View Full Version : Phoenix worms (black soldier fly larvae)

04-13-2011, 02:09 AM
im currently thinking about breeding the black soldier fly or phoenix worms as many of you know them as. im in great area to get a colony started and kept thriving. from what ive researched it looks like ill be in over my head in phoenix worms, is there anyone in colder regions that cant breed them or just wouldn't want to spend the time to breed them would like order any? they'll be much cheaper than the company 'phoenix worms' sells them for.

also, if anyone has successfully bred them do you have any tips? im open to suggestions.

04-13-2011, 12:00 PM
That sounds like a great project! I'd love to have them around all time, but they are so expensive.

04-13-2011, 07:23 PM
The flys that they turn into are everywhere in the south. You could start breeding them for cheap since your iin Florida . All you need to do is setup a breeding container that you put your food scraps in and they lay there eggs in there and leave. Within a couple weeks you would have 100s of Phoenix worms baisicly for free. If anyone is interested let me know and I'll post a link to the video on how to start.

04-14-2011, 12:57 PM
Interesting...but at this house, I have a big problem with blue flies. I wonder if scrap composting would attract more blue flies.

04-14-2011, 08:18 PM
I thought that would be a problem too but the smell Of black soldier flys repells most insects including mosquitos :)

04-15-2011, 01:00 PM
No mosquitoes????? Sign me up!!! lol

04-16-2011, 12:18 AM
Personally, I think the nutritional content of these are "created" and not inherent. Or in other words, I believe Phoenix Worms (and other breeders) is sort of being dishonest (let me stress, this is just my belief, I haven't anything concrete to back this up).

Let me explain. From various sources I've read, in the past invertebrate prey breeders tried playing with the various staple items (crickets, waxworms, mealworms, etc.) in order to make them more nutritionally balanced for reptiles than they naturally are (afterall, many consider dusting and gutt loading to be a pain in the arse). Unfortunately, dusting and gutt loading are about the only means that even come close to working. One of the other methods frequently used was trying to rear these on media that was high in calcium and other nutrients, and all that was found was A) at low concentrations (ie. didn't alter the nutrient content significantly) if the prey item wasn't used quickly, then it would rather quickly excrete the increase and return to normal [basically this is gutt loading], or B) at high concentrations, the prey organism simply couldn't handle the increased mineral/vitamin dose and died.

This brings us to soldier fly larvae. Prior to the emergence of "Phoenix Worms", soldier fly larvae have been used all over the world as composters. Not the typical composter either. Most compost organisms, such as red wriggler worms, are quite restricted in what they can compost (ie. red wriggler worms are strictly plant matter & egg shell composters, low fat no animal material). Soldier fly larvae, on the other hand, have been used for degrading nearly ANY organic material, from sawdust and other organic construction waste, to human raw waste and other unsavoury material. In essence, soldier fly larvae show a rather large tolerance range to their nutritional media. By regulating their media to have high calcium content, one can produce larvae with higher calcium content. However, as stated earlier, if not maintained on this content, the calcium levels will decrease as the excess mineral is excreted. This is basically claimed by Phoenix Worms themselves here: http://www.phoenixworm.com/servlet/StoreFront
Notice how they claim only their's has the proper nutrition, other's aren't raised on the same diet and therefore don't have the identical nutritional values.....interesting how they also claim to be "naturally balanced calcium and phosphorus". Essentially, the nutritional content is marketing.
So, be aware that if you are rearing your own soldier fly larvae for consumption, you are likely not getting the nutrition reported for black soldier fly. Likewise, when using these storebought for your animals, if they've been on the shelf for longer than ~36 hours, they're no more nutritious than crickets and mealworms and not worth the extra money.
On a personal note, when I was researching in Brasil, about the only invertebrate prey available to me for feeding to various small lizards I had collected were earthworms, waxworms and soldier fly larvae (that is if I didn't attempt to breed prey myself). Earthworms were of limited use for a lot of reasons (size, some animals just not interested in worms, worms would bury or die before a surface lizard would consume them, etc.), waxworms were pretty readily taken by nearly everything (oh how I miss those days, getting 1000s of waxworms for free just for the asking...), but NOTHING would touch soldier fly larvae. Wouldn't take long before I would open an enclosure to inspect the animal and be greeted with a faceful of soldier flies escaping.

I'm not saying not to use soldier fly larvae, just giving you warnings. If your animal will eat them, all the power to you in adding variety to their diet. If there are problems, you may need to experiment with what you are using to rear them on to make them more palatable. And if what you are really interested in is proper calcium/phosphorous balance, then you are going to have to fiddle with the rearing medium, likely adding more calcium, in order to get the values that Phoenix Worm reports.

04-16-2011, 12:34 AM
but NOTHING would touch soldier fly larvae. Wouldn't take long before I would open an enclosure to inspect the animal and be greeted with a faceful of soldier flies escaping.

Essentially the same thing happened to me. I had purchased some Phoenix Worms to feed to our tegus and beardies. NO ONE would touch them. Then one day, I opened up the container to try, once again, to see if anyone would eat them... and was surprised by a bunch of flies.

I tossed the whole thing out. :(

04-17-2011, 07:11 PM
I feel so let down...

My beardies love them, especially the baby beardies. I've never had a pack of Phoenix worms around long enough to see flies. blech And I thought they were really high in calcium.

04-18-2011, 01:35 AM
Oh, don't get my message wrong, laurafl. They CAN be high in calcium, but they aren't that way intrinsically. Meaning they aren't naturally that way, they are made high in calcium by feeding them a high calcium diet, and if they haven't been fed a high calcium diet recently, they aren't going to be any more nutritious than any other regular invertebrate prey. If your guys like them, GREAT! I'm just saying if you are going to be breeding them yourself, you basically need to supplement calcium to get them to their "reported" values.

04-18-2011, 10:10 AM
Do you feel that the same would be true for butter worms? They're supposed to have twice the calcium as other feeder worms...

04-18-2011, 02:04 PM
I'm sensing a logical trend of feeding high calcium medium. ;) That makes a lot of sense.

04-18-2011, 02:55 PM
Thing is, twice is still a relative term. For example. My friend has twice as much money as I do. I only have 2 cents. My friend still doesn't have much. Not saying this is exactly the situation in respect to butterworms, but as nutritionists keep telling people, learn to read the labels, or in this case, learn the actual contents. On average, there basically isn't a whole lot of difference from one invertebrate to the next, naturally. There are some exceptions. For example, although not "high" in calcium content, earthworms have a better calcium:phosphorus ratio of about 1:1. This is fantastic for amphibians, ok for reptiles. However, a lot of reptiles aren't really that into eating earthworms. Most insect larvae is usually low in calcium, improperly balanced for calcium and phosphorous ratios. They are all still good, none are exactly ideal. Basically, if it's soft bodied, then there is likely little calcium content. As adults, even, they continue to be low in calcium. The reason animals still do fine eating these in the wild without someone supplementing their calcium is because these prey are readily eating other stuff that makes them a better diet. Invertebrate prey isn't cultured because it is ideal for your organism, they're cultured because it is cheap and easy to do so. Crustaceans would be a better calcium source (instead of chitin their shell incorporates calcium), stuff like pill and sow bugs. But these are neither readily cultured, nor readily eaten by most reptiles.
Now, specifically in regards to butterworms/Chilean moth larvae, as for whether their calcium content is intrinsic or induced by diet, this is a little harder to investigate. My understanding is they are rather specialist in their eating habits, and don't eat much other than a couple things. Makes it a lot harder to experiment with.

04-18-2011, 05:29 PM
I've been looking into the calcium content of various grasses and so-called weeds since I got my Sulcata. Many natural weed plants have a pretty good Ca: P ratio. I knew that was why wild tegus had a healthier diet when eating wild inverts, plus the bugs they eat are much larger than the larva we are feeding here. It only makes sense that the same would apply to Phoenix worms, etc. Instead of gut loading my crickets on gels and such that usually kill the crickets, I started feeding them natural grasses and greens that are high in calcium, and also dusting them right before feeding.

04-18-2011, 08:26 PM
Hmmm, that's kind of what I figured about the butterworms.

In your research, Laura, have you happened to stumble across the Ca:Ph ratio of clovers and dandelion flowers? My beardie, Leo, goes crazy for them when I let him run around the yard. It's really the only time that I can get him to eat his greens; he likes "foraging". I've been considering placing live wheatgrass in his enclosure for this very reason; I know that it's highly nutritious for humans, but what about reptiles?

04-19-2011, 01:05 AM
I don't know the exact accuracy, but this is pretty close:
Ca: P/protein
Dandelion 2.8:1/ 2.7%
Collards 14.5:1/ 2.1%
Romaine 1:1.3/ 1.6%
WheatGrass 1:1/ 15-25%
Rye grass 2:1/ 17%
White Clover 2.6:1/ 30%

04-19-2011, 02:46 AM
Well, he won't eat the dandelion greens... just the flowers. ;)

I wonder if I can keep in his enclosure a small growing pot of both wheatgrass and clovers then.

04-19-2011, 11:41 AM
I wonder if the protein is too high to be fed as staple green. Too much protein is harsh on the kidneys, but these guys are insectivores. If I find anything else I'll let you know.

04-19-2011, 08:58 PM
Sweet, thanks!