Holy Frass!

I grew up on a farm, so I’m well versed in the virtues of manure. Heck, I now live in a city that produces fertilizer made from biosolids (yes, that’s a nice way of saying treated sewage).

Still, the idea of Cricket frass as fertilizer was new to me.

Cricket frass is a byproduct of the cricket protein industry. The organic material contains cricket feces, shed exoskeletons, and waste feed. It takes six weeks to raise crickets to maturity. During their life cycle their shed their exoskeletons eight to 10 times. Chitin is a naturally occurring substance found in those exoskeletons and it’s believed to help jumpstart a plant’s immune system.

Crickets produce a lot of frass. In fact, most farmers find they can harvest frass equal to half their cricket production by weight. For example, if a farm produces 500 pounds (227 kg) of crickets per month, about 250 pounds (113 kg) of frass is also being produced. The added revenue from selling that poo can make a real difference – cricket frass retails for upward of $10 per pound.

There isn’t a lot of scholarly research on the benefits of cricket frass. In 2017, University of Vermont Extension conducted field trials to determine the potential nitrogen fertility value of cricket frass. The experiments found that cricket frass can be an effective Nitrogen amendment and increased sweet corn yield when compared to the control. Mealworm frass is most often referred to as mealworm castings. Casting is the term that has been used to describe earthworm manure, a product that has long been used as a dry fertilizer or to make a nutrient tea.

So, while researchers continue to analyze and test, I decided to try out some frass myself. I ordered mine from Frass Forward, but there are lots of options out there. If you live near an insect farm, chances are they’ll sell you some.

It’s not exactly planting season in the Pacific Northwest, but I wanted to replant the pot on my front porch. Before tucking some primroses into the soil, I mixed in some frass. I’ll report back on whether I detect any noticeable effect on these flowers.