Monday, August 1, 2016

Free Protein for our chickens! What is a BSFL harvester?

What is a BSFL?

Black Soldier Fly Larvae(BSFL) are similar to mealworms. It is a self harvesting 42% protein yummy free snack for chickens or fish. The harvester bin is essentially a compost box that grows the larvae all by itself. BSFL is self harvesting: meaning when the larvae reach full maturity (about 1 inch long) they crawl to the highest point to become a fly. We use a ramp to provide this journey for them. But, instead of finding their perfect spot, they drop into your bucket for harvesting. Thats it! Yummy healthy snacks for your chickens and it only nothing but your garbage. We expect to harvest .5 to 1 lb of larvae a day. For free!

Well, it all started when we found worms in our layer pellets.

JULY 6, 2016

After a few Google searches we realized we not only had a moisture and molding problem in the feed shed, but we also were inadvertently growing BSFL in our bags.  We learned that BSFL were much like Mealworms many people give to their chickens as treats.  They cost about $7 per pound at the feed store.  The problem with mealworms is that they have to be harvested by hand.  Meaning, when the larvae becomes mature they must be hand picked.  This is done by choosing the darker larvae from the bin.  Black soldier fly larvae, on the other hand, is self harvesting.  They throw their selves into a bucket for you :) HA!

So we started building a harvesting bin to utilize this opportunity.
We visited some local houses being built and found the contractors had much to toss out.  SO we used our free wood and started building.  

UPDATE (8/1/16)
I would recommend 35 degrees angle or less.  Using 40 degrees is ok.  But, do not paint the surface.  See update below for additional explanation.  

Make sure your directing wood has no gap between the wood and the surface below.  Larvae are very strong and will fill any crack they can to Pupate.  Use glue or caulk.  

Then we had to waterproof the project (and Make it Pretty of course)

I recommend gluing this layer down with liquid nail or not using it at all.  I learned later on that the larvae were crawling underneath.  Maybe just painting the bottom would be enough.  

Now, this is an interesting fact to me.  Black Soldier Flies not only self harvest, they also self propagate.  Our environment already has Black Soldier flies flying around us.  Many have just never noticed them.  They are attracted by the scent of spoiled fruit, veggies, or meat.  The adult flies do not eat.  They only breed and lay eggs.  TO take advantage of this fact, we can either drill 1/2" holes around the top of a box, or simply leave a gap big enough to allow them in.  Once inside they will find a rough area to lay their eggs.  They do all the work for us.  Easy peezy! 

This is the bin that will catch your self harvesting larvae.

Now its time to fill the box and attract the adult flies.  The idea is to create a composting box topped with decaying veggies, meats, or just scraps from the kitchen.  They eat nearly everything.  Even used coffee beans.  I started with a layer of straw to prevent the larvae from dropping through the drain hole.  You can use a screen and that may work better.

So to start a compost bin, some suggest to use the rule of thumb "brown-green-brown-green".  This means to use a layer of dead materiel and then a layer or green material.  I added a layer of manure compost (larvae thrive on manure of any kind) and then topped it off with the layer pellets they had already infested. 

Each evening we toss our kitchen scraps into the bin.  

Now its time to wait and see what grows!

JULY 7, 2016

Much to our surprise, we received confirmation that our work was not in vain.  Only 15 hours later an adult Black Soldier Fly female was already laying some eggs inside for us. 

It is thought that an adult female will lay 500-900 eggs in its short lifespan.  That's a lot of treats!  The eggs take about 100 hours to hatch and will then grow 5000 times their starting weight in only 2 weeks (given enough food)


JULY 17, 2016

Here is a video of day 10.  The quality is poor.  But, you can see the larvae growing well after only 10 days of adding garbage.  The chickens will be so delighted!


JULY 25, 2016

They are growing! 

We have a small harvest. 7-25

 Lets see how the chickens like them.


7-25-16 UPDATE   Ramp angle too steep ( Do not paint ramp )

We have run into a problem.  The 40 degree ramp made of OSB should have been a great surface to climb.  But, we are seeing the larvae make it half way up and then roll back down.  Looking closely we can see that the larvae are slipping.  They cannot get a good grip.  They are without legs, so they inch their way up on their bellies.  It seems the paint on the ramp made it slippery.  We spray it with water and that seems to help them climb.  We are not harvesting as many as we could be.  The ramp is simply too steep with not enough grip at this angle.  

Attempted fixes:

  1. Sanded with paper
  2. attached sand paper
  3. Cut marks for grip
  4. Rubber mat 
  5. Carpet side of welcome mat
  6. Bath tub grip stickers
  7. Covered the ramp with fresh OSB at less angle.  

I attempted to move the original ramp.  But I glued it in place.  So I moved all the compost and larvae out of the way.  Then I laid another piece of OSB on the ramp with a 2 inch lift at the bottom to change the angle.  AT the top of the piece I cut at 45 degrees.  Now the larvae walk up without slipping at least most of the way.  If they fall, they fall to this lip and then try again.  It seems to be working.  With all my research on this project, I never read of anyone having trouble with their ramp.  I hope this helps someone else.  "Do not paint your ramp."


JULY 27, 2016

JULY 28, 2016

Our chickens have turned from friendly to stalker-ish.  They do not just like the larvae. They seem to be addicted now.  They follow us every where.  They are even pecking at our feet.  I guess that vein on my ankle looks like a BSFL.  OUCH!


Update from 8-3-2016

Harvest this morning.