Black Soldier Fly Larvae – The Big Protein Surprise Hiding in the Compost

black soldier fly larvae

black soldier fly larvaeEver since we got our chickens and ducks, we’ve been interested in starting a black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) harvesting program.  We’ve looked at DIY projects, the BioPod and done some reading on the subject.

Black Soldier Fly Larvae contain an astonishing 40 percent protein. The adult flies have a super short lifespan, which has only one function: mating and laying eggs. The black solider fly does not even have a mouth because it doesn’t eat anything during this phase of its life cycle.

However, the black soldier fly does lay its eggs near rotting fruit to provide her offspring with a nearby source of food. They are also native to most of the United States and can be found in the wild in summer all over the country.

Our little urban farm project has kept us so busy this year we simply didn’t get time to do anything about the whole black soldier fly idea, and were making do with a locally produced organic high vegetable layer mash for the chickens and pellets for the ducks, along with fresh greens and the opportunity to range in the backyard under supervision. This was a good compromise, the birds were eating a lot of bugs and mowing the grass and clover which grows in abundance under the apple tree, but we were disappointed we had not had time to do more in the BSFL department.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered that both our compost barrel and our larger compost bin were absolutely teeming with the little dark wriggling larvae all by themselves!  It was like a little gift from Mother Nature specially delivered right to my garden.  All I had to do was don the gardening gloves and either turn the barrel or gently fork into the bin and presto chango, I had handfuls of high protein snacks for the girls and the ducks!  And if you have never fed your birds these nutritious little morsels, be ready for a surprise… They are crazy about them!  The girls get into a kerfuffle and nearly come to blows over the little wriggling snacks if I show up with less than enough for everyone to have a few – the Buff Orpingtons are particularly crazy for them and will stampede the crowd and knock others out of their way to get them.

They also arrived with perfect timing, as the ducks have just gone into molt and a higher protein diet will help them grow in their new feathers faster. The ducks too, are very partial to the larvae and even overcome their usual extreme shyness to come in close if they observe that the treats being offered are BSFLs.

Thinking through our good fortune, it became clear that the ongoing harvesting and preserving of the apples had a lot to do without bounty. All those apple cores going into the compost created a strong scent of fruit – which is the main attractant for black soldier flies looking for the ideal place to lay their eggs.

We will set up crawl off tubes of PVC pipe in both the bins this weekend, so as to make the harvesting more automatic and less time consuming; then our only job will be to empty the containers of larvae into the chicken run or by the duck house.  At this time of year with so much to do in the gardens and kitchen, it is a real blessing to have a passive new food source for the girls that requires literally no additional work on our part.  We simply continue to water the compost as we have been doing, using  the tea in the gardens and letting the little larvae crawl their way out and into the containers for feeding time. How sweet it is!

Purchase Black Soldier Fly Larvae at Reptiworms

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