This is a unique post that is a bit broader than the BSF. But I thought you might enjoy the read.
But, with that said, I think it is important to give you at least one fun fact about the BSF.
DID YOU KNOW- There seems to be a misconception between needing to feed as adults and not feeding. Yes- they will feed if provided a resource (e.g., sugar water); however, they can survive without food by depending on the fat body they developed as larvae (hence 30% fat). This strategy allows them to focus on what is most important to them as adults- mating.
Now- here is my more general post.
I have been in China for almost two weeks now, and I can honestly say that I have eaten just about anything that walks, crawls, or flies here (pretty sure I mentioned this in a previous post- but just wanted to emphasize the point). I have been so impressed with how an animal (think Kingdom Animalia... this means many, many different species) can be transformed into a multitude of delicious dishes. Of these dishes- some of them during my visit (including past ones) to China have included insects. These insects include a variety of species ranging from grasshoppers and caterpillars, to believe it or not- BSF larvae.
Now, don't worry- I am not here to pontificate the need for you to stop eating beef, poultry, or fish and start cultivating your arthropod-based culinary skills. But, I am here to talk a bit about what can be done with insects as food and feed. In fact, here is a really great article that discusses the history of insects as food (entomophagy for humans) and feed, why we need to consider such resources, benefits associated with using such resources, commercialization, and future for an industry still in its infancy. My colleague and friend, Professor Arnold van Huis is the author of this paper.
History of insects as food and feed. I think it is important to recognize that many cultures throughout the world have used insects as food for millennia. The most obvious examples are the honey bee, termites, grasshoppers, and ants. These insects are used for a variety of reasons- some obvious and others not so obvious.
1. Nutrition. Many of these insects are high in protein. The BSF can be quite high in protein (46%), which makes it a very valuable resource as food (if you dare- but I do not encourage it as I am not sure how you fed them) and feed (amazing resources four reptiles, poultry, and fish as previously mentioned).
2. Hey- they are here in high numbers- why not use them? Many of these insects, such as grasshoppers, are pests either all the time or during certain times of year (seasonal). Thus, some cultures have learned to use them as feed.
3. Efficiency of production. Many of these insects, unlike cattle, swine, or poultry, need far less water, land or feed to produce them. In fact, many of these insects reproduce quite quickly. For example, the BSF can complete a life cycle (to harvest) in about 18 days (consider this with the typical growth of a calf to an adult cow).
Here is an assessment of insect farming- a bit complex- but it gives you an idea of the level of detail being measured with regards to insect farming.
What is the future? Many companies around the world (including EVO) are focused on converting wastes, such as food or animal, to protein with an insect. Insects, such as the black soldier fly, can be mass-produced in bulk (tonnage per day) and then processed and used as feed in many countries. Unfortunately, the USA is still coming along. The black soldier fly can be used as live feed for certain aquaculture species. So, what is the future? Well- part of it is education. Making sure people understand the benefits (e.g., mass production, low resource investment) and challenges (e.g., feed safety) of using such material as feed.
An example of a very successful company in Austin, Texas:
Now- here is the crux of this posting- the BSF can be developed as food and feed. I am very supportive of continued efforts to advance this field. I really believe the BSF can be developed as a great feed for many forms of livestock... Did you notice I only said feed? Well, my reason being the use of insects as food is not my focus- but maybe one day, it will be?
I hope this post has been informative. And until the next post- best of luck and happy BSF farming!!
Jeff Tomberlin, PhD, and yes- I have eaten BSF larvae
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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