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 Small Scale Indoor Breeding 
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
It's now been a little over two years since my indoor colony was started from larvae purchased in late June 2011. It seems to be doing fine and there are many larvae of varying sizes as well as adult flies.

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I Believe The Black Soldier Fly Has The Potential To Be A Beneficial Insect Second Only To Pollinating Bees


Mon Jul 08, 2013 2:46 pm
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
This is a "don't do this" lesson.

I had to leave my indoor BSFL bin unattended for 15 days and decide to try something new. While initially researching raising BSF indoors BSF I had come across a post on reptile related forum telling of larvae that had been stored in a fridge pupating and adult flies eclosing. I expected refrigeration would just slow down the metabolism of the larvae delaying their maturation.

My system (link) has a small rearing tub inside a storage tote. The population was divided with about half the frass/larvae combination left in the bin and the other half stored in the fridge. These were mostly the lighter colored younger larvae as the prepupal larvae normally crawl out of the rearing tub in the bin. Both 'halves' were fed a large piece of raw potato as 'vacation food'.

I'm happy to report that the population left in the bin fared well but unfortunately the larvae stored in the fridge were almost all dead. Only 31 live larvae were found. I'll speculate later on the cause but it appeared to have happened in a short period of time as the slice of raw potato looked virtually untouched. As well, only a couple of larvae had crawled out of the tub and were on the bottom of the pail where normally there would be dozens daily.

So what are the possible causes? Obviously the cold temperature is the most likely culprit. The temperature in the fridge was about 7°C. The incident reported on the reptile forums may have been older larvae so perhaps the darker prepupal larvae are not as susceptible to the cold? BSF are reported to over winter as larvae but perhaps the temperature change in the fridge was to rapid?

The lid of the container (link) had a few dozen pinholes for ventilation and seemed to provide an adequate air supply previously. However it is normally opened daily to remove larvae which would provide substantial additional ventilation. Perhaps the cold immobilized them quickly after which they suffocated slowly?

In order to salvage something from this situation I decided to count the dead larvae. Picking the larvae out of the frass was a very boring tedious chore and I finally gave up after a couple of weeks of sporadic counting. My final count was 1590 and I estimate that there were many more left uncounted. This was a bit of a nice surprise as extrapolating the total population present before the rearing tub was divided yields over 3100. Not big compared to an outdoor bin but OK for a margarine tub sized system fed a few grams daily. There was a good mixture of sizes which provides some assurance of a long lasting healthy population.


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File comment: Maturation pail and lid with tub of dead BSFL inside
MaturationPail2.jpg
MaturationPail2.jpg [ 124.9 KiB | Viewed 8922 times ]

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BorealWormer

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Last edited by BorealWormer on Sat Sep 28, 2013 4:54 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Fri Sep 27, 2013 10:18 pm
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
I agree with your analysis. My first thought was temperature and my second thought was suffocation. At 7ºC I'm surprised they ate anything at all. Let me know if you want some eggs. It's getting toward the end of the season, but I could spare a few clusters for the forum moderator. ;)

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Fri Sep 27, 2013 10:34 pm
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
Thanks Jerry but I should be alright. I should have more than 1500 larvae from the half that stayed in the bin which is 15 times what I started with originally.

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Fri Sep 27, 2013 10:52 pm
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
Before you toss the "dead" ones, BW, try warming them!

I once put a quart bag of immature larvae in the freezer to euthanize them prior to a dehydration experiment. They appeared certifiably dead after an hour though not yet frozen solid. About 15 minutes after I loaded them into the dehydrator, I had a mass of squirming larvae crawling everywhere! :shock:


Sat Sep 28, 2013 8:42 am
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
I did keep them at room temperature for a couple of weeks but only found about 30 live ones.

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Sat Sep 28, 2013 9:22 am
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
Three months after losing about half of the population of larvae my small bin has recovered nicely. I'm back to feeding the same amount as before the incident and the 'food' disappears quickly. There are also about 30 adult flies at the moment which is higher than average.

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Thu Nov 21, 2013 12:27 am
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
StVitus describes an indoor bin (link) which is a prototype for a larger system to be used in a scientific trial in Scotland for the disposal of routine mortality (morts) from salmon farms. Some excerpts and photos are shown below but I'd encourage you to read the whole thread (link).

" The main thing seems to be having a good light which also provides the heat. I have been using a Phillips CDM-T 35W Cool-white bulb and it is working well.

... I have been using a large storage box to keep my flies in.

... I cut a hole with a Stanley knife and put a tile in to attach the bulb fitting and also the ballast on the outside. I used an old jar to enclose the bulb to stop the flies burning themselves, by bolting the lid of the jar to the tile. The glass part can then just be screwed on to the lid to cover the bulb."


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Thu Feb 13, 2014 1:01 pm
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
How big exactly is that breeding chamber? I was under the impression they needed quite a bit of space.


Tue Feb 18, 2014 7:09 pm
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
Large enclosures are not really required, at least for mating. Read the earlier posts in this thread and you'll see examples of a few systems in storage totes. Note that these small systems are limited in their capacity for processing waste or producing larvae.

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Tue Feb 18, 2014 7:38 pm
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
BorealWormer wrote:
An interesting development in my system as the larvae are pupating in the feeding/rearing tub (link).
Keeping the rearing tub drier has another nice side effect - the frass (link) is also drier. This tub was getting full earlir than expected so today I transferred some of the contents over to my maturation tub. The material was moist but not the heavy dense muddy consistency I've seen previously. Is very light, crumbly (IIRC friable is the correct term link) and well aerated. As usual there were also leftover potato and apple peals that the larvae will not eat. There were also quite a few empty puparia (link) left by flies that eclosed in the tub.

The larvae obligingly quickly crawled deeper into the frass as I removed the upper layers so I don't think too many will need to be transferred back. All in all a much more pleasant task than previously. The only negative is that the fluffy frass fills the tub faster so it will have to be emptied more often.

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Sun Mar 02, 2014 8:08 pm
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
BorealWormer wrote:
... The larvae obligingly quickly crawled deeper into the frass as I removed the upper layers so I don't think too many will need to be transferred back.
I might have been overly optimistic about that. It turned out that there are probably hundreds which had been too small to see when the material was first removed from the rearing tub. Luckily Jerry had developed a method for harvesting actively feeding larvae which he jokingly calls The Immature Larvae Collection Device or ILCD (old butter tub) (link). This is simply a container with some small holes around the bottom edge. Food is placed in the container which is placed on the surface of the frass. The larvae crawl in through the holes to get at the food and then can be easily harvested. In my case they are picked out and manually transferred back to my main bin. My mini ILCD has been in use for the past three days and works well.

Attachment:
ImmatureHarvester.jpg
ImmatureHarvester.jpg [ 120.95 KiB | Viewed 8075 times ]


My Mini ILCD is a 5cm(2") Jar Lid With Holes Drilled Around The Perimeter And Baited With A Slice Of Apple

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Fri Mar 21, 2014 3:25 pm
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
As mentioned above I moved some of the frass from my bin into a separate pail which is isolated from the bin so no additional eggs can be laid in the material. The frass is placed in a small tub within the pail (link). The pail is kept at about 27°C and is fed regularly. As the larvae mature and 'crawl off' to pupate they exit the tub and end up in the bottom of the pail. These are usually the dark prepupal larvae which are transferred back to the main bin. It normally takes a couple of months for all the larvae to mature.

Attachment:
File comment: Maturation Pail and Tub
Pail2.jpg
Pail2.jpg [ 32.89 KiB | Viewed 7902 times ]


Most of the larger larvae moved out of this frass before it was transferred as it was fairly dry allowing these larvae to quickly crawl deeper into the frass as I removed the upper layers. Anyone who has harvested castings from a worm bin would be familiar with this method which relies on the photo-phobic worms crawling deeper into the material to get away from light. BSFL behave much the same in less dense drier material where they're able to move quickly.

I just transferred the last of the larvae from the pail after 72 days. In total 616 larvae were transferred and one fly escaped. The fly was a surprise and a first in the time I've used the maturation pail. Most likely there was a pupa that I missed when transferring the frass but I was unable to find the empty pupal case (puparium). After this I wet the frass to encourage any prepupal larvae to migrate but all the larvae transferred were light colored.

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Mon May 12, 2014 7:13 pm
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
Eventually I would like to evolve a system large enough to process manure from 3 horses on a daily basis. But first I'll need some experience with a small population. For starters I'm thinking of using a white 55 gal plastic drum for a small scale "chamber" for complete life cycle production. All lighting will have to be artificial. Maybe cut a door/window in the side of the vertical barrel? How big should the door/window be? Maybe put Velcro around the resulting opening with matching strips on window screen material, there by making an access/viewing port? Maybe the same set up for a clear plastic cover over the screen to help regulate humidity? Could the lights be mounted inside at the top of the barrel or would the height have to be adjustable? How long would the lights have to be on? Which lights would you recommend? Next consideration would be how big or small of a starter seed colony would be needed? Any feedback would really be helpful.


Sun Jun 15, 2014 8:43 am
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
Wow lots of questions. I've provided some answers and links below but I'd also encourage you to review this whole thread as there are examples of several working small systems.

BobH wrote:
... For starters I'm thinking of using a white 55 gal plastic drum for a small scale "chamber" for complete life cycle production. All lighting will have to be artificial. Maybe cut a door/window in the side of the vertical barrel? How big should the door/window be?
Large enough to easily get stuff in and out for feeding and maintenance. Maybe 1ft wide by 2ft tall.

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Maybe put Velcro around the resulting opening with matching strips on window screen material, there by making an access/viewing port? Maybe the same set up for a clear plastic cover over the screen to help regulate humidity?
That would work. Being able to observe what's going on inside is a good feature. You might need some sort of a larva barrier around the inside of the opening.

There will always be a few larvae that wander but it's usually the prepupal larvae which have stopped eating that go looking for a way out. Jerry lines the top interior circumference with the rough (not the fuzzy) strip of two-part Velcro (link). I experimented with an electric 'fence' (link) and there are also the mechanical barriers used by PeteB (link) and (link).

Quote:
Could the lights be mounted inside at the top of the barrel or would the height have to be adjustable? How long would the lights have to be on? Which lights would you recommend?
See this post (link) for a short summary of lighting used by people who have been successful with indoor breeding of BSF. The lights will be in a very humid environment so should be in some sort of inclosure. There's an example of using a jar here (link). This also protects the flies from being injured by a hot light bulb. You must also make sure the bulb doesn't overheat.

I have the lights on in my system a couple of hours a day when I can't get the bin in direct sunlight. Others have them on longer.

Quote:
... Next consideration would be how big or small of a starter seed colony would be needed?
It depends on how much you want to spend, how much you want to feed and other factors. I would advise starting small while your experimenting so if your colony dies you can easily start over. Once you found methods that work start expending. I started with a hundred larvae.

Another aspect of this is to provide adequate heat. With a smaller container lighting will provide most of the heat but some form of supplemental heat is usually required. If you have your light at the top of a drum the heat from it will stay at the top so heating will more of an issue. Some folks use heating mats like what are used for germinating seeds or in reptile terrariums. Temperatures above 70°F are best.

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Sun Jun 15, 2014 1:08 pm
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
Thanks Mike,

Thanks for the suggestions. I've read the German thread a couple of times and of course your Small Scale thread. One last question if you don't mind? How high or low should the lights be? Would I have to mount the lights on the sides of the barrel or can they be at the top of the barrel?


Mon Jun 16, 2014 8:36 am
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
Bob I think it can be done either way as there are examples of both in this thread. Since you're using a white drum it will have the advantage of walls that reflect light.

Research papers give values for the intensity of light required but very few of the DIY crowd have light meters so usually just try to match the output (lumens) of systems that have worked. You'll find those in the links in my previous post.

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I Believe The Black Soldier Fly Has The Potential To Be A Beneficial Insect Second Only To Pollinating Bees


Mon Jun 16, 2014 11:16 am
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
Thanks Mike. For simplicity, I think I'll mount them in the top.


Thu Jun 19, 2014 7:35 am
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
Nice read. Anything new? :mrgreen:


Sun Jun 22, 2014 6:53 pm
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Post Re: Small Scale Indoor Breeding
Not on my system :) It's become an experiment in longevity as I can't really expand enough to consume a meaningful amount of waste. I'm only feeding 6 grams daily so I suppose the population size is limited by that but it is fairly stable. The number of adults varies between about 20 and 80 and I estimate there are 3000 to 4000 grubs with a wide distribution of sizes.

dermy the University of Regina was doing some research on BSFL. You might want to check with them to see what they have.

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Sun Jun 22, 2014 7:59 pm
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