Feeding live Black Soldier Fly larvae (Hermetia illucens) to laying hens: effects on feed consumption, hen health, hen behavior, and egg quality

Fernanda M. Tahamtani, Emma Ivarsson, Viktoria Wiklicky, Cecilia Lalander, Helena Wall, T. Bas Rodenburg, Frank A. M. Tuyttens, Carlos E. Hernandez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The use of insects in animal feed has the potential to reduce the demand for soybean production and reduce the deforestation and loss of natural resources. In particular, the black soldier fly (BSF, Hermetia illucens) larvae have received attention due to their ability to convert organic waste into high-value biomass. Several studies have investigated the effects of providing BSF larvae to both broilers and laying hens. However, knowledge gaps regarding hens’ voluntary intake of live larvae and the effects of larvae consumption on egg production still remain. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to determine the effects of the consumption of 4 different amounts of live BSF larvae on laying hen feed consumption, hen health and fearfulness, and egg production and quality. To this end, 40 Bovans White laying hens were housed individually and provided with 0, 10, 20% or ad libitum daily portions of live larvae from 18 to 30 wk of age. The larvae consumption and concentrate consumption, hen weight, egg production, and egg quality were monitored. Overall, differences were found between the hens given ad libitum access to larvae compared to the other treatments. Ad libitum hens, consumed 163 ± 41 g larvae/hen/day, consumed less concentrate (P = 0.03) and gained more weight (P = 0.0002) than all other treatments. They also had an overall higher consumption of protein, fat and energy (P < 0.03). There was no effect of larvae consumption on egg production, egg weight, shell thickness, shell breaking strength, or Haugh unit (P > 0.05). There was also no effect on hen behavior toward a novel object or in an open field test. This study is the first to provide different amounts of live BSF larvae, including an ad libitum portion to laying hens. The 20% diet could promote sustainability in the egg industry and be economically advantageous if BSF larvae can be bought in bulk for less than 40% of the cost of the concentrate.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101400
Pages (from-to)1-11
JournalPoultry Science
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • black soldier fly larvae
  • egg production
  • egg quality
  • feed consumption
  • laying hen


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