Black Soldier Fly – What?


Black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) is a cosmopolitan. It is spread to all continents into neotropical areas. Though having a wasp-like appearance, BFS is totally harmless. It does not to carry any known diseases, neither does it bite nor sting. Actually, adult flies do not even have a mouth. Adults range from 15 to 20 mm in length, larvae can reach 27 mm in length and 6 mm in width. (Sheppard et al. 2002) . Black soldier fly is abundant in agricultural areas, since it likes to lay eggs into organic waste. The adult black soldier fly is not attracted to human habitats or foods and for that reason it is not considered a nuisance. Besides, it is a lousy flier.

Black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) adults
Black soldier fly larvae



Life Cycle of BSF

Female BSF lays roughly 500 eggs (1 mm in length) in decaying organic matter. The eggs hatch into larvae in four days. Larvae pass through six instars and require approximately 14 days to complete development (Hall and Gerhardt 2002). The larvae can reach 27 mm in length and 6 mm in width. During larval development, black soldier fly larvae are insatiable feeders. As adults they do not need to feed and rely on the fats stored from the larval stage (Newton et al. 2005).

The Great Properties of Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL)


1. BSFL grow very fast and have a high turnover rate for the feed. It takes only two weeks in optimal conditions to get full-size larvae for harvesting. The time needed depends on temperature and the quality of the feed.

Growth speed comparisons

Development time (from birth or egg-laying to harvest) Feed requirement (kg) for 1 kg meat
BSF larvae 15-30 days


Mealworms 60-90 days


Poultry 14 weeks


Beef < 36 mths


2. They eat almost anything, and are robust and mean to the competitors. The digestive tract of BSFL manages many types of feed. Intestinal microbes assist efficiently in decomposition of the feed components. The digestive enzymes, antimicrobial peptides and intestinal microbes gradually spread into the feed in such a way, that it starts to resemble the composition of the larval gut. This leaves poor possibilities for harmful microbes to thrive.

3. They transform protein-poor feed (organic waste) to valuable proteins.

4. Cultivation can be easily automated

Cultivation of insect larvae is fairly straightforward. When approaching the pupation age, larvae leave their settings and search for drier locations. Until that point, automation can provide homogeneous and consistent conditions regarding temperature, moisture and nutrient feeding.

5. They do great job in managing organic waste.

Aside organic waste, BSF larvae can efficiently reduce the amount of manure and decrease its nutrient content. With bovine manure they have been shown to reduce available phosphorus by 61–70 percent and nitrogen by 30–50 percent  (Sheppard, Newton and Burtle, 2008). Larvae are able to reduce pollution potential by 50–60 percent or more, and practically remove the bad odour of the organic waste.

Harvested BSF larvae are versatile
  • Whole larvae (fresh or desiccated) can be fed to pets, fish and poultry. Dried larvae can be ground to insect meal and fed to fish and pets.
  • Larvae milk (pressed larvae devoid of the chitin part) can be further processed to insect meal or protein.
  • The oil component can be separated and used for nutrition, as lubricant, for cosmetics, or for bio-diesel preparation
  • Even the left-over can be collected and used as a high-value fertilizer.


Frequently Asked Questions


Is insect eating safe? BSF is not known to carry any human pathogens. People who are allergic to shellfish may however react to chitin present in insects.

Eating something that lives in a dirt does not sound appealing, does it?

No, it doesn’t. However, larvae have been shown to significantly reduce the amount of harmful bacteria in the feed, and they are known to produce antimicrobial substances such as chitin and antimicrobial peptides.  They in fact perform sanitizing work for their environment. This does not happen in mass-production of beef or poultry, wherein the poor animals may be standing deep in their own manure.
Why not to rear crickets instead? Production costs for cricked are fairly high, since the cultivation systems are hard to automatize and they need a lot of space in comparison to larvae. Crickets also require high quality feed (the use of chicken feed is common), whilst the BSF larvae can eat almost anything. We have estimated that the production costs of BSF larvae would be less than 10 % of the cricket production costs.
Nutritive value of BSF compared to  mealworms or soy protein? Both BSF and mealworms (larvae of the mealworm beetle, Tenebrio molitor) are indeed an excellent protein sources, largely comparable to soy protein. The content of the non-essential amino acid Cysteine is relatively low in BSF protein. BSF accumulates much calcium from the feed. Note that Entoprot bioreactor is an ideal system also for mealworm rearing.
How do they taste like? Pretty good, actually. There is a slight nutty aroma and a touch of liver taste. If you are looking for a meaty flavor, BSFL can offer you just that.
Are there any legal restrictions for the use of insects for human nutrition? Yes indeed, there are, many. Countries have their own legislation for food safety. Insect food is such a new thing, that the playground and rules are changing. Although Entoprot is not an expert on this legal issues, we aim to update information on the situation in European Union and particularly in Finland. For more info, follow our blog feed. The Danish company Enorm has recently filed an application for the use of BSF protein as a food ingredient in EU.


Read More
Topics References
Generic info
Nutritive value of BSF protein:
  • St-Hilaire, S., Cranfill, K., Mcguire, M.A., Mosley, E.E., Tomberlin, J.K., Newton, L., Sealey, W., Sheppard, C. & Irving, S. 2007. Fish offal recycling by the Black Soldier. Fly produces a foodstuff high in omega-3 fatty acids. Journal of the World Aquaculture
    , 38(2): 309–313.
  • Schönborg, T. 2018. Nutritional value of some insects and their impact on
    post weaning diarrhoea caused by Escherichia coli. Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
  • Shumo, M. Osuga, I.M., Khamis, F.M., Tanga, C.M. 2019. The nutritive value of black soldier fly larvae reared on commonorganic waste streams in Kenya.
  • Spranghers T, Ottoboni M, Klootwijk C, Ovyn A, Deboosere S, De Meulenaer B, Michiels J, Eeckhout M, De Clercq P, De Smet S. Nutritional composition of black soldier fly ( Hermetia illucens ) prepupae reared on different organic waste substrates. J Sci Food Agric. 2017 Jun;97(8):2594-2600. doi: 10.1002/jsfa.8081. Epub 2016 Nov 14.
How to cultivate BSF larvae
  • Sheppard DC, Tomberlin JK, Joyce JA, Kiser BC, Sumner SM. 2002. Rearing methods for the black soldier fly (Diptera: Stratiomyidae). Journal of Medical Entomology 39: 695-698.
What do BSF larvae eat?
  • Liu et al. 2018. Bioconversion of Three Organic Wastes by Black Soldier Fly (Diptera: Stratiomyidae) Larvae. Environmental Entomology, 47(6), 2018, 1609–1617 doi: 10.1093/ee/nvy141
  • Chia et al. 2018. Effects of waste stream combinations from brewing industry on performance of Black Soldier Fly, Hermetia illucens (Diptera: Stratiomyidae). PeerJ, DOI 10.7717/peerj.5885
BSF in waste management
  • Hall DC, Gerhardt RR. 2002. Flies (Diptera), pp 127-161. In Mullen G, Durden L. (editors). Medical and Veterinary Entomology. Academic Press. San Diego, California.
  • Newton L, Sheppard C, Watson DW, Burtle G, Dove, R. (June 2005). Using the black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens, as a value-added tool for the management of swine manure. Waste Management Programs. North Carolina State University.,web%20files/A2.pdf (14 July 2009).
BSF larvae as fish feed
  • Sheppard, D.C., Newton, G.L. & Burtle, G. 2008. Black soldier fly prepupae: a compelling alternative to fish meal and fish oil. A public comment prepared in response to a request by the National Marine Fisheries Service to gather information for the NOAA-USDA Alternative Feeds Initiative. Public comment on alternative feeds for aquaculture received by NOAA 15 November 2007 through 29 February 2008.
BSF larvae  protein production
  • Sheppard, D.C., Newton, G.L. & Burtle, G. 2008. Black soldier fly prepupae: a compelling alternative to fish meal and fish oil. A public comment prepared in response to a request by the National Marine Fisheries Service to gather information for the NOAA-USDA Alternative Feeds Initiative. Public comment on alternative feeds for aquaculture received by NOAA 15 November 2007 through 29 February 2008.
Other products from BSF
  • Li, Q., Zheng, L., Cai, H., Garza, E., Yu, Z. & Zhou, S. 2011. From organic waste to biodiesel: black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens, makes it feasible. Fuel, 90: 1545–1548
Hygiene, safety
  • Erickson, M.C., Islam, M., Sheppard, C., Liao, J. & Doyle, M.P. 2004. Reduction of Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella enterica serovar Enteritidis in chicken manure by larvae of the black soldier fly. J. Food Prot., 67(4): 685–690.
  • Liu, Q., Tomberlin, J.K., Brady, J.A., Sanford, M.R. & Yu, Z. 2008. Black soldier fly (Diptera: Stratiomyidae) larvae reduce Escherichia coli in dairy manure. Environ. Entomol., 37(6): 1525–1530.
  • Jiang et al. 2018 Black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia illucens) strengthen the metabolic function of food waste biodegradation by gut microbiome.


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