Impact of substrate moisture content on growth and metabolic performance of black soldier fly larvae

Nicolai Sundgaard Bekker, Søren Heidelbach, Sofie Zacho Vestergaard, Morten Eneberg Nielsen, Marie Riisgaard-Jensen, Emil Juel Zeuner, Simon Bahrndorff, Niels Thomas Eriksen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Substrate moisture content is an important but not well-understood variable in production and waste reduction processes that involves black soldier fly (BSF) larvae. The purpose of this paper is to characterise growth and metabolic performance of BSF larvae on substrate moisture contents from 45 to 85%. Larvae developed into prepupae only at 45–75% substrate moisture content. Within this interval, the maximal specific growth rate was highest (0.73 day−1), the growth period shortest (13 days), and the maximal dry weight lowest (88 mg) at 45% moisture content. Differences in cost of growth and maintenance were not observed at the different substrate moisture contents, and differences in larval performance were likely associated to differences in co-occurring microbial activities. As much as 22% of the substrate carbon was emitted as CO2 at 45% moisture content by microorganisms, measured as the difference between total respiration and larval respiration, whereas microbial CO2 production amounted to only 3% of the substrate carbon at 75% moisture content. As consequence of the high specific growth rate and short growth phase, the overall net growth efficiency was higher at 45% moisture content (0.62) than at 75% moisture content (0.52). Overall, the metabolic performance of the BSF larvae was insensitive to differences in substrate moisture content. Their performance was, however indirectly affected by the substrate moisture content due to differences in co-occurring microbial processes in the substrate.

Original languageEnglish
JournalWaste Management
Pages (from-to)73-79
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • CO
  • Hermetia illucens
  • Microbial activity
  • Net growth efficiency
  • Respiration


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