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Black soldier fly larvae - nutritious forage for fish and super fast composters

A little over a year ago I read a thread at the Pond Boss forum about using "rot baskets" as a source of additional forage for pond fish. Basically you suspend a dead animal over your pond in a wire basket and as the resulting maggots mature they drop into the pond and feed the fish. I liked the idea of free protein, but didn't want to deal with disease carrying pests and foul odors near the pond. I started looking for a cleaner type of insect that didn't have those drawbacks.

When I first read about the black soldier fly, I was sure I had found the right bug (larva) for the job. No pathogen problem, no bad odors, and no dead carcasses. Besides that good news I learned that these harmless insects have the potential to transform the way we process waste even up to the municipal level . Essentially you can use BSF larvae to efficiently convert household food waste into high quality animal feed.

BSF larvae won't work exactly like a rot basket, but the way they can work is even better. With a BSF colony you can get a steady stream of larvae for forage and instead of hanging anything over your pond you can set up the colony in a more convenient spot. When BSF larvae mature they will migrate away from the food source to find a good spot to pupate. With a simple ramp you can guide them so that they drop into a collection bucket. Another possibility is that instead of a bucket you could direct them into a pipe that would extend over your pond. BSF larvae will crawl up to 300 feet in search of a pupation site so you have the option of keeping your BSF colony away from your pond and still allow for the larvae to drop into it automatically. They can climb a 40 degree incline so you could bury the pipe if it was watertight. Running the pipe underground and then along a dock would be pretty neat. I'll bet you could count on some fish hanging around waiting for the larvae, and when you're ready to catch the fish you have the perfect bait available. I hope to test a rig like this soon.

THE MAIN BENEFIT OF BLACK SOLDIER FLIES

Using BSFL as feed or bait is really just a side benefit. The main use for them is to process organic waste. They have amazing digestive systems. The only plant or animal products they can't readily eat are high cellulose items like grasses and paper. Mammal bones aren't practical either, but with enough time they can eat fish bones and even chicken bones. Their digestive system is so efficient that they usually reduce the volume of household food waste by 95%. A healthy colony in a 2 foot diameter container can eat more than 10 lbs of organic waste every 24 hours under optimum conditions.

When I discovered the benefits available from BSF larvae I started a thread at the Pond Boss forum. You can read that thread here.

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Comment by GW on January 31, 2009 at 5:59am
Hi Dean,

Storing the larvae will vary depending on what stage you want to keep. The dark brown larvae are mature and they're in the last stage before pupation. They're also called prepupae. Storing them for several weeks is easy. In that stage they don't eat and they tend to postpone pupation until they find a good location. A container full of other prepupae isn't the best spot so it seems like they just wait. You can simply keep the mature BSFL at room temperature in some sawdust or other bedding material, just make sure they don't dehydrate. If you're in a humid climate you can just leave them outside, but in dry conditions they'll die if they get too dry. Misting them occasionally is probably all you might need to do. They can't climb a vertical surface if it's dry, but if it's damp they can crawl up and out of any small opening.

Storing the light colored juvenile larvae is similar but they need even more moisture, about 70%. Another difference is that they will tend to mature into prepupae, especially if you're feeding them. For that reason I would stop feeding any larvae that I wanted to store. A lack of food will probably delay their development, but eventually I think they would transform into the final stage. To stop the juvenile larvae from developing would require keeping them cool, maybe around 50 degrees, and moist. A sealed container in a refrigerator isn't good because it gets too dry plus the larvae need to breath. For the reasons above I have never tried storing juvenile larvae. During the warm season I never think about storing them anyway because there seems to be an endless supply. :)

I'm glad you found the site and I hope you'll keep us posted about any progress you make with BSF.
I'm glad that you found the site and I hope to
Comment by Dean on January 30, 2009 at 10:07pm
GW - I went reading your blog on Pond Boss. Intersting stuff, maybe I'll read all 19 pages sometime soon. In the few pages I did read I didn't see how to keep them from bin to fishing hole. Just in a container or is it best to put in corn meal or something?
Comment by Dean on January 30, 2009 at 9:36pm
I found the bigbluegill site on one of a couple dozen reads I went through on the BSFL. I was trying to find out how to grow some maggots for fishing and ran across the BSFL. Seems the site referred to this one as a "friend" site. All the articles had nothing but great things to say about this pretty amazing little creature. What a great idea to pipe the larvae over the water. A good, clean, replenishable food source. I'm hoping they'll be the secret weapon for some monster gills this spring.
Comment by GW on July 27, 2008 at 12:26pm
As a matter of fact I do...

VIDEO
Comment by Bruce Condello on July 26, 2008 at 12:00pm
That's fascinating. Large quantities of natural feed for your bluegills from your waste. Sounds like a very "green" way to improve your bluegill growth rates. Do you have video of bluegill or redears eating the soldier fly larvae?

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