What the heck is a Black Soldier Fly?
Hermetia illucens, more commonly knows as the black soldier fly (BSF for short), is a small black fly that is part of the Stratiomyidae family.
Often mistaken for a wasp, the adult black soldier fly is approximately 5/8” long (16mm) and has two clear windows on their abdomen. These little windows serve as a defense mechanism so that when light hits them it confuses birds and other predators. The adult fly also features wings that have a blackish-blue metallic appearance and large iridescent eyes.
The adult black solider fly is a non-pest and almost always found near a source of waste or decaying food. Soldier flies can be found anywhere as they can be grown indoors with conditions that simulate their natural environment, but in the wild they are found in temperate and tropic regions throughout the world including much of SE Asia, Africa, Southern Europe, and North and South America.
Like most insects, soldier flies start their lives as eggs. Larvae hatch from the eggs and feed on anything they can find. BSF larvae are a sturdy, cream-colored grub that are usually covered with fine rows of hair. After a period of time, the larvae stop feeding and begin to pupate. Once they stop moving and have turned completely black, they are pupae and almost ready to become an adult. Soon after pupating, an adult fly emerges and begins mating to start the cycle over. The entire life cycle is only about 14 days.
The many benefits of the black soldier fly
At an industrial scale, black soldier fly larvae production has multiple positive impacts on environment and society.
BSF can be fed on most organic substrates, making them a highly versatile and adaptable insect. They also don’t need fresh water, as they get all the moisture that they need from the food they consume.
BSF larvae will consume about twice their own body weight every day. Their digestive systems naturally destroy harmful bacteria that might be present in the waste they consume.
Their natural bioconversion ability converts the waste they consume into valuable fats and quality proteins in their bodies which we can then harvest and feed to other animals. We can use their fats to make bio-diesel, soaps, and detergents. We can also use their frass and whatever they don’t eat to make organic fertilizer.
Our joint black soldier fly venture recently earned LSU the APPA’s 2020 Sustainability Innovation Award.