For some time we have been interested in ways to utilize waste streams for beneficial use. For example, we currently utilize waste wood, coming to us in the form of chips and firewood rounds from local arborists, to provide winter bedding for our cows, sheep and chickens. A similar interest is the utilization of waste food, or even manure, to raise black soldier fly larvae. Lord willing, this is an idea we will be experimenting with and improving upon for many years to come. Black soldier fly larvae can be used as a natural feed supplement for chickens and pigs, reducing our dependence on grain. Because grain prices have fluctuated pretty wildly over the years, any action that can insulate the farmer from the grain market without compromising animal health and food integrity is worth pursuing.
Brief History and Background: The black soldier fly is a part of the much larger soldier fly family (stratiomyidae) and has been identified as naturally occurring as far north as the 50th parallel. The black soldier fly is largely cosmopolitan; meaning that it is found on almost all continents. Up until the 1990s, they had largely been ignored, but were then recognized as a means of disposing of animal manures and now food wastes.
Facts: Black soldier flies can eat through material faster than any other insect. In fact they can easily consume in excess of their body weight on a daily basis. The fly’s excrement, a liquid, can be collected as it is a highly fertile as a soil amendment and plant food. After several days in the larvae stage the black soldier fly matures to the prepupae state and will seek a safe place to turn into an adult fly. At this stage the mature larvae will seek soil so that it can dig in and cocoon itself. This makes the larvae self harvesting as they try to crawl out of their food bin and can be captured in a bucket or similar device. Obviously, it is necessary to select some out for reproduction and the rest can be used for chicken feed. At optimum temperatures, the time span from eggs to adults is a little over two week.
Nutritional Attributes: The black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) is also high in nutritional value. These little critters contain over three times the normal protein of layer feed and twice that of poultry feed. Not only are BSFL high in protein but they contain important fats, amino acids and minerals, which are not available in most animal feeds. The natural protein source for chickens and pigs is mostly from insects and grubs, but in conventional poultry and hog feed this protein is supplied almost exclusively from grains, legumes or fish sources. By using a insect protein source we hope to reduce our dependence on grains while increasing the nutrition of our animals.
Black Soldier Flies Farming Potential: The world wastes an estimated 1.3 billion tons of food every year. If only a small portion of that was converted into fly larvae think of the tremendous volume of highly nutritious animal feed and fertilizer that could be created. On our farm, the BSFL would go directly to the chickens we have on pasture, whose enriched manure would go back into the soil. The BSFL liquid could be processed into a manure tea and sprayed on the pasture to increase soil health and plant growth. This will create an increasingly more nutritious and vibrant pasture which makes for healthy eating for both animals and customers.