We are just starting out, with the massive assistance of Tanga and his team at ICIPE (www.icipe.org) however, hands on learning is always inevitable. Especially when kicking the project off out of a small room at the back of a compound… And if any of our learnings can help you, then that’s grand.
We also believe (massively) that we need to band together as BSF farmers as the world need all of us… the demand is way to big to (ever) meet supply so lets work together.
SOME OF THOSE LESSONS:
Black Soldier Flies (BSF) Escape: Our earliest lesson was definitely that BSF escape their containers… no matter how vertical the container wall, how great the food in the container is or anything else. They are climbers and they don’t like to be cramped – the exact science of “what is cramped” is yet to be determined but we are working on it. There are also designs of containers that have a lip of about 5cm so that the buggers (you see what I did there) can’t climb out using their mouth pieces.
House Flies love what BSF love: There is no denying that the House Fly is a pest. It’s a relative of the BSF but one we don’t like to talk about – that uncle that gropes people on the sly. We have worked through an infestation that involved many hours with gloves on seperating out the goodies (BSF) from the baddies (House Flies). Luckily their larvae look so different from the BSF and their pupa too however, their life cycle is a lot faster than that of the BSF so it is critical to catch an infestation early. There are a lot of lessons learnt on this one but here are the biggies: 1. Use the fly stickie things that hang from the room to catch the individual house flies before they have a chance to lay eggs 2. BSF can only eat the House Fly eggs but not their larvae so try to limit the amount of food available in the container so that the BSF go looking around and hopefully do find the eggs – once the eggs hatch into larvae it is too late and House Flies (and lots of them) will be the result. NOTE: We definitely found it easier to seperate out the BSF from the substrate as the House Fly larvae move really fast and the pupa are small and easily missed.
BSF larvae DO NOT like direct sunlight: During the whole time consuming act of seperating BSF from House Flies during the epic infestation of early 2019, we moved the sorting outside for some sunshine of our own. This was a mistake as the BSF that we seperated out did not enjoy the environment created and a lot died (not proud of that statement). When sorting your BSF, try to stay out of direct sunlight if you can. This is not a train smash as these bugs are destined ultimately for the meal trays of animals around the world but… if this happens while you are establishing your colony, its not great.
Larvae can survive in water: Yes. This has something to say about how yet the substrate/media can be for BSF (and I’m guessing other flies but this is not a qualified statement). Thinking we were saving ourselves a lot of effort of repeated boiling of kettles and the undignified task of boiling soil (with House Fly larvae and pupa in it… and a lot of BSF as we got tired of sorting), we just filled the container with water and left the lot to drown. 24 hours later the water was still wiggling with very alive BSF larvae. Very alive. Which resulted in us having to go the undignified route of boiling soil anyways. The world is being honest (and not vague) when explicitly outlining that to kill these critters, they should be boiled for 5 minutes. Or left out in the Kenyan sun it turns out.
There will be more lessons… so we will keep you posted.