The Phoenix Rises


Hermetia illucens

In the middle of January, nothing excites me quite like finding a bug on the floor in the house. Yesterday, I found this rather beautiful creature on the floor in our sunroom. At first I thought I had a mud dauber type of wasp, but in fact, I have become a fly momma. An adult soldier fly emerged from the cup of pupated larva or phoenix worms I had ordered for Drago. The name soldier fly really doesn’t do it justice. Given its transition from the dark, drab pupal case, the adult indeed appears to have risen from the ashes into an exquisite new form.

Hermetia illucens
Hermetia illucens
Hermetia illucens pupal case

This particular soldier fly is Hermetia illucens. If you look closely, you will notice the fly-like eyes and the tell-tale halteres just below the attachment point of the single pair of wings. Those little fan-like tufts above the haltere aren’t fluffy shoulder pads or pseudo wings, but are called calypters. They are one of the distinguishing features of this group of flies. You can read more about calypters here – https://bugguide.net/node/view/114118

Hermetia illucens with calypter above haltere
Robin’s egg blue haltere with calypter above

How did soldier flies get their name? Well, they are in the family Stratiomyidae and these flies are so named because they are “armed” with some spines on their thorax. Check out this link to read more about that – https://uwm.edu/field-station/soldier-fly/ . Personally, I think the part that caused me to hesitate before picking it up was wondering if it could sting me since I thought it was a wasp. The mimicry serves it well!

Hermetia illucens (calypter above haltere)

What is cool about these flies? Well, aside from all the beautiful blue accent coloring and the pretty bands on their legs, these flies do some amazing jobs for us. They are so great at eating poop and recycling food waste that they are now being utilized in commercial operations. Hermetia lllucens Black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) are also being reared commercially as food for fish, pets, livestock, and for humans. The larvae are said to outcompete other fly species that are pests to humans and livestock. They don’t transmit diseases like houseflies and blowflies, and they actually reduce the levels of Salmonella and E coli found in manure. Even more astounding is their application in the field of Entoremediation. This means they are effective at reducing harmful contaminants in biomass.

I will be ordering some to add to our compost pile this spring!

Hermetia illucens with sponging mouthpart
Newly emerged Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia illucens)

Thanks for reading!

References and further reading:

http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/livestock/black_soldier_fly.htm

https://bugguide.net/node/view/6994

https://www.eatcrickster.com/blog/black-soldier-fly

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/5503265_Development_of_Black_Soldier_Fly_Diptera_Stratiomyidae_Larvae_Fed_Dairy_Manure

https://wiki.nus.edu.sg/display/TAX/Hermetia+illucens+-+Black+Soldier+Fly

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