and enjoyable.

Teach your children well

One of the best things we can teach our children is to respect their environment. Dumping a steady stream of waste into plastic bags and forwarding it to some unknown place to slowly rot doesn’t teach respect or responsibility. Keeping a black soldier fly colony will give kids a great perspective of nature and the cycle of life. This is especially true if you live in an urban or suburban area where natural cycles aren’t always so obvious.

For more black soldier fly information

Just check out the links on the right side column. Thanks for visiting our blog, We hope you find this new technology as fascinating as we do.

Jerry

31 thoughts on “About This Blog

  • August 22, 2009 at 6:05 am
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    I began reading about BSF and composting several months ago. I live in Uganda (East Africa) and was unable to find concrete evidence (either through reading online or by attracting BSF) that they live in this area. Today I found a fly in my house that seems to match the photos I’ve seen posted here, so I took some pictures. Is there a place I could post them or email them to get an opinion from someone with BSF experience? If I could get confirmation I would make a more concerted effort to start a colony here.

    Reply
  • August 22, 2009 at 7:38 am
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    Hi Mark,

    I sent you an email and you may send a photo to that address if you like. You also might want to register to the BioPod forum where I’ve started a BSF identification thread: http://thebiopod.com/forum/index.php?topic=29.0

    The climate in Uganda is favorable to BSF as long as you don’t live above 1500 meters of altitude. BSF are native to North America, but they’ve traveled around the world with human assistance. I would be surprised if they aren’t in your area. Black soldier flies probably began spreading when humans started sailing around the world. With all of the valid concerns about invasive species I’ve never come across any statements indicating that BSF have become a problem where they have been imported.

    Reply
  • December 12, 2009 at 3:36 pm
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    I would like to see a set-up Biopod in my area(Sacramento,CA) realizing as cold as it’s been here in the Valley lately, there’s likely not much activity. I still want to see one. I work at the Sac Nat Foods Co-op and am trying to get interest up in starting one up to replace our lost Vermicompost bin(critters you don’t want around food serving got in the bin)

    Reply
  • May 6, 2010 at 8:24 am
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    Hi, I’m just learning about black soldier flies (never heard of them before) because I continue to find the larvae crawling in my sun room. We have several compost buckets outside the sun room but we do not leave the doors open. I am a little concerned as I don’t want these larvae inside the house as you can probably imagine. I realize they are beneficial but do you have any idea why/how they are getting inside? I have yet to see an adult black soldier fly inside, and I only find the larvae in our sunroom, which was a recent addition to the back of our house. Thanks for your help!

    Reply
    • May 6, 2010 at 9:07 am
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      Hi Lindsey,

      If you have BSF larvae in your compost buckets they will crawl away when they mature (dark brown color) in search of a safe dry place to pupate. If there is even a slight gap under your closed doors they may be entering that way. Seeing the adult BSF in the room would not lead to there being larvae there unless the adults found food waste to lay their eggs on, and then it would take about a month of the larvae feeding on it to develop. For that reason I think they’re simply crawling in under your doors.

      I am a little concerned as I don’t want these larvae inside the house as you can probably imagine.

      Yes and no; I understand that people worry about fly larvae, but there is no more risk from having a BSF larvae in your house than there would be if a butterfly flew in. If I saw a BSF larvae in my house I would simply pick it up and place it outside so it could pupate and continue the important role that BSF fulfill in nature. Wash your hands afterward just as you would if you petted a strange dog. All stages of black soldier flies are harmless. They can’t bite or sting and they aren’t vectors of human disease.

      Now for the good part; You have BSF, you have buckets full of compost, you can easily enjoy utilizing your BSF in the most rapid and productive form of composting I know of. With amazing speed the BSF will process meats (in limited quantities) dairy, fats and virtually anything that you eat. Done properly there is almost no odor and if you have children they will learn an important lesson about our relationship with the natural world. :)

      Please let me know if you need further advice.

      Reply
  • June 13, 2010 at 11:02 pm
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    Hi Jerry,
    I recently tried vermicomposting and, though I think the heat killed all the redworms I put in (we dug around and couldn’t find one…), our bin is very alive with BSF larvae. After reading up some on this, I’m really happy about it. What I am wondering is, can we use the compost left by the BSF, or does it need any additional processing?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • June 13, 2010 at 11:16 pm
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      Hi Rebecca,

      I’m not really sure about the best way to use the BSF residue. I have a batch that I finished with redworms, but I haven’t gotten around to using it. I’d love to hear what you do with yours.

      Reply
      • August 23, 2014 at 10:07 pm
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        I am so glad to find this website. This is my second year with a redworm bin and my BSF population is huge this summer. I had a feeling the larvae wasn’t harmful, yet I began to wonder if worm/BSF larvae population is in balance. I do think I need to create a healthier habitat for the worms and will continue to do research on both of these creatures. I use the leachate or “tea” diluted with water (about 1 cup leachate to 2 quarts water) feed my plants and have had incredible results. The citrus trees love it, their foliage is a deep green, lush and sending out new growth. Potted plants that would bloom once year are now in full bloom again or sending out new growth.

        Reply
  • September 26, 2010 at 11:46 am
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    Jerry
    I hope things have settled abit for you. I have my bsf in side sections of my large container garden barrels (25gal). I am using pine planar shavings mixed with food scraps and keep a handful on one corner dry for the ones ready to pupate to migrate to. They share food with worms and the resulting nutrients feed the plants. Results are excellent!

    Reply
  • October 18, 2010 at 12:57 pm
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    My name is : Roberto Díaz I like to say that is my desire to participate in the Black Soldier Fly Blog. I am a biologist by profession several years ago I’ve been working with Hermetia illucens. Currently I am retired, for many years was professor of the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and now I have some tests and to comment on this dipteran.

    Reply
  • July 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm
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    I cannot say how happy I am to find your site. I am a restaurant gardener for the Schlafly Bottleworks Restaurant in St. Louis. We also have a brewery. When the brewers dry hop beer they give me the hop cones to dry in the sun and use and mulch and compost. As the hops dry they become completely infested with BSFL. And I mean thick. They have never bothered anything or me. I have held newly hatched flys for lenghty periods and have never been bitten. I did initially confuse them with March Flys.

    They do occasionally crawl out of the hop pile and crawl up between bags of top soil and fertilizer. I think the birds visit often to look for them. I am so happy to know now they are a benificial species and I will continue to propagate them. There is no shortage of Black Soldier Flys in Maplewood Missouri.
    Thank you very much.

    Reply
  • October 29, 2011 at 9:50 pm
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    This information is great! My vermicompost bin, which I have had for 3 years, has developed into a bin with more grubs than worms, and I was very worried these grubs were harmful, or would grow into a destructive bug. My 9 year old and I read your blog and my child’s first response was, “awesome!”

    Thank you,
    Deana

    Reply
  • November 6, 2011 at 5:22 pm
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    Neat blog! I’m glad i found it, as we just noticed our worm bin has as many of these guys in it as it does red worms!

    Do you have any experience with, or have you heard anything about, red worms and BSF larvae co-existing well in the same bin? Our worm bins tend to be too wet because they’re plastic and we throw in too many coffee grounds/tea bags and never enough bedding, so it seems like they’d be perfect for BSF in the wet, slimy patches and good for the worms in the dryer areas of the bin.

    Also, I would like to feed some of the larvae to my chickens, but don’t want to completely decimate the BSF population- how many do i have to leave behind to ensure a continuing supply? And are these flies seasonal?

    Thanks much for your help!
    Sara

    Reply
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  • February 21, 2012 at 9:49 pm
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    Hi, Georgia Tech will be building a BSL colony to treat >1000lbs of food waste per day. Please email me if you know of a good way to scale up the system for self harvesting and automatic feeding of Tilapia.

    Thanks,
    Steve
    svg7@mail.gatech.edu

    Reply
  • June 21, 2012 at 5:46 am
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    Hi Jerry,
    I live in Nottingham, UK. This year, so far the maximum temperature has not exceeded 75F apart from maybe 3 days. Am I therefore unlikely to find BSF in the wild. If they are not present how do I obtain larvae and do I have a reasonable chance of keeping them alive and fuctioning? I am going to build a greenhouse for an aquaponic system and BSF seem like an ideal solution to help the feeding process and closing that loop of recycling all the waste products we produce. Do you recommend using them for the disposal of human manure? I have another three thousand questions but that is a good start. I really appreciate all the effort you have put into this and your campaign for sane and ecologically sound recycling of waste.
    Thanks
    Adrian

    Reply
  • June 21, 2012 at 1:17 pm
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    Dear Adrian,

    I have heard from Dr. Rakocy (UVI aquaponics system) that when tilapia eat duckweed, the tilapia lost weight. We sticks with a commerical feed. I also heard from somewhere that BSL have too much chitin so they may have to rendered. We plan to render ours in a solar cooker (heat) to remove the protein fraction and adding base to raise the pH and remove the fat fraction. I am not sure how to remove the chitin after heating and pH adjustment yet.

    Reply
  • June 22, 2012 at 5:19 pm
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    Thanks Steven for that info. I am always dubious about using a species that is not indigenous to the area if it is to feed a local species.

    Reply
  • July 23, 2012 at 6:25 pm
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    Hi There:

    I have just solved a huge mystery with your picture above… I was VERY concerned that my compost bin was WRITHING with creatures I had never seen before! They all crawled out a few days ago and I was able to take some good pictures. In all of the years that I have had my bin, I have never seen these larvae! I am located in Fairfield, CT, USA, and would love to send you my pictures for your confirmation… could not figure out how to do that on your map…

    Reply
  • July 24, 2012 at 11:22 am
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    @Adrian, I think BSL occur widely already. I know they occur in Atlanta, so no problem for us using it. In my comment, it should read ‘He sticks’, not ‘We sticks’. We plan on using the larvae after rendering.

    @Liz – http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://theaquaponicsource.com/aquaponicgardeningblog/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/689177.jpg&imgrefurl=http://theaquaponicsource.com/2010/06/07/aquaponics-and-black-soldier-fly-larva/&h=630&w=800&sz=117&tbnid=p8jsgvxc6dxfyM:&tbnh=90&tbnw=114&zoom=1&usg=__uAlejsYhx8JX-d_FDjD5bmCpQpE=&docid=9oaQFaZ7jDxN1M&hl=en&sa=X&ei=SMsOUM3VC4WY8gSP9IDAAQ&sqi=2&ved=0CFoQ9QEwAg&dur=5636

    Reply
  • July 24, 2012 at 11:25 am
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    Hi Liz,

    Thanks for letting us know that there are BSF in CT. That is big news and somewhat unexpected on my part. It would be great if you would send us photos. Here’s a topic from our forum that will give you some guidelines: http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=21

    If you like you can post your photos and info in the “Range and Identification” section of the forum here: http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=11

    Here are directions for posting photos on the forum. In the first link above you’ll find an email address to send a photo if that’s all you want to do.

    We really do appreciate your efforts to share this with us. :)

    Reply
  • July 24, 2012 at 11:29 am
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    @ Jerry and Liz, I sent a photo in my comment. Here it is again.

    http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://theaquaponicsource.com/aquaponicgardeningblog/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/689177.jpg&imgrefurl=http://theaquaponicsource.com/2010/06/07/aquaponics-and-black-soldier-fly-larva/&h=630&w=800&sz=117&tbnid=p8jsgvxc6dxfyM:&tbnh=90&tbnw=114&zoom=1&usg=__uAlejsYhx8JX-d_FDjD5bmCpQpE=&docid=9oaQFaZ7jDxN1M&hl=en&sa=X&ei=SMsOUM3VC4WY8gSP9IDAAQ&sqi=2&ved=0CFoQ9QEwAg&dur=5636

    Reply
  • July 24, 2012 at 11:44 am
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    Yay! I am so excited to solve the mystery with the help of a composting friend… Still not sure how they got into my closed tumbler, but they LOVED the moist environment in there, and made quick work of the fruit/veggie/coffee ground diet I gave to them! I threw a few handfuls of compost “accelerator” (or something like that) into the bin this year…. found the bag in the garage, and know that it has been there for 8-10 years. Would there be any chance that eggs would have been in there???

    I will upload photos when I get home from work tonight. I am 99% certain they are BSF larvae!

    Reply
    • July 24, 2012 at 11:51 am
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      Liz,

      The BSF females don’t have to enter the container, they can simply lay their eggs on the outside of it and the larvae are so tiny when they hatch that they can easily find a way in. If you regularly observe the unit you’ll eventually see clusters of BSF eggs. You would most likely find them in protected areas like cracks or corners. From what you describe it does seem like you have BSF.

      Reply
  • July 25, 2012 at 7:40 pm
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    Hi Liz

    I help out on the forums and if you’re having problems posting a photo drop us an email at bsfimages@gmail.com

    I check this daily so should be able to help you out fairly quickly

    Mike aka BW

    Reply
  • August 16, 2012 at 10:23 pm
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    Hi! I constantly find BSF larvae crawling on my kitchen floor. Considering I only see one at a time, I wouldn’t call it an infestation. It appears as though they are coming from under the stove. I’m not sure how they are getting in as my house is completely carpeted except the kitchen. I don’t compose or leave food out. I understand their importance to our world, thanks to this blog. But frankly, the little guys creep me out. Can you offer a solution to this problem?

    Reply
    • August 17, 2012 at 11:17 pm
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      Hi Anja,

      Are you sure they’re BSF? A photo would help us ID it. The larvae are eating something, especially if you’re seeing large pale or dark colored individuals, but without more information I can’t even guess.

      Reply
  • October 22, 2012 at 1:26 am
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    Thank you for posting this! I had never seen a BSF until we can across some in our dog’s food outside. I was so worried that it something dangerous and disease infested!

    Reply
  • July 2, 2014 at 4:56 pm
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    I was searching for energy and came across your About This Blog | Black Soldier Fly Blog page. My greatest worry is sustainable energy, unless we end climate change the planet is going to be in dire trouble.
    I am amazed scientists are not looking at using more renewable energy like Ocean Current Turbines similar to CrowdEnergy.org. If we dont fix this problem soon its going to get out of control.
    Have a nice day, Bownds

    Reply
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