Thursday, February 29Food Security Matters

Black Soldier Fly Farming in the Philippines

BSF or Black Soldier Fly farming is not known to many people but growing these insects can haul huge amounts of profit if properly managed. In the Philippines, only a few people are doing it, but in this article, I will explain what it is and why you should consider black soldier fly farming.

What is Black Soldier Fly (BSF)

Black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens (Linnaeus), is a sleek-looking fly that many confuse with a wasp. However, like most flies, the black soldier flies only have two wings (wasps have four) and do not possess a stinger. Although the loud buzzing they create when flying is enough to concern many people, adult soldier flies pose no danger.

BSF Description and Life Cycle

Adults: Members of the soldier fly family Stratiomyidae can range in color from yellow, green, black, or blue, with some having a metallic appearance. Many are mimics of other flying insects, such as bees and wasps. Black soldier fly adults have a wasp-like appearance and are black or blue in color. Soldier flies also have two translucent “windows” located on the first abdominal segment. Adults range from 15mm to 20mm in length.  The adult’s antennae are elongated with three segments, and the legs have white coloration near the end of each leg.

black soldier fly farming
Adult Black Soldier Fly image credit CBC News

Two days after adult emergence from the pupal case, mating can occur. A male black soldier flies intercepts a passing female in mid-air and they descend in copula. Male soldier flies utilize lekking sites, where they await female soldier flies. These sites are defended against other male soldier flies. When a male intrudes upon the territory of a resting male, the resting male seizes the intruder. After a brief descent, the invading male will retreat.

Eggs: The female black soldier fly deposits a mass of about 500 eggs in cracks and crevices near or in decaying matter such as dung, carrion, garbage, and other organic waste. The eggs hatch into larvae in about four days. Each oval-shaped egg is about 1mm in length and pale yellow or creamy white in color.

Larvae: The larvae can reach 27 mm in length and 6mm in width. They are a dull, whitish color with a small, projecting head containing chewing mouthparts. Larvae pass through six instars and require approximately 14 days to complete development. During larval development, black soldier fly larvae are insatiable feeders. As adults, they do not need to feed and rely on the fats stored from the larval stage.

BSF larvae
BSF larvae image credit

Pupae: Before pupation, the fifth instar larvae disperse from the feeding site to dry sheltered areas, such as ground vegetation, to initiate pupation. The exoskeleton (skin) darkens and a pupa develops within. Pupation requires about two weeks).

BSF Economic Importance

The adult black soldier fly is not usually considered a pest. Because the larvae have been shown to be effective manure recyclers, a “Black Soldier Fly Manure Management System” has been proposed to not only reduce livestock waste but also generate a food source for fish and other animals, especially chickens. In a program outlined by Newton et al. (2005) swine manure was fed to black soldier fly larvae, which greatly reduced the waste material. The manure was transferred into a basin containing black soldier fly larvae. As the larvae developed they reduced the manure by 50%. Approximately 45,000 larvae will consume 24 kg of swine manure in 14 days. As the larvae mature they crawl out of the basin, thereby self-harvesting themselves, and are subsequently available as livestock feed. In addition to being a good source of oil and protein for animal feed, black soldier fly larvae have the potential to turn organic waste into rich fertilizer.

Black Soldier Fly Farming in the Philippines

In the Philippines, there is no known commercial farming of black soldier fly. Black soldier fly farming in the country is usually done by backyard farmers who raise chicken and tilapia as a major source of protein.

To start growing BSF, the easiest and fastest way is to mix a kilo of animal feed with coconut pulp (sapal ng niyog). Mix a small amount of molasses and add a little amount of water to make the mixture damp. Place the mixture inside an Orocan pail. After a few days, you will notice that BSF larvae are starting to move. They will eat the mixture until they get bigger. The following video explains how to do it (although he uses a water bottle instead of a bigger pale and has a different mixture).

How Profitable is Black Soldier Fly Farming in the Philippines?

BSF farming is profitable and does not require a large amount of start-up capital. BSF larvae have an average weight of 150 milligrams (130 to 170mg) or around 6.7 pieces of BSF per 1 gram. A 1 kilogram contains around 6,700 BSF larvae. This means that you only need at least 15 adult female BSFs to produce 1 kg of larvae which can be sold for up to P900 per kg.  Many small growers are already selling both live and dried BSF larvae online for around the same price. If you don’t want to sell it then you can reduce a lot of costs in animal feed if you are raising fish and poultry.

Black soldier fly farming is not only good for the environment but can also add extra income to the farmers.

Questions Related to Black Soldier Fly

How fast does black soldier fly larvae grow?

The larvae begin feeding on the waste immediately. They grow over about 14 days and then all but 10 to 20 percent are harvested into feed. The remaining BSF perpetuates the colony.

How long do black soldier flies live?

The total lifespan of BSF from eggs until its death is around 45 days but adults live around 9 days.

How long do black soldier flies stay as larvae?

Black soldier flies remain in larvae form for approximately 14 days before they begin to pupate. You will notice large BSFL will begin to darken and enter their prepupal stage quicker than the smaller sizes of Obie’s Worms as they have met their minimum nutritional requirement.

How fast do black soldier flies reproduce?

If the male can successfully grab a female and start the copulation process, the female will submit. The two will remain “butt-to-butt” as the male transfers sperm to the female. This process can last anywhere between a few minutes and an hour.

How do you keep black soldier flies alive?

To store, keep them in their lidded cup at room temperature. If you plan to keep your worms longer than 2 weeks, moving the container to a cooler spot (50-60 degrees) will help extend their life. Just make sure to allow them to return to room temp before offering to your pet.

What should I feed my black soldier fly?

The BSFL feeds on many kinds of organic waste such as table scraps, composting feed, and animal manure. They can also survive off of coffee grounds for a few weeks, but coffee grounds are not a sustainable diet. The caffeine from the coffee grounds helps to boost the metabolism and makes the grubs more active.

Do soldier flies bite?

Black soldier flies are harmless and they do not bite or sting.

Do black soldier fly need light?

To produce a high number of eggs, black soldier flies (BSF) require certain qualities and quantities of light, ideally sunlight for efficient mating, egg production, as well as egg oviposition.

Do black soldier flies need water?

Just like they don’t need food, dormant black soldier fly larvae don’t need water, either. However, if you wish to raise the larvae into flies, they will need a water source unless the food you are providing is damp enough to supply their water needs.

Can BSF eat cow dung?

Despite the fact that manure or other organic wastes quickly rot and oxidize due to the high amount of protein and fat, BSFL can consume organic wastes with high differences in pH (4–9.5) with almost the same success.

Can black soldiers fly eat meat?

Black Soldier Fly larvae eat any type of organic waste: your food scrap, rotting meat, decomposing fruit and vegetables.

Do black flies make maggots?

Their immature stages, though, are tiny and beautiful inhabitants of freshwater streams around the world. The maggot stage of black flies, or larvae, have brush-like mouthparts that look like two delicate fans. These are used in a tiny underwater fan dance to filter algae, bacteria, and other organic matter.

What type of animals eat black soldier fly larvae?

Chickens, ducks, and fish can eat BSF larvae directly, while cattle, goats, and even swine can eat the larvae if it is mixed with feeds, especially when pelletized. They are a great source of protein for these animals.

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