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GaryD

Black Soldier Fly Larvae

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Hi,

Now that the warm weather is upon us, it's soldier fly time!

A rapid reduction in the volume of material in my compost bin, coupled with the characteristic blackening of the contents, means that there are larvae in the bin.

While I still have a few kilos of frozen larvae in my shed freezer, it's nearly time to begin the annual BSF larvae long march.

Gary

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Hi,

It's BSF time again at Creek Street Micro Farm.

Photo 1 - My very complext BSF harvesting rig. The compost is shovelled into the big tub. The two ramps are sections of lid off an NFT Trough. The larvae walk up the ramp and jump off into the trays at either end of the tub.

Photo 2 - Last night's meagre harvest - self-cleaned, dry to the touch and evidencing no odour whatsoever.

Photo 3 - fast food for fish in the freezer.

Gary

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Hi,

The unseasonal cool weather of the past few days has meant that my BSF harvest has been light......just a small handful each day.

I've begun to load up the compost bin again. This time, we've lined the base of the compost bin with soiled shredded office waste from out of the quail pens. I'm hoping that the BSF take to the paper waste.

GaryD

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Hi Gary:)

Just wondering if you could write about your compost setup in more detail, if you have the time. I have your book and have read your info on soldier fly larvae collection, but am wondering what compost bin set-up you use. Is it an ordinary bin? What modifications have you done to let the soldier flies in? Do you still have worms in your compost bin? Could you explain your procedure from kitchen scraps to soldier fly larvae and worm castings?

Thanks

gav

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Well Gary, the BSF have just invaded my worm bin. Last year, at this time, they invaded the compost mound, and reduced it dramatically. Quick question, will they eat onion and citrus scraps? I have a "slow" compost mound for non-worm friendly foods and would like to convert it to BSF in warm weather if possible. (Onions, leeks, garlic etc are a basic here.) They seem happy with wet shredded paper, so what don't they like?

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Hi Echidna,

They'll eat anything that will rot.....including citrus and onions. I often find a half a lemon or a spoiled orange that is jammed with them.

Hi Gavin,

Just wondering if you could write about your compost setup in more detail, if you have the time. I have your book and have read your info on soldier fly larvae collection, but am wondering what compost bin set-up you use. Is it an ordinary bin? What modifications have you done to let the soldier flies in? Do you still have worms in your compost bin? Could you explain your procedure from kitchen scraps to soldier fly larvae and worm castings?

From the start.....we throw all of the kitchen scraps into the compost bin. If the BSF don't seem all that interested, we throw some milk into the bin to get the right aroma happening

Photo 1 - the black thing in the bottom left hand of the photo is the compost bin - it has holes big enough for the adult BSF to get in.

Photo 2 - once we detect BSF larvae in the compost bin, I shovel them into a 50 litre tub.

Photo 3 - the 50 litre tub with the harvesting ramps in place. When the larvae are ready, they walk up the ramp and drop into the tray.

Photo 4 - another variation on the ramp theme.

Every morning, we simply shake them into a plastic takeaway food container and then place them in the shed freezer where they go to sleep to be reincarnated as fast food for fish.

Feel free to ask any other questions.

Gary

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Thanks heaps Gary - that sorted it out.:) I will start my system when I get home. Just one last question (or two)....do you have a worm farm anymore? ie Would you think about throwing the material the soldier fly larvae don't eat into a worm farm or would you just through it on to your plants/garden?

gav:)

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Hi Gavin,

I do have a bulk run worm bin. It's full of the paper litter from the quail pens......and a small bunch of worms are slowly working their way through the lot.

The castings produced by BSF larvae are said to retain up to 50% of their original protein levels so they are perfect for worm bedding. Of course, you can just use it directly on the garden, too.

The bulk run worm bed (photo) has an aluminium lid which keeps the worms inside and the birds outside.

Gary

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Guest justafarmer

This is very interesting.

I live on the South coast of Victoria. Does this BSF live in this climate?

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Hi Justafarmer,

BSF are likely to be found almost anywhere in Australia. It is believed that they were translocated to Australia from the US during World War II.

While there are many species of Soldier Fly throughout the world (some of which are native to Australia), it is the Black Soldier Fly (Hermetia Illucens) that has attracted the attention of researchers for its potential use as animal protein for livestock.

Gary

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Guest justafarmer

Hi Gary,

So, from what I have gleaned from the posts and your site, all I have to do is make some holes large enough (say 10-15 mm) in the side of my regular compost bin (presumably in the upper third of the bin) and the BSF female will in time lay eggs in the compost and mature to the stage that the larvae then climb out if I provide an incline out of the material?

I read somewhere that the ideal temperature for these delightful creatures is 27-30 degrees. Can I expect colonization of my compost bin even here in the cool temperate climes of Melbourne? It's nice and warm now in December, but what happens in the middle of Winter when the daytime max can be 8-10 degrees?

Has anyone managed to culture these things in Victoria?

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Hi Justafarmer,

I live about 20kms south east of Gary. Last summer I obtained some live larvae from Gary and put them in my compost bin. Had a good colony until winter came and they disappeared. They have not come back even though I have a really good bin going. I live on 10 acres with acreage blocks all around me. I can only assume that because of the bush environment they are just not in my area.

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Hi Gary & Everyone,

I have had two "lots" of BSF in my compost bin this summer. I've been meaning to take some photo's but I figure if you have seen one BSF maggot then you've seen 'em all.

My attempts to harvest them effectively have not yet succeeded. Sorting them by hand and watching the fish enjoy was fun once but not again.

I tried a set-up like the one Gary described earlier in this thread using my old recycling 'box' from local council. My experience was that the BSF simply dug themselves to the bottom of the tub ignoring my available PVC pipe ramps. Persistence and some further inspection some two weeks later found many apparently dead (or matured) in the lower layers.. but they hadn't crawled up any ramp??

An observation of them on the top of my compost heap today indicated that after about 5 mins with the lid off the compost bin they quickly 'disappeared from view'. It seems that they do not like light!

A quick read of this months newsletter had another article on BSF from "Guru" Gary which showed an enhanced harvesting set-up that takes advantage of the larvae's apparent dislike of light.

Guru, can you clarify for me if harvesting BSF larvae is dictated by

(a) the larvae reaching a level of maturity and then wanting to march up hill; (my original understanding).. OR

(b) them simply avoiding the light of day and being prepared to march up hill to do it at any stage... OR

© all of the above ie they will march up hill when mature but only if it is dark?

Figuring this out will really help my current lack of BSF harvesting capability I think. Thanks mate.

PS How do you know when they are mature? Any tell tale looks, age or behaviour?

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Hi Martin,

a) the larvae reaching a level of maturity and then wanting to march up hill; (my original understanding).. OR

(b) them simply avoiding the light of day and being prepared to march up hill to do it at any stage... OR

© all of the above ie they will march up hill when mature but only if it is dark?

When the larvae are ready to self-harvest, they will be about 20mm long and dark in colour and they'll walk up an improvised ramp of their own accord. This happens at night.

You can manually harvest them at any time using the light extraction method that small-scale worm farmers employ. You mount a desk lamp or other strong light over a bench and put a shovelful of larvae-ridden compost on the bench and brush away the compost a bit at a time. They don't like light and will either bury themselves into what remains of compost or they start to leg it. When I've harvested this way, I've used a pair of long tweezers to pick them up and deposit them into a container. This is a bit labour intensive for me but it will get you some larvae in a short time.

I've also made up a smal table top harvest rig which comprises two plastic trays. I've cut a slot in one end of one tray which I rest on the edge of the other tray to form a ramp. I put a couple of handsful of concentrated larvae and compost into the sloping tray and then I disturb the compost and they'll start to march up the ramp. Making something like this is very easy.

Photo 1 - My current harvesting rig.

Photo 2 - Harvesting by the light extraction method.

Photo 3 - When there's nowhere to hide, the larvae will simply leave.

Photo 4 - My table top harvesting rig.

Photo 5 - The larvae as they exit the ramp - they just jump into the collection tray.

Gary

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.....and when it all goes well....

By the way, while we've spoken about using BSF larvae for fish, your chickens will absolutely love them. If I throw a handful of the frozen larvae into the grass, they'll track down every single one of them. The leathery skins on the larvae will pass through your fish undigested which can be a nuisance with keeping a small tank clean. Because of the way that chickens process their food, this is not an issue for them.

Scientists in the US have used BSF (35% fat content) to extract the oil to make bio-diesel. Any remaining fat or skins would make a good fuel if pressed into a cake like they do with olive seeds and skins.

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Hi,

You don't have to do anything in particular. Once BSF find the conditions that suit them, they will assert themselves. It will be the sheer number of them.....and their voracious appetite......that will displace other fly species.

If things are slow with the horse manure, you might try spreading some milk or some food scraps across the manure. BSF get really interested in things that stink.

GaryD

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quite a sophisticated harvesting rig!

could it be possible to have a ramp right out of the composting bin and straight up to the fish tank?

would avoid all manipulation

and do BSF and worms live together in peace?

can they be combined?

Frank

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Hi Frank,

quite a sophisticated harvesting rig!

Thanks.....but if you want to see a really sophisticated BSF unit.....try here.

could it be possible to have a ramp right out of the composting bin and straight up to the fish tank? would avoid all manipulation

Yes, you could.....but I suggest that arrangement would be best suited to a very large fish tank or pond. A small system might experience water quality issues as a result of uncontrolled feeding of larvae. The Bio-Pod eliminates all of the less pleasant contact opportunities.

and do BSF and worms live together in peace? can they be combined?

They will often be seen in the same compost bin but (generally speaking) the appetite of BSF larvae is so voracious that they displace other organisms.....usually by denying them access to food. BSF larvae will also eat other fly larvae and eggs so I imagine that they would treat worm capsules and juveniles similarly.

My review of the available research suggests that BSF castings retain up to 50% of their original protein levels so they would certainly make good worm bedding after the BSF larvae had been harvested.

Garyd

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Hi,

I thought I'd introduce you to my latest toy......a BSF BioPod.

About 600mm in diameter, the BioPod is a total BSF production system. You put your kitchen scraps into it, the female BSF lays her eggs adjacent to the scraps and the eggs hatch into a writhing mass of BSF larvae.

Once the larvae have gone through their five pupations, they crawl up the little ramp around the edge of the 'Pod and into a receptacle. The unit is fitted with a plastic jar which catches any leachate that drains from the kitchen scraps.

I transferred the contents of my compost bin into the BioPod.....it's now about 3/4 full. The compost contained lots of larvae so I should get a good harvest within the next few days.

The BioPod is now available for sale in Brisbane. I'll obtain the details and post them as soon as I have them.

GaryD

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Hi,

After just 12 hours, my new BioPod has yielded a larvae harvest.

Compared to my previous BSF harvesting efforts, this is really easy.

Photo 1.....the contents of the harvesting receptacle......Photo 2....the harvest all packaged up for the freezer.

GaryD

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