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Flies and Love at first sight

This blog post emerged as one of the five winners that participated in the YPARD and AGRINATURA e-competition for the PhD. Category. The competition which was tagged ‘your Research your Story!’ aimed to help students have a better sense of ownership of their research and to communicate the most important parts of their research in a creative easy to read storytelling way.

Enjoy reading!

Little did I know when I started working with black soldier flies that they would talk me on a breathtaking journey? I fell in love with the black soldier flies the first time I set my eyes on them. I remember how my heart skipped a beat and I knew it was love at first sight, well at least from my side.

As a PhD student, you spend a lot of time together with your research topic, in my case; I spent a lot of time with these flies. They smelled terrible most of the time, but their sleek wasp-like figure that looks nothing like your ordinary housefly captured my interest. During their larval stages, they crawled out of the rearing chambers and as adults; they flew out of cages and all over the place. I kept on looking for them behind the doors and underneath the tables and everywhere. Somehow, I still love them as much as I did when I first saw them. After all, love is blind or is it not?

When people adapted to an urban lifestyle and migrated to cities following the industrial revolution, they started viewing insects as undesired pests. Unbeknownst to many of them, insects play an essential role in the web of life. They simply decompose waste. As a PhD scholar, I identified common urban organic waste streams and used them to rear my beloved black soldier flies. In a matter of no time, the flies decompose the waste streams and manage to uptake most of the nutrients out of them. Once they reach their prepupal stage, their dry matter content is almost composed of 50% protein. In addition, they contain quality quantities of minerals, vitamins, amino acids and fats. The significance of the black soldier flies is not only limited to their ability to decompose almost any type of organic waste, but rather to the possibility of producing sustainable and nutrient-rich livestock feeds out of them. The leftovers of the decomposed wastes are also suitable as organic soil fertilizers. By adapting to such sustainable and green waste decomposition and feed production methods, we can build circular and bio-based economies without further exploiting our already scarce natural resources.

When I started working with the black slider flies, nobody believed me. People laughed at me and called me crazy. With time, more and more people became aware of the insects for food and feed movement and the great role edible insects shall play in solving the greatest challenge of the 21st century: “How to feed the 10 billion people living in the year 2050?” Consequently, EU laws regulating the use of insects as farmed animals are starting to take shape and come into effect. Trust me when I tell you, insects are going to land on our dinner plates pretty sooner than most of us would have thought.

I, the Lady of the Flies, would be delighted to talk to you more about the flies and other edible insects too. I assure you that you will understand why I named these flies “The Mother of All Insects” But please do not blame me if you fell in love with the flies too.

Picture credit: Marwa Shumo