Green Waste Management: Processing Waste With Flies?

The thought of flies buzzing around our rubbish can annoy us to no end. Similarly the sight of insect larvae can make most people feel uncomfortable, let alone letting them feed on our waste. However, there’s an insect making waves as the super organic waste disposal in the west, a type of fly. No, not your average housefly but a species called the Black Soldier Fly (BSF).

Waste continues to pile up as man continues to expand their territory
Whilst waste is piling up, there’s a new way to naturally reduce it.
Photo by RitaE on Pixabay

A Soldier Against Waste

Black Soldier Fly, Hermetia illucens is a fly native to the tropical regions of the world. Whilst they may irk some people but make no mistake, they are revolutionising the way we dispose organic waste. The prevailing method for waste disposal is by incineration (combustion of organic substances) which causes air pollution from its fumes. Instead, these flies leave virtually no negative impact to our environment. Just one kilogram of eggs can clear up to 10 tonnes of organic waste. This includes, decomposing matter, foods that are unfit for human/animal consumption and excrement. Yes, you read it right, excrement. These little hungry hippos will gobble up any soft matter (excluding bones, hair and the like) to be digested into protein and frass (insect poop).

One mating pair of black soldier fly can produce up to 600 waste cleaning larvae
Mating of Black Soldier Flies at a farm. The average longevity of adult BSF is 12-14 days, whilst the mating period occurs on the 2nd day and lasts until the 8th when adult flies exhibit a declining tendency towards mating.
Source: Image by Author

The mechanism in their digestive system is so amazing that they leave behind ZERO E. coli or salmonella after consumption. This makes them one of the cleanest larvae around considering that they eat poop. For instance, in parts of Europe, Africa and China, farm animal waste are being cleared up by BSF larvae.

Food For Livestock

What happens to the larvae after consuming all that waste? Well, they are fed back to animals as a source of protein. By having a gut clear of harmful bacteria, these larvae are an endless supply of protein-rich meal for poultry, pigs and fishes. Thereby, lowering the cost for waste management and animal feed while also increasing output.

An average BSF larva consists of up to 50% protein. By comparison, the average pig feed contains about 38% protein while chicken feed lingers around 18%. This means that livestock farmers can increase the protein intake for farm animals. This allows faster growth simply by keeping the BSF alive and breeding in their farm. Having such an impressive cleaning system, the protein from BSF larvae is also safe for human consumption. In fact, myBurgerLab introduced a BSF larvae patty back in 2019.

Chickens fed with larvae grows fatter faster than their chicken feed counterpart
Chickens raised with a mix of 50% BSF larvae and 50% seeds.
Source: Image by Author

From Waste To Waste: Organic Fertilisers

Remember when I said they leave virtually no trace? Well, I wasn`t kidding. Insect excrement, also known as frass are being used as fertilisers, and a clean one at that. It is used as is, or added with chitin for that extra calcium to boost plant growth. Additionally, for those looking to grow their own food and are concerned about harmful chemicals in their fertilisers take note that chitin is not a chemical additive but rather a natural part of insects and shellfish which carries many benefits.

Where does the chitin come from? The adults. After they mate and lay their eggs, the adults have completed their life duties and dies. Chitin comes from the exoskeleton and pupae of insects. With the inclusion of calcium, BSF frass incorporates all the necessary nutrients to help plants grow. That being said, this makes frass one of the best choice for organic fertilisers available out there.

Grounded frass by hijauOrganik makes it easier and faster for plants to absorb nutrients
Finely ground BSF frass looks and feels like sand is an alternative to chemical laced fertilisers.
Source: Image by Author

Harmful Or Harmless To The Environment?

What about the environmental impact of introducing this insect into our ecosystem? They are native to most tropical regions thus are not an invasive or destructive species. In addition, they don’t sting or bite as they possess no stinger or any mouth parts. In other words, at the larvae stage, they consume all the nutrients they need to grow, shed and mate before starting the next generation to repeat the cycle.

The size of an egg is approximately one millimetre, hatches and grows up to 2.7 centimetre. This means after hatching, they engorge themselves nearly 30 times their hatchling size. Just one clutch of eggs can clear an enormous amount of waste. Additionally, they leave nothing behind but instead provide alternative food sources for consumption.

Decomposing waste can be reconstructed into an alternative food source
Uneaten composting fruits can be turned into protein or frass.
Photo by Joshua Hoehne on Unsplash

Zero Wastage For The Future

Imagine the possibilities available to make our world cleaner and greener with this one insect. It isn’t just limited to frass, waste management and alternative food source, chitin will be another wonderful resource we’ll be exploring in the next article. Stay tuned! If you’d like to enquire about organic frass or BSF eggs you can contact hijauOrganik for more information.

About Shawn KHIK

Wanderlust and gamer, Shawn spent a good portion of his life travelling the world. Enjoys soaking up foreign cultures, gastronomic adventures, and sharing the tales of his travels. Gifted with green fingers, he also ventures into the gardening and nursery business too.

5 Replies to “Green Waste Management: Processing Waste With Flies?”

  1. Pingback: More Than Just Shells: The Future Of Chitin - Espoletta

  2. This is so useful. Never knew a fly could be so useful but I must say Black Soldier Fly sounds like a cool boy band.

    • Thank you. 🙂 Some people are using it at home in their compost pile but keeping them from buzzing out is a little tricky. It is definitely useful for those rearing their own chickens at home with lots of space.

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