Black Soldier Flies Kill Weeds

Recycling organic wastes using black soldier flies generates a valuable soil amendment that has positive effects on growing crops. As a bonus, it may also suppress some weeds.

Meyers, S.L., Arana, J., Giraldo, L.C., Ingwell, L., Rodríguez, L. and Vargas, N., 2024. Effect of Black Soldier Fly Larvae and Food Substrates on Weed Seed Emergence. HortTechnology, 34(2), 190-197.

Black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia illucens; BSFL) composting is biotechnology used for organic waste management and an alternative to traditional composting. We designed a two-phase experiment to evaluate the effect of BSFL composting on the emergence of the following six weed species: barnyardgrass (Echinochloa crus-galli), common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), giant foxtail (Setaria faberi), ivyleaf morningglory (Ipomoea hederacea), redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus), and velvetleaf (Abutilon theophrasti). The first experiment phase was in the laboratory (laboratory composting phase), which consisted of 100 seeds of each weed species subjected to five composting treatments [two controls (nontreated and standard Gainesville diet alone) and three types of substrates (standard Gainesville diet, vegetable waste, food waste) + BSFL]. Live pupa weighed 179 mg with the standard Gainesville diet + BSFL and 205 mg with the food waste diet + BSFL. Dry pupa weighed 68 mg and 70 mg, respectively. The BSFL in the vegetable waste + BSFL treatment did not pupate. During the second experiment phase, the composting treatments were placed in a greenhouse to evaluate weed emergence. Emergence in the nontreated control was 62% for barnyardgrass, 38% for common ragweed, 26% for giant foxtail, 66% for ivyleaf morningglory, 3% for redroot pigweed, and 69% for velvetleaf. Compared with the nontreated control, all treatments with BSFL reduced the emergence of each weed species to ≤1%, except for velvetleaf. This study suggests that BSFL composting may effectively reduce weed seed emergence of many weed species and could be a safe alternative to conventional composting processes to minimize weed pressure in compost. However, efficacy may vary by weed species and may be dependent on seed characteristics, such as an impermeable seedcoat.