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Insect Farming FAQs

Insect Farming FAQs

Insect Farming FAQs



What can you legally feed to insects intended for animal feed?

UK and EU: Any commercial feed or additive authorised for all animal species; cereal-based materials; fruits and vegetables and their derived products; feed materials of animal origin (hydrolysed proteins, collagen and gelatine or blood products derived from non-ruminants); fishmeal; former foodstuffs without meat or fish and which have been previously
processed (e.g. eggs).

USA: Approved feed-grade materials, including pre-consumer food waste, as well as other food manufacturing by-products e.g. brewer’s grains.

What materials are currently prohibited as feed for insects intended for animal feed?

UK and EU: Manures, industrial and aquaculture sludges; catering and household food waste; unsold foods containing meat or fish; insects of the same species.

USA: Little guidance is available but high-risk material from ruminants is prohibited.

What animals can you legally feed farmed insects to?

UK: Ruminants can be fed insect fats and hydrolysed insect proteins; aquaculture species, poultry and pigs can be fed insect fats, hydrolysed insect proteins and live insects, but aquaculture species and pets can also be fed processed insect protein.

EU: The same rules as the UK apply in the EU, with the addition however that processed insect protein can be fed to poultry and pigs.

USA: Little guidance is available on insects in animal feed, but black soldier fly larvae are permitted in adult dog food.

Is UK legislation likely to change to allow insects in feed for pigs and poultry?

EU legislation was revised on 17th August 2021 to allow insect proteins to be fed to poultry and pigs in the EU. Similar to the UK, poultry and pigs farmed in the EU can be fed insect fats, hydrolysed insect proteins and live insects. However, in the EU their diets can also include processed insect protein from 7 authorised species: Black Soldier Fly, common housefly, yellow mealworm, lesser mealworm, house cricket, banded cricket and field cricket.

This legislative overhaul is indicative of the direction that the UK Government should take. The recent publication by the WWF- ‘The future of feed: a WWF roadmap to accelerating insect protein in UK feeds’- urges the pig and poultry sectors, retailers and insect producers to combine forces in order to develop marketing that encourages consumption of insect-fed pork and poultry products and advocate actively for legislative change.


Feeding BSF larvae


Can insect farming be used to produce protein for human consumption?

Edible insects have been part of a regular diet for a lot of cultures for hundreds of years. However, the Black Soldier Fly is not yet supported by the EU for human consumption. The use of mealworms for human consumption has only guidelines for the use as a novel food.

Do BSF larvae eat meat and bones?

In their natural habitat, BSFL can and do eat meat and bones. They can eat almost every kind of decomposing organic matter and can be classed as detritivores who have often been seen feeding on carrion. They may take longer to eat tougher food sources such as bones, seeds and wood so providing as a feed substrate needs to be in smaller particles to increase digestion rate.

Do BSF larvae eat eggshells?

Black soldier fly can eat eggshells. Much like bones, seeds and wood, eggshells are also better given crushed up into very small particles to make it easier for the BSFL to  break down the matter and access the nutrients with better efficiency.

Can BSF larvae eat grass or similar materials?

BSFL can eat green grass and similar fresh or decomposing materials, but will not eat dried grass, straw, hay, or paper materials. They will avoid high carbon and high cellulose materials.

What is the most effective substrate to feed BSF larvae?

Depending on the end product/use of your BSFL, will determine what the best substrate to feed them is. If you are looking for a high protein, high fat product then the best feed substrate will be a fruit and vegetable one. It is often said that the BSF ‘are what they eat’, meaning if you provide them with a high nutrient feed they will mirror that in their harvest stage larvae.

If you are looking to reduce agriculture waste such as animal manure, then it would be best to mix that with another feed source such as brewer’s grains to provide enough nutrients for the BSFL to survive and grow. If the BSFL is for feeding in aquaculture, it would be ideal to feed them on a feed substrate high in Amino’s and Omegas, as well as protein.

Can BSF live larvae be fed to reptiles?

Black soldier fly larvae are a very nutritious and low maintenance feeder insect for your reptiles. They maintain a natural balanced calcium-to-phosphorus ratio so do not need to be dusted prior to feeding them straight to your reptile. You can store them in the refrigerator to slow the metabolism, but you should always allow them to warm up to room temp before feeding them to your pet.

Can BSF larvae be used for food waste management?

The BSFL are insatiable eaters and will feed quite happily on any decomposing matter. The potential to use them for food waste management is limitless. They are already successfully being used as a waste management tool for this reason around the globe. They can be used at large scale or at a smaller scale in domestic households use for your kitchen waste.

Are BSF larvae good for chicken feed?

BSFL are very good for feeding to chickens. They provide various benefits nutritionally, physically, and mentally. In a diet perspective, they provide high protein at a much smaller cost to the planet. Physically, when fed to broiler chickens it can improve their muscle growth and encourage movement and exercise when foraging for live larvae which also improves the chicken’s mental enrichment. The use of BSFL in chicken feed has a much greener footprint that soymeal or fishmeal.

 Are BSF good for fish/aquaculture feed?

BSF is a good feed source for many aquatic species. Shrimps fed on BSF meal as a feed additive have showed increased survivability, yield and FCR. The inclusion of BSF meal has the most potential use out of the insect species due to their essential Amino Acid profile.

The BSFL can also be used to feed fish e.g. Ornamental Koi. The ideal life stage for the BSF meal is harvesting at Late Larvae to keep the chitin levels low as this is not beneficial to most fish species.

What consistency should the feed be like?

The consistency of the feed substrate given to the BSFL is optimal when it has been macerated into small particles ~5cm. Moisture levels in the feed should be 50-70%. The particles should not be so fine it turns the feed into a sludge as that can cause it to compact, reducing the aeration within the feed, causing the larvae to suffocate.

What happens BSF larvae are not fed enough food?

If the BSFL are not provided with enough food or a feed source that has too few nutrients for them to develop and grow properly they will become emaciated. The development will stall if not stop completely and the larvae will try develop into prepupae for pupation. If the larvae have not acquired enough nutrients during the feeding stages, they will not succeed into the flies as the change will have taken all the energy they had stored. If they do make it into the fly stage, reproduction success is extremely low.

What’s the difference between BSF Larvae and BSF pre-pupae when used as feed?

The difference between these two life stages and the nutrient levels they contain differ quite dramatically. At late larvae stage this would be when you want to harvest them for their highest levels of nutrients such as proteins and fats. As the BSFL pupates and darkens in colour, it is using the energy stored to develop into a fly.

This reduces the protein and fat levels approximately 50% by the time the fly emerges. The calcium and chitin levels however increase exponentially. If you are feeding egg laying hens and reptiles, a higher chitin and calcium level can be a beneficial additive. However, aquaculture feed with higher chitin can cause adverse effect to fish populations so harvest time is very important.


waste management


More recently there has been increased in insect farming and whether it can be a viable option for waste management companies so we round up some popular waste related FAQs below;

Is BSF farming a sustainable waste management option?

BSF farming is a sustainable waste management option, it plays an important role in the future of biowaste conversion. Not only does farming BSF redirect organic waste from landfills, it also produces a high protein biomass and a nitrogen high frass that can be used as an organic fertiliser. The protein-rich end product can be used in animal feed. Creating on-site BSF farms can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions in transportation and the need for soya meal and/or fishmeal which in turn reduces environmentally damaging deforestation and overfishing of the ocean’s wild stocks.

What are the economic benefits of BSF farming?

The economic benefits of BSF farming are across the board for companies wanting to lower costs and their greenhouse gas emissions. If retailers have pre consumer food waste, they must pay a fee for having it removed off site to be disposed of. Food waste being disposed of through anaerobic digestion still comes with a gate fee.

If they were to redirect the food waste from going off site to an onsite BSF farm you would no longer have those costs. You could potentially reduce feed costs if you were to utilise the BSFL at the end and use it as protein for animal feed manufacturing. The frass leftover could be used as a natural fertiliser to replace chemical ones and remove the cost of buying fertiliser in.

Can farmers use BSF for waste management?

Yes, farmers can use the BSF to reduce the high volumes of agricultural waste. BSFL can convert various agricultural waste streams into multiple end products. For example, organic fruit/Vegetable farmers can feed on the waste stream from their sites and then feed those BSFL to chickens for the human food chain. This can help bring down the costs for the farmer and their carbon footprint instead of having to outsource waste disposal and or feed ingredients from an external service.

Can BSFL eat manure / slurry if the end-product is not going into the human food chain?

Yes. BSFL can eat manure and slurry waste streams. If used on farms it can then be valorised into useful products despite not being able to be fed back into the human food chain. This can range from cosmetics to energy such as biodiesel. However, depending on the waste substrate will determine what you can utilise the larvae for at the end of the bio conversion. Many countries including the UK and EU restrict what substrates you can feed to BSFL.

An excerpt from the Government website: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/eur/2017/893/annex/II?view=plain

  • The substrate for the feeding of insects may only contain products of non-animal origin or the following products of animal origin of Category 3 material: fishmeal, blood products from non-ruminants, di and tricalcium phosphate of animal origin, hydrolysed proteins from non-ruminants, hydrolysed proteins from hides and skins of ruminants, gelatine and collagen from non-ruminants, eggs and egg products, milk, milk based-products, milk-derived products and colostrum, honey, rendered fats.
  • The substrate for the feeding of insects and the insects or their larvae have not been in contact with any other materials of animal origin than those mentioned in point (b) and the substrate did not contain manure, catering waste, or other waste.

Can retailers, supermarkets and food establishments use BSF for waste management?

Since becoming a requirement for companies to report their greenhouse gas emissions, it is in their interest to reduce the volumes of greenhouse gases they produce. Scope-3 emissions can often account for more than 70% of a company’s carbon footprint and introducing the use of BSF for waste management can make a difference in lowering those emissions.

Supermarkets can use the pre-consumer waste from their supply chains and upcycle it to feed BSFL onsite, this would reduce their waste and cut out the need to have the waste removed and disposed of. If an animal feed manufacturer or a livestock producer was to replace soya meal with insect meal, they would eliminate their scope-3 carbon emissions used in transportation of the soya.

Is BSF farming a viable technology for waste processors to adopt?

Yes. Waste processors have access to huge amounts of waste products. With many agriculture companies creating and developing ‘off the shelf’ machinery and entire farming systems it is becoming increasingly more viable an option.

How much waste can BSFL eat?

The Black Soldier Larvae are voracious eaters and can consume anything from 25mg up to 500mg per larvae per day. The reason this can vary is due to multiple factors such as feed availability, moisture content or the substrate particle size. On a much larger scale, you could feed between 6-9 metric tonnes of feed to an end product of 1 metric tonne of BSFL.


Can BSF eat non-food substrates such as plastics?

BSFL can eat almost all organic matter and are being utilised as a waste management tool to divert that waste from landfill. With the increasing interest into plastic biodegradation via insect conversion, researchers are investigating the biochemical impact of different plastics against different insects. However this is still a developing space and there is a need for further research to be done into the BSFL as a mechanism to help solve plastic pollution.


Can BSF eat mouldy food?

Yes. The BSFL can and do eat mouldy food. Many studies have tested the effects of Aflatoxin B (AFB), a dangerous mycotoxin often found in feedstuff and food, on BSFL. These studies have determined that BSFL can successfully reduce AFB in multiple feed substrates such as spoilt grain and peanut meal. The studies showed discovered a variety of AFB eliminating bacteria in the gut microbiota of the BSFL, which would contribute to BSFL’s ability to eat mouldy food.




Do BSF produce a by-product?

When the larvae convert the substrate to biomass they leave behind a by-product called frass. Frass is high in Nitrogen and a great high-quality fertiliser. The BSFL also shed several times throughout their lifecycle as they grow and develop into a pupa, leaving behind exoskeletons. Once emerged as flies they then leave behind pupal casings. All these shed skins and pupal casings are high in chitin, a biopolymer which can be extracted and turned into chitosan for further uses in the medical, life science and drug manufacturing industries.



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Beta Buzz #4


Thomas Farrugia introduces the long-awaited Beta Buzz #4,  it reflects two things: i) the rapid development of our sector and ii) holding true to our commitment to enabling new market entrants to join the insect farming sector.

Over the past half-year, our industry has continued to make strides towards scaling up, with a significant number of large-scale insect farms being completed recently and further involvement from agri food stakeholders who are either providing their own offerings or partnering with existing Black Soldier Fly companies.

Read the full Beta Buzz #4 issue here

The team at Beta Bugs are talented, committed, and excited to be working at the next frontier of animal breeding. In line with the company values, Beta Bugs have established a culture which encourages development, performance, accountability, teamwork and trust.

If you have any questions about Beta Bugs or require any further information on our products, please do get in touch at info@betabugs.uk, outlining your query and one of the Beta Bugs team members will get back to you.

Best regards,

Beta Bugs Limited