Black Soldier Fly: Compiled Research On Best Cultivation Practices

The following represents the “nuts and bolts” facts relevant to Black Soldier Fly cultivation which were found buried inside of research texts. The key distinguishing factor is that they are organized by environmental considerations (in bold). Where inconsistencies are found they are noted. Assistance, suggestions, along the lines of additional sources, inconsistencies, and added environmental considerations are highly welcome. I hope to make this a very active post.

Links to the direct online texts quoted are posted at the bottom…of the page when available. Links to this page in appreciation of the work put in to compile the research are very much appreciated.


Optimum Temperatures

Optimum for Consumption: 35 C. (95 F) (1)

(Note) : Food consumption rates fall with decreasing temperature and effectively reach zero at 15 C (59 F). (1)

Optimum for Mating: “Adults typically mated and oviposited at temperatures of 24 C (75.2 F) up to 40 C (104 F) or more. Booth and Sheppard (1984) reported that 99.6% of oviposition in the field occurred at 27.5 C to 37.5 C (81.5 F to 99.5 f)” (10).

Minimum w/Survival: temperatures as low as 0 C (32 F) for up to 4 hours. (1)

Maximum w/Survival: Larvae survive at temperatures up to 45 C (113 F). (1)

Inactivity: inactive larvae at temperatures less than 10 C (50 F) and at temperatures higher than 45 C (113 F). Survival rate falls rapidly at temperatures over 47 C (116.6 F) (1).

Optimum for Pupation and Emergence:

“Larval activity and growth slowed considerably as the mean daytime temperature dropped below 25 C (77 F) (April-September). Observations indicated that larvae seldom pupated at such temperatures. However, after transfer to 30 C (86 F), some of the larvae used in the sludge processing experiments (see below) then pupated and adults later emerged.” (3)

Inconsistencies Discovered: none at present


Crawloff Rate / Bio-Conversion

(also bio-conversion of organic waste to larvae)

“High insect yield: 8% by dry weight – i.e., similar to earthworm systems” (Note: Listed as an advantage to using Hermetia Illucens, however the reference is unclear as to the substrate quantity added). (3)

Presentation by Dr. Paul Olivier is that bio-conversion of food waste done in Bio-Pods in Vietnam was: “roughly 20% by weight of the fresh food waste converted into fresh larvae. This food waste had an average dry matter content of 37%, and the prepupae had an average dry matter content of 44%. On a dry matter basis, the bioconversion of food waste situates at almost 24%.” (4)

Dr. Craig Sheppard in Georgia writes citing his own research in 1994: “Black soldier fly larvae converted manure in a 460 hen facility to self-collected prepupal biomass at a 7.8% (d.m. basis) rate (Sheppard et al. 1994) which would represent 58 tons from 100,000 hens in 5 months.” (5)

Dr. Craig Sheppard cites another study writing: “In a recent study with swine, the authors observed 15% d.m. conversion of manure to black soldier fly prepupae.” (5)

Dr. Craig Sheppard cites a third study: “Research by Engineering, Separation and Recycling (L.L.C.) of Washington, LA found a 24% d.m. (dry matter) conversion of food waste to soldier fly prepupal biomass.” (5)

Inconsistincies Discovered: Based on the above variance of substrate or study shows a degree between 7.8% (d.m basis) and 24% (d.m. basis). A more conclusive study showing substrate matter is probably required to get an idea of what is causing the actual difference between the bio-conversion of the larvae


Optimum Ph

“The larvae tolerate a wide range of pH and will survive well in compost derived exclusively from decomposing citrus fruits. This finding is consistent with published data where one species of Stratiomyidae was found in water at pH 5.7″ (Brues 1928).(1)

Inconsistencies Discovered: none at present


Optimum Feed(s)

“While the larvae consumed all types of vegetable foods (both natural and processed) they had a limited ability to remove animal products (meat and fat) even when these represented less than 10 percent of the food available in the laboratory.” (1)

Confirmed: A BioSystems Design Study with Universidad de la Salle and Victoria Gutierrez Baron and Natalia Sanchez confirmed that optimum feed for BSF was comprised of 50% vegetable matter and 50% fruit matter, even when compared to a feed of 47.5% vegetable matter, 47.5% fruit matter, and 5% animal products (meat/fat).

Inconsistencies Discovered: none at present


Optimum Humidity

Larval Stage Optimum:

“The larvae tolerate saturated conditions well but large larvae lose weight at approximately 1% per hour at 75.5% relative humidity. As expected, the rate of water loss increases with decreasing relative humidity. Smaller larvae are more susceptible to water loss, losing approximately 1.5% body weight per hour at 75.5% RH.” (1)

“Found that the maximum development rates for soldier flies in dung occurs at 70 % moisture levels.”(1)(2)

For Mating:

“Relative humidities of 30-90% supported mating and oviposition” (10).

Inconsistincies Discovered: none at present


Optimum Lighting

For Mating: “Minimum light intensity for mating is 63 μ mol m2s -1 with most mating occurring at over 200 μ mol m2s -1 (J.K.T. and D.C.S., unpublished data).” (10)

For Bioconversion: (Note from the author) Larvae are known to be photo-phobic.


Optimum Natural Environment Considerations

Optimal Oviposition (egg laying) Environments:

“Hoy (pers comm) suggests that adults avoid oviposition sites that are anaerobic.” (1)

“Wet substrates were less attractive to ovipositing Hermetia Illucens (aka black soldier fly) (Booth and Sheppard 1984). Therefore, water was added to medium used for an oviposition attractant to near the saturation point to encourage oviposition… [in another location].” (10)

“Based on observations made at Caboolture Sewage Treatment Plant, soldier flies do not lay their eggs in sewage sludge piles…. Under experimental conditions indoors (described below), adults did not lay in open containers of sewage sludge.” (3)

Additional Considerations:

“Larvae can operate 6 to 8 inches below the surface. At lower depths they accomplish very little bioconversion.” (7)

Inconsistencies Discovered: none at present


Control of Other Insects

“The black soldier fly (BSF) is a southern native, non-pest fly that unlike the house fly, is not attracted to human habitation or foods (Furman et al. 1959). BSF reduce manure accumulations 42-56% and give 94-100% house fly control through larval competition and by repelling ovipositing house flies (Bradley and Sheppard 1984). Elimination of lesser mealworm has been noted, but not well documented. The digested residue is a friable compost-like material with about 24% less nitrogen (net loss of 60%). From Bradley and Sheppard 1984 (6), cited in Roeder Meyer (8)

Inconsistencies Discovered: none at present


Mating Habits

“Newly emerged soldier flies mate in flight. Soon afterwards females begin to deposit egg masses near edges of decaying organic matter. Eggs incubate 4 days to 3 weeks before hatching.” (9)

“The larvae seek sheltered, dry locations to pupate.” (9)


Special Environmental Affinities

“Adults commonly frequent flowers of the daisy and carrot families.” (9)


Annex 1: If You’re Interested in How Others Have Grown Black Soldier Fly

This step by step process is written up weekly by author “GW,” aka “The Lord of the Flies” over more than a year. The Pond Boss Forum’s thread on Black Soldier Fly details how “GW” started his Black Soldier Fly colony, lessons he learned to control humidity, uses of different feeds (dog food, hog-feed, coffee grinds, etc), optimum sunlight, and also includes some great video, photos, and humor which makes reading the 15 pages of posts a delight. Also, remember that if you’re looking for something specific ctrl+F is your friend!

GW also has his blog for more resources and commentary.


Sources

(1) Use Of Soldier Fly Larvae In Organic Waste Management Dr. R. Newby. Central Queensland University. Biology Department.
(2) Filth fly (Diptera) oviposition and larval development in poultry manure of various moisture levels. Fatchurochim, S., C.J. Geden and R.C. Axtell 1989. J Entomol Sci 24: 224-231. (Note: No original source document has been found. This article was originally referenced and sited by source 1 pages 5, 7.)
(3) Performance Comparison of Earthworms and Soldier Fly Larvae in the processing of Sewage Sludge. Advanced Wastewater Treatment Technologies (AWTT) Scheme. Project 1003-01-001. Dr. Kevin Warburton, Dept. of Zoology, University of Queensland, St. Lucia Q. 4072. Tel.: (07) 3365 2979. Fax: (07) 3365 1655. Email: KWarburton@zoology.uq.edu.au
(4) New Vietnam Presentation. Dr Paul Olivier. Private correspondence. Public presentation to La Universidad de la Sabana. Bogota, Colombia. April 14 2007.
(5) “Black Soldier Fly and Others for Value-Added Manure Management.” Dr. Craig Sheppard. University of Georgia. Tifton, GA. Link to Article.
(6) Bradley & Sheppard 1984, study cited on this forum: http://www.pondboss.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=115752&fpart=1
(7) SunNet Listserv
(8 ) Meyer, H.J., Roeder, Richard. “Insect and Manure Management in Poultry Systems: Elements Relative to Food Safety and Nuisance Issues” 2006. Link
(9) Black Soldier Fly. North Carolina State University. http://ipm.ncsu.edu/AG369/notes/black_soldier_fly.html
(10) Sheppard, D. Craig. J. Tomberlin, J. Joyce, B. Kiser, and S. Sumner. “Rearing Methods for the Black Soldier Fly (Diptera: Stratiomyidae). Journal of Medical Entomology. Short Communication. 2002 (Note: Only available via online sellers such as Ingenta Connect for $25).
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11 Responses to “Black Soldier Fly: Compiled Research On Best Cultivation Practices”


  1. 1 GW 21 July 2008 at 1:31 pm

    I was poking around the internet looking for black soldier fly data when I found this blog. There isn’t a wide variety of research available about black soldier flies so I happily read all the way down to annex #1. I’m glad I did. :)

    I’ll keep checking back for updates. I’ve never done a trackback, is it something you recommend? I would be happy to put a link to your blog on my blog.

    Thanks for the kind words, GW (Jerry)

  2. 2 gcanary 22 July 2008 at 11:17 am

    Hey glad you found us GW! The research you did with your equipment has helped out a lot. Especially the animal feed suggestion which has really helped with humidity–Props!

    The idea was to get this post a bit more filled out, then post up a link to it on Pond Boss thanking everyone for their input. (I’m also still reading articles by Sheppard–including a few that BarbaraZ mentioned that I purchased online.)

    I’d love a trackback. I’ve done it with a few sites–great blogger karma :) I’ll gladly set one up for you in the next few!

    We’re also actively researching BSF here in Bogota, Colombia. So if there are suggestions for more research, we’d love to hear it. Some of the research we’re in the middle of right now are: how do black soldier flies do when they consume things with samonella and e.coli–do they kill it? do the liquids from BSF intestines actively ammend soil to make it less susceptible to diseases? and a few more surprises!

  3. 3 GW 26 July 2008 at 8:07 pm

    Go ahead and laugh if you want, I don’t know how to do a trackback. :)

    I see yours on my site, but what do I do?

  4. 4 s.alawi 22 September 2008 at 3:59 am

    Hi, I,M looking for bsf larvea for many time.
    for me it is confirm that in our region this fly is not exist .IN my project I need 10000 of live larvae for rearing and multipling them to use in poultry feed. I had many connection to the Dr. craig sheppard company to prepare that for us , but there is no exportation of their products in their company ,s policy !especially to middle east, IRAN . so please help me to know how can I find out.
    Even the amateour producer could help me and of course all expenses will be paid .
    your attention to my request is sincerely appreciated.
    faithfully
    alawi

  5. 5 Hamdi 8 February 2009 at 11:52 am

    Hi every body, many thanks for this very informative site, how about you S.Alawi,are you still trying to buy tbe larvea? all the best

  6. 6 Harmon 22 June 2009 at 12:59 pm

    Are coffee grounds and tea leaves okay to feed BSF larvae?

    • 7 gcanary 22 June 2009 at 1:16 pm

      The coffee grounds are for sure okay. The below article refers to coffee pulp which is different from the grounds, but non-scientific evidence from other sources has shown that BSF enjoy coffee grounds equally. I don’t have anything for you on tea leaves. My hunch is that they won’t be processed very well…but the best way to find out is to try. If the first batch of whole leaves doesn’t go well, then try shredding the leaves first.

      see: Larde, “Recycling of Coffee Pulp by Hermetia illucens (Diptera:
      Stratiomyidae) Larvae,” Biological Wastes 33 (1990) 307-310.

      the abstract from the San Salvador Study:

      “The digestion of coffee pulp by larvae of the soldier fly Hermetia illucens (L.)
      was studied in a small-scale experiment to obtain preliminary data pertaining
      to this method of treating the waste. After 13 days the coffee pulp was
      converted into a slurry-like material and lost 29.8% of the initial dry matter,
      the pH increased from 7″6 to 8″85, the odour was reduced significantly, and the
      total weight of larvae was 6.2 times that at the beginning. It was concluded
      that H. illucens larvae could be utilized in recycling coffee pulp under
      controlled conditions.”

    • 8 gcanary 22 June 2009 at 1:18 pm

      There is also a 1989 article by the same author, Gerardo Lardé, in the same magazine (biological wastes), on factors affecting larval growth in coffee pulp beds.

  7. 9 CAssie 28 July 2009 at 1:26 am

    Please talk a little about the presence of Black Soldier Flies in worm composting. I’m getting mixed answers to whether or not they will harm the worms and if I should remove them. Karin from the Santa Cruz County rotline suggested a butter tub with holes poked in the bottom placed on the worm bin with tasty (sweet fruit)food in the bottom would encourage them to crawl into the container which could then be removed without touching them…I don’t want to dig them out…ew!

  8. 10 bob k 7 August 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Hi,

    I just discovered maggots in my compost in Eugene, OR. I googled compost maggots and discovered the maggots are black soldier fly larva. I cover the compost pit with black plastic and add kitchen waste, garden cleanings, and coffee grounds. These creatures are devouring waste at an astonishing rate.

    Today it is a bit cooler and I dumped ten pounds of coffee waste on what looks to be several cups of squirming larva. I looked a few hours later and they were either dead or dormant. Could the coffee have poisoned the larva?

    How soon will they pupate? Do I need to do anything to encourage the BSF to lay eggs in the same compost pit? I have two pits, one I am building while the other is cooking? Will these BSF larva increase the speed of composting?

    Thanks for any information on encouraging these larva for a garden compost project.

    Bob k

  9. 11 magotman 16 August 2010 at 9:30 pm

    really good site.We are just joining the black soldier fly army so are hungry for knowledge


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