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Oil from Insects?

October 7th, 2006 | No Comments | Posted in algae-insects- oil production

You are at: Oilgae Blog. See also: Oilgae – Oil & Biodiesel from Algae Home Page

I was browsing an interesting email in the Yahoogroups Oil from Algae. A member was wondering if it is possible to use some insect larvae to extract oil. Acc to him, insect larvae such as mealworms, superworms, wax worms, have a high
lipid content (about 50 % of dry matter)….

The discussion proceeded with another member giving the example of the Black Soldier Fly to extract oil. The member seemed to be suggesting that these flies could be fed algae (which they apparently eat with glee) and the oil could be extracted from these flies. One another member had kindly posted a link where a research paper on these Black Soldier Flies feeding on manure was given – http://www.p2pays.org/ref/37/36122.pdf .

I went thru the research paper quickly and the relevant paragraph is attached below:

“There is a potential to recover energy from the processing of swine manure with black soldier fly. Since the prepupae have a high fat or oil content (Table 2), this oil might be used as an energy source. If swine manure were converted to black soldier fly prepupae at 16% of the manure dry matter, as shown above, and they contained 30% or more oil, separation of the oil followed by conversion to biodiesel would yield as much energy as methane fermentation of that same manure (Tom Richard, personal communication). After oil recovery (using an expeller process), the remaining high protein meal would likely have greater value as a feed than the whole dried prepupae. This would be especially true if black soldier fly were used as a bulk protein supplement, since high levels of inclusion of dried prepupae result in higher than optimum levels of fat in diets.

As noted, the cuticle or skin of the prepupae, like that of all arthropods, contains chitin. If black soldier fly were processed to recover oil, it might also be possible to add additional steps for recovery of chitin and chitosan. Such products have uses of significant value in several industries (http://members.tripod.com/~Dalwoo/use.htm, for examples). A refined animal protein, as would be produced by removal of the oil and chitin from black soldier fly, would likely have significantly greater feeding and economic value than the original dried insect larvae.

End of quote

One might wonder someone would go to the trouble of feeding flies with algae (which themselves contain oil) and then trying to extract oil from these flies. (by the way, these flies can eat many other things, manure for instance, and not just algae). I think the reason behind this thought process is that it could be easier to extract oil from flies than from the algae…at least that was what I thought was the point the author was trying to make

Interesting idea, though I’, doubtful at this stage if it has long term potential

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