When packaging your BSF eggs for shipping, take into account the temperature, the moisture, the food for the nearly-born babies & the movement shock along the way.
Let's see some packaging ideas so your customers can get the eggs in whole & the larvae can survive the journey well. Then, you can worry less about replacements or refunds.
Some Common BSF Packing Issues
When a customer opens a poorly-packed egg box, they may get the issue of the eggs clumping up or sticking to the side of the box. When they try to get the eggs out, there will still be some sticking to the side. Obviously, this is egg loss for their money. This is a humidity issue that may stem from a substrate that is too wet. Or possibly, the moisture from the eggs themselves during a hot transit. Thus, causing the eggs to clump up and stick onto the container's wall.
As you can see here, the little eggs & young hatchlings stick around the wall of the jar, making it hard to get them out. What customers may have to do here is just leave the jar on the feeding bed so the larvae will naturally crawl out. This creates some inconvenience for those who want to divide the eggs into smaller portions for their different use-cases, analysis or trials. As the eggs stick to the side, it creates a bit of a shortage here and there in this and that portion if the grower decides to divide the eggs in different amount for raising / incubating.
If the box is placed together with other shipments in a warm or hot area during transit, the moisture inside may evaporate out. Some substrate like chicken feed or rice bran may have a salt content in their water vapor. If there is no spacing between your eggs & the water vapor, it might cause the eggs to turn blackened & in cases what people call rotted.
Finally, as post offices sometimes have delays during shipping (e.g traffic jams, holidays off time, the weather or unwanted breakdowns), it's better if you prepare a good amount of food inside the box. So even when there's a 10-day or 2-week delay, the hatchlings will have some food in there to survive. BSF larvae are really tough guys & they won't be knocked out easily once hatched out of the shell.
As we see here these guys have been in the box for about 8 days. Although they are much smaller than the ones that are better-fed, they are still very much active & alive.
From the common packing issues that we've seen, we can somehow set some simple shipping goals:
- Good food for the BSF babies for minimum 10 days
- Spacing to lessen contact with water vapor
- Fluffy moist substrate but not too wet
- Shock-absorbent to reduce impact during bumpy roads
- Air for the BSF to breath
Setting these little goals, we can go the right way now.
Let's do this egg packing step by step:
Step 1: Make the Substrate
To make the substrate, you can use chicken feed, rice bran, cornmeal, spent barley or any that's readily available for cheap in your local area.
If you use chicken feed, it's good to soak it in water for about 4-5 days. We don't stir it around to make sure it doesn't turn too thick or soupy. After that you can check if it's good by taking some in your hands. If it feels moist & is fluffy, then the substrate is ready.
The thing about some rice bran is some may contain the pesticide residue remaining from the rice-growing process. Some egg sellers have experienced dead eggs because of the residue airing out from the bran. So check with your rice bran sources to make sure it comes from a safe pesticide-free source.
The good thing about using cornmeal (maize bran) is that it provides a moist, smooth surface for the eggs to lay on. This keeps the eggs from clumping up with each other. Cornmeal absorbs excess moisture quite well. So we can worry less about the moisture issue. It also helps the eggs not sticking too much to a side of the box.
Depending on the size of the order, a good amount of substrate to prepare can be:
|Amount of substrate||Amount of eggs|
|200 grams||50 grams|
|7 oz||1.7 oz|
With this amount of starter feed, the babies will be able to survive in the box for days. You can adjust it up or down to better suit your order amounts.
The second step we can do is:
Step 2: Spacing & Moisture Absorbent
For spacing & absorbing moisture, you can simply use napkins and add the eggs layer by layer. Some people use poly-fill (or artificial cotton) for spacing. The hatchlings unfortunately can't eat this stuff though. Some customers complain that this material sort of makes the new hatchlings cling on to the polyester fibers too much & creates some clumpy clusters. It's difficult to separate the tiny creatures & the fibers out.
So eventually they switch to using natural cotton. It serves a double purpose of spacing, for breath-ability & can be the food for the larvae when they hatch. Baby larvae can eat natural cotton. There won't be any sticky issues in this case.
If you use cornmeal & natural cotton spacers, you can pack them in the box (starting from the bottom) layer by layer:
|Packing eggs with cornmeal & cotton spacers|
At the bottom, we put cornmeal, then the eggs and then the cotton. You can then work the levels up from there depending on how many grams you're selling.
If you use chicken feed & napkin spacers, you can try:
|Packing eggs with chicken feed & napkin spacers (bottom up)|
|Thick cardboard piece|
|200 grams chicken feed|
The thick cardboard piece will help separate the eggs from the feed. Together with the napkins, it can help absorb any excess moisture. Then we can keep stacking on until the required egg amount is reached.
We're almost done with our packing. Just a few notes about:
The Oxygen Opening
On the lid of box, cut out some opening. This will help let oxygen in & create a good air flow around. It makes sure the eggs won't get steamed.
Before putting the lid on, place a piece of fabric over the box. A darker color one is good to keep direct sunlight out when the outer packaging is opened.
When you place your egg jar in the box, remember to put some:
To keep the egg jar in place, nudge some newspaper pieces or Styrofoam pieces around the empty space in the bigger box (where we put the egg jar in).
You can use tissue paper, bubble wraps or the Styrofoam packing peanuts. Some post offices offer these shipping supplies for very cheap or at times free. You can find them online as well.
And voila here is:
The Finished Egg Jar
Your finished egg box may look something like this (or even much better if you're neat and a careful packer) :)
|Space outside egg box||The lid with a hole||Space outside egg box|
|Newspapers||Piece of fabric||Newspapers|
You can use plastic containers to hold the content. In some stricter markets, they require higher standards so you may need to use glass jars, like a peer of ours Martin at Ento Organic Farm did for his product.
It is advisable to use a shorter jar. From my experience, this could make it easier for the tiny hatchlings (the little ones like to gather near the bottom of the jar for more shade) to crawl out, that is a shorter distance for them to travel out.
Let's see the finished egg jar:
The daily egg yield for some farms is about 100-150 grams. For bigger farms, this can be up to 1 kilo of eggs or more a day. If you want to make sure the customers receive a good amount of egg with little egg loss (or with lower mortality rate), then pack about 5-10% more of the ordered egg amount. Customers will be happy and appreciate your spirited kindness and business. Some egg sellers do this to ensure the highest satisfaction for their customers and a sustainable business.
When the Customer Receives BSF Egg Jar
After shipping, the egg jar your customer received may look a bit like this:
It may get a bit mixed up due to shipping and handling.
But this is a good point to communicate with your customers a few points:
2 Things to Communicate to Your First-Timer BSF Egg Customers
If you're using a substrate that has a similar color (yellow, cream, brown) with the egg/larvae, it may be hard to tell whether it's the egg/hatchlings or the substrate. But rest assured, they are there. If you look very very closely, you can see tiny tiny moving white dots (if they have hatched). Those are the newborn babies!
Also, you don't have to do anything much really after receiving the eggs. If some of the eggs have hatched, carefully, open the lid, lay the container on some feed. With the smell of food, the babies will naturally move themselves out of the box. This is why we mention earlier that a shorter jar could help them travel faster out to the destination.
For first timers, after looking at the little larvae moving for a while, you may get a 'mild obsession' when looking at other little white dots on objects around the house here and there, thinking 'Is it the larvae? Is it moving?'. Looking closely then, oh nah, it's just a piece of dust. So be mindful first of developing this obsession first time :)
Also, don't worry too much. These larvae are tough and resilient, meaning they won't die easily. In an experiment the researchers did a while ago, they submerged these larvae in isopropyl alcohol (IPA) for 6 hours straight. Many animals would have been dead by then. But these BSF larvae mighty warriors/fighters survived. When taken out of the solution, they were still wiggling like nothing has ever happened!
I would say possibly the most potential loss at this point is we can't see where our little hatchlings are, because they are so so tiny. This could lead to loss when the hatchlings move here and there (and we can't see them) or we miss some in the box. So my advice is to gather them in one place and avoid a hot environment so they won't be escaping to some other place. From day 3 on as they grow bigger, you'll be able to see the larvae much easier and catch them more easily.
Happy Egg Shipping BSF Farmers
It's not terribly difficult to ship your BSF eggs to your customers right. If you keep in mind some notes about the humidity, temperature, food & shocks, you'll be all set to deliver high quality products to a lot of people with less frustration & disappointment. That is all we want the customers want and hope for. It's a really good feeling. Hope you'll enjoy & have good success with your BSF startup or business.
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