Tag Archives: BSF

black soldier fly bin

black soldier fly bin

We decided to show you our black solider fly bin and discuss why we have them. For those of you watching our greenhouse build videos, you may have noticed a white rectangular box in one corner of the greenhouse.   We will also give you a quick tour of it and show you how it works.

You can see our build post on this bin and get some additional information on the black soldier fly in this older blog entry. We bought our plans for the bin, as well as our starter BSF larvae, from Northwest Redworms.

 

black soldier fly bin with larvae
black soldier fly larvae inside bin eating coffee grinds

What we feed the black soldier fly larvae

The black soldier fly larvae will eat just about anything.  Any food that you might consider as fast food for human consumption is terrific for black solider fly larvae.  We have a brewery near us and they give us the spent grain from the brewing process and we feed that to our chickens and add it to our black soldier fly bin.

In the past we also have fed them a cheap dog food and grain after moistening it first.  The dog food was more expensive for us than grain, but there was almost no unconsumed pieces.  With grain they will not eat the hull of the grain.

With the feeding of grain you will eventually need to remove the uneaten portions of the grain.  It is typically lighter than the contents of the bin and can easily be scooped off the top.

If you do not have a brewery close you could likely get food scraps for free from a restaurant, school or fast food place.   With a little bit of your time you should be able to secure a good source of free food for your black soldier fly bin.

A great source of fat and protein for the chickens

Black soldier fly larvae are high in fat and protein, over 30 percent of each.  The chickens absolutely love them and come quickly when we start tossing them out to be eaten.

It does take a fair bit of food to grow black solider fly larvae.  For every 100 pounds of food added to their bin we expect to harvest around 20 pounds of black solider fly larvae.  If we were buying all their food that might not make good sense, but remember we get our spent grain for free.  At the end of the summer we will have saved money by reducing our chicken feed bill.

 

Video of our black solider fly bin

Here is our latest video of the black soldier fly bin we keep out in the greenhouse.  You can see how it works and get a quick look at the BSF larvae in action.  We find it interesting and our chickens absolutely love them.  When we throw out the larvae for them to eat they really get excited.

adult black soldier flies

Our first adult black soldier flies

We have spotted our first adult black soldier flies in our bin! We setup our bin 2 weeks ago and added a started pack of black soldier fly larvae we bought from NW Red Worms. All of the larvae that crawled out of the bin were put in a bucket of sawdust. The idea was to let the first bunch live to become adults. When they return to the bin, their bucket sits under the bin, they will add their eggs and increase our black soldier fly count.

This morning we spotted our first adult black soldier flies inside the bin. Then later today when we checked on them again we spotted three inside the bin. We were really excited to see them and hope there will be lots more over the next few days. Here is a picture of our first adult black solider fly.

Our first adult black soldier flies
This is the first adult black soldier fly we have seen in our bin

Is it one of ours or wild?

I have to admit, I don’t know if this black soldier fly is one of ours. It’s entirely possible that the smell of the barley in the bin has attracted a wild black soldier fly. Either way, we now have mature black soldier flies visiting our bin. Hopefully they are also laying eggs to help churn out lots of food for the chickens.

Even more now

Three days after we spotted our first adult black soldier flies we are seeing 15 – 20 of them at any given time when we open the lid on the bin. So far we haven’t seen any on the cardboard strips we placed there for laying eggs.

As I understand it, the black soldier fly takes about three days to reach sexual maturity after pupation. If my understanding is correct, they should begin mating soon. After that we should begin to see females laying eggs inside the bin. Over the next couple of days we will check the bin and vicinity for signs of mating black soldier flies.

Black soldier fly bin

Black soldier fly bin

Recently we decided to take on a new project and build a black soldier fly bin. The black soldier fly larvae is a fantastic composter and will eat about any organic matter.  The larvae are terrific food for the chickens.  They have a high fat and protein content and chickens absolutely love them.  They will be fed scraps and spent barley we can get for free from a nearby brewery.  After the initial cost of the materials to build the bin and the BSF larvae starter pack, we will be getting free chicken food.

Why black soldier fly instead of worms?

We looked into other composters like mealworms and just your standard worm.  Here in NW Missouri, we can see 100 degree weather and periods of drought during our summers.  Those two things are hard on regular worms.  The BSF likes the heat.

Ultimately the deciding factor for us was when we learned we didn’t need to dig or sort out larvae to feed to the chickens.  When they are ready to pupate from larvae to a fly they “self-harvest”.  That is, they will leave the compost area to seek the soil to begin the transformation to a fly.  With a correctly designed bin the larvae are going to be in a container after self-harvesting and ready to be fed to the chickens.  We won’t have to touch them.

Black soldier fly bin
Black soldier fly larvae eating on a piece of cucumber

Picking a black soldier bin

We spent a fair bit of time watching different YouTube videos of the different bins available for the black soldier fly.  There are commercially available bins made from plastic and home built models from plastic and wood.

Some of the plastic bins had a small hole for the larvae to drop through when self-harvesting.  In several of the videos, I noticed the hole became partially blocked.  Larvae were finding alternate routes from the bin and didn’t make it into the collection container.  The ramp for the mature larvae to crawl was more complex than the simple wooden version we saw.

The wooden bins were larger and would easily accommodate more BSF larvae.  I liked the simple collection system on them.  Ultimately we elected to go with a wooden bin and to build our own.  We bought some black soldier fly bin instructions through a website that also sells larvae.  This bin was in one of his many BSF videos and the design was simple and looked easy to build. You can see the one we liked in this video.

Assemble and paint the black soldier fly bin

We pre-cut all the pieces for the bin on the table saw and assembled the bin near the chicken pen where it will ultimately be placed.  The assembly was pretty easy and straightforward.  The ramp for self-harvest did give me the business, but we got it done.  We used a little caulk to seal up any small gaps to keep the larvae in the bin.

In this picture, you can see the bin and the ramp for self-harvest of the mature larvae.  They will crawl up the ramp and be directed to the hole.

Black soldier fly bin
This ramp is where the BSF will climb and fall through the hole into a collection bin

The BSF larvae will fall through this hole and into the bin below.  We used some cheap plastic food storage bins from Walmart.  You can see the food storage bin in this photo.

Black soldier fly bin
Here you can see the compartment where the self-harvested larvae will be collected.

After applying several coats of an exterior white latex paint to the bin we added about three inches of sawdust to the bin.  This will keep the larvae off the bottom of the box to prevent them from going through the drain holes.

Some pieces of cucumber were added to provide the larvae that arrived in the mail from NW redworms.  Here you can see the prepared bin with food and larvae.

Black soldier fly bin

Paint to protect the black soldier fly bin

Because the black soldier fly bin is made with plywood it would not last long if left unprotected from the elements.  We want to make this ban last more than a couple of years, therefor we decided to paint it.  We went with a cheap can of exterior latex from Walmart and applied several coats.  It will seal that plywood and help it last several years before needing replacement.  Here is what the completed black soldier fly bin looked like after applying paint.

 

Black soldier fly bin
Black soldier fly bin