Updated 2013/09/19

Black Soldier Fly Larvae Composting

Iím fascinated by the potential of Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) for organic waste handling. "SF larvae can digest over 15 kilograms per day of restaurant food waste per square meter of feeding surface area, or roughly 3 lbs per square foot per day. A 95% reduction in the weight and volume of this waste was also noted. This means that for every 100 lbs of restaurant food waste deposited into a unit, only 5 lbs of a black, friable residue remain!" (link).

See the BioSystems Design Blog's "A Primer on Black Soldier Fly" (link) for interesting facts about this beneficial insect.

BSFL composting is largely an outdoor pursuit in areas where they are native. However there has been some limited success reported in having them mate and reproduce in small indoor systems. Most of this success has been accomplished not by folks composting but instead by pet owners raising feeder insects for herptiles and spiders. For current examples see:

** terrarienbilder.com German language forum but Google translates it fairly well.
    Michael also posted a YouTube video detailing his system (link) in May 2012

It is interesting to note that in some of the examples above breeding was achieved in a fairly small space (storage tote size) and with artificial lighting. Previously it was thought that a large inclosure was needed as BSF mate in flight.

A paper on the Journal of Insect Science website (www.insectscience.org) details successful indoor breeding in China using an artificial light source.

I purchased about 100 BSFL from a pet store in the summer of 2011 and after some trial and error was successful in having them mate and complete their life-cycle indoors. For more on my experiments with BSF see the following pages: In Canada even outdoor systems are rare but this study on the UBC site documents a summer project utilizing a BioPod and imported larvae - Biology and Behavior of the Black Soldier Fly - Phase 1 issued in July 2010 (PDF file available). Although it's only an informal student paper it was nice to see something from Canada. The project also has a blog here. Unfortunately they didn't have much success with breeding and there have been no updates since August 2010.

Since then there have been a couple of papers on BSF research in Canada which are available from the University Of Windsor Electronic Theses and Dissertations (link), (link). A July 2013 post in the Red Worm Composting blog (link) indicates that "Black Soldier Flies (Hermetia illucens) ARE found in the southernmost regions of Ontario" per Dr. Stephen Marshal, at the University of Guelph.

Enterra Feed Corporation (link) based in Vancouver Canada "deploys a local beneficial insect, the Black Soldier Fly, to efficiently recover nutrients from traceable, pre-consumer food waste, such as fruits, vegetables, fish and grains, that are recycled from grocery stores, markets, food distributors and food processors." I'm not aware of any reports of wild populations of BSF in western Canada so the classification as "local" may be in question. A close relative, the Garden Soldier Fly (Exaireta spinigera), appeared in British Columbia around 2002 (link).

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The Black Soldier Fly Blog has set up a BSF Locator map (link) displaying the locations of confirmed BSF sightings/populations. If you'd like to contribute there's a 'Report BSF sighting' link in the upper right corner of the map or you can use this link. Only locations which are submitted with adequate documentation will be used.

Here are some more links to forums, blogs and information about composting with and raising Black Soldier Flies.

Black Soldier Fly Blog **

'Small Scale Indoor Breeding' topic at the Black Soldier Fly Blog Forum

Cultivation Topics at the Black Soldier Fly Blog Forum

Raising Black Soldier Flies - Down as of August 2011. See his YouTube channel (link) for videos and for photos and plans of his "Bug Barracks" DIY bin look here or below.

BSF Group at vermicomposters.com

UBC Black Soldier Fly Blog

Off the Food Grid - BSFL category posts

Red Worm Composting - Raising Black Soldier Flies in Cold Regions

Red Worm Composting - Other BSFL category posts

Black Soldier Fly Farming

BioPod & Black Soldier Fly Community Forum

BioSystems Design Blog

BioSystems Design - A Primer on Black Soldier Fly

The BioPod.com - Food Waste Composter & Grub Grower

Bio-Conversion of Putrescent Wastes - YouTube Video

Bioconversion of Food Waste: Black Soldier Fly

An artificial light source influences mating and oviposition of black soldier flies, Hermetia illucens

Black Soldier Fly, White Magic

Yucky but useful: Maggots make compost

** Jerry, the author of the "Black Soldier Fly Blog", has posted widely about raising BSFL. I've included links to a few forum threads below which contain great information and DIY instructions:

  1. The Pond Boss Forum (posts as GW)

  2. Microponics.net.au Blog (posts as Jerry)

  3. North American Native Fishes Association Forum (posts as fish for brains)

  4. BackYardChickens Forum (posts as geedub)

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