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Black soldier fly larvae: poultry, fish food

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15227
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Fascinating stuff for feeding fish or chickens.

I think we were talking about something like this not too long ago.

Link




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Nicholas Covey


Joined: Oct 09, 2008
Posts: 179
Location: Missouri/Iowa border
I like this idea in that it would be a good source of food for, say, a tank full of bluegill perch... they'll be waiting there poised, ready for something to hit the water. And when it does... BAM! then wait for the next one.

The major problem with raising perch (or even catfish for that matter) in a tank is that they aren't very efficient converters of food to body mass, especially when overstocked.

But this looks promising. Take local restaurant waste (or home food waste if that's what it takes) and toss it into the container daily, the larvae mature and crawl up the ramp and plop right down with the hungry fish. I find this a better option than feeding fish redworms because they have continuing value as a vermi-composter, whereas the soldier fly larvae does not at that stage.

I had been looking at an option to self-feed fish fly larvae, but had not found a suitable way to keep the putrid decaying drainage from dripping into the pond or tank with the larvae. This idea uses the fly's natural life cycle against it to separate it from its former living conditions is pure genius, and if nothing else, this is going to be used to design my own home-brewed device.

Once the sludge gets too deep, I can shovel it out, mix with a lot of old hay or straw, and either compost in the typical manner, or feed to the worms, which should be able to break it down further.

Great find Paul
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
so it doesn't have to be raw meat? now thats is something i could do for the chickens. I sort of have an idea of having a clotheline on pulleys over the pond to feed the fish this way but it would probably be to much of a hassle for me to keep it up. but just loading up one for the chickens nearby seems doable.


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paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15227
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Wow!  Here they are in action!

http://www.eawag.ch/organisation/abteilungen/sandec/schwerpunkte/swm/projects/5000larvae/index_EN

Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
wow is right!  I wonder how much time elapsed over the course of that video? it says they eat chicken poo also??!!! maybe I need to start a black fly larvae business and use all poo from the chicken farms around here. 
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15227
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Isn't there a timer in the bottom right corner? 
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
I guess i missed the timer. Now my stupid computer is taking forever to load it. grrrrrrrr. It did just fine yesterday. 
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15227
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
I think it is less than 24 hours.
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
really! that is incredible! I bet you could dehydrate the little buggers and save them for winter feed too.
Nicholas Covey


Joined: Oct 09, 2008
Posts: 179
Location: Missouri/Iowa border
According to the author of the page on Paul's first post, they will generate enough heat in the winter time that they will still reduce waste, though they may not grow to maturity. I kinda think that a few vats of these plus some earthworms would reduce household waste (even toilet) to absolutely nothing. These little buggers will eat almost anything and do it very quickly.

Gotta love nature.

Things like this make me wonder sometimes if there are other insect, or lower creatures which can be farmed or raised for our benefit. Bees and earthworms are noteworthy, but there are billions of species of insects.
Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
Can these larvae co-habitate with earthworms?  Some 'bugs' are predators.

And where would a person buy the larvae to get started?
Nicholas Covey


Joined: Oct 09, 2008
Posts: 179
Location: Missouri/Iowa border
I emailed the author of the site that Paul referenced. He said that what's best is to let the residue build up and then scoop it out and feed it to earthworms after all the larvae have left. From the looks of things you could put an immense amount of kitchen scraps/restaurant waste into one of these and they would break it down to next to nothing.

He said there's a large amount of information that's been compiled about direct feeding these to carnivorous fish such as bass, trout, etc.

I once had a chunk of 16 inch PVC pipe that i stood up and used as a compost bin in my garden. I cleaned out the freezer of frostbitten meat and threw that in there. Three days later the pipe overflowed with larvae. Those that couldn't escape simply died and the earthworms ate them eventually.

This design makes most of your mass and nutrients leave the system through the larvae. Therefore as fish bait these will rob nutrients. In a closed loop system (like feed your fish or your chickens that you will eat) this is ideal.

I don't know about starter larvae, but the inventor said something about there being a hormone or something that the flies secrete that draw others of their species and scare off other fly species. If you read a lot from this guy's site you will note that there is a jar on the bottom that draws the liquid off of the bottom. This is the "tea" that's used to start other colonies.

Upon reading further, he also notes that only the black soldier flies seem to be able to climb out at prescribed the 30-35 degree angle. This would not allow other fly larvae to escape, and in fact trap them inside until they perished and became the next meal. Eventually (assuming that Black soldier flies are as plentiful and widespread as the inventor claims) they should colonize this sludge and take over, at which point the larvae will be strong enough to leave. Then you have your starter for the next colony. Neat huh?

                        


Joined: Mar 21, 2010
Posts: 1


I found a link to this site in an article about soldier flies.  There are links to suppliers on this site.

http://thebiopod.com/

Neal McSpadden


Joined: May 04, 2009
Posts: 269
There's been a lot of discussion of BSF on the BYAP forum.  Quittrack is right that they seem to be great as a feed into a closed loop system.

I heard Bill Mollison talk once about composting with roaches on an island.  The roaches then leave the island once mature and get eaten by the fish.  Same principle.

If you are looking to attract/start a population, you can look for "phoenix worms" on reptile supply sites.


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tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3097
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
so how are the larvae replaced as they leave?  does the scent mentioned attract wild adults to lay more eggs?  I'm likely outside the range of wild soldier flies and I'm relatively sure they wouldn't survive a winter here outside.  would locating a BSF setup in a moderately sized greenhouse allow a breeding population to survive and maintain high numbers of larvae?


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Joined: Oct 03, 2010
Posts: 32
Location: Zone 6a/b - London Ontario
They mate and lay within two to four days of getting their wings. Repopulation should not be an issue.


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tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3097
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
if the bin of larvae is set up so that they crawl out into the waiting jaws of a fish or beak of a chicken, though, they won't be getting their wings at all.  so would maintaining a small, auxiliary bin of larvae that don't meet their doom upon maturity be the way to go?  or maybe some of the larvae don't crawl out and mature right in the bin?
                              


Joined: Oct 03, 2010
Posts: 32
Location: Zone 6a/b - London Ontario
The set ups I've seen have the exit chute empty into a bucket. If there's some dry soil in the bucket they'll cocoon up and grow wings. Most will take the bucket to the beasts instead of auto-feed right into their habitat (but auto feeding does sound like an awesome idea for an aquaponic system). If there's some dry soil in the bucket they'll cocoon up and grow wings.
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3097
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
so if I let a few live, they'll repopulate the bin?  how many eggs does one of these critters lay?
                              


Joined: Jul 12, 2010
Posts: 123
Nicholas Covey wrote:
I emailed the author of the site that Paul referenced. He said that what's best is to let the residue build up and then scoop it out and feed it to earthworms after all the larvae have left. From the looks of things you could put an immense amount of kitchen scraps/restaurant waste into one of these and they would break it down to next to nothing.


If you do this you will cause your worm bin to become a black soldier fly breeding ground unless you can keep the soldier flies out.  It's not easy.  I've got a worm bin and a soldier fly bin.  Yes, the worms love the soldier fly residue but if you end up with soldier flies in your compost bin they will out compete your worms for the food and you won't end up with any worm compost worth a crap.
                                


Joined: Nov 15, 2010
Posts: 22
stalk_of_fennel wrote:
If you do this you will cause your worm bin to become a black soldier fly breeding ground unless you can keep the soldier flies out.  It's not easy.  I've got a worm bin and a soldier fly bin.  Yes, the worms love the soldier fly residue but if you end up with soldier flies in your compost bin they will out compete your worms for the food and you won't end up with any worm compost worth a crap.


How big are the larvae?  Can you sift them out from the compost before putting in the worm bins?  Or are they too easy to miss?  Maybe you can transfer the sifted compost to an empty BSF bucket with the entrance holes blocked (so new larvae don't enter) for a few days first, just to make sure they are all gone?
                              


Joined: Jul 12, 2010
Posts: 123
natschultz wrote:
How big are the larvae?  Can you sift them out from the compost before putting in the worm bins?  Or are they too easy to miss?  Maybe you can transfer the sifted compost to an empty BSF bucket with the entrance holes blocked (so new larvae don't enter) for a few days first, just to make sure they are all gone?


Making sure they're all gone is one thing.  The thing I'm worried about is that the BSF residue/compost (it's not really compost) smells of black soldier fly pheromones and will attract new black soldier flies to invade and lay eggs in your worm bin.
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3097
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
stalk_of_fennel wrote:
Making sure they're all gone is one thing.  The thing I'm worried about is that the BSF residue/compost (it's not really compost) smells of black soldier fly pheromones and will attract new black soldier flies to invade and lay eggs in your worm bin.


if all the food for the soldier flies is gone, they'll still lay eggs in the stuff they leave behind?
                              


Joined: Jul 12, 2010
Posts: 123
tel jetson wrote:
if all the food for the soldier flies is gone, they'll still lay eggs in the stuff they leave behind?


I'm pretty sure they will.  The smell of soldier flies attracts other soldier flies to lay their eggs there.  They also don't lay their eggs in the 'compost'.  They lay hundress of tiny eggs above the mess.  As they hatch they fall/crawl down into the 'compost'.

eggs

tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3097
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
stalk_of_fennel wrote:
I'm pretty sure they will.  The smell of soldier flies attracts other soldier flies to lay their eggs there.  They also don't lay their eggs in the 'compost'.  They lay hundress of tiny eggs above the mess.  As they hatch they fall/crawl down into the 'compost'.

eggs


will it matter if the eggs are there if there's nothing for them to eat?  they won't grow without food, right?  maybe they'll just end up as more food for the worms.

I think somebody should go ahead and try it.  it's on my list of things to do.  if nobody reports back here that it was a disaster before I get around to it, maybe I'll be the one to find out that it doesn't work.
                              


Joined: Jul 12, 2010
Posts: 123
tel jetson wrote:
will it matter if the eggs are there if there's nothing for them to eat?  they won't grow without food, right?  maybe they'll just end up as more food for the worms.

I think somebody should go ahead and try it.  it's on my list of things to do.  if nobody reports back here that it was a disaster before I get around to it, maybe I'll be the one to find out that it doesn't work.


What do your worms eat then?
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3097
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
stalk_of_fennel wrote:
What do your worms eat then?


I was under the impression that the worms would be interested in chewing through the larvae excrement.  am I mistaken?
                              


Joined: Jul 12, 2010
Posts: 123
tel jetson wrote:
I was under the impression that the worms would be interested in chewing through the larvae excrement.  am I mistaken?


Oh maybe a straight diet of soldier fly poo.  Yeah that may work.  I used my worm bin to compost my kitchen scraps and I couldn't keep the soldier flies out.  I used a 55 gallon barrel cut in half.  The bottom has drain holes drilled in it.  The top was covered with window screen /w elastic band.  Then there was a trash can cover on the very top.  This setup didn't keep the soldier flies out and at time would eat the kitchen scraps I put in before the worms got to them.  I suppose the worms eat the soldier fly poo.. well, technically they're eating the bacteria on the poo.  I guess my problem with this setup is that I end up with a lot less worm casting then if I didn't have the soldier fly maggots in there.  The soldier fly maggots just do such a good job of reducing the bulk you put in.
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3097
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
right now we feed kitchen scraps that the goats don't want to a worm bin.  we've got a healthy worm population in the composting toilet, as well.  whenever I get around to a soldier fly setup, I don't think I'll have any shortage of material to feed them, though that will translate to substantially less that eventually gets to the worms and into the garden as castings.  I think the trade for more livestock feed in the form of soldier fly pre-pupae will be worth it, though.  we'll see, I guess.
                              


Joined: Jul 12, 2010
Posts: 123
I think it's worth it as well!  Last summer I fed my aquaponics system with my soldier fly bin.  The fish love the maggots so much more then regular pellet feed.
Que Lawrence


Joined: Nov 17, 2010
Posts: 13
We have an abundance of BSF also.  Tons of them. During the spring, summer and part of the fall, I love to feed them everything because it disappears so fast. They are in our very large compost pile.  I also started adding food scraps to our raised beds and the BSF found their way there also.  I was so happy. 

During the winter, we don't see them but they always come back in the spring.  I think they go dormant.  The worms come back first though - in abundance!  The worms love the BSF poo.
                              


Joined: Jul 12, 2010
Posts: 123
Frugal Que wrote:
We have an abundance of BSF also.  Tons of them. During the spring, summer and part of the fall, I love to feed them everything because it disappears so fast. They are in our very large compost pile.  I also started adding food scraps to our raised beds and the BSF found their way there also.  I was so happy. 

During the winter, we don't see them but they always come back in the spring.  I think they go dormant.  The worms come back first though - in abundance!  The worms love the BSF poo.


You dont feel like you end up with less finished compost then when you had just a compost pile or just worms?

Yes they go dormant during the winter.  They overwinter in their big fat maggot stage.  Near my home made bsf bin I find 'drifts' of maggots under pots, bags, big rocks, etc. 

I think the native americans in central texas used this as a means of food preservation.  I have no proof of this, but I once read about a tribe near San Antonio that would catch all sorts of fish and then leave the fish out on the river bank to become maggot infested.  They would then eat the maggots.  I've seen dead animals around here become so filled with soldier fly maggots you could barely smell them rotting.  I imagine fish nutrients preserved in insect form that can stay 'fresh' for months and months would be pretty awesome.  Just a theory.
                      


Joined: Oct 25, 2010
Posts: 76
Location: Austin,TX
Yeah BSF are great and easy to do.

Raised a 55 gal drum full of them for my Guinea fowl.

But my birds are freaking super picky eaters and I would try giving them BSF straight from the drum. They'd taste them and spit them back out where chickens would greedily gobble them up.

Knowing that I'd seen the guineas eat the BSF out of the compost piles in the past I started 'washing' them by tossing the BSF into the compost. After a day or so the birds would go dig and dine.

Must be that the BSF swim around in their own digestive juices which must taste like crap. Might be less of a problem if I had a self harvest system in place...but if you're doing chickens they don't seem to mind.
Que Lawrence


Joined: Nov 17, 2010
Posts: 13
Yep, definitley less finished compost but that is ok.  I love the whole process.
                      


Joined: Nov 30, 2010
Posts: 53
now has anyone had sucess in maine with the buggies
i want these bad .. protein good for the chickens can freeze the mature larvae for winter feedings. or place in the basement next to your worm bin. and better unlike alot of maggots grubs worms the mature self harvesting larvae have no feeding mouth only a climbing  and hooking mouth to pupate and the adults dont feed at all just breed lay eggs and die.
and they are kinda antibiotic qualities so really really not dirty.
and lastly as bad as it sounds they can be used for disposals .. ie chicken (or other) mysteriously dies .. well feed it to the BSF larvae since i wouldn't eat it..
                              


Joined: Jul 12, 2010
Posts: 123
sticky_burr wrote:
now has anyone had sucess in maine with the buggies
i want these bad .. protein good for the chickens can freeze the mature larvae for winter feedings. or place in the basement next to your worm bin. and better unlike alot of maggots grubs worms the mature self harvesting larvae have no feeding mouth only a climbing  and hooking mouth to pupate and the adults dont feed at all just breed lay eggs and die.
and they are kinda antibiotic qualities so really really not dirty.
and lastly as bad as it sounds they can be used for disposals .. ie chicken (or other) mysteriously dies .. well feed it to the BSF larvae since i wouldn't eat it..


i don't even think you need to freeze the larva.  at least here in texas they go dormant/hibernate in their mature maggot form for the winter months.
Tyler Ludens
pollinator

Joined: Jun 25, 2010
Posts: 5326
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    
  20
Can't remember who posted this first or where, it's a homemade fancy bucket for raising BSF larvae, including a migration tube and collection bucket, which I want to try:

http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/bsf-bucket-composter-version-2-1/

If someone here posted this on the board already and that's where I found it, thank you!   

I prefer not to handle the maggots, which is why I want to try to make a bin with collection system.

Icky, yucky, maggots.     


Idle dreamer

                      


Joined: Nov 30, 2010
Posts: 53
ii was thinking more of a what are they 30 gal plastic tubs (um like 30 inch round) with a cut in half 1/2 -3/4 flexible pipe (the poly butelene or pex or something like that) wrapped at ~30 degree angle and bonded all the way up the side of the tub so no matter what level the  mass is at the buggers can self harvest.
throw some cocoanut curr? in the bottom. and fit a plywood / foam lid with a hole fixing some folds of plastic or single wall card board for the next gen to lay eggs in ...
Jason Long


Joined: Dec 01, 2010
Posts: 153
Location: Davie, Fl
Can the black soldier fly excrement be used for anything other than feeding to the worms? Even though the worms may take a little longer to digest, they seem to produce a higher yield of fertilizer/compost. Is this correct?

On the other hand BSF produce a yield of food for animals which is also beneficial. I could see myself using both of these

Has anyone tried feeding these to turkeys?


Treehugger Organic Farms
tel jetson
steward

Joined: May 17, 2007
Posts: 3097
Location: woodland, washington
    
  53
Jason wrote:
Can the black soldier fly excrement be used for anything other than feeding to the worms? Even though the worms may take a little longer to digest, they seem to produce a higher yield of fertilizer/compost. Is this correct?


I think a big part of the difference is in the amount of material that leaves a maggot system in the form of pre-pupae as opposed to most of the worms staying put in a worm system.  the literature mentions a 95% reduction of waste, and a 20% conversion to soldier flies (both by weight).

I haven't done any actual measurements, but just from eyeballing my worm bins, I would guess that the reduction in volume and mass is in the same ballpark as for soldier fly larvae if the critters leaving the system are taken into account.

Jason wrote:
On the other hand BSF produce a yield of food for animals which is also beneficial. I could see myself using both of these


sort of depends on what is needed more and how much raw material is accessible.  if worm castings are more important than livestock food, the choice might be clear, especially if the only thing available to feed the system is household kitchen waste.  if multiple waste streams are accessible, feeding BSF residue to worms could supply plenty of worm castings while preventing some use of landfills.  that's the route I'm going.
 
I agree. Here's the link: food forest dvd
 
subject: Black soldier fly larvae: poultry, fish food
 
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