Hello everyone, Jonathan here; I hope you have enjoyed all the past posts on different aspects of soldier fly biology. As Jeff mentioned in an earlier post, we would be having an upcoming post on nutrition and black soldier flies. I think this is a pretty broad, and very important topic, so although this is the first post, it certainly won't be the last on the subject.
Like all organisms, what soldier flies eat impacts many aspects of their life, like how fast they grow, how big they get, how long they live, and so on. As many of you are aware, soldier flies have a voracious appetite for many "foods", ranging from plant products to animal tissue, and even animal manure. Now just because they are able to eat these different things, doesn't mean all foods were created equal in the eyes of a larval soldier fly.
In a recent paper by Dr. Tomberlin and myself, we looked at how moisture and nutrient content of the larval diet impacts their life history. It was no surprise that we found soldier flies prefer their food to be on the wetter end of the spectrum (between 55 and 70% moisture), and development is positively correlated with moisture within this range. Additionally, some early work on soldier fly development in poultry manure showed that they performed best in manure that was 40-70% moisture. The real surprise was the impact of dietary protein and carbohydrate content on their development: eating a "balanced" diet had the most positive effects on the solder flies in comparison to the other diets. Larvae developed the slowest and required the most feed when provided carbohydrate or protein biased diets. So think about this type of information when feeding your soldier flies. Just because a bunch of fruit has gone bad in your refrigerator doesn't mean you need to feed it to you soldier flies all at once. If you can mix carbohydrate-rich and high moisture items with other items that can absorb moisture and balance out the nutrients, I'm sure your soldier flies will thank you, and likely do a much better job recycling the material.
In some future posts I'll be talking about nutrition in "real-world scenarios", and how you can use this to your advantage.
Jonathan A. Cammack, Ph.D.
So this paper was actually the second that Dr. Sheppard and I published together on the black soldier fly. I thought I would share it for those that might not have seen it.
Let me know if the link works or not.
This paper outlines colony maintenance of the black soldier fly. The main factors to consider are temperature (27-30C), humidity (70% or higher is great), and access to good sunlight (unless you use artificial lighting- to be discussed later). Funny story about this paper- Dr. Sheppard had me trudge waste deep through chicken manure, under a flock of layers (egg-laying chickens) that are literally raining manure down on me, to collect larvae that we would bring back to the lab as startup material for our colony. I believe the conversation was-
Jeff: Dr. Sheppard, do we have to go in there (meaning waste deep in chicken manure under chickens pooping down like a torrential rainstorm)?
Dr. Sheppard: No Jeff.... you have to go in there (and yes, I do believe he had a small smile on his face).
I consider this experience to be a true baptism in sustainable agriculture.
Needless to say- we were successful in getting the colony up and running. A few things I have learned since its publication that might be of use to you:
1. The methods outlined here are for a colony in Tifton, Georgia, USA. Have flexibility with your system... while it is science... there is a fair amount of art as well.
2. When you get a good source population established, think of how to keep your genetic stock high (too much inbreeding could be bad).
3. Keep your colony clean- BSF will lay eggs just about anywhere there is something decomposing- so clean out the dead flies.
4. Water your flies- they need the moisture to survive; but don't over-water them. Water that accumulates in the cage potentially could result in flies laying eggs in places you do not want them to be laid.
5. Harvest eggs daily- doing so will prevent different aged eggs from being collected at the same time which will reduce long periods of neonate (newly hatched larvae) collection (just one day rather than multiple days).
6. Consider having larvae, larval frass (insect poop), or digested larval material mixed with fresh material to induce fly attraction to this site for oviposition.
These are a few items that come to mind.... ask questions... will help me with my recall on this topic.
Until next time- Good luck and Happy BSF Farming!
Jeff Tomberlin, PhD- BSF ecologist
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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