Black Soldier Fly Larvae Life Cycle

Black Soldier Fly Larvae Life Cycle

Black Soldier Fly Larvae Life Cycle: A Guide for Aspiring Chicken Farmers

Backyard chicken farming is growing in popularity for good reason – fresh eggs and meat, recycling food scraps, natural fertilizers, and pest control. But keeping chickens thriving poses challenges like high feed costs and environmental impact. This is where Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) come in! Integrating BSFL into a backyard flock's diet provides an affordable, sustainable protein source. However, succeeding with BSFL requires understanding their life cycle.

As an experienced chicken farmers and BSFL enthusiasts, we often get questions from aspiring chicken keepers about everything BSFL – what they are, their benefits, and how to farm them. So let’s explore the fascinating BSFL life cycle so you can leverage their advantages!

Getting to Know Black Soldier Fly Larvae

Black Soldier Flies (BSF) are a harmless fly species with some incredible qualities. They are not pests, cannot bite or sting, and have no impact on human health. In fact, adult BSF lives only about 5 days and does not even eat!

The larval stage is what makes BSF special. BSFL eat constantly and voraciously, thriving on decaying organic matter like manure and food scraps. They are naturally high in calcium and protein – perfect nutrition for chickens. Plus, they have a massive environmental benefit: "BSFL can reduce manure mass by up to 60%, allowing farmers to considerably reduce waste." Per, incorporating BSFL "can aid digestion and provide 40-45% of necessary protein requirements."


The Stages from Egg to Larvae: A Metamorphosis


Now, let’s dive into the stages of the BSFL life cycle:

  1. Egg Stage

The adult female BSF lays eggs in cracks, crevices, and other protected areas around decaying organic material – the future food source for the larvae about to emerge. A female lays 500-900 eggs over a 2-3 day period. The small yellow eggs take about 4 days before larvae hatch. Maintaining temperatures between 75-90°F and sufficient moisture are vital for successful hatching.

  1. Larval Hatching

After incubating for 3-4 days, microscopic larvae emerge from the eggs. Warmth and high humidity are critical for hatching tiny larvae to survive. You can recognize a successful larval hatch by inspecting crevices near breeding sites for empty yellow eggshells with tiny holes from emerging squirming larvae.

  1. Larval Growth

Over the next 2-3 weeks, BSFL rapidly grow by voraciously consuming decaying matter, shedding their exoskeletons several times as they increase in size. To fuel this speedy growth, they require ample food sources and proper moisture and ventilation. Feed larvae 3-4 times per day by scattering premixed grains, veggie scraps, manure solids, etc across their breeding area. 

As recommends, *"Daily cleaning, inspection for possible contamination, and harvesting are...critical."* After 14 days, BSFL reach an impressively large size up to 1" long, signaling their preparedness for pupation.

  1. Pupation

In the pupal stage, the larva transforms into the adult BSF form. When BSFL are fully grown, they stop eating and search out a dry, cool area in preparation for pupation. Here a hardened brown pupa case forms while the incredible metamorphosis to adult fly occurs inside over 5-7 days. 

  1. Adult Emergence

The final stage begins as the adult BSF emerges after chewing its way out of the pupa! White, soft-bodied flies emerge first, later turning black with metallic blue abdomens. Adults possess large, prominent red eyes. After mating, the cycle repeats as females lay eggs to propagate the next BSFL generation. Adult BSF live 5-8 days fueled by fat reserves from their larval stage.


Incorporating BSFL into Your Flock

Once familiar with the BSFL life cycle, it’s time to welcome them into your chicken management! Here are some tips:

  1. Feeding Practices

BSFL are natural protein-and-calcium powerhouses chickens love. Mix dried larvae from producers like into feed at 5-20% by weight depending on flock needs. Scatter small amounts to supplement free-ranging birds. Observe to ensure proper consumption and adjust if needed.

  1. Harvesting and Storage

Allow Chicken access to self-harvest some larvae from breeding bins. Also regularly hand-pick mature larvae for drying and long term storage. Measure your flock’s intake to estimate production needs. Place harvested larvae spread in thin layers on trays into solar, greenhouse, or low temperature ovens for drying. Store dried larvae properly sealed in cool, dark spaces to maintain nutritional content.

  1. Environmental Impact

As larvae digest manure and food waste, they generate nutritious biomass while reducing waste volumes up to 60% for easy composting afterwards. This makes them ideal for integrating into sustainable coops with waste-reducing features like manure pits.


Troubleshooting BSFL Colonies

Even expertly managed BSFL colonies can face issues like contamination, disease, or life cycle disruption. Be vigilant observing for unhealthy larvae and consult experienced farmers or agricultural extensions when concerns arise. Address conditions like insufficient moisture, temperatures, or ventilation that can disrupt egg hatching, larval growth, and pupation.

Concluding Thoughts

The BSFL life cycle offers a primer on leveraging larvae for an eco-friendly, cost-effective protein source for backyard flocks. Take the plunge into home-scale BSFL farming! Integrating these remarkable insects will reward you with thriving chickens while advancing more sustainable agriculture practices.

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