Tomberlin, a Texas A&M entomologist, is looking into the possibility that black soldier fly larvae "grubs" to the uninitiated could be used to turn livestock manure into high-protein feed.
The concept itself has been proven practical for reducing poultry litter: The flies lay their eggs in the animal manure without much encouragement. The eggs hatch into larvae that eat the manure as if it's caviar, growing into fat little creatures that are 40 percent or more protein. The chickens do what chickens do naturally, eat the worm-like larvae with relish, said Tomberlin, who has a joint appointment with Texas Cooperative Extension and the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station.
"No special harvest equipment is needed," said Tomberlin, who is based at the Texas A&M University System Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Stephenville.
Tomberlin expects to find the same manure-reduction techniques that work with poultry can be adapted to Central Texas dairy farms and other livestock operations, including feedyards. Whether the larvae can be recycled as livestock feed is another question, but he has plans to investigate this as well with feeding trials.
Tomberlin does know that when large numbers of soldier fly eggs are introduced to a manure pile, the resulting larvae can reduce dry weight of the manure by 30 percent to 50 percent in two weeks. Preliminary work with calf hutches shows this to be true. (Calf hutches are small, individual, roofed pens for young calves.)
"We also showed the residual manure nitrogen and phosphorus was reduced by half. Reducing phosphorus levels are particularly important, as excess phosphorus can be a primary pollutant," he said. "We're just learning to use what Mother Nature has already provided to reduce pollution."
The soldier fly occurs naturally in Texas, but unlike other fly species, it does
Contact: Robert Burns
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications