Current Issue

Bug of the Week is written by "The Bug Guy," Michael J. Raupp, Professor of Entomology at the University of Maryland.

Edamame surprise: Soldier flies, Stratiomyidae

 

Black soldier flies have a wasp-like appearance but pose no threat to humans or pets.

 

Edamame is one of my favorite foods, loaded with protein, fiber, and important minerals like calcium, iron, zinc, and potassium, yet low in fat and sugar. Who wouldn’t want to eat these tasty nuggets from the soybean plant? Another great thing about edamame is the fact that it now comes in a microwavable pouch. You just toss it in the microwave and in four minutes these nutritious morsels are ready to eat. After a hard day of chasing bugs, this quick and easy meal is a real treat. Last week after steaming my shelled edamame and dumping them onto my plate, I was amazed to see a large and juicy soldier fly larva ensconced amongst the beans. This was no tiny maggot, no sir; this one was last instar, ready to pupate any day before it somehow wound up in a steamable edamame pouch.

What a surprise, a soldier fly larva in my edamame.

Now, I have eaten many an insect in my day, some inadvertently in a squidgy tomato infested with tiny fruit fly larvae or as microscopic moth eggs in my cereal. On several occasions I have dined on cicadas or meal worms to promote the importance of entomophagy as a partial solution to the global protein shortage. Insects really are a wonderful protein supplement and in some parts of the planet they are on the menu daily. However, on this occasion, I just couldn’t bring myself to eat this extra morsel of protein.  Here’s why. The interesting thing about soldier fly maggots is where they live. Some live the life aquatic and feed on algae, others feed on decaying vegetation and organic matter, and still others develop in dung. Not knowing exactly where this larva dined before winding up with my edamame hastened my decision to eschew this petite surprise.

Due to their high metabolic efficiency in converting decaying organic matter, including animal waste, into fly protein, larvae of the black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens, have been commercialized in some parts of the world to turn compost and manure into feed for animals like chickens, pigs, and fish. An added bonus of their industrious metabolism has led farmers to consider them as a partial solution to managing manure generated by hogs and chickens. One report has it that 45,000 black soldier fly larvae can consume more than 50 pounds of manure in two weeks. Now that’s a lot of repurposing. In a strange game of turnabout, after black soldier fly larvae eat manure, their frass (excrement) can then be used as soil amendment to improve crop yield. Who would have guessed that a maggot in a meal would be so interesting?  

References

The interesting article “Using the black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens, as a value-added tool for the management of swine manure.” by Newton L, Sheppard C, Watson DW, Burtle G, Dove, R.  was used to prepare this episode.    

To learn more about the black soldier fly, please visit the following website:

http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IN/IN83000.pdf