Monday, July 6, 2020

My Journey to Farming Black Soldier Fly Larvae

I started composting as a young girl by throwing egg shells and coffee grounds into a flowerbed. Although we found this beneficial to our garden, as an adult I began more intentionally  composting. I started with an informal pile in the back of my yard and grew to using multiple tumbler systems. But perhaps the most interesting and most asked about composting system I have now is my Black Soldier Fly (BSF) bin.

"Farming" Black Soldier Flies
Even though I’d accidentally invited some Black Soldier Flies into one of my tumblers a few years ago, after a casual comment made on Day 1 of Civic Garden Center’s Master Composter Class, my interest in this squishy little insect was renewed.  

My husband and I own and operate a farm. Though we aren’t large-scale vegetable producers, we picked up too-ripe-for-people-to-eat-food from a local roadside market. Typically, we would toss these fruits and vegetables straight to the chickens, and then after a few days rake up what remained to put into a compost bin. But I am always looking for a better/faster/less expensive/more efficient way to operate, and I approached the concept of a BSF bin with gusto.

Creating a BSF Bin
Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) eat all organic material – food scraps, fruit/vegetable scraps, manure…  basically, they will eat just about anything that is or was food. When they mature, they will crawl upward and out of their food pile to pupate. Adult BSF’s don’t have stingers, and they don’t even have mouths. They exist for one reason: to mate and lay eggs.

In an effort to intentionally bring the BSF to our farm, to have a self-contained area for the too-ripe-fruits-and-vegetables, and to have an additional FREE source of chicken feed, I decided to build a bin.

Creating a modified version of the Northwest Redworms' Black Soldier Fly bin, our design modifications included installing a 2” PVC pipe for self-harvesting the pupae instead of a centralized containment point, as well as rotating knobs to prop the top open for easy access to adult BSF.

Considering this could also be done on a much larger scale, there is tremendous potential to use BSF as a waste-reduction method to dispose of restaurant and grocery store food waste. Even if you don’t have hungry chickens to feed, wildlife such as birds, lizards, or livestock such as pigs and fish could benefit from this highly nutritious insect – all while keeping food waste out of the landfill.

Questions? Feel free to email Susan at susan@sbbellfarms.com

Susan Bell
Co-owner ;B Bell Farms; Composting Fanatic!

1 comment:

  1. Love this! I actually found some BSF larvae in my bin this week for the first time and was very excited :)

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