How to mass-produce flies the right way

December 7, 2018, CORDIS
How to mass-produce flies the right way
Credit: InsectWorld, Shutterstock

As flies increasingly make the buzz, a consortium of EU researchers studied their biology and ecological features to improve artificial and mass rearing practices.

To most people, flies are just an annoyance. Sure, they're nature's best recyclers and play an essential role in our ecosystem. But that doesn't make them any more tolerable to the layperson.

There is, however, a market that is beginning to consider flies as tomorrow's gold. Since the EU Regulation 2017/893 came into force on 1 July 2017, insect proteins from seven – including house flies and black soldier flies – have made their way to the aquaculture business. These flies are now authorised for use as feed for fish and crustaceans, with substantial benefits for the environment.

The Black Soldier Fly (BSF), for instance, is largely recognised as one of the insects with the most potential for the sector. And this is just a start: European Commission services are currently exploring the possibility of authorising insect-based proteins in feed for poultry and other animals. According to the likes of the FAO and IPIFF (International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed), insects as a source of proteins will largely contribute to future food security.

This whole trend calls for sounder mass rearing, which was precisely the focus of FlyHigh. The project studied underexplored fly along with more common ones, with a view to elucidate specific that would make them ideal for controlled artificial rearing and mass production. In one of their studies, they focused on the genetic diversity of different strains of black soldier flies around the world.

"After a survey of samples from different commercial and research cultures, we found a surprisingly high molecular divergence for the COI mitochondrial barcode marker. Molecular characterisation of cultured BSF flies revealed distinct haplotypes when compared to flies obtained from , and we found that the barcodes reveal the of the tested flies," Dr. Gunilla Ståhls, researcher at the University of Helsinki, explains. This discovery enabled the creation of a comprehensive library of BSF barcode sequences linked to geographic data, which will be informative for current and future programs of artificial rearing, selection and intensive production.

FlyHigh also explored ways to improve controlled rearing protocols, including optimal temperature, humidity, diet and density for the Black Soldier Fly and other fly species. The team analysed and compared different larval feeding media and evaluated the performance of different strains of flies on these substrates. "The enhanced artificial rearing protocols increased maggot activity and enabled more effective and sustainable fly production," Dr. Santos Rojo, project partner at the University of Alicante, notes.

Another key part of the project consisted in describing and characterising flies' ecological requirements and interaction with plants. "We found that groups of flower fly species that feed very little during the adult stage can better be characterised biologically if the larval stage is also studied. We collected taxonomic and ecological data for fly species distributed in Mediterranean ecosystems in both Europe and South Africa, recorded new host plants such as specific bulb plants (e.g. lilies) or aloe succulent plants for these species, and found that insect-plant relationships varied considerably among the studied species – showing potential patterns of coevolution between them," says Dr. Aino Juslén, coordinator of FlyHigh on behalf of the University of Helsinki. The researchers also systematically screened selected molecular markers to evaluate the genetic diversity and phylogeographical patterns of the and their host plants, and have documented the results in multiple scientific publications.

All in all, project results will help make fly rearing more efficient. It could also be advantageous in developing new ideas for future use by recognising their important role in natural ecosystems.

Explore further: Researchers find sand flies prefer marijuana plants

Related Stories

Researchers find sand flies prefer marijuana plants

October 30, 2018

An international team of researchers has found that sand flies have a strong preference for Cannabis sativa plants over all other plant choices. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, ...

New study reveals hidden neotropical diversity

May 15, 2008

Evidence of physically similar species hidden within plant tissues suggest that diversity of neotropical herbivorous insects may not simply be a function of plant architecture, but may also reflect the great age and area ...

How trap-flowers attract and deceive pollinating food thieves

December 15, 2014

Researchers have discovered a new pollination system that involves food-thieving flies as pollinators. These flies feed on insect secretions, available when a spider, a praying mantis, or other predatory arthropods feed on ...

Fruit fly species can learn each other's dialects

July 19, 2018

Fruit flies from different species can warn each other when parasitic wasps are near. But according to a new study led by Balint Z. Kacsoh of Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, published July 19th in PLOS Genetics, they ...

My host is my castle—bats as hosts

August 8, 2018

Despite researchers having little fondness for them, a large fraction of the world's biodiversity consists of parasites. Natural populations of organisms are often strongly affected by factors of their environment, most notably ...

Insects could help us find new yeasts for big business

March 21, 2018

Yeasts are tiny fungi - but they play key roles in producing everything from beer and cheese to industrial chemicals and biofuels. And now scientists are proposing a new approach that could help these industries find new ...

Recommended for you

The source of stem cells points to two proteins

December 11, 2018

Mammalian embryos are unlike those of any other organism as they must grow within the mother's body. While other animal embryos grow outside the mother, their embryonic cells can get right to work accepting assignments, such ...

'Pest-controlling' bats could help save rainforests

December 11, 2018

A new study shows that several species of bats are giving Madagascar's rice farmers a vital pest control service by feasting on plagues of insects. And this, a zoologist at the University of Cambridge believes, can ease the ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.