Recently we received a question about Phoenix Worms, the trademarked name for black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) that are used for animal feed, that would be indecipherable to an average person. However, having answered hundreds of questions about larvae and worms over the past few years, we have amassed enough knowledge to intuitively grasp most questions, however lacking in relevant details they may be. In this instance, a reader wrote to us to say that she has some Phoenix Worms that smell like bleach, and she is wondering if they are “ok to use.” We were also informed that she had “taken the dead out.” If this seems like a series of incomplete, disjointed thoughts, it’s because it is, but we actually know exactly what the reader is talking about. She recently acquired Phoenix Worms to feed to her pets, but they smell strange, so she is wondering if they are safe to feed her pets, and all she has done so far is remove the dead worms from the container they were shipped in. So, the question before us is this: are phoenix worms that smell bad safe to feed to your animals?
We aren’t certain that we have perfectly understood the reader’s situation – for instance, we don’t know where the reader got the Phoenix Worms, so perhaps they were never shipped to her – but overall this is probably an accurate description of what she is confronting. So, we have understood her question, but what about an answer to it?
Unfortunately, her situation seems to be fairly unusual, and thus we haven’t been able to find a straightforward answer to her question. One person on a forum reported that her container of Phoenix Worms smelled like ammonia, which is a similarly unnatural smell for a box of larvae to have, but ammonia and bleach don’t have the same smell, so we don’t know if she was confronted with the same problem. The ammonia-smelling larvae were also brought up in a totally different context, so it wasn’t established if the Phoenix Worms were fit for pet consumption. The girl with the “ammonia larvae” was told to change the Phoenix Worm’s container by another forum member, but the official distributor of Phoenix Worms specifically cautions against transferring the larva to other containers on their FAQ page. (The containers they are shipped in are designed for the Phoenix Worms to live in.)
Regardless of the precise smell of our reader’s Phoenix Worms, it does seem like she got a faulty batch, as some of the larvae were dead. (Pets that eat Phoenix Worms won’t eat them when they are dead.) Given that live creatures are being shipped across the country and are passing through different temperatures, which Phoenix Worms are sensitive to, receiving faulty batches with many dead larvae happens from time to time, and a legitimate supplier will generally send replacement larvae with your next order. If our reader did order them online and received her container in its current compromised state, she should talk to customer service about the issue and inquire about getting a new batch. She should also ask about whether Phoenix Worms that smell like bleach are safe.
We don’t know what the answer to this last question will be, but intuitively we have to assume that there is something wrong with larvae that smell like a heavy cleaning product. We could imagine that a container of Phoenix Worms might not have the greatest smell, particularly when this container has lots of dead larvae in it, but this still doesn’t explain why they smell like bleach specifically. We definitely don’t think our reader should feed these to her pet. This isn’t to say they are dangerous, but it is better to err on the side of caution when it comes to questionable food, and this is what our reader should do until she figures out what went wrong with her batch of Phoenix Worms.