The larvae of the black soldier fly, a common insect of the Stratiomyidae family, can be used as organic poultry and fish feed and offer farmers an inexpensive alternative to the currently comparatively high-priced products.
In addition, farmers can raise the insects to harvest larvae themselves.
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Black soldier fly larvae, or maggots, are a great source of high quality protein and a great alternative to fishmeal in organic poultry and fish production, according to a study by Aarhus University, Denmark.
This is how insect farms are being built all over Rangpur, in which educated but unemployed young people get new employment opportunities in maggot production.
The youth who breed black soldier flies say this is common in countries like the United States, where much of the animal and fish feed is made up of live larvae.
The insects are currently being produced in small quantities, but the scope is increasing day by day.
Aside from creating jobs while meeting domestic demand for animal feed, large-scale maggot production would also produce a large amount of organic manure.
This is because the black soldier fly larvae have a remarkable ability to convert almost any type of organic waste into high quality protein through ingestion. The insect’s droppings can then be collected as a high-quality fertilizer.
To make the maggots, black soldier flies are kept in rooms with decomposed feed, chicken droppings and other organic waste. Each fly then lays between 900 and 1,000 pupae, which are kept in containers until they grow into maggots within 14 to 18 days.
The whole process requires a mosquito net, a couple of pots, and pieces of wood.
If farmers cultivated these insects on a large scale, they could produce 100 to 500 kilograms (kg) of larvae per day.
Nur Amin, an honorary student from Thetrai village in Kurigrams Ulipur Upazila, told the Daily Star that he had produced an average of 10 kg of larvae per day for the past month.
He uses these insects to feed the animals on his own poultry farms and expects to have feed for a year within the next four to five months.
“Even if insect production is neglected, it is clearly an advantage,” said Amin.
Nibaran Chandra Roy, a college student from Panchagram village in Lalmonirhat Sadar upazila, told the Daily Star that it is easy to harvest maggots from black soldier flies.
After spending three days learning the process on a farm in Rangpur, Roy now has his own insect farm that produces two kilograms of maggots every day. Now he dreams of expanding his business and opening a fish farm that will be fed with his larvae.
Dipta Kumar Mohanta, a master’s student in Ramdev village, said he started his small insect farm three weeks ago with one kg of black soldier fly larvae.
Since then he has produced five kilograms of maggots and is working on expanding further.
“I hope to make a profit from selling the insects in the next 2-3 months. We can also breed fish in our pond and use these insects as food, ”he added.
Abdar Ali, owner of a poultry farm in Lalmonirhat, told the Daily Star that he buys an average of 7,000 to 8,000 Tk poultry feed every day to feed 2,000 birds on his farm.
And with the price of regular poultry feed soaring, it has not been able to make its expected profits lately.
“But now that I’ve learned about maggot breeding from the black soldier fly, I’m preparing to produce the insects off the farm,” he said, adding that he hopes to start production in January.
Priyanath Sarkar, a fish farmer from Kurigram, said he buys an average of Tk 5,000 fish feed a day for his six-hectare pond.
And after recently learning about insect breeding, he started producing five to six kilograms of black soldier fly larvae a day and found that they are excellent food for fish.
“So if I can produce an average of 35 to 40 kg per day, then my feed needs are covered,” he said.
Shamim Ashraf, deputy director of the agricultural expansion department in Lalmonirhat, said that high quality organic fertilizers can be made from the waste left after maggot production.
Few people have interfered in the insect farming business so far, but its scope is growing day by day, he added.
“The government has not yet taken a decision on large-scale production of black soldier fly larvae,” said Dr. Jahangir Alam, Lalmonirhat District Animal Husbandry Officer, told The Daily Star.
Some farm owners produce insects on their own and the method they use is environmentally friendly.
“Instead, using garbage is good for the environment and so, if the government so chooses, we can train enthusiastic farmers to make maggots from the black soldier fly,” he added.