Musca domestica is one of the most widely distributed organisms on earth and occupies a basic position in the food chain. It is in every stage of its life cycle food for some other animal or plant. If for some reason an insect population fails, all that consume them suffer diminished fecundity and possible starvation. If the insect population is robust and the other myriad environmental factors aren’t weakening the system, reproduction and survival can be wildly successful. Far from disgusting, this little bug is noble and is consumed with alacrity by Rothschild’s Pheasants straight from the jungle, penny-sized frogs, aquarium & pond fish, and canaries captive-bred for generations. The housefly in its several forms will not fill every nitch in live feeder insect use, but it will fill many better than anything else available so far.

Insect-eating birds are generally brought into peak breeding condition by eating the foods that are best suited for rearing their young. The effect of that food is not limited to just its nutritional value. Abundant availability of the right food has a positive effect beyond nutrirional concerns and has real environmental and behavioral significance for captive breeding birds. Adult birds that have some live, soft wriggling larvae, knowing that their young will thrive on just such a food, seem to have a heightened sense of confidence that results in better and more fertile eggs. Since the attractive live larvae are exactly what the chicks need, they start eating far sooner than if left to figure out that they should peck a lethargic or headless bettle nymph or some grain compound. Another noticable behavioral change with the use of dry fly pupae is a reduction in feather picking and cannibalism among adult birds.

Image14As a feeder insect, the two most useful of the developmental stages of the housefly are the larvae (maggot) and the pupae (cocoon). They are simple creatures comprised of excellent material. Their substance, over a period of time as brief as one hundred hours, allows for the metamorphosis of a simple “eating machine” into a complicated and elegant master of the earth. That substance has valuable proteins, 18.5% in live larvae, and lipids. During metamorphosis amazing chemical changes take place. From larvae to pupae the Vitamin A content increases five and a half times, and Vitamin C, 12 times. A calcium to phosphorus ratio of 1:1 is supposed to be best for birds. In the most common feeder insects the C:P’s are: cricket, 1:2, meal worm, 1:13.5, and housefly 1:3.4. A C:P ratio of 1:1 was achieved by Allen and Oftedal for crickets, and I regularly augment housefly larvae to 1:2.5.

But, all of that goodness is of little use if they are too difficult to find, use, control, or are too expensive. Use the correct feeding techniques, avoid overfeeding, and there will be no need to worry about the ambient fly population increasing. If properly handled, shipped and cared for, housefly larvae will keep well for up to three weeks. It is important that the fly larvae be raised on a vegetable diet. If the maggot eats meat, it may have contact with the bacteria associated with droopneck (Clostridium botulinum). A vegetable diet for the larvae eliminates this worry. Another application for the fly is as adult on the wing. If that is the case, like for certain waterfowl or reptiles, adult flies will emerge from live larvae if they are left to pupae in several days. In the eighteen years that I have studied and bred these amazing four-wingers, others have fed them out in all the stages and presentations I’ve mentioned above to nearly two hundred species of birds. The birds appeared to be healthier for it, producing more and better offspring. This fly is a splendid tool for the aviculturist. It works very well, is economical and the existing delivery system insures that they arrive in perfect condition. The informed use of Musca domestica in captive breeding programs is helpful in numerous ways.

Over the years I have developed quite a few processed foods for birds and fish that all contain a significant quantity of processed insect material. Unlike the manufacturers of most of the world’s other bird and fish foods, we at Skipio’s™ have had the ability to start with the insects to produce foods for insectavores rather than using a vegetable base source of nutrients. Some of our results follow as the Skipio’s™ Aviary Supplements and Wild Bird Food products. Further research and development of our work is continuing at our Oregon insectary.

F.L. Cockerum

fly-on-flowerHandling Instructions for Musca domestica

These Skipio’s™ live Musca domestica larvae (maggots, gentles, wrigglers) have been specifically grown for shipment as live food.

Open the package immediately upon arrival.
If any claims are to be placed they must be made on the date of delivery.

Usually the live larvae will arrive in good condition by overnight shipment. In the event that the larvae are quite warm or hot, the first action you should take is to cool them down. This may be accomplished by placing the unopened bag on a rack in the refrigerator. In the event that the bag is hot, wet and stinky, but otherwise OK, rinse the unopened bag under cool flowing water until the water is mostly clear. The bag should then be centrifuged in the spin cycle of the clothes washer for about two minutes.

Each batch of larvae should be processed into new corn meal. The corn meal should be ready for use by having it at room temperature when the larvae arrive. Tear the bag open and dump the contents out onto the surface of the corn meal. Leave the container out in direct light until the larvae, who do not like being in the light, have crawled under the surface of the meal. Then scrape the packing material and other refuse off of the meal with a stiff card.

Refrigerate the container for several hours. The larvae will clump together to preserve their body heat as they cool. Stir them all around to break up their clusters. This will insure that they will all get the air necessary to keep them alive and well.

Take out only the number of larvae that you will be using for the feeding. If the whole mass is allowed to warm up repeatedly the optimum shelf life of the larvae, about three weeks under ideal circumstances, will be significantly reduced.