Kortnee Van Nest, Sabrina E Swistek, Morgan L Olmstead, Alina De La Mota-Peynado, Robert D Ewing, Daniel Brabec, Dana Mitzel, Brenda Oppert, Lee W Cohnstaedt, Phillip Shults

Assessing the feasibility, safety, and nutritional quality of using wild-caught pest flies in animal feed

  • Insect Science
  • Ecology
  • General Medicine

Abstract Studies have investigated the potential of using farmed insects in animal feeds; however, little research has been done using wild-caught insects for this purpose. Concerns about inadequate quantities collected, environmental impacts, and the spread of pathogens contribute to the preferred utilization of farmed insects. Nevertheless, by harvesting certain pest species from intensified agricultural operations, producers could provide their animals with affordable and sustainable protein sources while also reducing pest populations. This study explores the possibility of collecting large quantities of pest flies from livestock operations and analyzes the flies’ nutritional content, potential pathogen load, and various disinfection methods. Using a newly designed mass collection-trapping device, we collected 5 kg of biomass over 13 wk, primarily house flies, from a poultry facility. While a substantial number of pests were removed from the environment, there was no reduction in the fly population. Short-read sequencing was used to compare the bacterial communities carried by flies from differing source populations, and the bacterial species present in the fly samples varied based on farm type and collection time. Drying and milling the wild-caught flies as well as applying an additional heat treatment significantly reduced the number of culturable bacteria present in or on the flies, though their pathogenicity remains unknown. Importantly, these disinfection methods did not affect the nutritional value of the processed flies. Further research is necessary to fully assess the safety and viability of integrating wild-caught insects into livestock feed; however, these data show promising results in favor of such a system.

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