What do black soldier fly larvae eat? This may seem like a simple question, but the answer is actually a bit complicated, and depends on context. Whether you want to know Hermetia illucens’s natural diet in the wild, or what they are raised on as feeders, keep reading!
What Do Black Soldier Fly Larvae Eat in the Wild?
Wild black soldier fly larvae are generally detritivores and coprivores, which means that they feed on dead organic material (particularly plants) and feces. However, like most flies, they’re not picky — they are known to eat manure, carrion, compost, food waste, and just about any other type of organic waste. They don’t eat high cellulose items (ex: wood), but they do play a role in breaking it down for other animals to eat.
The adult flies typically don’t eat, although they have been recorded drinking nectar. During their short 5-8 day lifespan, they primarily live on the fat that they stored as larvae. This means that, unlike houseflies, they are not a pest or vector of disease.
What Do Black Soldier Fly Larvae Eat When Raised as Feeders?
Like most feeders, what black soldier fly larvae are raised on significantly affects their nutritional composition. Moistened chicken feed is a common baseline used in research papers, but high-quality black soldier fly larvae tend to be raised on a specifically-formulated grain and grass diet, likely with added calcium. Other additives, such as probiotics, may be present.
How to Feed Your Black Soldier Fly Larvae
The black soldier fly larvae that you receive when you purchase them as feeders for your pet actually don’t need to be fed! When you buy black soldier fly larvae, they are typically stored in a small plastic tub of soil, sawdust, or bran. They were likely transferred to this tub for shipment, having already eaten all the food they need to become a nutritious food source for your pet. They have everything they need to fast and hibernate in the door of your fridge until they get eaten by your pet, losing little of the nutritional value in the process.
If you want to provide food because you want to raise the larvae into flies, the good news is that you don’t actually have to feed them. If you buy large black soldier fly larvae, they will readily pupate without additional food, given the right environmental conditions. If you want to feed them, though, they will eat just about anything you give them. However it is best to give them a high-calcium, coarse-ground gutload to make sure they assimilate lots of nutrients for your pet’s benefit.
Do Black Soldier Fly Larvae Need Water?
Just like they don’t need food, dormant black soldier fly larvae don’t need water, either. However, if you wish to raise the larvae into flies, they will need a water source. Low-phosphorus, reptile-safe fruits like apples, blackberries, blueberries, and peaches make for a good source of both water and vitamins.
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