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Will This Idea Fly?

A company is raising flies to help feed farm animals and cut down on waste.

A black soldier fly sits on a fingertip.
© Entocycle
The black soldier fly might be the key to changing the way livestock is fed.

There’s an unusual farm in the middle of London, England. Unlike many other farms, this one doesn’t produce vegetables or raise cows and chickens. What it does raise is flies…tons of them.

The insect farm is operated by a company called Entocycle, and the black soldier flies are being bred as part of an effort to change the way livestock is fed. Here’s how it works: The flies lay hundreds of eggs, which hatch to become worm-like larvae (the stage of development before adulthood). The larvae can be fed to farm animals like pigs and chickens instead of the foods these farm animals currently eat, such as soy and corn. Some of the larvae are allowed to grow into adulthood. They are fed food waste as they lay eggs for the next generation of larvae.

A scientist in a white lab coat reaches into a holding area. Silhouettes of flies can be seen from the outside.
© Entocycle

An Entocycle entomologist (scientist who studies insects) checks on a population of black soldier flies.

Entocycle says feeding insects to livestock is a planet-friendly solution. It takes a lot of water and land to grow the foods that most farm animals eat. Soy farmers, for example, are cutting down large areas of the world’s rainforests in order to grow their crops. Insects can be bred without using much land. Entocycle chose the black soldier fly because it’s an insect that breeds quickly and doesn’t carry any diseases.

Side by side images of a camera and a screen with a counter that reads 19638.
© Entocycle

Entocycle has developed this technology to count the population of flies that it is breeding.

Entocycle is developing new technology to make insect breeding easier. The company hopes that insect breeding programs will become more common. And, since some insects can carry diseases, Entocycle is working to make sure insects are bred responsibly. That way, no diseases or other safety issues will be introduced into the food supply.

The future of our food may depend on little black flies.

NEWS EXTRA!

From Actor to Poet

The cover of Zilot and Other Important Rhymes with Bob Odenkirk headshot on the left and Erin Odenkirk headshot on the right.

Naomi Odenkirk, © Hachette Book Group, Bob Odenkirk; Photo illustration Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

What do “Mud,” “Dog Poop,” and “A Fly’s Purpose” have in common? They’re all poems by the actor Bob Odenkirk—and they’ll all make you laugh.

Odenkirk, who is best known as an actor, began writing funny rhyming poetry for his kids when they were little. Just in time for National Poetry Month (April), he has published the poems for other kids to enjoy—along with whimsical illustrations by his daughter, Erin—in a book called Zilot & Other Important Rhymes.

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Did You Know?

More than two billion people in the world regularly eat insects. Like other animals, insects are a great source of protein and other nutrients.

Two hands seen from above holding a spatula and a pan filled with cicadas on a stove.

© Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News

Why Insects Matter

If you’ve ever come across an ant hill or a swarm of gnats, you might have guessed there are a lot of insects on our planet. But it’s hard to grasp how big the insect population is. While there are about eight billion (8,000,000,000) humans in the world, scientists think there are about 10 quintillion (10,000,000,000,000,000,000) insects. That’s a lot of zeros!

You might wonder why the world even has all these creepy-crawly creatures. The answer is that insects are very important to ecosystems. Insects are important to our food supply because many of them pollinate fruits and vegetables. In addition, insects are a food supply for many other animals. Insect-eating amphibians, birds, and mammals often become food for larger animals. Insects help keep our planet clean, too. Many of them help break down dead animals and plants, as well as animal dung, or waste. 

Check out the slideshow, which shows insects carrying out their very important jobs.

© Chernetskaya/Dreamstime.com, © vendys—iStock/Getty Images, © Aoosthuizen—iStock/Getty Images, © chaiyon021/stock.adobe.com, © Palex66/Dreamstime.com

Go Ahead, Bug Us!

A black midge sits on green moss.

Igor Gvozdovskyy (CC BY 4.0)

Did you know that insects live all over the world, even in freezing-cold Antarctica? Learn more about these tiny but tough animals at Britannica.

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Word of the Day

entomology

Part of speech:

noun

Definition:

: a branch of science that deals with the study of insects

Definitions provided by
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