• Tips and Tricks: How to Care for Your Reptile

    Hey there, friends! This month’s episode of Symton Learn is dedicated to all you new and aspiring reptile owners out there! The following article contains crowd sourced, Symton-approved information we believe will set you up for success. Whether you’re a newbie or a nerd, Symton is here to help! 

    We’re doing this FAQ style, so feel free to skip to the sections you feel are most relevant to your needs. Remember, whilst we strive to provide you with the most constructive and valuable information possible, we encourage you to use this article as a launching point to support YOUR research. We do not and will never claim to know what is best for your pet- only YOU can make that call.

    Have any questions on topics we didn’t cover, or just want to talk to someone in the industry? You can and should reach out to us anytime, via our website, instagram, or email

    [The majority of the information in this article was supplied by members of the reptile industry and Symton employees. Thank you and full credit to all individuals who contributed to this blog post - your expertise is much appreciated!]

    The Tips and The Tricks

    What is animal husbandry?

    Let’s start with the basics, as the term ‘animal husbandry’ will appear frequently within this post and in your research. According to an article published in the National Institute of Health’s Library of Medicine, animal husbandry “refers to animal welfare and management. There are five main areas … in this subject--normal animal behavior, nutritional requirements, restraint, housing and management in disease.” 

    How do I choose what to feed my pet?

    A little research goes a long way! While each pet will have their own unique preferences for the kinds of food they like to eat, it helps to have google lay the groundwork. Keep in mind, every animal and species is different. What works for your leopard gecko won’t necessarily fly with beardy or mr. snake. Finding out what the most popular, available, and affordable options are out there will give you a better idea of where to start. 

    That being said, the fat:protein ratio is an important aspect to keep in mind. Overloading your animal with super fatty insects is not healthy in the long run. Try looking for a more balanced ratio or something with higher protein content. 

    Call a local veterinarian who specializes in the species and see what they recommend!

    Look into the prevalence of parasites found in certain feeder insects and keep an eye out for product sourcing.

    Just like humans, variety is key! Why not try a few different feeders, and let your pet choose? Symton's insect flight is a great way to try out new treats and staples.

    Do all reptiles eat the same thing? 

    Definitely not! Not all palates are created equal when it comes to reptile appetites. While some pets need specific kinds of insects in order to stay healthy, others can eat almost anything! Many reptiles have to make like popeye and incorporate plant protein into every meal (that means fruits and veggies, yall!) 

    In summary, reptiles can be herbivorous, insectivores, carnivorous, or omnivorous - they’re just cool that way! 

    Some of the most common eaters by category:

    Herbivorous (plant-based): Green iguanas, tortoises, spiny-tailed lizards

    Insectivorous (insect only): Geckos, chameleons

    Carnivorous (larger prey than insects): Aquatic turtles, snakes

    Omnivorous (plants and insects): Bearded dragon, many skinks, semi-aquatic turtles

    Source: (Cedar Creek Veterinary Clinic - Veterinarian In Williamston, MI USA, n.d.)

    What is one thing you wish you had known before adopting your first reptile?

    From space requirements to carpets to ailments, below you will find a few key knowledge nuggets from reviews we held with current and previous reptile owners. These individuals have experience with bearded dragons, skinks, turtles, geckos, pythons, boas, corn snakes, chameleons, and even toads! We asked them what they wished they had known BEFORE they adopted their first reptile, and here were some of the most significant takeaways:

    • “Care requirements are always changing with new science and research, and your care can always be improved in some way.”
    • “Fully research setup and diet plan ahead of time”
    • Reptiles won’t always display obvious signs of sickness or disease
    • “They need a lot more space than most people say they do.”
    • “I wish I knew about how bad reptile carpets were, they’re a great surface for bacteria to grow and reptiles to get their nails caught on.”

    What are some signs of common ailments reptiles can suffer from that I should be aware of?

    We all want what’s best for our pets and to feel prepared when things go awry. Just like us, reptiles are susceptible to illnesses that can, of course, be treated, if you know what you’re up against. Therefore, it’s generally a good idea to have at least a basic grasp on the common ailments that can affect your reptile, and how to detect them. 

    Metabolic Bone Disease: A very common illness, especially for rookie reptile owners! This disease causes weakening of bone structure due to abnormal amounts of bone “building block” nutrients, such as calcium. Reptiles who have contracted this disease appear to have swollen or bent limbs which can drastically alter their quality of life. Luckily, it is completely avoidable by dusting with calcium powder as directed by your vet or local pet store.

    Upper Respiratory Infections: Keep an eye out when established eaters suddenly refuse food, as well as excessive mucus from the nose, mouth, or eyes, lethargy. Look for wheezing and/or loud breathing in snakes, who are particularly prone to respiratory infections.

    Parasites: Common symptoms include poor appetite, weight loss, but of course the biggest indicator is abnormal stool if it is an intestinal parasite (i.e. worms in the stool).

    Short Tongue Syndrome (Toad-specific): A lack of vitamin A can cause this adverse condition which makes catching live food more difficult.

    Burns from improper heat source: Blackened skin, ulcers, sores.

    Malnutrition: Underfeeding or nutritionally incompetent diets will cause adverse effects to your pet. Lethargy and generalized weakness can be indicative of a variety of disorders, including malnutrition. Lizards will lose fat in the mid-body and base of tail, bearded dragons have a fat pad atop their head that appears to deflate. Obesity can be caused from overly fatty foods and can lead to gout.

    Fungus: Arboreal lizards such as geckos and chameleons need to be sprayed with water regularly in order to ingest water. However, too much humidity in the air can cause fungus growth. Placing a screen atop the enclosure provides an easy remedy.

    ***Many reptiles hide illnesses extremely well, and often do not outwardly display symptoms! Regular check ups can make a huge difference in ensuring the health of your pet as well as your peace of mind.

    How often should I feed my reptile?

    The short answer to this question is: diet is species specific. Feeding frequency varies anywhere from multiple times daily (tortoises) to once every two to three months (adult Burmese pythons)!

    That being said, it is a general rule of thumb that younger reptiles will need food more often than their mature adult counterparts.

    Start with a basic feeding plan that is specific to your pet’s species. Then, take some time to watch for behavioral cues that may indicate the unique patterns and preferences of your pet. Maybe Gilbert the Gecko goes CRAZY for hornworms but won’t touch the crickets, even after 24 hours. Sure, Bathilda Beardie will always eat her cucumber-lettuce salad, but she really thrives with that extra daily dose of BSFL. When Devonte was just a young ball python boy, he enjoyed small mice and even crickets at least once a week, but now that he is a strapping man of 5, he may content himself with a full-sized rat every 30 to 40 days. His twin sister, Delilah, however, will enthusiastically consume her rat every 3-4 weeks, if it’s offered!

    I have, or want to adopt, more than one reptile - Can I put them together in the same tank?

    Cohabitation is possible, albeit rare, and for beginners is not generally not worth the risk outside of known communal species. Skinks, for example, are typically able to be housed together, and can even benefit from the socialization! (Exception: Blue Tongued Skinks do NOT cohabitate). However, you should definitely consult an experienced reptile owner or professional before placing animals together in the same space

    There are a few, very specific situations where animals of different species can be housed together. These include anoles and frogs, certain insects and bioactive reptiles, as well as fish and reptiles. In these instances, please obtain a professional second opinion, at minimum (you can even reach out to us, if you’d like!) It may seem like work now, but the health and survival of your pet are worth it (we promise!).

    Note: Most lizards are solitary animals, and males are known to act aggressively towards each other when sharing the same territory.

    Sure, you will always find arguments such as “well they’ve been together since they were babies” or “they just get along so well!” However, even if those animals don’t actively fight or go near each other, they may still show subtle signs of stress because they share the same space. This can contribute to a general decline in their health over time.

    If you do find yourself in a situation with a known communal species and have been given the green light for housing them together, it is super important to make sure each animal has just as much space to occupy as if they were on their own. Cohabiting animals for the sake of “saving space” is cruel and unfair to your pet. 

    What are some of the most popular reptiles people have as pets? 

    We’ll start this section off by noting that bearded dragons are actually the third most popular pet in the United States, after dogs and cats. Take that as you will. Nevertheless, there are tons of incredible species to choose from, the most common of which are:

    Leopard geckos

    Crested geckos

    Blue Tongue Skinks

    Green Iguanas (intermediate-advanced care required)

    Corn snakes

    Ball pythons

    Bearded Dragons

    This list is merely the tip of the iceberg! When choosing a pet, we always recommend you select a species who has husbandry equal to your skill level and space requirements that you can adequately provide for. 

    Check out a reptile rescue or animal shelter near you - it’s not just cats and dogs that need homes! Symton donates to a growing list of reptile rescues that can be found here

    If you are looking for a very specific species, reptile conventions are popular within the industry and can be found across the U.S. throughout the year. Choose breeders with care.

    Advice from the pros

    Are you new to the reptile world? Ever wanted to get first-hand advice but no one in your circle is a lizard? Darn. But hey, once upon a time, we were all in the same boat! Luckily for you, we’ve gathered a few tidbits from our now heavily experienced reptile-y friends that are definitely worth the read. Take a look.

    What is one significant learning experience you've had working in the reptile industry and/or as a pet owner?

    “Husbandry is ALWAYS changing and improving. Always be open to updating your setups and methods of care as new and better information becomes available. Just because your animal has been surviving at a certain level of adequate care doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from improvements so they THRIVE.”

    “I did not have any experience with reptiles before working at Symton. Here, I was able to learn how to take care of multiple species like bearded dragons, leopard geckos, and a blue tongue skink and how each one has different needs. Also, working with coworkers who owned other reptiles or had more experience and listening to their advice/ knowledge helped me gain a better understanding when it came to the reptile world.”

    “Take all advice lightly until you can find data on the reasoning and benefit of it. There is lots of scientific research out there that helps advance reptile husbandry. Just because someone is a breeder doesn't mean they are caring for their animals properly, lots of species can breed in stressful and improper conditions. If someone's evidence for a care method is along the lines of "we've always done it this way" or "I've been breeding/keeping for 20 years" it's usually coming from someone with outdated husbandry that hasn't looked into much recent research.”

    “I guess learning about bioactive enclosures. They are so much easier to maintain than just a regular enclosure, imo, and they look so much nicer!”

    “It’s always important to improve your care and keep up to date with new discoveries for reptile care.”

    Miscellaneous pet care hacks - Go!

    “Buy your supplies like light bulbs and fixtures from Home Depot, Lowe’s, or other non-reptile companies. They are exactly the same and so much cheaper.”

    “If you have multiple animals like myself, get a white board or make a spreadsheet with everyone’s feeding/watering/cleaning schedules. And even if you have one animal, “meal prepping” for them where possible is a great time saver and allows for better efficiency. Also if you’re ballin on a budget and can’t/don’t want to do a bioactive setup, goodwill is a gold mine for fake vegetation as a price way more affordable that what they sell at the pet stores. Just make sure you give it a thorough wash beforehand!”

    “Modified indoor grow tents make great cheap, large enclosures for bigger reptiles. Despite what most think, they're extremely thick and sturdy and are made to have a controlled environment inside. They have lots of ventilation that can be opened or closed, and can handle the weight of lights and branches hanging from the ceiling. You can DIY a lot of things to save money and often times the DIY stuff works better. A few examples would be things like waterfalls, backgrounds, or systems to simulate rain.”

    “Put calcium powder in a salt shaker! Get fake plants at craft stores/ the dollar store!”

    “You can use cabinet liners as substrate for your reptile if you are a beginner, they look nicer than paper towels or newspaper.” **non-toxic only**

    “DO YOUR RESEARCH AND ALWAYS CONSULT A VETERINARIAN IF YOU ARE UNSURE ABOUT ANYTHING or to double check that what you have researched is accurate!!”

    “Reptiles are amazing pets and you shouldn’t be nervous to get into them as a passion/hobby if you want to. As long as you’re prioritizing your own education and animal husbandry BEFORE getting an animal you’ll do just fine :)”

    Symton wishes each and every one of you the best of luck on your pet care journey! Let us know which parts of the article were most useful by commenting on the post below, DM-ing us on instagram, or shooting us an email. Did we miss anything? Tell us that too! Thanks for reading and happy Learning!!!

  • Crickets vs. Black Soldier Fly Larvae

    Greetings, Symtonians and welcome to another segment of Symton LEARN! This month we decided to compare two beneficial feeder insects to provide you, our lovely audience, with helpful information in choosing the best option for your pet.

    Introduction to Feeder Insects

    Reptiles, as exotic and fascinating as they are, have equally diverse and specific dietary needs. When it comes to their feeding, it's essential to understand that one size does not fit all. What may be the perfect diet for one species might not be as suitable for another.

    Insects, often referred to as feeder insects, make up a significant portion of the diets of many reptiles. These insects provide essential nutrients like proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals, contributing to the overall health and longevity of your scaly friend. This blog series aims to compare different feeder insects to one of the rising stars in reptile nutrition - the Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL).

    A Closer Look at Crickets

    Crickets are a classic choice among reptile enthusiasts. Widely recognized for their characteristic chirping, they serve as a primary food source for a plethora of reptiles including bearded dragons, geckos, and anoles. Their active behavior not only provides necessary nutrition but also stimulates reptiles' natural hunting instincts.

    However, a critical consideration for reptile owners is their nutritional composition. While crickets offer abundant protein and essential vitamins, their higher phosphorus-to-calcium ratio necessitates a more balanced dietary approach, often requiring additional calcium supplementation.

    Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL)

    Black Soldier Fly Larvae, commonly known as BSFL, are garnering attention in the herpetological community for their impressive nutritional benefits. These larvae stand out due to their high calcium content, which is instrumental in preventing metabolic bone disease, a common ailment in reptiles. Their low-fat content further promotes healthy growth and development.

    When it comes to practicality for pet owners, BSFL offer a significant advantage: they don't escape easily. Unlike other feeders that might require more meticulous containment, BSFL stay put, reducing the chance of them invading unintended spaces. This ease of management, coupled with their nutritional edge, makes them an increasingly popular feeder choice.

    Crickets - Pros and Cons

    Crickets are a favorite choice among reptile owners, valued for their wide availability and the natural hunting stimulation they provide to pets. Yet, it's crucial to note their nutritional challenges, particularly their high phosphorus to calcium ratio. Additionally, leftover crickets can pose risks, potentially stressing or harming reptiles if not managed.



    Easily available

    Can bite and stress reptiles if left uneaten

    Stimulates hunting instincts in reptiles

    Higher phosphorus to calcium ratio

    Good protein source

    More likely to contain parasites

    Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) - Pros and Cons

    BSFL, while being a power-packed source of nutrition, are not without their own considerations. They have gained significant attention for their calcium-rich content and low-fat profile, but it's also essential to be aware of their potential limitations.



    High in calcium, promoting strong bone health

    Might not stimulate hunting instincts as much as live, moving prey

    Low in fat, supporting lean growth

    Some reptiles may initially be hesitant to eat them due to softer texture

    Easy to store and maintain

    BSFL can produce a noticeable smell if not kept clean

    Comparing Crickets and BSFL

    When comparing Crickets to BSFL, it's clear that both offer unique benefits. Crickets stimulate hunting instincts in reptiles, providing both nutrition and entertainment. BSFL, on the other hand, boasts a high calcium content, promoting better bone health in reptiles. The choice between the two often boils down to the specific needs and preferences of the reptile and the owner's convenience.

    Please remember, this comparison serves as a guide, and it's always important to consult with your vet before making any major changes to your reptile's diet. Moreover, every reptile is unique and may have its own preference when it comes to feeder insects.

    Try BSFL Today!

    We understand that choosing the right feeder insect can be challenging. Why not let your pet be the judge? 

    Get 50% off your first order of Black Soldier Fly Larvae today and see how your reptile likes them! Remember, a happy, healthy pet is the best kind of pet.

  • Sassy. Frassy. Keep it Classy.

    What is “frass” and why should it be in your garden?

    Hello and good day fellow Symtonians! Welcome to this month’s Symton LEARN segment, where we create content to educationalize your brain with bug stuff! Seriously, we’re excited to be growing and learning alongside you as we dive into topics related to sustainability, agriculture, and of course - insects! Last month, we learned all about our trusty pal, the black soldier fly. Thus, we thought it most fitting to dig a little deeper into what this amazing insect can do, starting with…


    AKA, insect “frass”

    One of the lesser known, yet important benefits of the black soldier fly larvae lies in its ability to convert low-quality organic material into high-quality fertilizer. Yes, that’s right. We’re talking about bug feces. Here’s why it's cool:

  • It is a substantial source of plant-digestible chitin
  • Helps fight disease, pests, and other pathogens
  • Recaptures nitrogen and phosphorus to be used as fertilizer
  • Aids in balancing the pH level in soil
  • Contains various types of beneficial microbes and nutrients
  • Reduces heavy metals from waste stream
  • Symton BSFL frass is 100% organic

  • Frass and Nitrogen

    One study showed that the highest nitrogen uptake in vegetable crops was achieved by using frass, and proved especially powerful when combined with NPK supplements. However, frass alone outcompeted its commercial competitor, Evergrow (Anyenga, A.O. et al, 2021). This is important because plants need adequate amounts of nitrogen in order to grow! Not only that, but they need it in a form that is “digestible”- frass fertilizer contains tons of beneficial microbes which support the mineralization process of nitrogen, allowing your plants to thrive. 

    Frass and Chitin

    Frass may have a lower NPK ratio than many commercially available fertilizers, but what it lacks in numbers it makes up for in chitin. It is one of the only sources of plant-digestible chitin, as the frass itself is essentially broken down plant material, embedded with all sorts of beneficial microbes and minerals fresh from the gut microbiome of the larvae that processed it. Chitin is responsible for regulating and stimulating plant growth, inducing or enhancing defense mechanisms in plants, disease control, and much more (Shamshina, et al, 2019). Frass is a powerful tool that sustainably supports your plants’ long term health by releasing its nutrients slowly. Ever heard of living soil? BSF Frass is a key contributor, and scientists all over the world are jumping to learn more (Kenyan Agripreneurs:

    Frass and Heavy Metals

    In an increasingly urban environment, fungal and bacterial diseases aren’t the only problems we face as agriculturalists. Heavy metals intoxicate our soil, our waste, and our waters. However, black soldier fly larvae boast the super-power ability to accumulate heavy metals into their tissues, thereby removing it from the environment and preventing it from re-entering in their waste product: frass. In one study, researchers tested BSFL by adding toxic levels of mercury to the food they ate and monitored what came out on the other end- a non toxic byproduct (Basri et. al, 2022). This was a turning point in BSFL research, as it proved that one insect had the capability to remove, or significantly reduce, heavy metals present in our waste streams. Something to think about when considering frass against common synthetic fertilizers, which often contain toxic elements and directly contribute to the global waste problem. This research is an excellent example of how insects can be used to prevent toxicity in the things we consume!

    How much Frass do I need? 

    Frass can be beneficial, but should always be used in the proper amount: 

    Approximately 1 cup of frass per 1 cubic foot of soil OR

    ½ - 1 cup of frass for 1 gallon of potted soil OR

    ½ cup of frass for 1 gallon of water

    To make frass tea, let the frass steep in water for 2-5 hours before application. Thoroughly drench the base of the plant and avoid hitting the foliage. Refrigerate leftovers for up to one week. 

    For ongoing treatments, take a small handful of frass and gently massage it into the surface soil. Repeat once every month or so.

    *Remember, frass is a highly concentrated substance and can be toxic to plants if overused or overapplied. Use in moderation.

    Different plants will produce different results, but remember: using frass is the best way to help your soil help itself. Anyone can use frass- we sell 5lb, 10lb, and 20lb bags right on our website with affordable shipping anywhere in the United States.

    A Frassy Experiment!

    Over the last few months, we collaborated with local New Jersey gardener Elyse Schear on a frass experiment in her vegetable garden! Elyse is a retired research librarian with a green thumb who was excited to test the powers of bug poop for the first time. In May, she planted the seeds of three vegetable crops in large pots in her outdoor garden: Mizuna lettuce, spinach, and cabbage. Two tablespoons of frass were added to the soil of each plant-to-be. Each vegetable had a twin that she used as the control (no frass), so that a proper comparison could be made for each type of plant. 

    Elyse reported back in July with interesting results: both the cabbage and Mizuna lettuce plants benefited from an application of frass, noticeably outgrowing its frass-less counterparts. The spinach, however, did not seem to respond to the addition of frass. This can be due to a variety of factors, as plants are highly dependent on circumstantial elements like regional soil quality, humidity, inclement weather, watering schedule, pests, etc. We encourage you to try your own experiment this growing season, and let us know what you find! 


    Mizunah lettuce with frass (left, top) and without frass (right, bottom). June 2023. Elyse Schear.

    Cabbage with frass (left) and without frass (right). June 2023. Elyse Schear.














    Spinach with frass (left) and without frass (right). June 2023. Elyse Schear.

    Thanks for reading and see you next time on Symton LEARN!


    Anyega, A. O., Korir, N. K., Beesigamukama, D., Changeh, G. J., Nkoba, K., Subramanian, S., van Loon, J. J. A., Dicke, M., & Tanga, C. M. (2021). Black Soldier Fly-Composted Organic Fertilizer Enhances Growth, Yield, and Nutrient Quality of Three Key Vegetable Crops in Sub-Saharan Africa. Frontiers in Plant Science, 12.

    Basri, Noor Ezlin, et al. “Potential Applications of Frass Derived from Black Soldier Fly Larvae Treatment of Food Waste: A Review.” Foods, vol. 11, no. 17, 2022, p. 2664,

    Kenyan agripreneurs fly high with black soldier flies. (n.d.). ACIAR. Retrieved July 20, 2023, from:

    Shamshina, Julia & Oldham, Tetyana & Rogers, Robin. (2019). Applications of Chitin in Agriculture. 10.1007/978-3-030-16581-9_4.


  • Black Soldier Fly Bugnatomy 101: An Interview with Our President

    Hello, and welcome to another segment of Symton Learn! This month we’re getting back to the basics to discuss our knight in shining armor, the foundation of the farm: Hermetia illucens. AKA, the black soldier fly. 

    To do this, I sat down with president and co-founder of Symton Inc, Lauren Taranow, for an anatomy lesson on this amazing specimen. A specialist in her field, Lauren spent years studying the black soldier fly and its delicious, nutritious larva. She is here to teach us a bit about why these little flies are just so damn cool.

    So Lauren, what made you want to learn about BSF in the first place?

    After getting my Master’s degree in forensic DNA, I wanted to pursue an area in the forensic field outside of the lab - I was looking for a specialty that combined my love of ecology with my interest in forensics. That pretty much only leads to forensic entomology, the ability to determine a Post Mortem Interval (time of someone’s death) by analyzing the life stage and makeup of the insect community that inhabits and consumes bodies after death. My studies in this field introduced me to black soldier fly larvae. However, once I learned of the multitude of applications and potential for black soldier fly to consume waste, and be a nutritious food source, I wanted to build a business around the species, with a focus on supplying pets with the most nutritious, freshest feeder insects on the market, as well as educating the community about the benefits and uses of black soldier fly larvae.

    What makes them stand out against other bugs in the pet food industry?

    Black soldier fly larvae are packed with calcium so that you do not have to dust them with additional calcium powder to meet your reptile’s nutritional demand. They are also high in protein and have less fat than other feeders, making BSFL a healthy staple feeder that can be fed to reptiles and other exotic pets daily. The popular feeder insects in the reptile market - crickets, Dubia roaches, mealworms, and superworms - are not only less nutritious than BSFL, but they also have more chitin in their exoskeleton, giving them a harder outer shell. A harder exoskeleton is harder to digest, making the internal nutrients of these feeder insects harder to access through digestion. Black soldier fly larvae have a softer exoskeleton with less chitin which is easily digested by animals, allowing them to get more of the nutrients out of the BSFL they consume.

    Break it down for me. Please define each part of the bug and anything special about it. (I.e. Does it have a second stomach that secretes poison or some other creepy insect super power?)

    It’s important to note that black soldier flies only eat during the larval stage - the adults have no mouthparts because the purpose of the adult stage is to reproduce and lay eggs. Therefore, the larvae are consuming everything they possibly can during this life stage to sustain their adult lives. The larvae have a head, abdomen, and a thoracic segment. The BSFL head contains their antennae and maxillary palp that function in sensory detection, as well as chewing mouthparts for consuming food. 

    black soldier fly adult and larva anatomy

    Singh, A., Marathe, D., & Kumari, K. (2022). Black Soldier Fly Hermetia illucens (L.): Ideal Environmental Conditions and Rearing Strategies. Indian Journal of Entomology, 1–11.

    They have a single digestive tract, called an alimentary canal, with three distinct areas serving different functions. The foregut at the anterior part of the larva is involved in food ingestion and disintegration, the midgut functions to digest food and absorb nutrients, and the hindgut is responsible for reabsorbing water and ions from the digested food. All three areas of the BSFL alimentary tract have a diverse community of microbes, and it has been demonstrated that these microbes can significantly reduce or inactivate pathogenic microorganisms, like E. coli and Salmonella from the food they consume.I would call that a “creepy insect super power.”

    What do they eat?

    Anything! The beauty and the uniqueness of black soldier fly larvae is in their ability to consume any food source, including animal and human manure/waste, and turn it into frass (insect poop), which is a nutrient-packed substance that can be used as a fertilizer or soil additives improve plant growth and strengthen natural plant defenses agains harmful microorganisms. The only food product that black soldier fly larvae have trouble with is highly cellulosic materials, like pineapple rinds and stems, and other rigid plant structures. 

    At Symton, we feed our black soldier fly larvae a mix of grains, including wheat, corn, and alfalfa. After testing a variety of diets, we have determined this custom blend of feed leads to the most nutritious larvae for reptile needs.

    What eats THEM?

    Black soldier fly larvae are loved by all kinds of birds and chickens, bearded dragons, tegus, skinks, geckos, chameleons, turtles, frogs, sugar gliders, hedgehogs, and other exotic animals. This list is not all inclusive by any means, but these are the animals I have personally witnessed eating the little guys. 

    Are there certain animals that like Black Soldier Flies more than others? 

    Every reptile is different. I have found that bearded dragons will never say no to black soldier fly larvae in a bowl. Same with leopard geckos. They are both much lazier eaters than other lizards, and aren’t usually up for a chase. 

    Chickens and birds love the live larvae, but chickens tend to prefer the dried larvae more, which is still packed with the same nutrients as the live product. In contrast, chameleons and frogs absolutely love adult black soldier flies - they make for a better hunt. But no matter what reptile you’re looking at, they are sure to love one of the life stages of black soldier flies.

    Are they safe for other animals and humans? 

    Absolutely! I believe black soldier flies will someday be in products for human consumption due to their high protein content and low environmental impact. The only thing holding us back from this goal is dealing with the “ick factor” that stops humans from wanting to consume insects, especially in North America. But someday…

    Thanks LT! I know so much more than I ever wanted to about this crazy bug! But hey, what are entomologists for :) 

    Be sure to check out Lauren repping Symton Inc. on the Season 6 Finale (episode #28) of ‘To Tell the Truth’ on ABC. If you haven’t seen it, here is a sneak peak of the episode, available to stream on Hulu.

    Thanks for reading, and happy Learning!