Black soldier flies are highly popular to deal with food waste and promote organic waste management.
However, can they single-handedly tackle the worldwide problem of food waste? Are they as effective as they are advertised? Is it safe to have them around?
Let us find the answers to these questions in this article.
What Are Black Soldier Flies?
The black soldier flies (Hermetia Illucens) is a tiny insect with a shiny black body.
These insects look similar to wasps, but on closer inspection, you will notice they have two wings and no stingers.
These insects are always associated with organic waste. The black soldier flies larvae are excellent organic waste management tools.
These larvae live around decaying organic matter like plant wastes, animal wastes, rotten fruits, compost piles, and more.
These insects are majorly found across South American, Asian, European, and African regions. These insects are fit for human consumption and are an excellent source of protein.
Are They Harmful to Humans?
Since these insects do not have stingers, they are harmless to humans. However, there is a significant hygiene aspect that concerns these flies.
Since they fly around organic waste and garbage, they can be physical carriers of various disease-causing pathogens.
Hence, you must keep your surroundings clean to keep these insects at bay. You can get sick if you consume the food on which these flies fall.
Yes, these are edible insects, but you must ensure that they are clean before oral ingestion.
Do They Sting/Bite?
As mentioned above, they do not possess stingers. Yes, they might look like bees and wasps, but they cannot sting you. If you see a black soldier fly around organic waste streams and feed sources, do not be scared, they will not harm you.
Are They Poisonous/Venomous?
No, these insects are not poisonous or venomous. However, they can be mechanical carriers of germs and other bacteria.
Try to keep the food covered if you have such insects around your home.
Are They a Good Solution For Food Waste Composting?
Back soldier fly larvae are considered ideal for organic waste management. These insects will consume anything you throw their way and transform it into manure by larvae.
However, there are a few concerns regarding the effectiveness of these insects to control waste management. Let us take a look at them:
The insects in the farms are usually fed consumer-level organic waste. This usually includes the same type of food waste.
For example, black soldier flies framers feed them wastes like spent cornmeal or brewery grains. These byproducts can be recycled as human food products.
The flour from soy fibers left over can be ideal for making soy milk and other soy-based products.
Thus, these insects are not tackling the issue of reducing food waste as a whole, especially when the items they consume are not actually waste.
Do you know that around 13.8–15.3% of the food produced globally is wasted before it reaches us?
These products sit idle or get damaged in agricultural lands during growth, harvest, and poor transportation.
At times, there is a significant portion of food that gets damaged during processing and food manufacturing.
The amount of food wasted during these preliminary stages is called “food loss.”
You must know that an extra 17% of global food production is laid to waste at the consumption end of our supply chain. This adds up to a whopping 931 million metric tons of consumable food wasted worldwide every year.
Now, around sixty-one percent of this gigantic total comes from our households, 26% comes from food service, and the rest, 13%, comes from grocery retail.
The concerning factor is that the decomposition and production of this food waste cause a significant amount of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
Now, using black soldier flies is an excellent method to tackle the problem of food waste. However, they alone are not enough to change the scenario. Solid steps are required to deal with the global food waste problem.
While black soldier larvae are experts at consuming almost anything and everything you throw at them, not all types of waste are suitable to be tagged as the ideal insect feed for larvae.
The conversion efficiency of the organic material into insect biomass by the black soldier fly larvae depends on the type of feed you are giving them.
Keeping the current industrial food supply chains in mind, fly protein farmers will face a huge financial burden to find a reliable and budget-friendly feed source for the flies.
Usually, farmers rely on regular food waste streams to address the dietary needs of these insects.
Researchers have claimed that the best black soldier fly diet highlights the suitability of biodegradable waste. This makes it a massive contributor to environmental damage.
Black soldier flies might look similar to bees and wasps, but they are not all harmful to humans.
These insects do not have stingers and will not attack. The only issue is that they create a loud buzzing noise while they fly.
Although these insects are highly beneficial to managing food waste and promoting organic waste management,
However, these insects are not ideal for food waste management. A proper system is required to tackle food waste on a global level.
Thank you for reading the article.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are black soldier flies safe?
Black soldier flies do not sting or bite humans, but they can carry disease-causing pathogens due to their tendency to fly around organic waste and garbage. It is important to keep surroundings clean to avoid getting sick from consuming food that they may have landed on. They are edible but must be clean before ingestion. They are not poisonous or venomous, but can mechanically carry germs and bacteria. Keep foods covered if they are present in the home.
Is black soldier fly larvae harmful to humans?
Black soldier flies are harmless to humans as they do not have stingers, but they can carry disease-causing pathogens due to their contact with organic waste and garbage. It is important to keep surroundings clean to avoid illness from consuming food on which the flies have landed. These insects are edible but must be clean before ingestion. They do not sting or bite, and they are not poisonous or venomous, but they can be mechanical carriers of germs and bacteria. It is recommended to cover food if these flies are present.
Is black soldier fly dirty?
Black soldier flies are sanitary, as they break down bacteria in their food and have no bacteria in their waste after digestion. They have developed an odor to repel other household pests.
What attracts black soldier flies?
To attract black soldier flies, one can start a compost bin with a mix of kitchen scraps that are a few days old, including vegetable scraps, corn on the cob, rotten potatoes, coffee grounds, fruit scraps, and other types of putrescent compost.
Over the years, many have wanted to know whether black solider flies are harmful or if they have any effect which can problems in children
Please go through some of these below.
Letter 1 – Soldier Fly: Odontomyia cincta
Green Fly? Location: Arkansas US July 22, 2011 9:29 pm We found this bug in our pool skimmer and was unable to identify it online Signature: Ashley Hi Ashley, After first browsing through countless Hover Fly images from the family Syrphidae, we eventually learned this stunning green fly’s identity to be the Soldier Fly, Odontomyia cincta, while continuing to search BugGuide. Though there is no information on the BugGuide species page, the genus page on BugGuide provides this information: “Adults take nectar, also sometimes found on dung” and “Eggs are laid on the edge of body of water. Larvae are aquatic, feed on algae. They stick tip of abdomen up through water surface to obtain air.“
Letter 2 – Soldier Fly
Subject: Wasp? Fly? Location: Central Arkansas, USA June 14, 2016 3:31 pm Dear Bugman, A friend took the attached picture. Sorry for the poor quality. I have had little luck in finding what it might be. Can you please help? Insect is about one inch long. Pic was taken June 14, 2016. Signature: Thank you!! This is a Solder Fly and we believe it is in the genus Hedriodiscus based on images posted to BugGuide. Many harmless Soldier Flies mimic stinging wasps and bees for protection.
Letter 3 – Soldier Fly
Subject: Some kind of fly? Geographic location of the bug: Stillwater, Oklahoma Date: 08/30/2017 Time: 03:48 PM EDT What is this? I have never seen this before, and it was sitting on a hummingbird feeder outside my mother-in-law’s apartment in north central Oklahoma (Stillwater). How you want your letter signed: Shelley M Dear Shelley, We can’t understand why the beautiful green Soldier Flies in the genus Hedriodiscus have no common names. Based on this BugGuide image, we believe your individual is Hedriodiscus binotatus. Of the family, BugGuide notes: “Often superficially resemble wasps in appearance and behavior. Adults vary widely in color and shape. Wings at rest are folded scissorlike across the abdomen. Antennae characteristic in having a long terminal segment which, when bent, gives a flagged appearance.” Tree of Life notes: “The adults are most often collected on foliage in damp forests, near bodies of water, or near boggy areas (James 1981).”