The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Black-soldier-fly-bin upgrades

Larvae crawling offI suspect we'll be making our own upgraded black-soldier-fly bin next year.  The bin we bought is an awesome introduction...but I keep overfilling it since I have 50 pounds of moldy chicken feed to work my way through.  Last week, the mass of decomposing chicken feed heated up so much that white larvae crawled off, and even when I'm more careful, I feel like the bin is getting waterlogged and full of castings when I add half a gallon of chicken feed (soaked to become about a gallon) per week.

Black soldier fly harvest
The photo above shows the kind of crawl-off I'd rather see --- just the black pupae.  This type of heavy harvest comes about once a week, when I add more chicken feed and soak the bin contents in the process.  On other days, I instead get perhaps a couple dozen pupae, still enough to make our tractored hens happy.  But more pupae is definitely better, and I now understand why you might want to have a 10- or 20-gallon bin.  Or perhaps to have several smaller bins (although I'd still want them all to be located right outside the back door where it's easy to put in scraps and to take out pupae for the chickens).

Escaping pupae

Meanwhile, there's at least one feature of our current bin that I don't feel is working as it should.  The velcro strip around the top of the bin, meant to keep pupae from escaping without crawling into the collection bin, has a gap in each corner just big enough for pupae to wriggle through.  I keep finding drowned pupae in the ant-trap moat around the bin, which makes me sad.

While I'm writing a wish list of future changes, I'd like to drill holes in the top of the collection jar just large enough for an adult fly to escape, but too small for a pupa to get Black soldier fly eggsthrough.  Three times now, I've seen adult flies trapped in the collection bin, once because I left a pupa inside too long and it hatched, but twice because the flies went to lay their eggs in the main bin and ended up exiting in a different direction.

That said, our bin is providing a healthy dose of animal protein for our flock nearly every day, and the number of larvae inside seems to keep growing.  I caught one fly laying eggs inside the handle of the drainpipe last week (which I transferred to the bin), but I suspect there have been many other sets of eggs laid without my notice.  I'm definitely ready to say that Mark is right --- black soldier flies are a good fit for our farm.  Now we just need to work the kinks out of the operation.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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