Year of Publication


Degree Name

Master of Science in Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering (MSBiosyAgE)

Document Type

Master's Thesis


Agriculture; Engineering


Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering

First Advisor

Dr. Morgan D. Hayes


Due to their small size and ectothermic biology, the heat production of insects and insect larvae is hard to quantify. However, knowing the amount of heat production, as well as ammonia production of insects may be beneficial for commercial production of valuable insect species. Black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) are of interest in the agricultural industry because they quickly consume organic waste and have high amounts of protein and fat in their bodies. It has been proposed that BSFL be used to manage livestock waste, while serving as a high-protein feed source for livestock animals. To efficiently rear BSFL, it is necessary to design rearing facilities, which maintain optimal conditions for the larvae. To design such a facility, it is necessary to know the amount of heat and ammonia that BSFL produce.

A gradient calorimeter was used to measure the heat and ammonia production rates of black soldier fly larvae. The study determined that BSFL heat production changes significantly with the age and weight of the larvae. Aggregations produce the most total heat when larvae are older and larger. The study also found that larvae produce less heat per individual and per gram of body weight as they grow. Larvae also produce significantly different amounts of heat depending on the size of the groups they are in, and do not produce consistent amounts of heat per individual or per gram of body weight, even if maintained at a consistent population density. Larvae in group sizes of 100, 300, and 500 produced an average and standard deviation of 0.00107±0.000295, 0.00067±0.00014, and 0.00049±0.00020 W/larva, respectively. Likewise, larvae in groups of 100, 300 and 500 produced an average of 0.01826±0.00010, 0.01023±0.00565, and 0.00575±0.00371 W/g, respectively. The differences in heat produced per individual and per gram is troublesome when trying to estimate a total heat production for large populations.

The largest heat production rate observed in this study was 0.407 W, and was produced by a group of 500 BSFL. Frass analysis indicated that between 4.80 and 7.79 lbs of ammoniacal-nitrogen is emitted for every ton of frass produced. These data could be used to estimate the total heat and ammonia produced from a larger population of BSFL being reared inside a closed facility, allowing engineers to design HVAC systems to keep the larvae at their optimal growing condition year-round. Placing BSFL rearing accommodations at livestock facilities could be beneficial to livestock, poultry, and fishery producers, because BSFL can be used to dispose of animal wastes and are also a good source of protein-rich animal feed.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)