Live black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia illucens) for turkey poults

T. Veldkamp*, T.G.C.M. van Niekerk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Black soldier fly larvae (BSFL; Hermetia illucens) are a suitable protein source for poultry. However the effect of live BSFL supplementation on growth performance and behaviour has never been demonstrated and quantified in turkeys. Wild turkeys eat insects during the first two weeks of life which is in contrast with commercially fed crumbs or pellets. Damaging pecking behaviour is a severe problem in turkeys. More lively diets may improve natural behaviour and decrease damaging pecking behaviour. The aim of the experiment was to stimulate natural behaviour of young non-beak treated turkeys by supply of live BSFL to avoid damaging pecking behaviour. Two treatments with seven replicates were studied in 14 floor pens (1.5 m2/pen and 20 turkeys per pen) from 0 to 35 days of age. Control groups were fed commercial diets and BSFL groups received live BSFL. The daily BSFL intake was calculated to be 10% of the expected daily feed intake (based on fresh weight) and dietary nutrient composition was adjusted in a way that control and BSFL groups were fed iso-nutritious. Daily feed intake and body weight gain of BSFL groups were significantly higher compared to control groups resulting in a significantly higher body weight at five weeks of age (2,190 vs 2,015 g; P=0.003) and a significantly lower feed conversion ratio. In the first week there was a tendency for more foraging related behaviour for the BSFL groups, but in the third and fifth week BSFL groups showed less foraging related behaviour compared to control groups. Provision of BSFL reduced aggressive pecking directed at the back and tail base at 5 weeks of age. Although the incidence of feather and skin damage was low, this type of damage tended to be lower in the BSFL groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)301-311
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Insects as Food and Feed
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 27 May 2019


  • Behaviour
  • Foraging
  • Growth performance
  • Live black soldier fly larvae
  • Pecking


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