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#87501 - 05/11/07 02:15 PM Black Soldier Fly project
GW Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 2286
Loc: Central florida
I started researching Black Soldier Fly larvae as an alternative to the traditional rot basket feeders which use dead critters as the larva food. It looks like there is great potential to use BSF larvae as forage for pond fish. The reason I posted this thread here instead of in the Forage and Bait section is that Soldier Flies can do more for people than just feed their fish. Put in a different way, the SF can do more WHILE feeding our fish.

Disclaimer: The web pages and quotes below are from a company that hopes to profit from marketing a Soldier Fly related product.

EDIT: The links below aren't working anymore but you can use this link instead: http://www.esrint.com/pages/bioconversion.html

Black Soldier Fly (I assume everyone knows the underlined words are links)

"In view of the wide variability of putrescent waste presented to it, this benign creature possesses one of the most robust digestive systems within nature. It has the ability to thrive in the presence of salts, alcohols, ammonia and a variety of food toxins. In addition to food waste, it can also process swine, human and poultry waste. Upon reaching maturity, this creature is rigidly regimented by evolution to migrate out of the unit and into a collection bucket without any human or mechanical intervention. This self-harvesting grub represents a bundle of nutrients that rivals in commercial value the finest fish meal. In our effort to dispose of food waste, why waste this valuable resource? Why not boldly insist upon the reintegration into the feed chain of most of the nutrients and energy it contains?"

Texas Experiment

"The moment waste is deposited into the unit, the larvae begin to secrete powerful digestive enzymes into the waste long before it begins to rot and smell. Since thermophilic and anaerobic bacteria play no part in this process, these tiny creatures are able to conserve and recycle most of the nutrients and energy within the waste."

"Studies were conducted at the Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Georgia, to examine the suitability of SF prepupae as a feed source for channel catfish and tilapia. The tests concluded that soldier fly larvae should be considered a promising source of animal protein in fish production. Taste tests were also conducted, and the results of these tests indicated that fish fed SF larvae are acceptable to the consumer."

Bio-Conversion Units

"This 2-foot unit has an average feeding surface area of 0.34 m2(3.6 sq ft). At a disposal efficiency of 15 kgs/m2/day, it can handle over 5 kgs (11 lbs) of food waste per day. It can hold or contain over 144 liters (38 gal) of larval residue, and with a reduction in weight and volume of 95%, it must be emptied after receiving a total of 2.89 m3 (3.9 cubic yards) of food waste. This unit serving a family of four people would have to be cleaned out approximately once every 8 years. With this larval bioconversion process, the costly transport of food waste to landfill is completely eliminated."

I see Soldier Flies in my future, with or without ponds.


Edited by GW (04/29/10 02:46 PM)
Edit Reason: update links
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#87502 - 05/12/07 12:32 PM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
GW Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 2286
Loc: Central florida
Hmp. I thought for sure this would be a lively topic.

You can take household waste (food of every type and even poo if you like), and convert it into highly nutritious live fish food at a 4 to 1 ratio, AND...

...it is basically free

...sells for $5 - $10 per "cup" as "Phoenix worms"

...is self-harvesting

...and is a ready supply of great bait.

Seriously, it looks like after you buy or construct the bin all you do is throw your garbage into the top and beautiful, huge, juicy and delicious grubs stream out into your pond or a collection bucket. There's little odor, no disease carrying pests, extremely little maintenance.

Well, anyway...

I was pretty sure I had seen BSF (Black Soldier Flies) around so I set out some bait. The brown stuff is cat food. :rolleyes:

edit: My dog got into the bucket after I took the pics so I had to add more straps.





Here's one laying some eggs on cardboard.





It's supposed to take a little more than 100 hours to hatch time in warm weather, so I'll take a close look on Wednesday.
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#87503 - 05/13/07 08:23 AM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
Yolk Sac Offline

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Registered: 02/06/07
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Perhaps the theory of a free, readily available source of high protein fish food had more appeal than the actual practice required to produce it.

I think this is a great idea and will follow with interest-from just upwind.

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#87504 - 05/13/07 08:28 AM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
bobad Offline
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Registered: 06/02/05
Posts: 2365
Loc: Eunice, Louisiana
DY,

Just to be the Devil's advocate for a moment, how do you keep undesirables(eg blowflies) from contaminating your scraps?
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#87505 - 05/13/07 10:08 AM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
GW Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 2286
Loc: Central florida
bobad, in my reading I found several references to Black Soldier Fly larvae controlling the population of other flies as well as harmful bacteria and fungi.

"The black soldier fly (BSF) is a southern native, non-pest fly that unlike the house fly, is not attracted to human habitation or foods (Furman et al. 1959). BSF reduce manure accumulations 42-56% and give 94-100% house fly control through larval competition and by repelling ovipositing house flies (Bradley and Sheppard 1984). Elimination of lesser mealworm has been noted, but not well documented. The digested residue is a friable compost-like material with about 24% less nitrogen (net loss of 60%). BSF is being investigated as a possible feedstuff for swine, poultry, and several species of fish (Sheppard and Newton 2000)."

SOURCE

Yolk Sac, the lack of odor from these systems is mentioned frequently in the articles I've read. I believe this is due to the maggots controling bacteria, the rapid consumption of scraps, and from dehydration of the waste.

"Black soldier fly (BSF) larvae have large and powerful mouth parts enabling them to shred and devour waste as soon as it is made available to them. Complex organic compounds that are digested by these larvae long before they have had a chance to decompose thermophilically or anaerobically, thereby conserving energy within the waste and immediately eliminating smell. BSF larvae have very efficient digestive systems, and the residue they leave behind represents but a fraction of the original weight and volume of the waste. Food waste (in the United States) typically reduces by as much as 90% in weight and volume, along with a 15% to 30% yield of live larvae of a 44% dry matter content."

SOURCE

Also from the source above:

"The larval dry matter consists of approximately 42% protein and 34% fat. The larvae can be fed right back to the animals or birds that generated the waste, and they are particularly attractive to many types of aquaculture that demand or prefer living food, such as bullfrogs, bass and crappie."

"Nothing could be simpler or easier to manage. In tropical climates, virtually no entomological expertise is required beyond the initial seeding of the disposal unit. Wild populations of BSF females continually furnish eggs to sustain the process. Since the adult black soldier flies do not possess mouth parts and do not feed upon the waste, they are not associated in any way with the transmission of disease. Only egg-laying females visit the disposal unit, and if provided with suitable oviposition sites above the waste, they do not even come into contact with the waste."


A lot of current literature on the use of BSF for waste management and as a food source refer to a study done in Tifton, Ga. by Craig Sheppard.

STUDY

Thanks for the responses gents.


Edited by GW (04/21/13 06:36 PM)
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#87506 - 05/14/07 01:42 PM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
GW Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 2286
Loc: Central florida
More info:

"While actively feeding, the larvae secrete a chemical, more precisely an infochemical, that permits them to communicate with other species of flies. This infochemical or synomone allows them to tell other flies to stay away, that it makes little sense to lay their eggs within an area full of actively feeding BSF larvae. This interspecies communication is indeed very effective. In the vicinity of the disposal unit, we note the near absence of houseflies and all other flies that are a pest to humans. If only we could isolate this natural fly repellant produced by the BSF larvae! After about two weeks of feeding, the BSF larvae reach maturity. They turn from white to black, their mouth parts transform into a digger, they empty their guts of waste, they secrete an antibiotic to protect themselves from bacteria, and they set out in search of an ideal pupation site. "

"As long as the ramp has an angle of less than 45 degrees, the BSF larvae have no problem exiting the waste. Such a steep angle makes it difficult for the larvae to drag or carry along any adhering residue, and it also serves as a barrier for the larvae of most other species of fly. Housefly larvae, for example, are not even able to climb a ramp of a 30-degree angle. If housefly larvae cannot get out of the disposal area, they cannot pupate, and if they cannot pupate, they cannot become adults and reproduce. The BSF waste disposal unit mounted with steep ramps serves as a very effective sink or trap for the larvae of just about every species of flies that ignores the chemical warning to stay away from the unit. Once trapped within the unit, the uninvited larvae and pupae eventually become one more food item for the hungry BSF larvae."

"The BSF larvae will easily crawl over 100 meters (320 ft. +) in search of an ideal pupation site."

SOURCE

A few thoughts:

For anyone with dogs, a BSF "composting" unit may provide a simple way to dispose of their poop. If you already pick up the dogs waste then there would be no extra effort involved and you get the benefit of converting this waste into fish food.

In addition to normal household scraps BSF also eat carrion, but I don't believe they begin immediately with freshly dead animals. I'm curious if freshly dead fish might be an exception. The bottom line would be whether or not the larvae would consume the fish before a strong odor developed. If they would, then the BSF unit would be a great way to dispose of culled fish. This way you could recycle the forage that went into producing the culls. Raccoons are wonderful, but given the choice I'd rather put that protein back into the pond. When I get a healthy batch of larvae established I'll see what they do with a fresh fish.

Since the larvae will crawl long distances (300 ft) when seeking a place to pupate, a BSF unit could possibly be placed far from a pond, but still automatically (passively) deposit the larvae directly into the water. I'm thinking that pvc pipe could be attached to the unit where the larvae exit and then run to the pond. I would try installing a valve in the pipe to divert larvae into a bucket for use as bait when needed.

I haven't been able to find any info about how long the larvae will survive in water. What I did find was one test where they survived for two hours submerged in rubbing alcohol. I assume that they will do fine for long periods in water, but I will test it myself after my batch matures.


Edited by GW (04/21/13 06:38 PM)
Edit Reason: update link
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#87507 - 05/14/07 01:50 PM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
Bruce Condello Offline
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Registered: 08/01/04
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 Quote:
Originally posted by damn yankee:
...I'll see what they do with a fresh fish.

IIRC, enzymes present in fish flesh are more immediately active than some other animals. So fresh fish becomes "not fresh fish" very quickly. This would facilitate the soldier fly's ability to utilize the flesh almost immediately.

Great thread. Keep it coming.
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#87508 - 05/14/07 02:29 PM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
GW Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 2286
Loc: Central florida
Thanks Bruce. One problem might be the bones and scales. I've read that bones need to be ground up for the grubs to be able to eat them, but I wonder if the fishes soft bones might be different.
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#87509 - 05/15/07 01:46 PM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
GW Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 2286
Loc: Central florida
This is the pic of the fly that was in my office trailer when I started looking into maggots as fish food.


I sent this and pics above to the good folks at whatsthatbug.com and they confirmed that it is a Black Soldier Fly (hermetia illucens). They said "The white tarsi or legs, which are especially noticeable on the window photo, are a distinguishing feature." If you go to that link you'll find my pics and question is the first one for 5/14, about 5 entries under the big green caterpillar. \:\) It's funny how common these are around my house and I never really noticed them.

Something I've learned is that you need to keep ants out of a BSF colony. I'm checking into suggestions for how to do this. After reading about the ants I realized that I had moved my scrap bucket to the ground. I checked and sure enough I had ants. There was also another BSF busy laying eggs on a piece of cardboard and a coffee filter. I saved the cardboard and filter and replaced the food scraps. Lately I've read that it's better to start a BSF colony with vegetable matter to discourage other types of flies from laying eggs. Of course this isn't an issue after the BSF are established and you can give them just about any organic matter.
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#87510 - 05/18/07 02:57 PM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
GW Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 2286
Loc: Central florida
So far I'm disappointed with the progress of my first attempt to raise Soldier Fly larvae. Everything I've read makes it sound very easy. It's been 6 days since I put out the scraps, I've seen BSF apparently laying eggs every day since, and still no larvae. It's supposed to take a little over 100 hours for eggs to hatch.

I observed what I think are eggs several days ago. Maybe this is where I'm getting confused. Would the eggs increase in size after being laid? When I observed what I thought was laying behavior I couldn't see any, but later I noticed oblong objects which I thought were maggots at first glance, but they don't move.

I put this cabbage in two days ago and more of the eggs(?) appeared. I did see BSF on the cabbage. This spot of possible eggs is almost 1/2 inch wide.


I've seen a lot of these "eggs" in the bucket and also on my garbage can. Other insects including house flies have visited the garbage, but the predominant insects have been the BSF. I should mention that it's been fairly cool the last few nights so maybe this is increasing the time to hatch.
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#87511 - 06/06/07 03:14 PM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
GW Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 2286
Loc: Central florida
After almost a month of trying to get some BSF larvae established I was pretty disappointed. I had seen them laying eggs in my scrap bucket. I had seen what looked like eggs developing, but no larvae. When I checked the bucket last week there were some fruit flies, mostly dead, and some dehydrated vegetables. I just forgot about it until today.

I had left the lid off and when it rained the other day water got in the bucket. I realized that today when I walked by and saw a few flies buzzing around. Sure enough, they were Black Soldier Flies. I looked inside and saw a nice sloppy pile of rotten vegetables, and larvae. Big, juicy BSF larvae.

I guess it might just have been too dry for them to develop. Some of the larvae had drowned so I poured the liquid out. I snapped the lid on and observed several BSF flying around the bucket. Eventually I saw them entering the 1/2 inch triangular holes cut into the sides of the bucket.

IIRC, BSF are attracted to the scent of their own larvae. Soon I should have a teeming pile of the little soldiers. Anybody need some bait?

Anyone for some corn on the cob?
(click to enlarge)


On the left side you can see an adult entering the sealed bucket.



Not quite as big as I've seen in other photos, but it's a start.

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#87512 - 06/06/07 09:00 PM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
cliffbrook Offline
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Registered: 05/03/06
Posts: 274
Loc: Marshall County Iowa
how did you forget? i have been waiting for an update. thanx.

are soldier flies in the midwest?

thanx

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#87513 - 06/10/07 08:51 AM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
GW Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 2286
Loc: Central florida
cliffbrook, I've been so busy that I also missed your post!

I'm pretty sure BSF are found on most of the continent. I've just heard back from someone at ESR, the company that will be marketing the Bio-Conversion unit that I linked to above. When I return his message I wil ask about the natural range of BSF.


I didn't forget about raising BSF, but I thought I would have to start a new scrap bucket so I stopped looking at this one. I'm guessing that the lack of moisture is what delayed the lavae from appearing.
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#87514 - 06/11/07 01:04 PM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
GW Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 2286
Loc: Central florida
cliffbrook, I spoke with the rep from ESR today. Unfortunately I had to end the call and didn't have a chance to ask about Iowa specifically. I did ask about insulation, because I know that BSF have been succesfully used in cold weather. They may be marketing an insulation blanket for the Bio-Converter. Actually BSF process more waste in cold temps, you just don't get as many larvae because they develop more slowly. The larvae can survive in cold temps, but they don't survive below freezing.

The Bio-Converter units may be available this summer and the likely price for a 2 foot residential unit will be $130. This size can handle about 10 lbs of household garbage/day. At that rate you could expect 2 - 3 pounds of larvae each day, IIRC. Conservatively speaking this device would pay for itself in highly nutritious fish food after a few months.

When I get more larvae established I'll see what they do with dog poop. I'm totally in love with the idea of converting a pound of poo into 1/4 lb of excellent fish food.
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#87515 - 06/11/07 03:22 PM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
Levon Sargent Offline
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Registered: 11/01/06
Posts: 20
Loc: Henagar, AL
If this would work with horse waste too, I would never have to buy fish food.
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#87516 - 06/11/07 07:40 PM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
Theo Gallus Offline
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Horse waste will definitely produce flies.
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#87517 - 06/11/07 08:36 PM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
GW Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
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Loc: Central florida
For some reason cow manure doesn't lend itself to breakdown by BSF larvae. I'm not sure about horse puckey. The studies I've read only involve swine, poultry, and human wastes.
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#87518 - 06/12/07 05:26 PM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
GW Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 2286
Loc: Central florida
The BSF family is growing. Most of the old scraps are pretty old and nasty looking, but the odor isn't bad at all. It's taking a while to break it down because I still don't have a large population of larvae.

Either the larvae really like bananas and dead Gams, or they just like fresher food. I put 3 Gams in this morning and 20 minutes later they were mostly gone. A banana peel added a few hours ago attracted a good crowd.



I think I might have to take a few of these guys fishing today...
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#87519 - 06/12/07 10:30 PM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
DJT Offline
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Registered: 02/25/07
Posts: 343
Loc: SW Illinois
Do you have holes at the bottom to let full grown larvae out?
Do you plan on mounting this over the pond?

Some sort of maggot platform mounted over the water is in my future pond plans. I've always thought of using fat and hide picked up from a butcher shop and letting the blowflies do their thing. The survival of the larvae into adulthood in my plan would be zero. However if you want to keep a population of only BSF going you may need to allow some to reach adulthood to provide future breeders. Maybe one bucket over the pond to provide fish food and another over ground to provide breeders would work.
Keep up the good work I am very interested in how this turns out.
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#87520 - 06/13/07 05:16 PM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
GW Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 2286
Loc: Central florida
DJT: I have a few tiny holes in the bottom just for drainage. Please keep in mind that this is a bare bones test, mostly just to see if I could establish a population of larvae.

It isn't necessary to mount the bucket over the pond. The BSF larva's instinct is to crawl great distances to find a good area to pupate. They will reportedly crawl more than 300 feet. I'll be testing different ways of extending pipe or some type of channel over the water so the larvae drop directly into the pond.

In my part of the country there is no need to encourage the development of adult BSF. The wild population is more than adequate to supply a steady source of eggs. Most likely it would be the same where you are in the summer. If you needed some larvae to get a population going I could send you some, or you can order a small quantity on the internet. They're marketed as "Phoenix worms".

After learning about Black Soldier Flies there is no chance that I would encourage Blow Flies or any other type of fly onto my property. House Flies and Blow Flies carry disease, and dead critters smell bad. BSF will happily eat carrion, but can thrive on just about any vegetable matter. They process waste so quickly and efficiently that there is practically no odor. The presence of BSF in a waste pile almost entirely prevents disease carrying flies from using it. Also the BSF maggots are many times the size of most others. They're big enough to be practical as bait, and would probably be pretty darn effective on fish that were conditioned to eating them.

The more I learn about these beneficial insects the more I appreciate them.
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#87521 - 06/13/07 05:31 PM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
bobad Offline
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Registered: 06/02/05
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Loc: Eunice, Louisiana
GW,

I think I had some BSF larvae a couple of years back. I had a big mushroom ring in my back yard, and the mushrooms became infested with maggots. They had a very peculiar behavior: When you scared them, they did an end-over-end tumble off the mushroom onto the ground. Do your exhibit that behavior?

We don't have that many BSF around here. I only see 4-5 a year, usually trapped in a window.
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#87522 - 06/13/07 09:17 PM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
GW Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 2286
Loc: Central florida
bobad, people commonly find BSF larvae in worm bins and compost piles. I haven't noticed my maggots tumbling, but they are definitely shy.

I bet you're mistaken about not having BSF around you. The nice thing is that you rarely notice them because they don't have a reason to land on you and they seldom enter houses. All they want to do is find your ripest garbage, lay some eggs, and then they're gone. A few months ago I would have said I'd never seen a BSF. Now I know that all I need to do is to put out some smelly trash and the BSF will find me. Next time you have some smelly garbage watch what's coming to it and I'll bet you see some BSF.

In the old days in the South they were called "privy flies" because they commonly lived in outhouses.

edit: bobad, I just realized that you said you get 4 or 5 BSF in your house per year. That number in your house should indicate a very healthy population in your area.
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#87523 - 06/16/07 08:09 AM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
GW Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
Posts: 2286
Loc: Central florida
My colony of BSF larvae is now blooming and there hasn't been any reduction in the numbers of female adults coming to the bucket to lay. This makes me wonder what happens as the number of larvae increases but the food supply stays the same.

The odor has increased around the scrap bucket. This is probably because the number of larvae haven't been sufficient to process the amount of scraps. The odor isn't strong enough to be a problem in general, but it makes working with the bucket less pleasant. At this point I'm going to stop adding scraps until the older food is eaten.

I've also been dealing with a lot of liquid in the bucket and it's a problem for the larvae since they can drown in it. I've added a few small holes in the bottom of the bucket which works for the larvae but creates something nasty to collect and dispose of. The amount of liquid increased significantly after I added a large amount of melon.

I used some larvae as bait yesterday for the first time. I used single larvae on a long shank #6 hook and a bobber. The larvae were very active but as soon as I threaded one on a hook it would almost immediately stop moving. They seem to die quickly most of the time so I need to experiment with different methods for hooking them. They did catch fish pretty well, but naturally the little BG were the first to hit them. I caught a 4" gill just about every cast. Suggestions from better fisherman would be appreciated. Would the larvae add to the effectiveness of artificial baits?
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#87524 - 06/17/07 09:24 AM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
GW Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
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Loc: Central florida
I think the odor and excess liquid was caused by too much food scrap for the number of larva. I stopped adding food to the bucket and within a day both problems are fixed. The situation I had was just what you would expect when you leave food waste in a warm bucket for several days. With the proper balance, food scraps should be consumed in a few hours, not days.

I'm going to construct a larger bin with exit ramps and a collection bucket. I wouldn't bother if the ESR Bio-Converter was available, but they aren't at this time. I won't post my design because I want to support ESR, and my rig will just be a crude imitation of their unit. ESR seems like a forward-looking and responsible company and I want them to succeed with their product.


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#87525 - 06/17/07 10:57 PM Re: Black Soldier Fly project
GW Offline
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Registered: 04/08/07
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Loc: Central florida
Today I discovered an important rule for BSF larvae growers; don't let those doggies overheat. It got into the 90's today and I left the bucket in full sun. I thought that because it was white in color that a bunch of maggots should be fine. Well, a bunch of them aren't. I opened the lid this afternoon and the larvae that weren't cooked were making their best effort to leave the building. The majority of large grubs are dead.

I don't usually lock the lid down on all sides, mainly so the flies can enter easily to lay more eggs. I have some small holes in the bucket, but sometimes they will lay on the outside. For some reason I snapped the lid down tight this morning which may have made the difference. Normally BSF larvae won't leave a food source until they're ready to pupate, but clearly this is an exception.
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