10 Incredible Facts about Black Soldier Fly Larvae (a.k.a. Heilu)

4 minute read

Think big. Imagine you were given the opportunity to create the perfect animal* for human nutrition. What characteristics would you give it?

If you're like me, the animal you invented probably has the following traits: 

  • Reproduces and develop very quickly
  • Feeds on stuff we don’t want
  • Is super resilient to disease
  • Does not require very much space
  • Is 100% edible
  • Is really nutritious
  • Shits gold

Well, despite dogged efforts from scientists and industrial farmers, the animals we currently eat fail to meet all - if any - of these criteria. But guess what animal does?

That’s right, Heilu does (...well except for one. I'll let you guess).

Excited? If not, you will be after reading the following.

Top 10 Fun Facts about Heilu, your soon-to-be favourite animal**:

  1. They're breeding machines. Imagine a cow that could give birth to 500 calves at once. That’d be insane (poor cow). But that’s what happens with Heilu. Each adult lays about that many eggs. 
  2. They're growing machines. Within as little as two weeks of hatching, these little animals will grow to 15,000 times their size. That’s like a baby chick becoming the size of a fully-grown tiger in the time it takes you to grow a moustache. Needless to say, there’s no need to give these guys growth hormones.
  3. They're eating machines. They can eat over twice their own body weight every day. That’s the equivalent of an average human eating over 1400 hot dogs.
"Pfft... Amateurs" - Heilu (image source)

"Pfft... Amateurs" - Heilu (image source)

  1. They're equal opportunity eaters. They'll even literally eat shit. And love it. As long as it’s organic and not alive, they’ll eat it (so to you fear mongers out there, no they’re not going to turn the tables and start eating us). And just to be clear, the animals we convert to food are fed on strictly controlled, clean leftovers from food manufacturing.
  2. They're clean freaks. They break apart and consume waste so quickly and efficiently that no odour is produced. Furthermore, their digestive systems naturally destroy harmful bacteria. Their presence even repels pests like houseflies. They'd be great for your outhouse.
  3. They're indestructible. They're known to survive up to two hours immersed in pure rubbing alcohol and can be centrifuged at 2000 G’s (200 times that of a fighter jet) without harming them in any way. Don't ask me who came up with these tests.
  4. They're space-savers. You can raise one ton of them in a space the size of a Smart Car. Farmers wish they could do so with chickens. Chickens wish they wouldn’t try. Heilu don’t mind at all. It’s in their nature to live in high density.
  5. They're generous. So much so that they'll sacrifice themselves to you. When ready for metamorphosis, Heilu instinctively leave their feeding area in search of a dark dry place to do so. Put a little ramp in their feeding bin with a bucket at the end and they’ll crawl up and jump right in.
  6. They are literally little energy pills. We turn Heilu into food at their larval stage, but if we didn't eat them, they would metamorphosize into flies. Flies that don't have mouths. That's right, they don't eat or shit, but live entirely on the copious reserves of energy they built up as hungry little larvae (see fact #3). Without mouths, what do they do? They live just a few days and with only one purpose: to reproduce. Being mouthless also means that unlike houseflies or other pests, they pose no risk of spreading disease.
  7. Their farming is waste-free. The only input used to rear them is food manufacturing leftovers (they don't need water). The only two outputs are the animal itself (yum!) and its poo and uneaten bits (not so yum, but valuable fertilizers). Also, while one ton of composting food waste generates as many greenhouse gasses as driving from Seattle to Alaska (and one ton of beef like driving around the earth one and a half times), a ton of Heilu generates the equivalent of driving a Nissan Leaf to the recycling depot.
Bonus fact:
  1. They taste great! Unfortunately, we aren’t allowed to market them just yet. That teeny little speedbump will be explained in a future post.

* Note to Vegetarians: You might read this and say to yourself, “Sure, they sound cool, but why eat an animal at all, even an insect?” Fair question. My answer: We need to do something about all the food waste we generate and plants don’t do the trick. Heilu does. Heilu gives Mother Nature a break by upcycling leftover food into high value nutrients. Also, while you might not like the idea of killing anything for our own benefit, it's worth noting that entomologists who know more about the topic than you or I have strong evidence indicating that insects don’t feel pain.

** I use the term “animal” instead of "insect" because A) insects are animals and B) using the word "animal" puts people in the right mindset of Heilu being nothing more than tiny livestock.