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Black soldier fly larvae: poultry, fish food

 
pollinator
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Julia Winter wrote:I would look at what Alder said above, about feeding the better stuff to chickens and feeding the BSF larvae things that chickens won't eat.  BSF can apparently consume chicken droppings!

thanks - I will try to make a system for that.
 
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Angelika Maier wrote:Is biopod really better than the homemade version?



Nobody responded to this -- I'll take a crack at it.

I don't know if it's better, per se, but it's sure easy.  You take it out of the box and it's ready to go.  Throw in a handful of BSF larva, start feeding them, and all is good.  

If you want to build your own, there are all sorts of videos on YouTube of people creating their own BSF bins.  I like the Biopod because it looks great, it's compact, and it's easy to work with.  I got my first handful of larva from a friend who found them in his worm bin.  I dumped them into a used Biopod and threw in some kitchen scraps.  That was about 8 years ago.  They keep going right through the winter here (So. Cal.).  My only challenge is providing enough food for them when the population gets huge.  If you've never worked with BSF, a Biopod is a great way to go.

I've seen them polish-off a full grown adult possum (dead, of course) in less than 2 days, and a Biopod isn't that big.  When I get that many larva growing in there, I'll let them finish off whatever food is present, and then I'll just scoop a cup or two out and give them to the chickens.  If I had an unlimited amount of food for them, I'd make a massive bin for them.  

If I lived in deer country and knew the highway guys who are responsible for picking up deer roadkill, I'd build a huge BSF bin and ask them to give me a call whenever a deer was hit.  One deer would give me all the BSF larva I'd need to feed my chickens for a week.
 
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It would seem that the guts from field dressing a deer would be great to use. Thats my plan.

I have a question. If you use the biopod (or homemade device), what happens to maggots from house flies? Does their instinct include climbing high like bsf, or do they turn into flies and leave? If i  end up breeding more of those to get the bsf larvae, I'd have to weigh the benefits.
 
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I think the BSF larvae eat other fly eggs.  I've not seen other kinds of maggots in my bins.
 
pollinator
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2 questions.

1.  For those composting carcasses with black soldier fly larva, what about prions?  The post about deer carcasses was what brought it to mind.  In this area white tails are having major problems with chronic wasting disease.  But other prions could possibly be passed too.

2.  Is there an herb or other scent to either neutralize the scent of the larva compost or hide it from the egg laying adults so it can be used for worm composting?  It would need to be something that was acceptable to earth worms.  For example some insects can be driven off with peppermint.  So could the top of the pile be covered in something that would worm compost but keep the adult egg layers away.
 
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I have been composting for about 35 years. I have composted on an 81 acre farm, a 25 acre farm and currently in my tiny back yard. For the first time in all these years, I have black soldier flies in my compost and I am not liking it at all. They are eating up anything soft such as fruit or anything that gets soft and my compost is disappearing into nothingness. They turn into big flies that then fly off with my compost having created their body.  I have started trying to pull the thousands I find in masses and use them as bird feed, however, I really want them out of my compost. I can't seem to get them all.  I am in-between farms, with only a backyard or I would invite chickens and ducks into the compost pile to eat them up. Currently, the only way I can remove them is with a shovel and give them to song birds. Does anyone have any other ideas of how to remove them if you don't have ducks or chickens to eat them? Bringing someone else's chickens or ducks into the yard is not possible as it is a very tiny space and my neighbors would not appreciate it. I have started a new compost pile, but it will probably be invaded also. I am very careful to put any moist or soft materials inside the pile or at least put cardboard on top of it to help keep them from finding the new pile. I will probably be at this location for another year and would really like to have compost for my garden. I have never seen a compost pile disappear. It is quite amazing.
 
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I'd put an ad out of Craiglist - Free Black Soldier Flies for Reptiles! For chix! For Ducks! For your compost!  Someone might clean you out.  

People buy those for quite a bit online, for their lizards in particular.  I've bought packs of 250 (which is barely any - they take up way less space than you'd think, less than a 1/4 cup) for $7 online.

I think another way to go about it could be diatomaceous earth, or too much moisture.  They get flooded out, that's usually what happened to ours accidentally.  You compost too well, Sharol.  

I'm surprised frogs haven't found them yet.  We used to have one of those black compost things with a lid on top, and frogs would find it and eat everything that flies.  The frogs would be perched in and around the lid, and just live there.  Like Pacific treefrogs.

 
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Sharol Tilgner wrote:I have been composting for about 35 years. I have composted on an 81 acre farm, a 25 acre farm and currently in my tiny back yard. For the first time in all these years, I have black soldier flies in my compost and I am not liking it at all. They are eating up anything soft such as fruit or anything that gets soft and my compost is disappearing into nothingness. They turn into big flies that then fly off with my compost having created their body.  I have started trying to pull the thousands I find in masses and use them as bird feed, however, I really want them out of my compost. I can't seem to get them all.  I am in-between farms, with only a backyard or I would invite chickens and ducks into the compost pile to eat them up. Currently, the only way I can remove them is with a shovel and give them to song birds. Does anyone have any other ideas of how to remove them if you don't have ducks or chickens to eat them? Bringing someone else's chickens or ducks into the yard is not possible as it is a very tiny space and my neighbors would not appreciate it. I have started a new compost pile, but it will probably be invaded also. I am very careful to put any moist or soft materials inside the pile or at least put cardboard on top of it to help keep them from finding the new pile. I will probably be at this location for another year and would really like to have compost for my garden. I have never seen a compost pile disappear. It is quite amazing.



Hi! As Kim said, flooding will do the trick. Don't know how big your pile is but if you can shovel it into a bucket halfway and the rest with water and you let it sit (hours even a day or so) you'll see them float up like bobbing rice krispies :-) then they'll either crawl out themselves (aided by the moisture on the walls of the bucket or you can strain them off. The only problem i see is that once a colony has established and left their pheromones everywhere, it attracts other bsfl and repels any other type of fly (which is one of the reasons i love them, never a house fly to be seen again, and i live in Florida!) Something else to know is that although they are voracious eaters, they really don't like carbons (paper, cardboard etc) so maybe a way of promoting more worms (red wigglers etc) in your compost and discourage bsfl after you have rinsed it off is to add tons of brown and just bury your kitchen waste.

Good luck and let us know how it works out!
 
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Sharol Tilgner wrote:I have been composting for about 35 years. I have composted on an 81 acre farm, a 25 acre farm and currently in my tiny back yard. For the first time in all these years, I have black soldier flies in my compost and I am not liking it at all. They are eating up anything soft such as fruit or anything that gets soft and my compost is disappearing into nothingness. They turn into big flies that then fly off with my compost having created their body.  



I faced the same situation last summer. BSFL ate up all the food scraps in the compost pile and possums came at night to have their BSFL buffet. I gave away bucket full of larvae to a neighbor that raised chickens. To collect the grubs. I just shovelled the compost in a box, exposed in the sun, slightly tilted. The larvae would all climbed down into the lower corner. Then I scraped the top layer of larvae free compost back to the pile. It was easy and came out clean.

So this year I raised chicken to use up the larvae. Chicks turned 1 week old today, btw. So I maintain a small pile now and i just chop and drop most of the plant materials.


 
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I've been raising bsf for 12 years, so I'll share a few things that I've learned.  In my setup, whenever I've had worm bins, bsfs usually colonize them to some degree.  The bsfls generate heat from their bodies rubbing together.  If it gets too hot, the worms will try to find a cool spot or they will die.  Sometimes, the bsfls can get too hot and this can cause a potentially messy crawl off.  You can stop this by misting them, btw.  So, I wouldn't co-culture bsf and worms if I had the choice.  I prefer to screen off the worm bins.

You can expect to get a rough 25% rate of conversion from food waste.  The bsfls are the most nutritious to fish and chickens before they become pre-pupae.  After that stage, they form a puparium made of chitin.  Too much chitin will stunt fish growth.  Birds can digest it just fine, but there isn't as much fat and lipid in pupae as there is in larvae.  This means that you have to find a way to harvest the larvae from the compost or trigger a crawl off with heat, lack of food, or co2.

Running bsf on a commercial scale can be a back-breaking endeavor.  It takes a lot of waste and most of that waste is just water.  I used to pick up loads of cabbage scraps from a sauerkraut company and they were always packed in 70 pound boxes stacked on the curb.  You need young backs and a tractor or forklift.  

I finally came up with a small scale bsf bioreactor and larvae/pupae harvester that I like better than all of my other iterations.  I'll share the design this spring before the season kicks in.
 
May Lotito
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I kept on optimizing my black soldier fly setup last year. The wild flies are active from May to October and I try to raise as many as possible as chicken feed.

The main challenges are:

1) sourcing enough food to feed the grubs. I have average 1-2 lbs of Kitchen scraps every day and most of them are given directly to the chickens. There is no need to feed them to the grubs then give the grubs to the chickens. The food for raising bsfl comes from these sources: food scraps chickens don't eat, including spilled/moldy chicken crumbles or offals; grease, such as used frying oil and lacto-fermented plant materials.  The last one was discovered accidentally buried in the replies here. Somehow the treatment makes the plant biomass really attractive to the BSFL (and house flies too) I am wondering if that's because the plant proteins, carbohydrates and lipids turn more available to the grubs. With that I am able to convert loads of squash leaves, tomato vines or grass clippings to animal proteins quickly.

2) maintaining a constant flow of larvae with minimal effort.
It's easy to find some grubs in a hot compost pile but it takes more to keep the population going to feed 12-36 chickens daily for months. BSFL love warm temperature and they grow and multiple faster when it's warm. I measure the temperature of bsfl aggregations in the compost pile and the temperature is about 105 F or 40.5 C. I thus maintain a pile of decomposing plant materials (lacto-fermented ) as BSFL's food and heat sources. I control the temperature by adjusting the shape and size of the pile according to seasonal conditions. In summer time, it's low and donut shaped to increase surface area, in the fall it's raked up into a cone shape. The grubs are able to migrate to a temperature zone comfortable for them. When they are ready to pupate, they burrow into the soil in the peripheral. I keep the pile covered and open a section every day to let the chickens scratch around so they won't exhaust the grubs for reproduction.

So far the operation had been quite successful and I fed my chickens from June all the way to November in 2023. I usually let the grub population build up in June and July and only offered the chickens a little bit. In the peak season of August to October, they consumed hundreds a day. I am going to adjust a few things this year and see if I can get the production up and save more grubs for winter feeding.

20230823_075112.jpg
In ground bsfl pile
In ground bsfl pile
20231019_133151.jpg
Bsfl consuming plant materials
Bsfl consuming plant materials
 
pollinator
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Question: Can you raise BSF on the combination of hay, food pellets, manure pellets and urine collected in a rabbit cage/tray system?
 
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They eat basically everything,the urine might slow them down but if its in an open top or just in open air so the ammonia can escape im sure it wont slow them down.I find i have problems finding them enough to eat, when the temps are in the mid 80s or higher they are very active.They will love the manure and food pellets,the hay is a good absorbent material to keep the bedding fluffy or at least not too moist.
 
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