Backyard DIY Black Soldier Fly Composter

Posted by Spencer Doepel on

                Establishing A DIY BFSL Home Production Unit

Insects are increasingly proposed as an important component of feed for animals such as poultry, pets and fish, as a replacement for conventional protein sources that are becoming increasingly expensive and considered unsustainable. This is where black soldier fly larvae came to rescue.

Black soldier flies are small, harmless insects that have the potential to provide promising solutions to two of modern agriculture’s growing problems: the high cost of animal feed and the disposal of large amounts of animal waste. Recent research has indicated that black soldier fly may be instrumental in closing the loop between animal waste and animal feed.

Black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) will eat nearly any kind of organic waste ranging from animal waste to food scraps. As the BSFL mature, they grow into ½- inch-long grubs, at which point they climb out of their food source and turn into pupae. The pupae can immediately be fed to chickens and are a good source of protein. They can also be dried and processed into feed for use at a later time. Small composting operations also allow them to turn into flies and breed, propagating the population.

Black soldier flies are beneficial in several ways. The adults are not attracted to human habitation and thus pose a significantly lower risk of disease transmission than other fly species. Furthermore, they prevent houseflies and other insects from laying eggs in the material inhabited by BSFL. The adults do not have digestive organs, relying on stores of body fat from the larval stage. Their short life cycle makes them a reliable source of food for chickens and potentially other farm animals. Previous work has also shown that black soldier flies are effective in reducing the mass as well as nutrient and moisture content of various kinds of organic waste.

This article will help anyone interested in using BSFL for composting, animal waste reduction, or feeding animals. This review suggests a potential set-up, which anyone can establish at home.

How to Build a DIY BFSL Production facility at Home?
Small-scale BFSL production includes free-range animal husbandry, farms that have a mix of animals, or residential homes that have pets, pets waste and/or compost. For a medium- to small-scale operation, a modular approach will be more effective, allowing for the BSFL operation to be easily scalable. Each modular unit is referred to as a grub tub.

Materials: for a single grub tub will include a plastic tote bin (>20 gallon, depends on the quantity of waste available), 2”x10’ PVC pipe, 2x 90-degree PVC elbow joints, and a 5- gallon collection bucket
Cost: of each grub tub is about $60. An alternative is to purchase a pre-made system called the Bipod which retails for around $200.

To build a grub tub, cut two equal sections of PVC pipe so that the grubs can travel from the center of the tub, out the side of the tub (through a hole cut in the plastic), and into a collection bucket. The PVC pipe should protrude approximately six inches from the tub. From the protruding end, place the elbow joint and a small section of PVC to reach the lip of the collection bucket. Cut the bottom 6 inches of the PVC in half along the length of the pipe to create a larger opening for the larvae to enter. The goal is to have the migrating BSFL drop in the 5-gallon collection bucket, from which they cannot escape. The grub tub must be filled with a food source manually. When filling, be sure that the opened end of the PVC lies above the level of the manure so that BSFL have easy access to the point of exit.









Where to get BFSL?
You can purchase BFSL from many online store, like Phoenix farm worm store. The name ‘Phoenix worms’ is a term commonly used for BSFL sold for pet feed. When deciding on the quantity of BSFL to order, consider the time frame for getting an operation running at the desired capacity. To reach a large capacity in a short amount of time, consider buying the larger quantity

From Natural Sources
The black soldier fly is a native insect to North America and is found throughout many parts of the United States. In the U.S. they are most active and common in the southeast. They are also found throughout the Western Hemisphere. Black soldier flies are especially abundant in the subtropics and warm temperate regions. Attracting black soldier flies for natural breeding will be easiest in the regions of the United States where they are most abundant.

Suitable Condition for BSFL

The optimal temperature at which BSFL consume their food is around 95 °F. The minimum temperature for survival is 32 °F for no more than four hours, whereas the maximum temperature allowing survival is 113 °F. The larvae will become inactive at temperatures less than 50 °F and temperatures higher than 113 °F, where their survival decreases dramatically. The best range of temperature for the larvae to pupate is from 77 to 86 °F. For mating purposes, optimal temperature is around 82 °F.

Diet: BSFL can tolerate a widely varied diet. The BSFL feed on many kinds of organic waste such as table scraps, composting feed, and animal manure. They can also survive off of coffee grounds for a few weeks, but coffee grounds are not a sustainable diet. The caffeine from the coffee grounds helps to boost the metabolism and makes the grubs more active. A diet combining kitchen scraps and coffee grounds may help to boost their metabolism. The BSFL have a limited ability to process any animal products such as meat and fat.

Humidity: Black soldier fly larvae develop most rapidly at 70 percent humidity. The rate of weight loss for the BSFL increases with decreasing humidity. The optimal humidity for black soldier fly mating is around 30 to 90 percent.

BSFL do not survive well in direct light or in extreme dry or wet conditions. They prefer to be 8- 9 inches deep in their food source. If they are too far below the surface, they will perform little bioconversion. Female flies avoid any sites that are anaerobic when trying to lay eggs.

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