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Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL)

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Duck Drover, Sep 14, 2016.

  1. Duck Drover

    Duck Drover Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I raised mealworms for lizards but I did not feed them to chickens because I did not think the chickens would eat them before they burrowed and escaped to produce beetles. I have been looking into starting up again but then I saw a comment about BSFL self-sorting for feeding and the flies helping reduce other pest fly populations so I had to know more. Now I am completely convinced that I want to raise these to feed to our chickens since any that develop into adult flies will just spend their 5 to 8 days mating and laying eggs without even eating (no mouth parts so they are only drawn to food sources to lay eggs before they die) so they do not make pests of themselves like most flies. I am sure I have seen these flies in our yard at times but, like so many other people, I thought they were an unusually docile wasp.

    My husband drinks a pot of coffee a day for his ADHD so I want something that will feed primarily on a waste product that the red wiggler worms can't consume fast enough. There are other free sources for coffee grounds so I can keep up with a large fly population with no cost. The fact that the fly larvae (maggots) eat so much that the worms don't eat and grow so fast makes them an ideal food source, plus they are more nutritious than mealworms without even gutloading them (they actually expel waste material prior to feeding them so no worries when it comes to what they eat before they reach the feeder stage). Then the ease of keeping them and letting them self-sort for feeding makes them hassle free.

    I live in hardiness zone 8 so they might survive the winter in a grublike state but I am not sure if the adults will survive and lay eggs all winter. The compost creates enough heat for the larvae but the flies do not live in compost since they don't eat (or poop, I assume). I have a glass door oak cabinet outside that I wanted to convert to a sort of greenhouse but never added a heater to maintain the temp in the winter. I have read that the BSF needs natural light and I don't know if the glass will allow enough natural light or if it will block UV light and keep them from thriving. With such a short lifespan it seems I could get them to mate and lay eggs in the cabinet using cardboard (or reusable plastic cardboard) to collect the eggs and transfer them to a rubbermaid trash can with compost and a ramp for self-sorting. There is a drawer in the bottom of the oak unit where I can let some larvae mature into flies while feeding the rest to the chickens and ducks. As the adults die I can sweep them out but I can also release them before they die to increase the wild numbers and drive away other flies.

    Has anyone tried captive breeding the flies or does everyone just collect eggs from flies in the wild to keep producing more larvae? I want to keep the flies in a closed environment where I can collect more eggs easily and keep a colony going so I could use some advice. The fly houses I have seen for large commercial operations use screen material so I could try putting in screens but my hope is that the glass windows will help keep the temp up even though it is in the shade.

    I would love to hear from others what works well for them. All the threads I read are so old that I don't know if there is still a group farming BSFL and talking about it for those of us looking into a free protein source for our flock. I also need a source for starting a colony so I will need a bulk supplier of larvae and I have not found anyone in my area (Washigton state) who raises BSFL in order to get some through a purchase or barter situation.
     
  2. lynnehd

    lynnehd Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have a good local source for dried BSFL for now, and only a few chickens, so I haven't set up a way to breed and harvest them.
    You are right, the calcium and protein content of BSFL, are excellent!

    Have you looked at web sites like this? Perhaps you could adapt their suggestions to your cabinet.
    http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/2009/08/13/do-it-yourself-bsf-bucket-bio-composter/
     
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2016
  3. Duck Drover

    Duck Drover Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I have been doing lots of research on keeping the larvae so I am going to set up rubbermaid tubs for them. The glass cabinet is what I want to use for the adults for breeding and laying eggs. I want to hatch out the pupae in the drawer (what does not get fed once the colony is established) and put cardboard in the main area for egg collection. Then I want to put the eggs into a clean fresh tub to start the process over again. I like the idea of having a nursery tub too so I might try that before putting them in the big tubs with self harvesting ramps.

    I have not seen as much information on keeping the adult flies for breeding because most of the information is on capturing eggs from wild flies. I want to confine the flies to maximize egg collection.
     
    1 person likes this.
  4. Duck Drover

    Duck Drover Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Wow, I had thought more people would be using black soldier flies to manage waste materials and feed their flock but the lack of replies has me thinking it is not as common as I suspected. My daughter is going to do a Girl Scout service project using the BSFL so I had hoped there would be people doing it already who could share their experiences. Online resources are useful but it is also nice to talk to people about something you are starting to avoid any potential pitfalls they have encountered along the way. We want this project to be hugely successful.
     
  5. lynnehd

    lynnehd Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I'm sorry that you haven't received more responses. I have a good source for dried BSFL, so don't raise them at this point.
    I do know that their protein and calcium content are superior to mealworms.

    Have you don't a search on BYC specifically? I'm sure I've seen some threads here and there.
     
  6. aldarita

    aldarita Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am on my third year of raising BSF for my chickens. I have 2 biopods in our property. I order larvae every spring, place them in the biopods, feed them and wait until they grow and become adults to lay eggs (I am not patient enough to wait until the adults come to the biopods and start the colony and that is why I order the larvae). I get a very good production with the 2 biopods, the grubs feed my 26 chickens. I give them as a supplement to their feed. I keep a bucket with grubs in a refrigerator and every day I give my chickens a hand full specially right now when they are molting, they need the animal protein for their feathers growth.
    I try to feed the grubs different vegetables and grain products like bread and corn tortillas. I do not feed them animal proteins because the smell is very strong.
    When I decided to grow BSF I looked every where for information and read all I could find. Every year I learn something new and make the changes required.

    You are doing the right thing by educating yourself and planning ahead.

    This year I am thinking about keeping the grubs in the bucket in the refrigerator when it starts getting cold, then coming spring (when it is warm enough) I will place them in the biopods and let them hatch and lay eggs to start the colony.

    One thing I have learned is that it takes a while for the colony to get established and in the mean time you are going to have house flies and other kinds of flies moving in and out of your container. I had to move my grub house (where I keep the biopods) away from my chicken yard because of this reason. Once establish, the house flies are gone. I also placed the grub house under the trees where there is a nice breeze blowing most of the time.

    Good luck with your plan and let us know how it goes
     
  7. Duck Drover

    Duck Drover Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am tempted to buy larvae but we are trying to trap eggs before it gets too cold to see if we can get started for free. I wish I had read about them earlier in the year to trap eggs in warmer weather since I am not sure if there are many flies in the wild right now. It is still pretty warm here with the houseflies thriving but trying to get indoors now. I can bring the larvae tubs into a warm environment or use under tank reptile heaters like I did when raising roaches but it is the development into flies and egg laying that will be more difficult to heat in the cabinet I want to use. I can probably just hatch the grubs inside a reptile tank since there would be less smell with that lifestage than the compost bins (although if we primarily use coffee grounds it won't smell too bad, I assume).

    I love the idea of converting waste products to feed so I want as large a colony as I can keep fed and reproducing. I figure once our colony is established I will capture eggs from the flies for a few days and then release the adult flies to reproduce in the wild as well so we can catch as many eggs as possible that way too and hopefully their presence will repel other flies in time. Plus I won't have to dispose of dead flies that way with such a short lifespan. The flies seem like they would not be too annoying to house inside over the winter in order to build up a strong colony but I want to keep them outside year round once I have a warm place for them to reproduce year round.

    The best supplier I could find was still a bit expensive once you get into large quantities. I want to start big but it will obviously be cheaper to start small. My daughter and a friend are interested in doing their Girl Scout Gold Award with BSF so we need to figure out an area of emphasis. I know someone who travels to third world countries and has many contacts in areas that would benefit from using BSF so we might be farming them on a larger scale than I was looking into as a source of chicken feed. Their project might even focus on education and outreach more than farming mass quantities of larvae to seed other colonies but for now we need to seed our own colony.

    I have 4 large Rubbermaid tubs to start now once I figure out a ramp system for self harvesting. I have looked at a number of designs for ideas but then I need to consider using free materials as much as possible. I might even have the collection container inside the tubs because I hate putting holes in things that I might want to repurpose in a different way but the tubs are used so they were cheap and I might be willing to modify them permanently. I can also use my roach tub but I was thinking about raising mealworms in that instead of the ice cream tubs I used before (they went in the recycle bin already). I may try making a two story unit that houses the adult flies over the compost bin so it takes less regular maintenance to hatch the pupae into flies and let the hatchlings drop down into the compost bin below. I am going to start out somewhat small and eventually have enough flies in the wild that I won't need to confine them for egg laying. I don't know how successful they are at avoiding predators and choosing optimal locations for egg laying so I will make those choices as much as possible in the beginning.
     
  8. Duck Drover

    Duck Drover Chillin' With My Peeps

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    One thing we did with our egg collection stations to keep other flies out was to put a rolled up plug of cardboard into the tops of recycleable plastic drink bottles and hang them with the string from feed bags. There is no access to the coffee grounds we used as attractant so there is no way other flies can get to them either. Our hope is that the design will allow the eggs to hatch in the cardboard and fall into the coffee grounds and then we will dump the grounds and hatchlings into the compost bins. We have about 2 dozen bottles hanging all over our yard with the hopes of getting eggs before it gets too cold for the pupae to mature into flies in hardiness zone 8.

    It was time consuming for the girls to pack the wet grounds into the small opening of the bottles but hopefully it will pay off. They wet some of the grounds with clean water and some with dirty duck water to see if the duck water will increase the smell of the attractant. It is always fun to experiment like we did setting up a mealworm colony but it helps to know what has worked or not worked for others too so we don't waste time with failures. They have until June to complete their service project because my daughter's friend is a graduating senior this year so we need to make our time count. My daughter will likely keep going with it as she has continued her Silver Award project for 4 years already.

    If they need money to fund their project it will take fundraising since it has to be self-supporting but non-profit at the same time. I figure I can donate some things to the project and get larvae in return (market value equal to donations) for my own feed source. They are going to start fund raising for "cookie dough" and then if they don't need to buy anything they can apply it to something else since we are not sure how it can be used as cash for purchases rather than just credit for activities or items sold at the council store. We might catch some eggs and add larvae to speed things along but if we can't collect BSF eggs we will have no choice but to buy larvae.
     
  9. JayJo

    JayJo Chillin' With My Peeps

    I get a lot of BSFL in my compost bin every year in around late August. I'm in CA and at that time of year, it's consistently in the 90s every day. I feed them out like mad for the few weeks they're around, but then they're gone. I've never seen them at any other time of year.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2016
  10. Duck Drover

    Duck Drover Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I am hoping we are not too late to collect eggs but I don't see any yet. I sent ReptiWorms an online message and a phone message on Friday to find about how to get some in bulk but they have not responded. It is a good thing I did not just place an order assuming it would get processed. I don't buy much online but I thought they were a legitimate company. I really wish I could just arrange a barter locally.
     

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