Making money with maggots: Lessons from the bug trade

Jan Dietrick, general manager of Rincon-Vitova Insectaries Inc. recently received a call from Fox TV. They were looking for 5,000 maggots immediately for a new reality TV show, "Truth or Consequences." They had to be clean maggots, according to Ms. Dietrick. "I was informed that the contestants had to eat them." She responded to the request and got to work. "We'll wash them, put them in deli containers, and have them ready for you in the morning," she informed the network.

The bug industry is growing these days -- and reality TV is just the beginning. The boom in organic gardening has turned bugs into big business. According to the Wall Street Journal, The Association of Natural Biocontrol Producers, a trade group that represents the 30 biggest insectaries in the land, estimates that about $200 million in commercial bugs are sold each year with the demand growing about 10% annually. And that does not include the order for millions of ladybugs that were poured over the actress Thandie Newton in the film "Beloved."