The not-so-little bugs — which may develop as much as 17 centimeters (6.5 inches) lengthy — have a remarkably productive and sophisticated life among the many people who breed and gather them.
Viasus operates an organization referred to as Tierra Viva in a rural space across the metropolis of Tunja, a metropolis some 150 kilometers (95 miles) northwest of the Colombian capital of Bogota.
An try as a postgraduate pupil to supply natural fertilizer with worms failed, Viasus mentioned, however he discovered beetle larvae within the luggage of earth that remained. He tried utilizing them as an alternative. And it labored.
Tons of meals scraps collected from close by communities are unfold in concrete ditches and lined with earth. Then beetle larvae — the stage between egg and maturity — are launched.
They chew by the refuse and their digestive microorganisms remodel it right into a fertilizer wealthy in nitrogen and phosphorous.
After 4 months or so, the product passes by a filter that separates the fertilizer from the larvae, who’re on the level of changing into grownup beetles.
They mate, and their eggs are used to start out the method anew. The adults, nonetheless, go on very totally different journeys. Some are headed for scientific labs. And a fortunate few embark on a future throughout the Pacific in Japan, the place beetles are in style as pets, and are even offered over on-line emporiums comparable to Amazon.
Tierra Viva has been exporting the bugs — largely Hercules beetles — since 2004, and Viasus mentioned they will deliver as a lot as $150 every.
This 12 months the corporate despatched 100 beetles to Tokyo — down from 300 final 12 months — held in little plastic circumstances with air holes and meals.
The gross sales are sometimes within the firm’s variant of cryptocurrency, referred to as “Kmushicoin” — a variant on a Japanese phrase for beetle.
Viasus, 52, mentioned he hopes the venture can develop and prosper for one more century — maybe with its fertilizer utilized in reforestation initiatives.
“It’s very difficult in Colombia … because we do it without any help from the state or any other entity. In any other country of the world, a project like this would get a lot of help,” he mentioned.
Associated Press author Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report.