A highly absorbent cellulose fiber from recycled paper was tested and compared with a polyacrylate gelling agent, Aquatain, normally used for bulking and solidifying larval rearing medium of screwworm, Cochliomyia hominivorax (Coquerel) (Diptera: Calliphoridae). The absorbent fiber, when mixed with water and dietary ingredients, produced a diet medium of homogeneous texture that supported larval growth and development comparable with the standard gelled diet. Larval and pupal weights from two concentrations of cellulose fiber-based diet were significantly higher than those obtained using gelled diet. The number of pupae per tray, percentage of adult emergence, oviposition, percentage of egg hatch, and adult longevity obtained from the insects reared in the cellulose fiber-based diet were comparable or slightly better than the biological parameters recorded from flies reared in the gelled diet. Moreover, results indicate that a lesser amount of the cellulose fiber-based diet than the normal amount of gelled diet per tray would support normal larval growth. Physical properties and texture of the new diet seem to allow the larvae to move and feed more freely than they do on the semisolid gelled diet, resulting in less wasted diet. The cellulose fiber is biodegradable and inexpensive, whereas the polyacrylate gel polymer is not biodegradable and is relatively expensive. Replacing gel with cellulose fiber in the screwworm larval diet for mass rearing should result in substantial cost savings in material and labor as well as eliminating concern of environmental pollution due to diet waste disposal.
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Vol. 100 • No. 1