Entomoculture; the Black Soldier Fly and composting

I’ve been on the lookout for some way to produce protein rich chicken and pig feed, or even animal protein for people, and I found it.

Black soldier fly cultivation

Here’s a workshop at Clemson University in South Carolina this Friday, in case you are in SC or nearby.

As a fruit and veg grower, I’ve found that to actually turn a garden into a food supply, you have to grow staple crops, and you have to get animal protein out of it. If you don’t want the daily grind of raising animals, you can just grow animal feed and trade, but it’s got to be protein-packed, satisfying feed, not lettuce leaves. Local livestock raisers will be delighted to get their feed from a local person instead of buying bagged feed from Agway.

So even if you aren’t doing a garden, you should experiment with raising BSF and mealworms. Get aquariums cheap off Craigs list to get started. When you get good at it, you can solicit donations of rotten fruit and veg from local farmers nad hobby gardeners to feed to your soldier flies, and then sell feed to the farmers raising animals. There’s a business you can do from your home, as long as you keep it discreet from the neighbors/landlords whatever!

Black soldier flies (BSF) are a widespread, harmless, and beneficial insect. BSF can not bite or sting, and do not spread disease due to their unique life cycle. The adults (winged stage) only live a few days for the purpose of mating and therefore do not migrate between waste matter and humans or their food as pest flies do. To learn more you may read: “Black soldier flies are not vectors of human pathogens”

BSF larvae (BSFL) or “grubs” are uniquely suited to serve humans. While the BSF adults only live for a few days their larvae can live for several weeks, and during that time they can consume huge quantities of food waste or manure. Consequently they are very well suited to process the constant stream of rotting waste that we humans produce as well as manure produced by livestock, but that’s only half of the story. There are two useful byproducts of this process; the residue or castings which can be used as a soil amendment, and the larvae themselves which represent an excellent source of food for many types of animals including fish, birds, reptiles, amphibians and more. BSFL are already commonly used as food for exotic pets and the potential exists for large scale use on a commercial basis. If you like to fish, BSFL are also fantastic bait: LINK

If you haven’t seen them in action, you’ll be amazed when you get to see what these bugs can do. The quickest way to appreciate BSFL in action is to visit YouTube and watch a few videos. You can find my channel here: BlackSoldierFly


About Rob

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15 Responses to Entomoculture; the Black Soldier Fly and composting

  1. Stary Wylk says:

    Two things:
    They’re apt to show up on their own in Western Oregon. Perhaps elsewhere? I set up a closed but vented, through a layer of felt, container to compost kitchen waste in. After a few weeks, maggots were crawling out of it. They looked wrong, so I researched them. BSF larvae.
    Second: several sources state the larvae very nutritious for chickens. I have seen a number of utube videos of hens gobbling them as fast as they could get them. When I build the coop, I plan to incorporate a compost/BSF container in it.

    • mindweapon says:

      Good for you Stary Wylk! Keep us posted, with pictures!

      What we’re doing here is experimenting and modeling to figure out what will work so when someone is ready to go full time, he’s got a workable system to go by.

      Also, maybe my 500 or so lurkers can use this info.

  2. Craig says:

    Aquaponic hobbyists have been using BSF for at least a decade that I know of, more efficient then worms apparently. Duck weed is also grown as a food source for omnivorous fish on excess nutrients.

  3. Tom Bowie says:

    They’re not much seen in my area until early full summer. (I’m in Southern Maryland.) They like the manure more than anything but are not all that fond of bean snaps. It seems to be based upon softness of the food and how fast it decomposes a bit and becomes softer. They don’t seem to like to lay eggs in the waste material however, generally they try and lay their eggs above or to the side or in the spaces of cardboard. (I have bottomless buckets buried to the top rim in holes that extend about half again the height of the bucket well into the subsoil and, cardboard cutouts surrounding the buckets to keep weeds from growing around them.)

    There’s very little odor at worst, I’m not sure why however. I tend to water them a bit when I do my rounds in the morning as they like a good bit of moisture. I lay a cover over the buckets in hard rains as they’re not quite that aquatic. They also don’t like it to dry out too much or they begin to die off rather quickly.

    The manure I have is from dogs and they convert it readily. I was surprised by just how many little grubs there were; in these type of creatures I’ve never seen such activity before. Then again I didn’t start out with the intent to attract/raise them, it just worked out that way by accident. I’ve been experimenting a bit after they appeared and learning.

    • mindweapon says:

      I was wondering if they’d like horse manure. I can get lots of that.

      • Mr. Rational says:

        In a collapse, how many of your sources will keep feeding horses?

      • mindweapon says:

        Indeed. In a collapse we’ll probably use small livestock manure — goat, chicken, pig. let the flies break it down, then use it for the crops.

      • Maureen Martin, Aryan Street says:

        @Mr. Rational – Perhaps in a collapse situation, they will make good transportation. Only the well prepared will be able to keep them fed though, I imagine.

      • Mr. Rational says:

        In a collapse situation, horses might become food.  Some of the “vibrant diversities” in Florida have been caught killing pet horses and taking quarters for meat.  They’ll require protection, for certain.  Barns that are not sited where they can be defended are going to be a problem.  So will transportation of manure.  This suggests that it’s not a good idea to rely on horse manure as a on-going nutrient supply in a collapse scenario.

        On the other hand it looks like a good means of building up your soil now.  Selling your expertise to other farmers might be good too.  It’s a lot easier to carry smarts than road apples.

      • campbwa says:

        They will eat it, but not as readily as some other types of manure! They prefer low-fiber organic waste sources to high-fiber sources like horse and cattle manure. With horse manure, you’d probably have a much lower rate of conversion from waste to larvae relative to other waste sources.

      • mindweapon says:

        yep, perhaps have horse manure be the “bed” on which the juicier compost sits.

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