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What to feed the Black Soldier fly larvae?

The use of insect meal in livestock diets is a hot topic around the world. But equally important is to gain knowledge on what to feed the insects, to make sure the insect meal is nutritious and leads to high growth rates of the larvae.

This is why agricultural students from a Dutch agricultural college looked at the optimum diet formulation for the Black Soldier Fly larvae (BSF). The BSF is used often for producing insect meal and grows well on waste streams from the food industry. The research has been commissioned by Dutch liquid feed by-product supplier Bonda.

Parameters tested

The availability of the by-product streams, available at Bonda, formed the basis to formulate the ‘perfect’ diet for the larvae. Several raw materials were analysed for their ability to be the perfect structure, protein and/or energy source for the larvae. The zootechnical parameter used was growth rate and bioconversion. The students used different mashed feed formulations and divided these over different cups, each with 100 larvae (starting weight of 7-10 milligram per larvae) in each cup. Weight of the larvae was measured 3 times a week by taking a random sample of 20 larvae from each cup.

In depth articles on the use of insect meal in livestock diets. Read them all in the insect article section on All About Feed.

Single, mixed and replacement

The feed products tested included energy sources (such as mashed potato, potato pulp, wheat starch), protein sources (such as by-products from the bio-ethanol industry) and structure rich ingredients such as corn gluten meal, onion pulp, beet pulp and beer by-products. Also different mixes of the protein and energy sources have been tested. The students also tested the effects of replacing on of the ethanol by-products with cornsteep. For control, a chick mash feed was used. After 11 and 18 days, the larvae were removed from the feed and analysed for fresh and dried weight, protein and fat content and bio conversion ratio.

The feed products tested included energy sources from various sources such as potatoes. Photo: Hans Prinsen.
The feed products tested included energy sources from various sources such as potatoes. Photo: Hans Prinsen.

Optimum protein, starch and structure source

The experiments showed that a protein source, a starch source and a feed source for structure, is needed to produce the largest larvae. However, protein is the main ingredient and from all the protein sources tested in these experiments, one of the ethanol by-products was shown to have to have the biggest effect on weight gain. When mixed with other protein sources, there was no significant improved effect over using the pure ethanol-by product. However, when this particular product was replaced partly (1.25 grams dry matter) by cornsteep, the weight gain of the larvae was the biggest (but not significant). Regarding the energy (starch) sources, the mashed potato and wheat starch performed best. Combining these 2 with the potato pulp is an option. A structure source is also important to feed larvae on. Based on the results, corn gluten meal, onion pulp and beet pulp showed the best weight gain improvement of the larvae.

The best diet formulation is….

This will result in an optimum diet of 66.96% ethanol by-product (protein), 8.93% mashed potato (starch) and 24.11% corn gluten meal (structure). The students address that these experiments are done at a small scale. This means the results may differ when carried out in large scale production facilities. In addition, not only the weight gain of the larvae is important for insect breeders. Also the costs of the feed is important. If price is taken into consideration, a lower weight gain might be more economically feasible for the insect breeder.

Soon, Bonda will start further studies on this subject and will include research questions from insect breeders. If you are an insect breeder and want to be part of this, please contact Paul Kengen at

Top 5 best read insect articles on All About Feed. Not to be missed:

  1. EU agrees on insect protein for aquafeed
  2. Drying 1 tonne of insects in 3 hours
  3. A glimpse at the recent insect meal trials
  4. World’s first commercial piglet feed with insect oil
  5. Blog: Best practices in the insect protein sector


  • fu wen jiang

    We are China’s largest Black soldier fly company,welcome to contract us,we are in guangzhou China。3-5tons/ one day,and my breeding room can supply 5kg eggs in one day。
    i hope i can find some feed company or farmers cooperation,insect is very well。

  • Obed Opoku

    Hello Emmy, I am a 2nd year postgraduate student at the KWAME NKRUMAH UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, Kumasi-Ghana, majoring in animal nutrition. My research work borders on the use of the BSF Larvae meal as an alternative protein source for broiler chickens. All about feed has been very informative and i want to say thank you.
    in the same breath, i want to lay before you a petition. I have been surfing the internet trying to get an internship opportunity with either a farm or company involved in the growing or utilization of insect meals as feed, to equip myself with the advancing technological global trends. I therefore will really appreciate if there is any way you could link me up with one. Its a novelty especially in Africa where I am and i see a great potential in its future prospects and hence i would love to take the opportunity to develop myself for this bright future of the industry in Ghana and Africa at large. Thanks. Op to hear from you soon

  • serita swart

    We at AgriProtein would like to congratulate All About Feed on their excellent articles on insects as a protein source in animal feed. The in-depth articles are well researched and up to date.

  • Emmy Koeleman

    thanks Serita, I appreciate your nice comment :) Hope to write more on insects this year. Best regards Emmy

  • fu wen jiang

    hi Serita,can you share you email ,I want cooperate with your team.Maybe we can share with other,and study with you.My name Fuwenjiang,form Guangzhou ,

  • serita swart

    Fu, you can email us:

  • Comment deleted by a moderator

  • Tim Egan

    Hi Emily,

    Thanks for a great article. Can you share your sources for this research? Would be great to read the in-depth study.

  • Tochukwu ok Chukwuike

    great one, I need more of that,I mean offal or waste that is good for animals feed including legumes,grasses and browse
    please I also need your e_mail

  • Nicola Pussini

    Hy Emmy,
    I would be very much interested in read this article. Can you share the references with me :
    Thank you in advance

  • Brieuc Brieuc

    Hello Emmy, I'm also very interested in this topic ! Is it possible for you to share the reference to my following mail-adress :
    Thank you so much !

  • Thomas Le Cun

    Hello Emily, thanks for this article ! Can you share the reference with me :

  • Joaquin Saenz Zunino

    Hello Emily, very useful! Can you also share the reference with me :

  • wan somarny wan md zain

    Hello Emily,
    It is much appreciated if you can share the full paper for the above research as well as the references:
    Thank you in advance.

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