Breeding in Progress: Updates on SOIL’s BSFL Research

SOIL’s black soldier fly rearing unit containers, provided in partnership with USAID. 

In 2019, the SOIL Research Team began testing out the possibility of using black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) as a method of transforming waste from our EkoLakay sanitation service into protein-rich larvae that can serve as animal feed. This technology can be used in combination with the existing composting process. After a delay in our pilot trials due to the Covid-19 pandemic, work resumed last year on the project, in partnership with USAID Haiti, and we have a few exciting updates to share. 

Black soldier flies (BSF) are endemic to Haiti and wild ones have always visited our composting site in Mouchinette. In order for the flies to become efficient at transforming significant amounts of organic waste into new resources, however, a constant supply of larvae and flies are required. Last year, SOIL’s Waste-to-Research Consultant set out to try and tame the local flies with the hope of breeding them in captivity in order to close the cycle and create a continually renewing colony. After several attempts, the first BSF eggs were successfully hatched in captivity. 

Here’s how the BSF breeding cycleworks:

(1) Black soldier flies mate in the “love cage.”

(2) BSF like to lay their eggs close to anything smelly, so pieces of wood are placed on top of a bowl of organic waste. The flies deposit their eggs there, which can then be easily collected.

(3) The eggs are then placed on a mix of chicken feed and water where the eggs hatch into larvae. The larvae continue to be fed until they turn into prepupae after about two to three weeks (photo 1).

Photo 1.

(4) The prepupae require a dry substrate away from light in order to bury themselves, and so they are transferred into crates filled with compost and placed into a “dark cage” where they are disturbed as little as possible, while they pupate (photo 2). 

Photo 2.

(5) After two weeks the dark cage and the love cage are connected, luring the freshly emerged flies into the love cage and closing the BSFL cycle (photo 3). 

Photo 3.

Along the way, our researchers track the survival rates and collect key parameters, like larval weight, to determine the efficiency of the colony and identify the weakest links. This will help us to develop standard operating procedures for maintaining the colony, in order to continue to provide a consistent and continual supply of larvae.

As a part of the grant from USAID, SOIL received two shipping containers to be repurposed as a rearing unit for the larvae and flies. The rearing unit will allow our researchers to further grow the BSF colony to a point where sufficient excess larvae is produced to convert waste from our EkoLakay sanitation service into animal feed.

Stay tuned for more updates on this project. Thank you to USAID for supporting this innovative research to promote resilient solutions for the sanitation sector and increase food security in Haiti.

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