Are There Insect Farming Jobs/Internships?

I work at a sustainable meat farm where I cultivate insects for chicken and pig feed. I've found I really enjoy incorporating insects into gardening by using them to compost and to feed other animals (including myself). I want to someday have my own organic insect farm and wish to gain experience somewhere. Any ideas?

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  • i work in an insect farming company. We are located in Belgium so probably a little far for you? :p but we work with the black soldier fly. that is our main insect. at the moment we are still in research but we are going to upgrade our company if we find enough investors . currently we also work with the locusta migratoria, Schistocerca gregaria and dendrobena veneta. all of them on a small scale at the moment.

  • I'm open to any opportunity no matter where it may be. What exactly are the insects cultivated for? And what's the name of the company?

  • It's 'millibeter'. If you go to this link on facebook, the first video is in english. https://www.facebook.com/Millibeter-235661459895920/videos if i'm going to write it all down in english i may say something that's wrong... it's a little video of what we do here :)

  • and if you want to know other things after the video, you can Always ask me :)

  • The company is amazing! I had no idea insects could be utilized for such things. If there are any internships or job positions available please let me know. I have experience researching the bacterial and fungal communities inside of insects.

  • Where are you from? If you like you can send me your details and resume with your experience to zaravermast@millibeter.be. If there is an internship or job position i can Always let you know! (mostly in summer we search for people who can help us a little bit) and for jobs: we are currently looking for an Operation manager (aka Fly Factory Kickstarter :p )

  • Hi Zazu0088, - What kind of light bulbs are you using for those indoor black soldier fly modules? Is there a specific intensity of wattage ? And is the light simply shining down from above or is the light source placed at some side angle which improves the females' response?

    My USA apartment won't let me have black soldier fly pens for adults' to mate & lay eggs out on the balcony any more. I have a good indoor larvae breeding set up & successful pupation but gave up buying eggs to keep going. Thanks in advance for considering my questions.

  • hi gringojay,

    We have fluorescent lamps of 80W in the room and they are placed towards the cages. The females really react to light (in summer we Always have more eggs than in winter) so every cage has light on it (i think one lamp covers 2-3 cages). Also they are in a room where it is always approximately 25 degrees and 70-75% humidity. the humidity really helps with them!

  • Thanks Zazu, - Are the fluorescent bulbs "soft" or "warm" spectrum kind ? Their favoring summer season, even inside room, makes me wonder if the females &/or male adults have some capacity to register changes in solar force(s) other than light wavelengths. I

    I had a theory that different frequency during different hours of daylight with which they copulate was related to the progression of the sun through the sky. One researchers data showed an inclination for early copulation, which I construed as being a factor of both the wavelengths proportion among themselves before mid-day and the angle at which any blend of light was striking the eye of hovering males.

    Since female insects can "reject" sperm I surmised that the males flew down with greater frequency to copulate at certain times in response to some unknown signal molecule a female puts out when their "favorite" light spectrum/ angle reflects off the male eye to her eye. Then her "ideal" light registering is transformed into an internal neurological signal, which alters internal chemical conditions, methylation of some protein residue of relevant DNA occurs silencing (removing) inhibition of transcription (turns on) what in a series of cascades altering some internal compounds into molecules which include volatile(s) molecules, which she passively diffuses to exude and the males are lured to her more at that time of day.

    She also stops (or progressively reduces) the volatile exudate in response to changing proportions of wavelengths making up the light (&/or it's angle) which results in a de-methylation leading to return of the inhibition which normally holds down transcription starting volatile's production. Presumably her energetic "cost" of transmuting stored compounds into volatiles is managed in this way in order to prolong mating period without running herself down too soon. However, my theory is speculation.

  • edited April 2016

    One hypothesis is the instinctual drive of the female to reproduce is tied to scarcity; if males were scarce she'd be more driven to get on with mating. When there are so many potential mates the female "interpretation" (my anthropomorphic perspective) of such a dense gathering of males is that she can "wait" because species survival seems guaranteed. Thus the female, either through pheromones &/or physical clues, blocks the male's own hormonal drivers so that he is "emasculated" from his male endocrine/hormone drive to propagate for species survival.

    We see something akin to such a phenomena in lower life forms & that earlier genetic program may carry invertebrates that arose. In microbial colonies there is quorum sensing; the group as a whole reacts to it's population's prospects for survival. One of the quorum sensing end results is when members of the colony self-sacrifice to reduce their numbers in order to not over run their environmental niche.

    So, if the BSF females sensed an over abundant quorum of male BSF it may (?) be they are able to give feedback signals to the males that no mating is suitable to occur because, as "guardians" of that colony (so to speak), the females instinct is not to mate until the colony reduces their number. One other wild card is that this dynamic may be different when the females are dealing with a surfeit of males but some of those males came from outside the family or are con-specific ( all raised together even though don't know if all eggs were related). I have seen studies where the relatedness of potential mates has been found to be an additional parameter in determining experimental results (not in anything published about BSF however).

    Back to the function of light....If the female signal shuts down the male sex drive there still remains the possibility that as part of the ensuing cascade of events the male eye becomes unreceptive to the normally "seductive" wave length of light reflected from the female eye. The "turn off" of the male to get that colony's reproduction rate within manageable bounds by the female may have the side effect of causing permanent impairment of recognition of the eye light signal. The adults start to die after their alloted time & even though the female may sense the "quorum" numbers are acceptable to begin mating the male has lost the ability to register the females' new signal of "come hither" & mate.

  • As regards an example of selective female signals the male insect Bombyx mori (silk moth) has 2 "...olfactory receptors... in a pair of adjacent pheromone-sensitive neurons of male antennae: One is specifically tuned to bombykol, the sex pheromone, and the other to bombykal, its oxidized form." Which means that if the female oxidizes it's sex pheromone the male is going to be receiving a molecule that causes neural ion channels to signal "no" & this simultaneously over rides the other antennae neuron which is not getting the molecule that would cause it's neural ion channels to signal "yes" to mating. Of course moths are not flies so at this time I am not sure if BSF have the same selective mechanism. Quote from abstract (2005) "Insect Sex-Pheromone Signals Mediated by Specific Combinations of Olfactory Receptors"; link = http://www.sciencemag.org/content/307/5715/1638.short

    Mating & Eggs: Flavia Araujo Barbosa's Panama mating/egg research of the type of Soldier Fly called Merosargus cingulatus is worth examining, which may be relevant to the family member Black Soldier Fly. ITEM: (2009) "Cryptic Female Choice by Female Control of Oviposition Timing in a Soldier Fly"; free full text = http://beheco.oxfordjournals.org/conten ... l.pdf+html Quotes:"...copulatory courtship ... 2 distinct behaviors: Males tap the female’s abdomen with their hind legs & wave their legs in the air....male copulatory courtship influences... oviposition... Females oviposited ...after copulating with males that ... courtship... not with males...performed no...courtship...in the absence of courtship ... sperm transfer ...does not happen... Copulatory courtship ...critical for males to achieve complete penetration (and spermatophore transfer)...." ITEM: (2011)"Copulation Duration in the Soldier Fly: the Roles of Cryptic Male Choice and Sperm Competition Risk"; free full text = http://beheco.oxfordjournals.org/conten ... l.pdf+html Quotes: "...males control ...copulation duration... females...not perform...behavior to.. end...copulation...longer copulations... male density...high...males copulating 4 times longer... with... largest than ...smallest females..." See Figure 3 for number of eggs increasing with female weight (author posits larger females are more fecund & males respond). ITEM: (2012)"Males Responding to Sperm Competition Cues Have Higher Fertilization Success in a Soldier Fly"; free full text = http://beheco.oxfordjournals.org/conten ... l.pdf+html Quotes: "...sperm competition...not affect clutch size...did affect fertilization success...competition increased copulation duration and fertilized a higher percentage of a female’s egg clutch..smaller males...need to mate for longer ...to obtain...same fertilization success ...Male(s)...prolong copulations...high...sperm competition...&...fertilized... 14.4% more of a...clutch than males under low ...sperm competition...For a given female body size... small male...need to mate...longer time than... large male to obtain... same fertilization success...... males of similar size need to mate...longer...with...large female than with ... small (female)...to obtain...same fertilization success...longer copulations result in increased transfer of sperm or of other seminal products, whichin turn leads to higher fertilization success...no evidence... changes in male behavior... affectedfemale egg production....." ITEM: a compilation of the preceeding 3 studies are in Barbosa's (2011) dissertation "POSTCOPULATORY SEXUAL SELECTION IN THE SOLDIER FLY MEROSARGUS CINGULATUS"; free full dissertation = https://mospace.umsystem.edu/xmlui/bits ... sequence=2

    There is also (as per that researcher) another influential set of parameter concerning what are the actual sizes of both the male & female adult flies in relationship to one another's size. I don't know whether everyone just estimates an available set of flies' male to female ratio; in other words if have 100 flies figures they've got 50 pairs that could mate. They are hard to sex - however, most male insects have their eyes both closer together & larger than the females; this may be a way to detect the males for parsing their roles.

  • Which brings us to the role of light in breeding & factors relevant for those trying indoor/outdoor propagation. Some may be familiar with the following source (which I use here for data) from other threads, namely: (2010) "An Artificial Light Source Influences Mating and Oviposition of Black Soldier Flies, Hermetia illucens"; full free pdf = http://www.insectscience.org/10.202/i15 ... 10-202.pdf. Authors found sunlight cause most eggs to be laid on the fly's 17th day (peak for these is days 14,15,16 & 19); as opposed to artificial lit flies laying most on their 13th day (peak for these is days 12,13 & 14). The sunlit females are bigger after 17 days & more fecund, which the males expend resources for success. In contrast the bulb lit females laying earlier only lay ~ 2/3rd less eggs on their peak ovipositing day.The significant occurrence is that in bulb light close to 40% less mating occurs, than in sunlight. Now, there is no difference in how the once fertile hatched eggs' larvae develop. And once mated the female fly is apparently laying the same number of eggs irregardless of whether mating was done in sunlight or artificial light. Notably, even though sunlight peak light intensity was at 13:00 (1 in the afternoon) the mating activity peak in sunlight was at 10:00 (10 in the morning). By 14:00 (2 p.m.)the sunlight mating was all over. The artificial light mating flies peak mating activity was at 11:00 (11 a.m.) & yet by that time the sunlight mating frequency was already significantly declining. Another difference is that bulb light mating wasn't all over until 16:00 (4 p.m.); a full 2 hours later that the sunlight flies.

  • I am cross posting comments of mine from another forum & notice that my theory actually had been about light reflected upward to the male from the female eye. Either paradigm please be aware I am still speculating.

    My speculation began that the eye of the male fly in sunlight is responding to light reflected upward from the female's eye. At the earlier part of the day the incident angle is ideal for this dynamic. When in artifical light &/or cloudy the low mating is partly due to this signal being missing.

    The fly's eye is dark in color , yet dark colors absorb more than will reflect as the sun gets higher in the sky. Smooth surfaces reflect better & the angle light strikes the female eye influences whether a smooth plane is encountered, or a flat dark facet.

    The black soldier fly eye is classed as a diurnal apposition eye, which lets it see contrasts in sunlight with it's many facets. The compound eye's facet density is better when eyes are more central/larger & a female's eye reflected wave of light enters some of the male's facets eye structure's ommatidial hollow channel(s), called a rhabdom.

    Inside the rhabdom light vibrates at a distinct frequency & triggers signaling. When the angle of light is low hitting the female's eye then there is more reflection up toward the male than absorption of that light by the female's eyes.

    Conversely, when the angle of light is more perpendicular (think overhead) then there is more absorption relative to reflection going on. And thus, after 11:00 a.m. the female's eyes are absorbing much more of the sun light (think how we humans in midday sun see less colors than when outdoors & sun is not overhead).

    Recall from above, even though the sun intensity was at 13:00 (1 p.m.) mating was plunging. This implies artificial light absolute intensity (above a certain point) is not the determinate & the study has a chart showing that although the bulb light intensity was kept constant there was still an early peak of mating.

    I venture to suggest the bulb light mating peak (11:00 a.m.) was due to the light cycle driven movement behavior of the females which led them to be at a more appropriate angle (for light reflection) relative to the males above. The fact that bulb light mating occurred over a long period of hours is likely due to how the females move about in their enclosure & periodically position themselves where reflection from their eyes occurs anew.

    Anyway, the male in morning sunlight is not only receiving eye flashes from the female but is also getting a quantitative reading. In sun light males can assess the relative size of the female, using the amount of her reflective photons that a bigger or smaller female eye gives off at the appropriate time of day.

    For black soldier fly genetics apparently 10:00 a.m. is the right time for bumping the uglies & may have to do with ideal sperm viability. It is apparently instinctual programming (see previous submission in this thread) to assess her fecundity; which in turn instigates him to dedicate maximal (or minimal) energy when copulate.

    In conclusion, some may have their flies receiving sun light, but mostly just sun is overhead & find oviposition unsatisfactory. This to seems to expose a a possible limitation of some greenhouses, where the enclosing material may be letting lumens in but refracting some photons angle of striking the females eye at optimal time of the morning. These facilities' location &/or orientation may not be letting the morning angle sun reach many females & then when frustrated operator moves mating set up "outside" suddenly finds eggs are getting laid.

    Which may (?) be a noteworthy clue for indoor breeders. They might find better mating rates by altering the angle at which they have the artificial lights shining on the females, to an angle less than overhead. And furthermore, do so early in the morning (before 10:00 a.m.) to get the males mating with larger females, achieve ~40% more copulating, shift peak egg laying to ~2.5 week age so get ~66% more egg laying on peak oviposition days.

  • Following up: in terms of indoor light parameters & assuming the sun is actually above the horizon at 7:00 a.m. (for purposes of making some rough calculations) while at it's zenith directly overhead at noon in the summer. By taking the sun angle relative to the earth as 90 degrees at noon & dividing it by 5 (number of hours from 7 to noon) we get the angle of the sun increasing by 18 degrees every hour (until noon) it rises in the sky.

    For purposes of estimation this would indicate that at 10:00 a.m., when sun lit BSF mating peaks, the most relevant angle of light coming at the females' eyes is ~54 degrees above the horizon . This may be a good lamp setting for trying to improve artificial lit mating - instead of an overhead light or light shining diagonally down across from the corner(s).

    I have not tried to parse the previous cited study's latitude which the data came from; nor attempted to account for any seasonal progression of the equinox that factors into what the angle of the sun might be striking the earth's surface in any particular model. I am working on the assumption that BSF, being a tropical/sub-tropical native, will be genetically programmed for the equatorial latitudes' year round angle to the sun; otherwise the variations will range through a progression entailing 22 degrees worth of angular changes & I have not tried to nail down how the study data's latitude might precisely affect my rough estimations.

    One thought is that at 10:00 a.m. the sunlight striking the female's eye is passing through relatively more of the atmosphere before reaching the eyes & atmospheric particles scatter some light. This mean the preponderance of color wave lengths changes; for simplicity I'll consider the prismatic & rainbow ordering of colors is red/orange/yellow/green/blue/indigo/violet.

    Thus, the way that sun lit mating rises until 10:00 a.m. peak to some degree also involves a sequential color phase as the sun's angle progresses. Which may relate to less mating by 11:00 a.m. being an inter-active response to further changes in the color spectrum of light penetrating the earth's atmosphere (better than other wave lenghts) to the female's eyes. Indoor breeders might find a sequential variation of light spectrum has additional benefit - rather than just a constant illumination with a set ratio of light wavelengths.

    My assumption is that since the sky at dawn is fairly violet (to human eyes), the female BSF is getting relatively more violet exposure early on. By 10:00 a.m. , BSF peak mating time, significant indigo (420-450 nm) made it's way through the earth's atmosphere - which may be turn on the mating surge.

    Blue light is 450-495 nm & although crucial in plant development (not discussed here)there is no obligation for insects to respond the same way to all the blue spectrum. I think (theorize) the mating drop off after 10:00 a.m. in sun lit BSF flies might correspond to the upper range of blue nm wavelength sequentially coming through the atmosphere progressively stronger.

    And, although I know correlation does not equal causation, the sun lit paltry mating rate coincides with relative dominance of yellow (think how human eye sees things palely at high noon when sun light has least atmosphere to penetrate through). Furthermore, by 14:00 (2 p.m.) the sun lit mating stops completely; which would be as our human eyes are transitioning into seeing more preponderance of orange light as we move through the day toward the visible red light as sun sinks lower in the sky (think of how even though sun dips below horizon over 180 degrees from our eyes sometimes still see red reflecting from underside of clouds/pollution particles).

    In summary artificial light modulation may best where the light approaches the BSF female eye at about an angle that does not exceed (say?) ~55 degree angle. A practical technique to mimic sun light's angling up from the horizon to ~55 degree angle could to put the bulb socket(s) on a track with a worm drive to creep the fixture upward along the track.

    When turned on, the lights shining on the females at ~55 degree angle (or moving along some track) could have filters which initially let relatively more violet light shine through, after a time phase use filters on the same lights (or a separate light) that let relatively more indigo light shine through & segue into filters on the light(s) to let relatively more blue light shine through (although possibly with a blue wavelength preponderance in the 450 - 475? nm range, rather than mostly 495 nm).

    The only affordable commercially available filters' design probably severely (totally?) block the other spectrums during time being used & insects could quite logically suffer from a total obstruction of the other wavelengths. A solution may be to concurrently place "full" spectrum light(s) directly overhead (corner) that would be on even when any angled filtered light was being shone although the full spectrum lumens may need to be toned down to lower lumens than the filtered lights below. Of course, those full spectrum lights would continue to be shone from above even when a timer shuts off the ~55 degree (or an experimentally determined optimal degree) angled lights; & at that stage increase the lumens from the full spectrum lights.

  • Other report on light: Leslie Holmes'(2010) thesis (link to free full pdf = http://scholar.windsor.ca/etd/285) points out that her sun light mating BSF got busier once the morning temperature was 28Celsius (82 F), matings rose toward 30* Celsius (86F) and there was an increase in mating around 10:00 a.m. Unlike Zhang, et. al's "Figure 1, Matings per Pair" (full pdf= http://www.insectscience.org/10.202/i15 ... 10-202.pdf)), Holms detailed a 2nd mating resurgence coming on in the afternoon around 14:00 hour. The afternoon temperature was 32-36 Celsius.

    Looking at the accompanying Holms chart numbered 2.7 (pg. 54 of pdf) shows her BSF morning peak mating was after 10:00 a.m. (maybe even 11:00 a.m.). The same chart shows a statistical maximum of mating pairs at 16:00 (4p.m.). Author correlates this with solar intensity; observing that at less than 70 microMol/m2/sec there is no mating at all. While at 500 micorMol/m2/sec this is the enough to stimulate the 1st mating peak at 10:00 a.m.; & then must get to 1,000 microMol/m2/sec for afternoon mating peak.

    Although I can not account for any, of what seem to be anamolies. Zhang, et.al used uncategorizedBSF stock from, & conducted the experiments at, Wuhan, Hubei, China. Holms used BSF stock that came from a strain bred in captivity for 8 years & conducted the experiments in Texas, USA. Which may (?) mean there is an adaptation in differently reared BSF stock & a breeder can manipulate a captive BSF somewhat to the breeders lighting. Back to Holmes' observations: she raises the unanswered question of whether BSF compound eye is capable of reacting to infra-red light. An additional discourse was that, in addition to photo-receptors (which confer the capacity to engage with light photo-periods) there is neurologically connected tissue called stemmata that perform some aspect in photo-reception.

    Holmes mentions that the stemmata in larvae are not reactive with either blue, green or yellow wavelength. However, author notes that stemmata in BSF larvae alters when it is adult stemmata.

    I wonder if the adult stemmata synchronized somehow in conjunction with the fly's compound eye have a synergistic influence on mating. For her part, Holms queried if the BSF has unique photo-reception with it's compound eye.

    One of my impressions, at this point, is: that not only the morning angle of the light, but also the late afternoon angle of the light are reflecting off the female BSF eyes in such a way as to attract males. The mating hiatus around high-noon also corresponds to when there is less atmosphere for sunlight to pass through & that is when strongest ultraviolet radiation "B" & "A" reach us on the earths surface .

    UVB(280-315 nm)is less strong early in the morning & later in the afternoon. I didn't see any reference to UV"B" in Zhang's data, although they did conclude UV"A" had no effect on matings.

    Is it possible that if there is relatively more UV"B" around it can account for, in part, why sun light matings taper off toward mid-day (as per Zhang), even though the light intensity has gone up. Or, similarly, UV"B" contributes to reduced matings until late afternoon, as Holms flies mated later on.

    For every 1,000 feet (305 meters) rise in altitude there is a 4% increase in UV & this may be one reason why Jerry reports BSF range is not documented above 5,000 ft. (1524 meters) in elevation. Maybe an adult BSF can be put/brought to that maximum elevation above sea level when the seasonal temperature is survivable, but they can't mate ; not from lack of enough light or daytime chilling. The males at that habitat extreme, in this scenario, are "blinded" by their stemmata due to the ratio of UV"B" light reflecting upward from the female compound eyes; of course this is pure conjecture on my part.

  • I think the bulbs are warm.. but we are not sure :p wow okej that is a lot to read for me! i didn't read it already but i'm going to and i also send it to my coworker so she can look at it as well (she nows more about the flies then me )

    it can be very intresting for us and we are going to see if we can use it. if we know anything about your theories you say here i will let you know ;)

  • I'm from Ohio in the USA. I sent you my resume and if you need anything else, just let me know!

  • "Hi BugCatcher5, - This man has a list of many bug enterprises if you want options. Go to https://ilkkataponen.com & click on upper right "Entomology Company Database". I don't know if he keeps it up to date & assume misses some start-ups.

  • Thank you for the interesting list of bug enteprises gringojay

  • My database is up to date ;) Just released the latest version!

  • I will have a look thank you !

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