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Black soldier fly larvae: poultry, fish food

 
pollinator
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Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
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So glad you're a fan, too, Jocelyn :) BTW, I think Erica alluded to them sometime or other.... if anyone can figure out the most efficient way to use them in the PNW burbs, she can... when she gets the 'duck rape' taken care of ;) ox (now will that 'ox' get me 'ghosted' ?)
 
steward
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Location: Montana
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i'm just gonna go ahead leave these here.

















 
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Cassie, thanks for sharing http://www.livingwebfarms.org/ videos on the black soldier fly. What a fantastic series they've created.
 
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I almost passed on this one. I'm glad I didn't. Thanks!
 
nancy sutton
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Wow! these look terrific, Cassie, thanks ;) I'll watch them, but I notice that Living Web Farm is located in So Carolina.... not PNW temperatures, typically. I want to find a way to carry their re-productivity over our cold winters. After talking with the major supplier of BSF larva, (in one of the Carolinas, of course), I think there's a feasible way, which I outlined somewhere else in Permies. If anyone else has been continuing the egg laying/larva prouction process through our winters, I'd love to be referred to them ;)
 
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Make sure whatever container you plan to have the larvae mature and breed in is very well contained, just make sure they still have air holes. My brother learned that they are excellent escape artists.
 
Posts: 78
Location: Manitoulin Island - in the middle of Lake Huron .Mindemoya,Ontario- Canadian zone 5
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Nancy, where in permies do you discuss wintering over black soldier flies in a cold climate? I live in Canadian zone 4-5 and there is no wild population here. I can by some starter bsf on line, but need to keep them breeding long term.
I have a clivus multrum composting toilet stocked with red wigglers. The vermiposting chamber is quite large and well sealed. It has a small fan venting fumes outside. I am looking into the possibility of adding bsf if I can figure out a way to deal indoors with the adult stage of their life cycle. I think I can cover the venting outlet with a screen to keep adult flies from leaving. It might be difficult to catch them when I open the hatch, however. Hmmm, need to think this through. Maybe I could let most of the adults leave and just keep a small percent as breeders? I need to research how to provide the right environment for the adults to breed though. Any leads on this would be greatly appreciated.
 
steward
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mary yett wrote:Nancy, where in permies do you discuss wintering over black soldier flies in a cold climate? I live in Canadian zone 4-5 and there is no wild population here. I can by some starter bsf on line, but need to keep them breeding long term.
I have a clivus multrum composting toilet stocked with red wigglers. The vermiposting chamber is quite large and well sealed. It has a small fan venting fumes outside. I am looking into the possibility of adding bsf if I can figure out a way to deal indoors with the adult stage of their life cycle. I think I can cover the venting outlet with a screen to keep adult flies from leaving. It might be difficult to catch them when I open the hatch, however. Hmmm, need to think this through. Maybe I could let most of the adults leave and just keep a small percent as breeders? I need to research how to provide the right environment for the adults to breed though. Any leads on this would be greatly appreciated.



breeding during the summer probably wouldn't be a problem for you. winter, though...

a lot of folks' first thought is to just breed them indoors where they can keep things warm. temperature isn't the only issue, though. they also won't breed without adequate light, which is not really practical to provide artificially. a greenhouse would do it so long as the temperature stayed above 50 Fahrenheit, but building a greenhouse just for soldier fly breeding might not be a great use of resources.

depending on how long your cold season is, you might be able to keep a good population without breeding. when temperatures dive, the larvae don't mature as quickly, though they consume more. they still need to be kept reasonably warm, but their own metabolism produces a lot of heat if they're relatively well-insulated. that slower maturation could get you through the winter if you go into it with a lot of young larvae.
 
nancy sutton
pollinator
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Location: Federal Way, WA - Western Washington (Zone 8 - temperate maritime)
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Hi Mary, this is what I posted on 'Black Soldier Flies in the PNW' (& I think there's a posting here about a fellow who's 5 gal bucket toilet contains BSF ;)

Re: bsf in PNW.... I have just done some research and am tossing this idea out. It seems that larva can be kept warm enough with insulation and their self-generated heat to possibly survive our winters and continue 'eating'.. at least, as far north as Eugene. Its the mating/egg laying that has to be done in light, and at around 70 degrees, which is why buying in larva every year may be necessary.

However, it may be possible to take some (a few) pupating larva inside, buried in a tray of minimum 2" of soil, let them hatch into flies (which are slow moving, live less than 2 weeks, don't eat anything) which mate and then lay eggs. I believe they can be easily contained in a small screened cage, with enough light and warmth. Apparently they readily lay eggs in edges of corrugated cardboard daubed with some foods (can't remember, but can look it up if desired), or, best with exudate from the bottom of the larva feeding container. The hatched larva can be sent off to turn into feed. This whole process happens pretty quickly, btw... raising larva through the winter and to increase larva numbers.

I got this information from talking to the largest larva seller, in one of the Carolinas... who, coincidentally was backlogged on their orders... which I take as a good sign of something ;)

 
mary yett
Posts: 78
Location: Manitoulin Island - in the middle of Lake Huron .Mindemoya,Ontario- Canadian zone 5
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Thanks, Nancy - I'll look into that more. It might be entertaining to grow out a few adults in a wire cage on a warm window sill while the snow is blowing outside. Once they produce larvae, I could just toss them down the toilet and let them eat my you-know what. Apparently bsf and red wigglers make a good team. If I decide to follow through with this scheme, I will post my results.
 
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Hello fellow Permies! I have one main question, do BSFL eat seeds? I am a huge fan of throwing rotten fruits and veggies in areas that you wouldn't mind volunteer plants growing the following year. However I think I like the idea of BSFL converting ofal, kitchen scraps, and rotten fruit and veggies into winter feed for chickens (if you harvest the larvae and dehydrate them) more. Is there a chance I can get the best of both ideas, feeding the veggies and fruits to the BSFL and the seeds remaining intact to create volunteer crops the following year?

P.S. I hope this question/topic hasn't been discussed in this thread. If it has... I apologize!

Looking forward to your inputs!
 
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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I usually throw a lot of the kitchen trash and food scraps directly to the chickens. They will eat a lot of it, and this will be a more effective food conversion than passing it through the BSF first. I prefer to keep my BSF going on things that not even the chickens will eat, like their own manure, my own manure, the dog dirt, coffee grounds, rotten and moldy stuff (chickens will quit laying if they eat moldy stuff), and things I know to be natural poisons and anti-nutrients....such as poisonous wild mushrooms. The BSF thrive on all this, and produce a yield of feed from stuff otherwise inedible even to chickens.
 
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Anybody know if the Biopod website is still active? You can't email them or contact them in any way. It is all disabled as far as I can see. I used my Biopod last summer for the first time and was actually able to speak with Karl about the Biopod but no longer have his phone number. He told me to replace the coir mat that came with it, with a new one. I am not sure where to get one and wanted to see if I could order coir mat from them. Also, I need to order some BSF as I had to do this last year because they didn't populate. Thanks!

 
Beth Mouse
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I found the coir mat to put in bottom of Biopod. I just need to order more BSF larvae. I am worried that the Biopod website and contact info isn't available any longer. Still haven't heard from anyone.

Thanks,
Beth
 
gardener
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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You can purchase coir at any number of places -- I've even seen it at Home Depot. You just have to cut it to size and drop it in.

A Biopod is one of those things that is just as good (or better) if its used. If it already smells of soldier fly larva, it will be a magnet to any adult in the area. If it's a bit dirty on the inside and the ramps leading up to the exit hole are a bit dirty, all the better --- it'll help the larva to get a better grip as they crawl out.

You can easily take some cardboard, cut it into 2 x 2 inch squares, glue it together into a little block, glue a piece of string into the middle of the block so that it hangs like a Christmas tree ornament, and suspend it from the roof of your bio-pod, so that the adults have a convenient place to lay their eggs. I've also seen people who use a piece of burlap and drape it over the top of the body of the lower half of the bio-pod, and then put the lid back on. The adults can lay their eggs on the burlap, and the hatched larva can then drop through.

So if you are interested in experimenting with a bio-pod, look for a used one out there on Criagslist or ebay.

Keep it in the shade, make sure that you feed the herd every day, make sure the food stays moist enough, and make sure that enough of the larva "escape" (don't capture every single one of them) so that you'll continually have new eggs being laid.
 
steward
Posts: 3244
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
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Just wanted to share this NPR story on Black Soldier Flies
 
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Alder Burns wrote:I usually throw a lot of the kitchen trash and food scraps directly to the chickens.  They will eat a lot of it, and this will be a more effective food conversion than passing it through the BSF first.  I prefer to keep my BSF going on things that not even the chickens will eat, like their own manure, my own manure, the dog dirt, coffee grounds, rotten and moldy stuff (chickens will quit laying if they eat moldy stuff), and things I know to be natural poisons and anti-nutrients....such as poisonous wild mushrooms.  The BSF thrive on all this, and produce a yield of feed from stuff otherwise inedible even to chickens.



I've heard some nutrients are more available for human consumption (humans absorb the nutrients better) if they are from animal meat, milk or eggs.  So i wonder if the nutrients from the food scraps can be better absorbed by chickens or ducks if they eat the larvae that have eaten the scraps.
 
pollinator
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Is biopod really better than the homemade version?
 
pollinator
Posts: 518
Location: Andalucía, Spain
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I have a question wrt BSF and chickens. I have BSF now, and I love them - they process my food-scraps at an impressive rate. I feed their left-overs to my worms (BSF don't really eat carbon, which the worms love).

But now I have chickens, and I am thinking of just setting up my compost-bins in the chicken shed and have them have a go at it. But they would definitely out-compete the BSF. Do I get more out of the whole process, if I let the BSF have a go at the compost first, and then let the chickens eat them? Or does it not matter?
 
Julia Winter
steward
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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!
 
Dawn Hoff
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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.
 
Marco Banks
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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.
 
gardener
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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.
 
pollinator
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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.
 
gardener
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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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