If you’re looking for a new way to provide sustainable protein for your livestock, you won’t want to miss this video! Lindsey is sharing her DIY system for raising black soldier fly larvae – a highly nutritious protein source that’s up to 40% protein and 10% fat. In this video, Lindsey will show you how to create the perfect ecosystem for these larvae to thrive. Not only is this a great alternative to composting, but it’s also an excellent way to provide your livestock with the protein they need. Get ready to learn and watch Lindsey’s step-by-step guide to raising black soldier fly larvae!
0:00 Black Soldier Fly Larvae
1:27 Explaining the Ecosystem
4:59 Set Up
9:19 Adding Larvae to System
11:25 Protein for Our Chickens
TRANSCRIPT FROM VIDEO:
Hi, my name is Lindsey and I’m here at the Urban Farm and today’s project inspiration is black soldier fly larvae. And if you’re not familiar with what that is, these are the larvae of black soldier flies. And a black soldier fly is a slightly larger than like a household fly and they’re often used as an amazing protein source. They are up to 40% protein themselves and 10% fat. And the reason we are growing them here on the farm in attempting to do so is so we can feed them to our chickens. They’re a really great protein source for livestock and that is what we are hoping to accomplish with this DIY system.
First, I’m gonna give you a sneak peek at what they look like and then I’ll show you the ecosystem that I made for them. So this is all the larvae. And you can see the ones that are darker are starting to pupate. So that means they’re getting ready to turn themselves into flies. They’ve reached a final step in their larvae stage and they want to become flies and make more eggs in larvae. So we have a good fundamental start with having a little bit of variance between life stages.
First, and the most important thing about raising black soldier flies is the ecosystem you put them in. So before on the farm, when I first started here, we had tried experimenting with them and we raised them in this box and it seemed to be working for a little while, but we didn’t have anything at the end. So the idea was that the larva would just crawl out into the chicken coop and then the chickens would eat them, which is great as a one-time food source, but it’s not a sustainable ecosystem where we can keep replenishing the system.
So to fix that, I’ve made a few modifications to this box. And the first one is it used to have poles holding it up. It used to have legs. I took those off because I felt like with the legs the slant was too steep and they need a relatively gradual steep to climb up. So the idea is that we will put food in this box for them, they’ll eat it. Once they get to that darker stage where they’re ready to pupate, they’re gonna climb up the ramp and then they’ll go into this netting system, which I’ll explain in a minute.
The other modification I made to this box was instead of having a wood base, I did a fabric base with some hard wire cloth. And the reason I did this is just to give some extra airflow and drainage. I felt like the wood bottom was just kind of gross and it just didn’t allow for any excess drainage to be released from the box, which could make it kind of nasty. So those are just a few of the modifications I made to hopefully help make this box more successful.
The first step I’m gonna do is put some oatmeal that chef Jayson was nice enough to make for us. And oatmeal is a great foundational food to get them started on because it has high moisture content, so you don’t actually give them any water, they just get moisture from their food. So I’m just gonna lay this on and this also acts as like a sort of bedding. So oatmeal or any kind of green is a great way to get them started and I’m gonna spread that out kind of thin. You don’t wanna put too much, so your inclination could be to add a lot because they might eat a lot or you want them to get big, but especially wet food like this can get moldy and we don’t want that in our box.
I’m also just going to add some fresh veg. They can eat anything and they will eat anything. They will eat meat, they won’t eat bones, but they’ll eat the meat. So it’s a great alternative to composting because if you have a system where you can collect their waste, which is called frass, then it’s a great addition to the garden. It’s really nutrient dense, but they will eat anything. So this is a great alternative to composting and you get a protein source for your livestock. I’m going to wait to add them until I have the rest of the box set up. But that’s the first step.
And now the second step is where I’m taking the most creative liberties. So we’re just gonna kind of see how this goes as an experiment, but the idea is that we don’t want the flies to escape. That was the problem when we were experimenting with this before. So I used this bee box that we weren’t using and I just put netting on both sides. And then we have a hole right here that this is where they’re gonna crawl out. But instead, I’m gonna make a slit in this netting and have them crawl into here and separate it into sections. So depending on where they crawl up the ramp, half of them are gonna fall into a collection jar that I can use to feed the chickens. And half of them are just going to fall into this netted area where I have these breeding cardboard pieces. So the flies, because they don’t have anything else to breed in, will breed either they could fly and go back into the box and breed, which is fine, or they can lay their eggs on this corrugated cardboard. So I just created a few bunches for them for that purpose. So this is the DIY that I came up with. There’s obviously a lot of versions of this. I know other people use butterfly, like how you raise butterflies from caterpillars, they use those nets. But for now this is what we’re gonna experiment with to see.
Just gonna kind of place that right there, kind of make a mark where I want to cut, cut a little bit more. And then I’m just going to take this cut and just wrap it around here so it’s tight enough that they can’t get out, but that it’ll be secure. I’m gonna scoot this over a little, get on those sides and this will allow me enough access to get out the corrugated pieces of cardboard. So once these have eggs laid in them, hopefully I can take them out of this nutting structure and put them directly back into the box for them to hatch. And then we’ll have a new batch of larvae. So that is the idea.
And then let’s see how this works. So my idea is to just put this up as kind of a barrier between the two sections and then to have this, I might need to find a better jar or something better to catch them with. But the idea is that they will go directly off the ramp and just kind of fall into this and then I can just pick this whole thing up and take it to the chickens. So in an ideal system, that’s how it’s gonna work. And then I’m just gonna place these, put some there, just lean some up against. You can also get your flies to try to lay in um, stacks of wood. I’ve seen people do that as well. And then we’ll just put that over there. I might get something that I can attach here just like a little push pin or a little nail I can pull out just to make this opening a little bit more secure. But for now I think it does does the trick.
And now we can add our larvae. And these larvae are really easy to get. So I got these from the Arizona Worm Farm, which is a local company. They do really amazing work and composting and they raise worms and black soldier fly larvae. And these were decently Ines inexpensive. So it’s a pretty easy and affordable system to start. It was $10 for two and a half pounds of black soldier larvae. So I’m also going to take a few of these and go feed them to our chickens right now so you can see how much they enjoy them, but you get so many. You can also order them online. There’s a lot of companies where you can order them and I’m just gonna sprinkle them in so many, I think I need to go get them some more food. Give these to the chickens and they will start doing their work immediately and they’ll eat all that veg. It’s important to check in on them, make sure they have enough food. And soon we should see them start too. Once they get an idea of their surroundings, they’re gonna wanna get out in order to pupate, so they should just start to climb up and then they should enter our system here and we’ll see how it works. But for now, we are hoping and working with the idea that maybe this will lead to a more long-term sustainable system where we can have continuous access to black soldier lar larva. They’re a really great protein source, like I said, and I’ll go and show you how much the chickens love to eat them. <laugh>.
There’s already a lot of excitement brewing in the coop and this is a great way to also offer enrichment to your chickens so you can buy the larvae, dehydrated or freeze dried and offer those to your chickens as a protein source. But I think when they’re live, it just adds a little extra excitement to their lives, which is always nice to do for your chickens and livestock. So I’m just gonna kind of sprinkle them. They’re apprehensive, but once they realize what it is, <laugh> Yum!
I hope this video inspired you to do some of your own research and maybe even start your own black soldier Fly larvae system they’re a really great and inexpensive way to both compost extra food waste and also give your livestock an extra special protein rich treat that is really healthy for them. They’re really sustainable protein source. And we’ll keep you updated with how our system works.