Notes from Windward: #71


Andrew's Winter Update on
animal feed projects:

Bugs and pellets

Black Soldier Flies

     The black soldier flies have moved to a new level. The mature larva successfully pupated into adult flies, mated and laid a new generation of eggs. In our inhospitably hot and dry summer climate this is a big step forward. Thanks to careful selection and placement in the puparium habitat. Hooray! We now know that is physically possible for them to reproduce here in the summer.

some evidence of success
an empty pupae casing

     We still have yet to figure out how to sustain a colony all year around. The eggs were hatched back into the biopod and were left to over winter. We will see come spring whether the colony survived.

     If larva/eggs can successfully overwinter this year then there is great hope for them. Although, without any insulation the temperatures may be too low for them to survive. Another option is to refrigerate the eggs/larva hatch them out later. Some success with this method has been reported by other BSF enthusiasts.

protein and calcium rich bugs are magically transformed into eggs

     In order to expand on what we have now, we'll need to figure out an appropriate environment for them live all year around. The puparium worked this year with a small colony but a significantly larger space will be needed to contain a larger multigenerational colony for regularly feeding chickens. In the coming years, the propagation greenhouse may be adequate for BSF program, although there are many challenges that go along with using such a small yet multipurpose building. Ultimately the Pearl aquaponics facility will be the best place for the colony to live.



     A summer intern Celeste, did wonderful work with vermiculture this past year. Lindsay has been maintaining the colony through the fall and winter.

     We hope to develop a larger and more practicable system for breeding worms as a protein injection for the chickens and ducks. Particularly for the youngsters who need lots of protein as the rapidly grow.

     Vermidise is set up with 6 worm beds which have not been fully utilized. We hope to more fully use them. Some of the next steps include:

  • Finding regular sources of food, and implementing a system to collect it

  • Lining the beds with a water (but not worm) permeable layer such as landscaping fabric

  • Dividing the current colonies into the beds

  • Figuring out the appropriate amount of worm matter to feed to the birds

  • Developing a regular and effective harvest system


Darkling Beetle Larva (AKA meal worms)

darkling beetles
the tiny black flecks in the flour are eggs

     The meal worms were a big success in converting spoiled flour into chicken feed. The colony easily tripled in size by the first snow this winter, and there are probably more eggs that have yet to hatch.

     The colonies have not been insulated thus far, but so far they are still alive, although not very active. In the spring the colonies will be split up and given fresh flour, creating six separate rearing trays. One of the colonies will be held for breeding and the other five will be regularly fed to the chicken as a source of insect protein.

     Mealworms will continue to be produced as long as we have the very specialized food source that they require (the flour).


     This past year we secured a pelletizing mill in order to compound ingredients into well balanced, storable pellets for various animals. At this point we have successfully made pellets (albeit poorly formed pellets) out of saw dust and wood shavings.

bunnies love pellets
we love bunnies

     In this next year we will be advancing our understanding of the many physical dynamics inherent in creating pellets; particularly the dynamics of our small pellet mill.

     The physical/chemical process of pelletizing is fascinating, and a bit tricky. Polysaccharides, cellulose and lignified tissues in plants, with the right amount of moisture, heat and pressure "melt," like wax and form an organic binder.

     The heating and extrusion process in the mill creates the heat-pressure component of the process. There is still a bit of learning to do when it comes to warming up the machine, and the appropriate settings of the various components. The main area that we need to learn more about involves the dynamics inherent within the ingredients we have to work with. We need to better understand what combination of plant matter, starches, binders, water and other ingredients is needed to form sturdy pellets. And, what is the optimal size and moisture content of the input materials.

     Once we can make some sort of pellet with the materials at hand, it we can proceed to experiment with the nutritional components of the feed and develop a well balanced feed.

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 71