Incubating BSF eggs is in general a simple & easy process. The thing to keep in mind is not to over-complicate things. There's only a few heads-ups to note. Let's check the process out now.
Preparing the hatching substrate
The hatching substrate or the starter feeding bed is usually the key for this incubation process. You can use rice bran, chicken broiler feed or cornmeal. Mix in some water to make the feed bed soft & moist. Around 60-70% humidity is best for hatching.
The issue growers usually find with chicken feed substrate is that it tends to dry up really fast, especially in hotter climates. This creates a hardened bedding that makes it hard for the hatchlings to crawl around & get good oxygen supply. Also, when the substrate is too wet, the young hatchlings may drown. Runny substrate also tends to dry up quickly as well.
A good mix ratio is 1:1 or less. For 1 kg/lb of rice bran, for example, mix in about 1 kg/lb of water or just about 700 ml. Alternatively, you can pour chicken feed in a bucket & add water about a finger-length above the feed surface. Let it soak there for 4-5 days. We don't mix or swirl it around because it may turn the substrate liquidy or too thick. You can ferment it for days before using.
A good substrate is one that's a bit fluffy, cool when held in hand & moist. If the feed goes dry after several hours, spray the bed with some water.
Placing the eggs on the substrate
A good placement can help reduce egg loss due to the contact with moisture or water. Initially, growers place a piece of paper or cardboard on the feed bed, then they put the eggs directly on it.
Because the substrate is moist, water evaporates out, seeping through the paper & getting into direct contact with the eggs. As there may be some salt content in the rice bran or the protein content in the chicken feed, this can make the eggs go bad. In certain cases, it steams the eggs.
From this experience, people add an extra layer between the eggs & the bedding. A mesh screen is good & won't rust easily. There are openings on the screen to let the vapor out. And the eggs never touch the water directly. Fiberglass or inox screen is good for this purpose.
Sometimes, the collected eggs will have the dead bodies of BSF on them. Get rid of the fly bodies so they won't attract ants to your hatching bin.
Also, some growers spray anti-ant solution around the box to keep them away. If you're using this solution, make sure the stuff doesn't get into direct contact with the eggs. The chemicals may damage them & the little hatchlings.
When you're first starting your BSF colony, you may notice ants or houseflies visiting around for the first two weeks or so. Once your colony is established, these little animals will disappear around the BSF environment. The flies & larvae excretes a certain smell that keeps other insects away. It's truly powerful.
To keep the humidity of your hatching box, place it in a cool dry place. The shade will help keep the temperature not too hot. The warm temperature helps the eggs hatch a bit quicker. A good temperature for hatching is about 85F (29C).
Housefly maggots appear most often at the beginning & ending stage of the BSF larvae. Or specifically the hatching cream larvae stage & the darkened pupae stage. To keep the houseflies away, you can try covering the box with a print screen fabric with tight openings. Alternatively, pre-treating the substrate with some microbes can help shoo the houseflies away. Three useful ones are:
Remember don't put too much substrate in the beginning because it may turn moldy before the larvae have a chance to eat it. About 500 grams is okay for 50 grams of eggs. After 2-3 days after they hatch, we can transfer them to a more yummy food house.
The lazy way to incubate BSF eggs
If you don't want to scrape the eggs out from the egg collectors (wood pieces), then place the whole stack above the feeding bed. The downside to this method is that the eggs may take a bit longer to hatch–about 1 day longer. Without scraping though, we create less disturbance to the eggs on the wood surfaces. Sometimes, too much force might bruise them without our knowing.
If you get an egg box from some place, you can place the egg box on the spacing screen. Be sure to introduce them slowly to their new home to prevent temperature or humidity shock. The rest of the process is pretty much the same as we've seen.
After about 3-4 days, you'll see the eggs turn a bit darker in color. If they are quite fluffy & lighter, it's a good sign the eggs have hatched. Congrats! You may not see the little hatchlings at this point because they are so tiny. As they feed on the starter food, they'll get bigger in no time.
Have fun & good luck with your incubation. If you have any questions or ideas, please share them. Many thanks!
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