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No Smell, No hassle Composting/Black Soldier Fly Larvae Farming 101

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Posted by on July 9, 2013

Growing up my dad had a sizeable garden.  Every summer my 11 siblings and I were required to work his garden.  It was something that we hated to do…well 75% of the time we did.  The soil was terrible, chock full of rocks and needed an immense amount of care and supplements.  To naturally supplement my dad setup a few composters.  It was also our job to make sure that all non eaten scraps, chicken poop (yes we had chickens as well), grass clippings and animal carcasses were deposited into these composters.  It was a horrible job and we looked for every excuse to pass the buck to the next unsuspecting sibling.  It smelled wretched, was full of black widow spiders and looked like a rolling sea during a thunderstorm…a rolling sea of maggots that is.  It took FOREVER for biomass to convert to usable fertilizer.  To combat the smell and bugs, periodically my dad would put lye in it.

After we grew up, some of us silently vowed to never have a garden.  The work was just not worth it.  That idea didn’t last long for most of us.  Apparently it was ingrained in us and now we find satisfaction and enjoyment in the hobby.  Since I couldn’t seem to escape my fate I decided that some things would have to change.  I was not going to suffer through the process.

I recently have discovered the Holy Grail of composting/feed creation for animals.  Black Soldier Fly Larvae aka BSFL’s.  These wonderfully designed bugs are medium sized flies that look like small black wasps.  In adult form (fly form) they have no mouths, can’t bite,  are not vectors, meaning they do not and cannot transmit disease.  Their sole purpose is to breed and lay eggs.  Adult lifespan is roughly 8 days.

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Black Soldier Flies Mating

 

But the adults are not the main attraction here.  What we are interested in are the larvae or as I like to call them, grubs.

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Black Soldier Grubs

These babies are biomass processing machines.  They convert waste to fertilizer in no time flat, can process veggies, meat and nearly anything you throw at them and will do it fast enough to prevent any scent.  They do not eat healthy flesh and as a result can be used to save meat in times of no refrigeration. They will eat only the meat that is unsafe for us to eat and leave the rest.  They can be used to detox material as well.  If you have material that you are unsure will be safe in a garden they will process and absorb the toxins into themselves. In this case you do not want to feed them to your animals.  If you are processing healthy stuff then here is the best part.  When the grubs reach maturation and are ready to pupate (become flies) they self harvest.  They crawl upwards until they cannot any further.  The trick is to design your bin so that as they crawl upward they are funneled to a hole and then drop into a collection bucket.  From there you can choose to feed them to whatever animal you like or allow a select bunch to actually become flies to then go lay more eggs.  They are high in protein at 43% and are very suitable for fish, chickens, and even dogs.

How do you get them?  Well they are native to most places and you simply have to attract them to your bin.  To do so put lots of overripe sweet fruits like pineapple in your bin before you do other things.  This will produce a very sweet smelling odor and they WILL show up.  To facilitate the process even further hang an egg trap above the compost.  This will provide a location for the mothers to lay eggs.  An egg trap is simply a strip of cardboard rolled up.

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Egg Trap

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The white oblong grains are eggs. About 500 of them.

Once you have a BSF colony started they will drive out all other vermin that would normally contend for the food.  They produce a hormone that wards off house flies, gnats, beetles, etc, while attracting more BSFs.

Long story short, even though this is still technically a hobby, it is step one in my survival food production mentality.  My family recently started juicing and we are going through veggies/fruits unbelievably fast.  To make this cost effective we need to grow as much of our own as possible.  Once we master that we can work on growing ALL of our own.  This will also give us a leg up for when it is time to begin meat production.  I believe that this is a critical step that everyone should learn.  It’s simple, odorless, and fun at the same time.

Here is a video of my test setup.  A larger more robust one will be built later.

6 Responses to No Smell, No hassle Composting/Black Soldier Fly Larvae Farming 101

  1. jim

    If you get an egg in the rolled up cardboard, what is the next step?

    • Mike C.

      You will get a couple hundred at a time. If you do get eggs you just leave it above the compost. They will hatch on their own and fall into the compost in a couple days. Then in 2 weeks you will have lots of flies laying new eggs. After the 2nd cycle you will have more grubs than you know what to do with.

  2. nadithe gatchou

    i want to by black boldier fly please give me informations about. tank you

    • Mike C.

      Black Soldier Flies have a worldwide distribution in the tropics and warm temperate regions. To attract the flies simply follow the steps above. I spent a ton of time trying to find a place to buy the eggs or worms. In the end it was a waste of time and it is far easier to just attract the native ones.

  3. Lou

    Hi Michael!
    I’m a reporter with an environmental radio show based out of Pittsburgh. We’re running a feature on black solider fly larvae and their uses in composting and we were wondering if we could run one of your photos. We’re happy to include a photo credit! Give me a shout at lou.blouin@gmail.com.

    Many thanks! Lou

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