Under (Fly) Armor

Recent publication discusses microscopic structure of black soldier fly cuticle. Notably, it contains a lot of information on calcium deposits, which make this insect an excellent food source for pet reptiles.

Rebora, M., Salerno, G., Piersanti, S., Saitta, V., Morelli Venturi, D., Li, C. and Gorb, S., 2023. The armoured cuticle of the black soldier fly Hermetia illucens. Scientific Reports, 13(1), 22101.

We characterise in detail the larval and pupal cuticle of the black soldier fly Hermetia illucens L. (Diptera: Stratiomyidae), a key insect species in circular economy. In particular, we focus on ultrastructure using scanning and transmission electron microscopy, material characterization and composition (elements and minerals) with confocal laser scanning microscope, energy dispersive X-ray microanalysis, powder X-ray diffraction and mechanical properties with nanoindentation measurements. Calcium carbonate crystallizes on the epicuticle as blocks of calcite in the pupal cuticle. Calcium carbonate granules are stored in two specialised Malpighian tubules. CaCO3 is already present in the cuticle of young larval instars, but it is mainly in the form of amorphous calcium carbonate while the amount of calcite increases during larval development. The presence of calcite leads to cuticle hardening. Larval and pupal cuticles contain large amounts of resilin which guarantee cuticle flexibility.