WATCH: This Philippine Fly Could Help the World End the War on Waste
The world’s best shot at solving waste problems could be chilling around your home. A species of fly found in the Philippines and other places around the world turns biodegradable waste into rich organic compost, while its larvae is a promising alternative feed for livestock.
The black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) is considered one of the most powerful allies of humans when it comes to reducing waste. They are not vectors of diseases and are not considered pests. Their larvae are voracious eaters of human waste products such as kitchen waste and are being deployed around the world as biological soldiers on the war on waste.
In fact, one Philippine startup has introduced the use of black soldier flies to address kitchen waste.
FiveDOL Upcycling Corporation, an eco-agricultural startup based in Davao City, is currently piloting a project to produce animal feed and farm compost using black soldier flies. According to a report by Mongabay, FiveDOL uses techniques developed with the help of the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology (Eawag).
Black Soldier Fly Larvae Feasting on Organic Waste
“Food waste is a good resource that we can create value from while at the same time helping to conserve the environment and address the problem on biodegradable kitchen waste using the black soldier fly,” Peter Damary, FiveDOL’s chief executive officer, tells Mongabay.
The black soldier fly’s larvae proved an ideal candidate for the project. They grow very fast and devour kitchen waste rapidly. The resulting poop from the larvae is a nutrient-rich compost that can replace chemical fertilizers used in farmlands.
A Black Soldier Fly Farm
“The compost produced by black soldier flies can give back life to the soil for organic farming,” Damary tells Mongabay.
Considering the speed of producing compost through the black soldier fly larvae, it’s a wonder why farming industries have yet to adopt the flies as allies. A single female black soldier fly can lay up to 900 eggs. Once mixed with kitchen waste, the larvae can grow rapidly.
Traditional compost made with biodegradable materials such as leaves and twigs takes up to six months to naturally decompose.
Composting bins that make use of earthworms take weeks to produce the same quality of compost that black soldier fly larvae produce in five days.
FiveDOL is an acronym taken from the life cycle of the black soldier fly. DOL means day-old larva and Five refers to the crucial five days when the black soldier fly larvae consume large amounts of waste before pupating into a fly.
Black Soldier Flies Eliminates Dangerous Pollutants
Aside from devouring organic waste, the larvae also eliminate would-be pollutants. According to a study published in the open-access journal Science Direct, a single black soldier fly larva can consume up to 200 mg of food waste per day and remove some toxic substances from compost, such as mercury. A similar study published in 2019 discovered that the black soldier fly larvae were able to eliminate nine organic chemicals from manure.
Another significant discovery was how the larvae were able to significantly reduce the presence of E. Coli and Salmonella in the waste they were eating, as published in a 2004 study.
As Posh as Butterflies
The black soldier flies originated in the Americas, but have become endemic to the Philippines where it does not pose environmental threats. Unlike houseflies, the black soldier flies are much more chill and do not like to fly around very much.
Unlike their pestilential cousins, the black soldier flies also do not regurgitate food along with digestive enzymes and, thus, do not spread diseases. Adult black soldier flies are as posh as butterflies. They are attracted to flower nectar and sugar water—not dog poo—and would rather starve to death than eat other things at all.