What great time for a review on the black soldier fly and its associated microbial community! With the Insects Feed the World Conference happening in a couple of weeks in Wuhan, China, and the number of presentations on microbiology and the BSF scheduled, this paper will serve as a great way for any attending the conference to prep their knowledge beforehand.
The article was published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology just a month or so ago. The title is:
Microbial Community Dynamics during Rearing of Black Soldier Fly Larvae (Hermetia illucens) and Impact on Exploitation Potential
I am not sure if it is available open access or not. So, at minimum, here is the link to the abstract.
The authors did a superb job summarizing what is known at present, while also identifying potential research topics for the future. One take home message is that really there is not too much known at this time (of course, this statement is relative in terms of what is known about microbiology for other species or the topic in general).
They break the discussion down into the following topics:
1- Gut microbiome
2-Impact of substrate composition on Hermetia illucens development
3-Microbial community of Hermetia illucens larvae on natural substrates
4-Functions of the microbial community during the life cycle of Hermetia illucens (digestion/oviposition/detoxification)- as a side note, I love seeing researchers use the term inter kingdom with such discussion points (check out my papers in Chemical Ecology, Animal Behaviour or BioEssay to understand my point- I truly believe microbes drive most behavior observed by invertebrates and vertebrates alike)
5-Impact of microbial community manipulation on Hermetia illucens (growth/pathogen reduction)
6-Exploitation of antibacterial properties of Hermetia illucens (BSF as additive to aid host immunity/modulation of larval immunity/search for antibacterial compounds)
I really like this paper and wish to congratulate my colleagues on a most excellent job! This paper is a definite must read for anyone interested in the BSF
Jeffery K. Tomberlin, PhD, Excited about this paper!
I wanted to post a quick note about a publication that is available now. The book is entitled Waste Biorefinery and it is published by Elsevier.
I along with Dr. Samir Khanal et al at the University of Hawaii (you can check out his lab) have a chapter on insects and biorefineries. You can at minimum read the abstract at their website.
Chapter 22 – Insect-Based Biorefinery for Bioenergy and Bio-Based Products
While energy costs in the USA are fairly low at the moment, these matters change quickly, and we as a society should always be positioned to be more efficient with the resources available to us now. This chapter really demonstrates another benefit of using insects to recycle wastes. They not only have the potential to protect the environment from wastes but also could be utilized to produce bio-energy (e.g., heat or biodiesel). I hope you enjoy it.
Jeffery K Tomberlin, PhD, Author of new publication!
The World Aquaculture Society will hold its conference August 25-29 in Montpelier, France. Like most conferences, it will have a blend of research presentations, vendors, investors, processors, and educators present. If you have a chance- and you are in the area, I suspect this will be a nice conference to attend.
Abstracts for the conference are now being posted. The nice thing about these abstracts is you can access them online with no apparent restrictions (please let me know if I am wrong.
One such abstract popped up on my radar this past week, and I thought I would share it with you.
BLACK SOLDIER FLY FED TO STURGEON Acipenser baerii JUVENILES: DIGESTIBILITY AND WHOLE BODY COMPOSITION
The study was conducted by my friend and colleague, Dr. Laura Gasco with the Department of Agricultural, Forest, and Food Sciences, University of Torino in Italy.
In this study, they examined the development of sturgeon juveniles (like the title says) fed diets with 25 and 50% fishmeal replacement with BSF. Based on the abstract, it appears the BSF can be used as a replacement. The abstract contains a nice table comparing the data generated from the study. So, you can actually see where the differences are between the diets and their impact on the fish.
The authors do also raise the question regarding chitin (I embedded a link to Wikipedia where you can read about chitin and its role in nature) and digestibility. I am not aware of anyone doing any extensive work to address this question; however, it does appear to be one raised by a host of researchers in the field.
I am by no means an expert on chitin; however, I had a discussion with a colleague at a PetFood Forum in Kansas City, Missouri, USA this past week (yes- a lot of interest in the use of insects for pet food), and he astutely pointed out that chitin represents such a low percentage (extremely low) of the overall insect matter- does it really matter? I raise this question to you- consider this point and let me know what you think? I welcome discussion.
Jeff Tomberlin, PhD, BSF nutritionist of sorts
The study of interest in today's blog post, which was recently published in the Journal of Insects as Food and Feed (check out the journal- you can read the abstracts and learn quite a bit about the diversity of research taking place around the world on this topics), relied on published data to assess the suitability of the BSF as a feed replacement of fishmeal for rainbow trout. The study in question is:
Potentials of a biogenic residue-based production of Hermetia illucens as fish meal replacement in aquafeed for Oncorhynchus mykiss in Germany
Unfortunately, the study, beyond the abstract, is not accessible to the general public or if your library does not have access either.
The review provides a general assessment of the production of rainbow trout in German and indicates it is the most produced fish in country (seems to be close to 50% of fish produced in country annually 8.5 tonnes of 20 tonnes produced annually). You can read about German fish production through the Food Industry of Food and Agriculture website.
They assume numbers previously published on replacing fishmeal with BSF (50%) (example in link) and relate such a requirement to current resource streams available for producing BSF. These waste streams include forestry and wood industry wastes, agricultural by-products, municipal wastes, and industrial residues (e.g., food production- slaughter, harvested fruits & vegetables, etc).
They conclude the BSF could be produced at a level necessary to replace portions of fishmeal; however, the level of production will be dependent on the waste stream used to produce the BSF larvae. Basically, input drives output.
Of course, there are still a number of uncertainties regarding the BSF industry (scalability, stable availability of waste streams, quality assurance, nutrient stability of BSF larvae produced and so on).
THOUGHTS GENERATED FROM READING PAPER:
My impression is the conclusions being drawn throughout the world keep coming a back to the same points. And, I do think interest, and action towards resolving these issues, continues to grow. At this time, I conclude no single company will be able to provide all of the BSF needed to meet the needs of one, much less all, industry groups interested in using the BSF. But, I take this as as great opportunity. How can we partner together to meet these demands?
Through many we will be stronger, stable, and impactful. What do you think?
Here is a second video that demonstrates BSF larvae feeding. Very nice video providing close-up of a larva feeding on a substrate. Nice time-lapse video as well of a pizza being consumed.
Very short post- but a cool one.
Check out this work from Georgia Tech on the mechanics behind black soldier fly larval feeding. This type of research could really lead to optimization of larval feeding efficiency of the black soldier fly, which could revolutionize the industry.
The Hungry Maggot
Hope you enjoy!
As EVO continues to grow, we are always discussing how we will structure our company so that it meets our mission in the broadest sense possible. EVO is very committed to the environment as well as the community. One way we want to build a stronger relationship with our community is by providing opportunities to our military veterans. We are grateful for their service and want to provide opportunities to those interested in sustainable agriculture that lead to their success.
These opportunities not only include employment but training in the art of BSF production as well as allowing them to play a role in our efforts to network with individuals in less developed nations and help them develop their own BSF production. Through such efforts- everyone is successful. With this said, EVO has hired Mr. Sterling Classen-Reid.
Sterling served in the United States Marine Corps as an Infantryman from 2010 - 2014 and completed his service as a Lance Corporal. He is currently pursuing a degree in Rangeland Ecology and Management at Texas A&M University.
Sterling was born in Fort Worth, TX and has lived in Ohio, Florida, Idaho, California, and back to Texas. He enjoys working with computers; his dog, aka best friend, Diablo. Sterling loves playing paintball; he is a prolific writer; he is an amazing photographer; and, he is going to Africa on a work-study scholarship for the second summer in a row; he has been published in the newspaper and interviewed on TV for advocating for traffic safety.
Welcome aboard, Sterling! The EVO team looks forward to partnering with you on a common mission to protect the environment, create jobs, and provide protein for sustainable agriculture use.
A Developing Transcontinental Partnership to Promote Insects for Food, Feed and Health in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Global Alliance for Insect Farming in Africa
In recent years, amazing progress has been made advocating insects as new sources of protein to mediate the global food shortage and improve diet nutrition. Much of this progress is directed toward creating new economies in industrial nations in efforts assess the potential for adding value in food production chains using insects, and creating optimized methods for wide-spread acceptance and use. Progress is also needed on a global scale, especially in the developing world where malnutrition affects much of the local populations. The black soldier fly (BSF) system offers a remarkable opportunity as a reliable, sustainable protein source that is the result of organic matter recycling and conversion.
There is a need for insect production systems development in communities of developing nations, from villages to large urban centers, most impacted by food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa. The BSF system can create new revenue streams that meet the demands of the local and regional economies, from small villages of less than 100 people to larger cities with large produce markets. Farming BSF for feed in developing nations will require developing partnerships that bring together experts in entomology, food nutrition, food production and human health.
To begin to address this need in Malawi, we have developed a transcontinental partnership between Michigan State University (MSU) and two Universities in Malawi, Africa: Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR),and the College of Medicine at the University of Malawi.The tentative name for our partnership is the Global Alliance for Insect Farming in Africa(GAIFA). A key goal of this alliance, initially funded by the MSU Alliance for African Partnership initiative, is tobring together experts, professionals, local stakeholders, and organizations from Africa and MSU to work toward a common goal of achieving farming insects for feed. We envision that developing a network of partnerships between researchers and local members of the community will improve sustainable food security in Malawias an initial example, but also in many other Sub-Saharan countries with critical nutritional needs.
The objectives of our partnership are to: 1) identify local stakeholders that would potentially implement the use of insects as a novel feedstock for livestock, such as aquaculture and poultry; and 2) identify insect species and their food sources, such as market waste, to be targeted in future research. These data collection efforts will then be used for funding applications in which the end goal would be to optimize insects and their associated microbiomes to improve nutrition in a manner that will benefit local communities. Thus, the resulting research will improve African livelihoods by increasing the amount of available protein for consumption through improved livestock, and will enhance livelihood security of individuals through community-level actions, creating new revenue streams and enabling women and children in the process.
By accomplishing these goals, our partnership intends to develop the important capacity to enable local individuals to create new revenue streams that directly improve the local nutritional needs of villages, hamlets and sub-urban populations. Indeed, by converting local waste into new sources of animal feed, the BSF system (and other insect systems) has the potential to create new revenue opportunities, especially for women and children that could have village to regional level impact towards improving human health and development. Our partnership is continuously evolving and we look forward to meeting and interacting with new collaborators (like EVO Conversion Systems) at the individual, group and institutional levels. Please contact any of us at or respective email addresses if you have interest in joining us in developing insects for food, feed and health in Africa.
Dr. M. Eric Benbow
This should be an interesting post for most people. Looking out for artificial lighting for the BSF breeding has long been an effort in this industry, as an efficient light source can eliminate the variability caused by sunlight quality due to weather or seasonal changes, and thus secure a stable black soldier fly egg production. There are couple key studies in this field that I have to acknowledge for developing our final product of a high efficiency LED breeding lamp.
Tomberlin, J. K. and D. C. Sheppard (2002). "Factors influencing mating and oviposition of black soldier flies (Diptera: Stratiomyidae) in a colony." Journal of Entomological Science 37(4): 345-352.
--In this study the researchers mentioned they have tested 40-watt Sylvania Gro Lux light and 430-watt Pro Ultralight Light System, but neither of these lights had triggered mating nor unfertilized eggs were deposited, and by accessing direct sunlight successful mating was observed and fertilized eggs were collected. This suggested that sunlight are different than those two artificial lights and black soldier fly adults need direct sunlight for successful mating as well as for formation of fertilized eggs.
Zhang, J., et al. (2010). "An artificial light source influences mating and oviposition of black soldier flies, Hermetia illucens." Journal of Insect Science 10(202).
--The researchers in this studies tested a few dozen light sources and found quartz iodine lamp is working for the black soldier fly, at 60% efficiency compared to sunlight. The study suggested a wavelength range from 450-700nm is responsible for successful mating of black soldier fly adults. However hatching rate was not investigated in this study.
Oonincx, D., et al. (2016). "Photoreceptor spectral sensitivity of the compound eyes of black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) informing the design of LED-based illumination to enhance indoor reproduction." Journal of insect physiology 95: 133-139.
--Unlike the previous studies, this one took another approach to find the effective light. The researchers identified three types of photoreceptor cells in the compound eye of BSF, which can be excited by UV, blue color, and green color lights, respectively. A LED made with this color mixture were proven to be able to trigger black soldier fly mating and producing fertilized eggs, though the study did not give out a fertilization rate, but it did indicate the fertilization rate is higher than using fluorescent lamps, which is barely emitting any light at the UV range.
Nakamura, S., et al. (2016). "Small-scale rearing of the black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens (Diptera: Stratiomyidae), in the laboratory: low-cost and year-round rearing." Applied Entomology and Zoology 51(1): 161-166.
--In this study a system composite with two 40-watt fluorescent lamps supplemented with a 20-watt LED with spectrum from 400-800nm triggered mating in small cages (20x23x35cm) and fertilized eggs were obtained. When compared with flies bred under sunlight, the eggs produced under the LED system has lower fertilization rate.
The study from Zhang et al. (2010) had profound influence in the Chinese BSF breeding industry, as most breeding centers I visited had installed some quartz iodine lamps as light supplement. Though I did not see any breeding center had this lamp used as sole lighting source, as the main lighting source is still sunlight. The lights are only turned on when it's cloudy outside, or during the winter as this light emits huge amount of heat and can also be used as heating source. However this lamp has a big disadvantage and that is the energy consumption--as at least 500-watt is needed and usually people will use the 2000-watt version.
The EVO Consortium has long been looking for more efficient lighting sources, and there are indeed many lamps we found that works and we have observed couple key phenomenons:
So how to improve the lighting? Based on our researches there are basically two approaches to find better light sources.
First approach is testing hundreds of lights from the market and find the best one for our BSF. The advantage of this approach is that you can usually find a lamp that's very cheap and working, the quartz iodine lamps for example, usually cost under $10 USD per piece. On the other hand, the disadvantage of this approach is also very obvious, using the iodine lamps as example again, around 80% of the energy were used to generated useless lights which resulted in extremely high operating cost.
The second approach is to find out what lights does black soldier fly need for both mating stimulation and egg fertilization, then assemble the lights accordingly. The challenge of this approach is that we still know very little about how the light impact the black soldier fly physiology process that's responsible for mating success. Right now we only know what the black soldier fly compound eye can see, but potentially there are many more organisms that might be sensitive to the lights too, for example, the ocelli; the pigment cells on the body that make this insect black might be sensitive to the lights too, as we already know about human that even though we cannot see UV with our eyes, the UV helps us to produce substances such as vitamin D that's critical for our health.
Based on all the information obtained, we hypothesize that:
Above are the experience we wanted to share with you of what we know about the artificial light for breeding black soldier fly. With an overall consideration, we decided to use LED technology to assemble the best light possible as of today.
EVO Conversion Systems
After few years of research on this topic and 6 months of product development, we now can proudly bring to you the most energy efficient black soldier fly breeding light product developed by EVO BSF Consortium. It has been tested within the consortium as well as by some non-member associates, and we have confirmed this product is effective to all populations we tested. Now we are more than happy to share this knowledge and product with you.
Learn more about the knowledge base behind this product development HERE
The 1000-Watt quartz iodine lamp (QIL) is the most prevalently used light source in the breeding industry today, and it can be replaced by a 150-Watt of our breeding LED. We can compare the operational cost of using each product considering both the cost of the lamp itself as well as the electricity consumption. 1000-Watt QIL is widely available at USD$10 each piece, and each lamp can last effective up to 6 months. Our 150-Watt LED is costing $390, and can last effective up to 2 years. Considering the electricity cost $0.15 USD per kWh (could be higher in many countries), and running lights 8 hrs per day, both lights will cost pretty much the same after first year. Going into the second year, however, the LED will save 40% over the whole time because only need to invest in the lamp once.
This is just a comparison on the cost side. If considering the LED is safer to operate, and can induce more egg fertilization, the benefits of using our LED could be even more.
However, it should be noted that light source is just one factor contributing to breeding success, and there are many other factors that's more or less important, such as temperature, humidity, and pupa quality, etc.
Products are currently being shipped from China or USA, depending on the stock availability.
Shipping cost is fixed regardless where the product is shipped from.
If order more than 10 pieces please request bulk order pricing and shipping fee HERE
Coming to IFW 2018 conference in Wuhan? Submit an order today to receive 10% OFF discount and pick it up at the conference to save on shipping!
Individuals with over 25 years research experience with the black soldier fly. We are passionate about the science behind the black soldier fly and its ability to convert waste to protein.
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