Automating the Process
As black soldier flies gain popularity on commercial farms, the infrastructure for their handling becomes increasingly important. It is one thing to give a few treats to chickens in one's backyard, and a totally different thing to give half a ton of larvae to chickens on one's commercial farm. So, mechanical solutions start being developed.
Dörper, A., Gort, G., Veldkamp, T. and Dicke, M., 2023. Automatic dispenser of live Black Soldier Fly larvae to feed poultry. Journal of Insects as Food and Feed, https://doi.org/10.1163/23524588-20230180
Feeding poultry with live insect larvae stimulates natural behaviour and improves poultry welfare, when poultry has prolonged or frequent access to the larvae. But how to feed live insect larvae to poultry without labour-intensive hand feeding? This paper focusses on the development of a device that overcomes this challenge. A circular device was designed with eight storage compartments, which were filled once a day with live Black Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae (Hermetia illucens). A motor controlled the timed rotation of the device multiple times per day, initiating the release of larvae when a compartment was pushed over an outlet. Every 60 minutes, a new compartment was pushed over the outlet, which means that after eight hours all compartments are emptied. To achieve a gradual release of larvae per storage compartment the device was timed to move every 30 minutes half a storage compartment forward. The larval release was recorded every 5 minutes within the 60 minutes. The device was tested at 18 °C, 24 °C and 30 °C, with 3.4 g and 129.8 g BSF larvae per compartment, and with three different outlet types of different size and shape. The larval release rate was influenced by temperature, amount of larvae, outlet type, and interactions between these factors. After placing a new compartment above the outlet, 50% of the larvae were on average released within 6 minutes. After 60 minutes, on average only 0.5% larvae remained in the compartment. Outlets with wider openings are preferred over the outlet with the narrowest outlet because less larvae remained in the compartments. The dispenser fulfilled the low-labour-intensity requirement as filling was only necessary once a day, the release of different amounts of larvae was achieved over several hours. This automatic dispenser provides a valuable tool to investigate the behaviour of poultry fed with live BSF larvae.