CareSheet: Black Soldier Fly and Phoenix Worms

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Teamonger

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[SIZE=11pt]Terminology/Slang Names[/SIZE]
[SIZE=11pt]Adult Flies:[/SIZE][SIZE=11pt] “Black Soldier Fly”, “BSF”[/SIZE]
[SIZE=11pt]Larva (Maggots):[/SIZE][SIZE=11pt] “Phoenix Worms”, “BSFL”[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]As Feeders For Mantises[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]Both adult flies and the larva can be used as feeders. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]The flies are readily taken by mantises of the appropriate size. They can be a bit of a messy feeder however as many mantises will only eat the choice bits leaving a decent part of the exoskeleton and wings as detritus in the cage. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]The larva of appropriate size are taken with about the same success rate as mealworms (So it's a bit hit or miss). The larva have no carapace which makes them slightly better than mealworms, they also are quite active wigglers/crawlers which helps entice a mantis.[/SIZE]
 

[SIZE=11pt]As Feeders For Reptiles[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]The adult flies are great feeders for chameleons and the larva are one of the best feeders you can get for most insectivorous reptiles as they have an amazing calcium to phosphorous ratio. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]Here is a little comparison I grabbed off google. There is a ton of information to be had out there on phoenix worms as reptile feeders with minimal searching.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]
CJeXjlUZ1KD0riGr7vu9fZuhBwgsuzBY133ZxGZp014j3tWyyZav2RChXJt79K47a-AoFR595YDPhBdXl7qU6UC6K6oYTmTzE_QfrvIOWr37Fsh7rQDSt1URXapf6-T0t9VXMNMa
[/SIZE]


[SIZE=11pt]Life Cycle[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]
a8ESMUEafOPX4U9qA53G8jY3eZ8-rWPO8Fo1h75Ial3V-CKoHKgG4UqxMIts-HJiI5qaBOltZb5f3zwPhxYhvVXWaU3j2Waw1TXeyTPlWRuCLRA05TfVYM2lf59XDPQmlfxiBhZt
[/SIZE]


[SIZE=11pt]Basic Indoor Setups[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]Sunlight[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]Natural sunlight is the one thing you MUST have. Without some form of natural direct sunlight the BSFs will not breed.[/SIZE]
 

[SIZE=11pt]Temperature & Humidity[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]Phoenix worms are pretty hearty little bugs and can survive most habitats. You can even overwinter colonies of worm outside under a tarp so long as you feed them enough as they generate heat when they feed. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]I am sure there is a lot of information out there on optimal temperature and humidity levels but here is what worked for me.[/SIZE]
 

[SIZE=11pt]Temperature[/SIZE][SIZE=11pt]: My bug room is kept at a constant 25 to 28 degrees.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]Humidity[/SIZE][SIZE=11pt]: Negligible. I tried both misting the enclosure daily and letting it dry out completely over a few weeks and the larva did not seem to care either way. The only reason you might want to monitor the humidity is if you are trying to get the larva to self harvest themselves (see self harvesting section) as they require moisture to force them out of the breeding bin and to climb any ramp you might have set up as they are nature’s tiny suction cups.[/SIZE]
 

[SIZE=11pt]Setups[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]I have seen setups ranging from small simple window hangers made with a curtain and some hula-hoops, large open air outdoor systems, to larger indoor breeding setups like my own.[/SIZE]
 

[SIZE=11pt]All setups will require the following[/SIZE]

  1. [SIZE=11pt]Breeding/Feeding Bin - This is usually some manner of plastic container filled with used coffee grounds. This is also where you will put any food for the larva. You can feel free to burry said food in the coffee grounds to reduce odor. The larva will likely drag it under in due time anyway.[/SIZE]
  2. [SIZE=11pt]Pupating Area - This can either be a separate container if you are going to do self harvesting (see self harvesting section) or if you are lazy like me you can just keep the breeding bin itself dry and the larva will happily live and pupate in the same bin with no issues.[/SIZE]
  3. [SIZE=11pt]Fly Cage - Some manner of mesh, fabric, or plastic cage should go either around the whole set up or sit on top of it to contain the flies. As you are likely going to want to feed these flies to your mantises you’ll want some way to get at them as well.[/SIZE]
  4. [SIZE=11pt]Larva Barrier - If you intend to keep your bin moist you will need to place a ring of velcro around the top of your breeding bin. This will keep the larva from being able to escape unless it is via any ramps you have set up.[/SIZE]
  5. [SIZE=11pt]Corrugated Cardboard for Egg Laying - If you are going to keep your bin moist you should provide some corrugated cardboard raised a bit above the substrate as an egg laying area. [/SIZE]
[SIZE=11pt]Setups[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]Cleaning[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]If you have your bin set up to be moist and self harvesting you likely won’t accumulate much waste besides some fruit/veggie skins you may want to periodically pick out.[/SIZE]
 

[SIZE=11pt]If you keep your bin dry it will tend to accumulate quite a bit of pupa casings, dead flies, as well as any dried up food peels. All this trash is constantly pushed to the top by the movement of the larva. Due to this I clean my bin by scooping off the top layer of detritus every week or two and placing it in a sealed plastic container. While most of the detritus will be empty pupa casings and dead adults a few actual viable pupa are sure to slip in there so I leave the container for a week or two to flush out any flies from it before disposing of it. If you live somewhere with native populations of BSFs this is likely not necessary.[/SIZE]
 

[SIZE=11pt]Feeding[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]The adults themselves only live for 5-8 days and do not eat as they are solely concerned with mating and laying eggs.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]The larva will eat pretty much anything you can throw at them and will do so intensely quickly once you have a reasonable colony going. I personally feed mine only fruits/veggies to ensure the bin stays clean and not smelly. Meat and other table scraps can be offered but if you are breeding them inside this may not be the best idea.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]Through trial and error I have found the best fruits/veggies to feed are apples, squash, potatoes, and bananas. For most fruits/veggies the best way to feed them is to cut them in half and push the fleshy side down into the coffee grounds. The larva do not eat the skin so by doing this any potential smell is contained by the skin as the larva eat the flesh. Once the flesh is gone you can easily remove the dried up wrinkled skin. If using bananas peel the skin off a bit on one side and place that side into the coffee grounds for a similar effect.[/SIZE]
 

[SIZE=11pt]Breeding[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]There is a lot of overly technical information out there about indoor breeding that can get very overwhelming very fast. [/SIZE]
 

[SIZE=11pt]That said this is what worked for me:[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]The MOST important thing is to have a natural light source. The breeding setup must be in a window that gets direct sun. I tried grow lights and a number of other things with absolutely no breeding whatsoever for months.[/SIZE]
 

[SIZE=11pt]Most care sheets will say you need to put corrugated cardboard above the food/substrate for the BSFs to lay their eggs in. I have never had any of my flies lay in provided cardboard. I believe this is because I keep my bin quite dry so they are happy to lay eggs directly into the used coffee grounds. It doesn’t hurt to have cardboard as an option just incase but don’t be surprised if they do not use it.[/SIZE]
 

[SIZE=11pt]Other then that they’ll take care of the rest of the breeding business all by themselves.[/SIZE]
 

[SIZE=11pt]Self Harvesting Larva[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]Although I have not attempted to set up this system one of the big perks of BSFL is the ability to have them self harvest. Pretty much this means if you keep your bin moist enough the larva will need to climb out to find somewhere dry to pupate. Using that fact you can set up paths for the larva to take using a tube that will automatically deposit them into a bin for collection. This hasn’t been a big concern for me as mantises prefer the adult flies but if you want to use these as feeders for both mantises and reptiles it's worth the bit of extra work.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]Check out either of the following for examples:[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]How to Deal With Mites[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]It's likely unavoidable that you will get mites in your BSFL bin. They are just a fact of life when you are composting regardless of if you are doing it for feeders or compost.[/SIZE]
 

[SIZE=11pt]Usually the mites you find in a BSFL bin are composters and are not really harmful to anything unless they have a population explosion in which case they will compete with the BSFL for food. [/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]The following link shows one way to control their numbers without resorting to drastic measures [/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]Mite Control[/SIZE]
 

[SIZE=11pt]FAQ[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]Do they smell?[/SIZE]

  • [SIZE=11pt]They only smell if you mess up their food. If you overfeed them and the food starts to rot it will of course smell. If you do not either burry fruit/veggies or ensure you feed them as stated above using the skin as a smell barrier they will smell. Once you figure out how to feed your bin correctly they should only smell occasionally of food and coffee grounds.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=11pt]How difficult are the flies to wrangle?[/SIZE]

  • [SIZE=11pt]BSF are very docile and as flies go quite slow. Usually you can just reach into the cage and pluck a few off the walls, or easily pluck escapees from wherever they land. If you’re really good it's not that hard to snatch them right out of midair. They make Blue Bottles look like physic ninja’s in comparison.[/SIZE]
[SIZE=11pt]Do I need to worry about fruit flies infesting my BSF bin?[/SIZE]

  • [SIZE=11pt]Short answer: Not really. [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=11pt]Long answer: Yes if you mess up the husbandry of the bin. Given usual circumstances the BSFL eat whatever fruits/veggies you give them so fast there is no way fruit flies can get a foothold. I had a leak in one of my flying fruit fly cultures at one point and 100s of them got loose but not once did I notice any fruit fly larva in the BSF bin.[/SIZE]

[SIZE=11pt]Resources[/SIZE]
[SIZE=11pt]Information on BSF/BSFL[/SIZE]
[SIZE=11pt]https://taxo4254.wikispaces.com/Hermetia+Illucens[/SIZE]

 
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CosbyArt

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@Teamonger I've linked to your articles when others ask about this feeder, as it really is a great resource, but I'm surprised I never responded here. It really should be stickied for others can find easily, so I can at least fix that too. ;)

It is pinned in the Food and Feeding section now, thanks for the effort and great write-up!

 

Teamonger

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@cwebster Usually they are about the size of a normal sized wasp (Google should have pics of flies on hands for proper size comparison). However I found if you feed the worms less they will eventually pupate at a much smaller size and you can get flies half that size. I usually had one container of 'starved' worms set off to the side that I feed very sparingly for this purpose. However, I think (I never actually dated anything) that they take quite a bit longer to reach adult if you do this as the worms can go for a long time without food.

My ghosts are still only subadult and I currently have no flies (my new culture crashed due to lack of natural light :( ) So I have no actual experience with adult Ghosts and BSF unfortunately.

 

john57

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I prefer Black Solder flies over Blue Bottle flies. For two reasons, first they last a bit longer in the fly state in the fridge but they do take much longer to emerge from the pupa stage. Second they move and fly much slower than BB files. I lost my first Devil Flower due to a flying BB fly that collided with my Devil Flower breaking legs and she fell. In  blink of a eye she is gone. I had a large order of BSF but the supplier send me pre-pupa BSF instead of pupa as I requested.  It was taking a very long time for the pre-pupa just to change into pupa then to flies.  I ran out of house flies and just had BB flies on hand and lost my Devil Flower and she was happy, conformable, great personality and well feed in the environment controlled terrarium setup just for her and she molted twice.   My next tank which has my six violin mantis did not like the BB flies slaming into them but did not lose anyone in that tank.  It is a bit of a challenge to have a steady supply of flies so far. 


 



 



 

Introvertebrate

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I was poking around online, and it appears that some folks are able to trigger successful breeding with artificial lights.  LEDs or flourescent bulbs.  The blue/green color range seems to be most effective.

 
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Teamonger

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I was poking around online, and it appears that some folks are able to trigger successful breeding with artificial lights.  LEDs or flourescent bulbs.  The blue/green color range seems to be most effective.
I can confirm this. I had a heck of a time getting my flies to breed here in Iceland as the sunlight is somehow "different". I purchased an LED grow light from IKEA and instantly my flies started breeding. However normal high lumen LEDs bulbs for household use did nothing.

There is also a company (https://www.evoconsys.com/) that sells lights specifically for stimulating BSF breeding. I purchased one to compare with the normal grow light but won't be able to pick it up until October.

 

Teamonger

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Just a quick update about the light. I had a bit of a time getting the thing to me (not the company's fault, that was all me) but finally managed to get it set up. 

Winter has arrived and with it the sun has left me high and dry so my flies were not mating or laying eggs at all up until I got the light no matter what I did. 

I installed the light but nothing seemed to change.

Added a grow light (Ikea) as well to the bin and still nothing happened.

After researching a bit I realized it might not be warm enough or perhaps bright enough regardless of the weird light wavelength or whatever requirements being met by the new light. I added a 60W normal bulb for heat and extra light and pretty much instantly the flies went crazy and started mating and laying eggs. I have no idea if it was the heat or the extra lumens that did the trick but I will work that out once I have a stable colony again.

I am still working on some experiments to see what works and what does not and how effective the light is when heat and humidity are sorted out. I will update when I have more concrete data.

 

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