Composting with black soldier fly larvae and composting with earthworms (vermicomposting) are not competing technologies as much as they are complimentary. I’m not speaking from personal experience or research, but I believe it because I was told this by Dr. Paul Olivier, the inventor of the BioPod and one of the pioneers of black soldier fly research.

earthworm on stone background

Add another hobby to the list

It was Dr. Olivier’s work that first inspired me to work with black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia illucens), so his enthusiasm for vermiculture is enough to motive me to try my hand with worms. Apparently the friable compost that is a byproduct of BSF composting is a superior medium for raising earthworms. As soon as my larvae have produced sufficient compost I’ll start a worm bin. In this article Dr. Olivier mentions the beneficial relationship between red worms and black soldier fly larvae that can be utilized for maximal waste processing

Calling all earthworm enthusiasts

I would like to exchange ideas and information with anyone experienced in vermiculture and who is interested in incorporating black soldier fly larvae into their systems. Feel free to post a comment, send me an email, or better yet, join the BioPod forum and post in the Vermiculture section. The forum is brand new so it’s pretty quiet now, but it should be a good place to discuss these two composting techniques. I started a thread in the Vermiculture section and you can find it here.

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96 thoughts on “Earthworms + black soldier fly larvae = composting²

  • June 14, 2008 at 8:41 am
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    Hello,
    I have been reading your blog over the past month or so and your efforts have encouraged me to start my own BSF experiment.

    A few months ago I put together my first worm bin and now I have three bins on the go. I’d like to combine my three bins into one large bin so I’ve been researching different bin construction and methods for larger worm bins and have come up with my own design which I plan to construct in the next week or so.

    I first read about the BSF in a vermiculture forum (can’t remember which one) and was intrigued. What intrigued me was how quickly the BSF larvae consume large whole scraps including meat. Currently I am freezing all of our vegetable/fruit scraps then running them through a food processor to make something like a smoothie. I bag this mixture up and refreeze it in ziploc bags until needed. Then I thaw out a bag put the contents into a 2 liter ice cream container and keep that in the fridge to feed the worms. It’s a “gourmet” meal for them, labour intensive for me, but probably why I’ve seen my worms grow and multiply so well.

    When I read that the compost from the BSF was good for raising worms, I really wanted to give this a try. As you may know, most worm-folk don’t feed their worms meat scraps and I was looking for a way to compost virtually all types of wet kitchen scraps. And since the worms don’t have teeth, it can take a long time for them to consume whole peelings. You basically have to let the peelings decompose in the bin before the worms can eat them.

    If the BSF larvae are indeed the voracious eaters as claimed and they can consume food “whole”, this would be a great labour-saving step for me in feeding my worms.

    From what I understand though, the BSF larvae consume almost 90% of the mass of what they are fed so I would imagine that there wouldn’t be very much compost left to give to the worms. If this is so, I wonder if it would even be worthwhile?

    Anyway, I’m not even sure if BSF live in my area of Canada (I’m across the river from Detroit Michigan) but I’m going to take a 5 gal pail and lid, drill a couple holes in the sides, drop in some just-this-side-of-spoiled meat I have in the fridge, snap the lid on and give it a go. I plan to put the pail outside under my lean-to and leave it for a week. If is see anything that looks like the egg pictures your posted, I’ll leave it for another week and see what happens. I’ll keep you posted.
    Barbara

    Reply
  • June 14, 2008 at 11:05 am
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    Thanks for your comment Barbara. I think you can keep a BSF colony easily in warm weather, and with a little research and practice you should be able to store some pupae through the winter for a quick start up in the spring. It’s also possible to maintain an active colony through the winter by insulating them. In cold conditions the larvae develop very slowly so the same individuals can process food waste for months instead of weeks.

    I don’t think I would recommend using meat to attract your first BSF. I had good luck with dry dog food (kept moist) and it didn’t spoil very quickly. You may want to consider “seeding” your area with BSF larvae which can be ordered from Phoenixworm.com (see link in sidebar) or other retailers. You would simply feed these larvae until they are ready to pupate and then release them in the vicinity of your compost area. In warm weather the adults should emerge in a few weeks, mate, and then look for a good place to lay eggs. If you have food available nearby they would most likely lay in your container. Please keep me posted on your progress.

    Reply
  • June 17, 2008 at 8:52 pm
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    Hello again,
    I started my BSF bin with some moistened dry dog food and after 4 days all I can see in the bin is a hairy mold growing on the dog food. No evidence of fly eggs.

    I checked the Phoenix worm site in Canada and their minimum order is $100. I’m not about to spend that on something that may not work for me. I’d order a couple of cups but not 100 bucks worth. Any suggestions?
    Thanks, Barbara

    Reply
  • July 4, 2008 at 1:11 pm
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    I’ve got a few compost bins going (http://www.nifty-stuff.com/compost.php) and in one I’ve got “cold” compost that has already composted a bit. The worms LOVE this cool, damp, dark matter.

    Next to this bin I’ve got a mix of 1/4 compost and 3/4 horse manure & pine shavings (http://www.theeasygarden.com/forum/viewtopic.php?pid=207658#p207658) . This pile has exploded with BSF larvae. I’m very surprised they are doing so well because this compost pile is hot… I mean REALLY HOT at about 150 degrees. Worms hate this heat, but the BSFL’s seem to love it.

    BTW, I can’t believe I’m already using acronyms like BSF and BSFL…. what a great blog! :)

    Reply
  • July 4, 2008 at 2:17 pm
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    Thanks Nifty.

    You probably won’t find BSF larvae in the hottest part of the compost, but they can certainly stand more heat than earthworms.

    If you haven’t already seen it you may want to read this article by Dr. Olivier:
    ARTICLE

    Reply
  • September 10, 2008 at 9:40 pm
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    I built a flow through worm composter out of two stacked construction site igloo water coolers and some misc. parts. I had to add a fan controlled by a temperature probe due to high temperatures. Worked extremely well for the last 4 months, requiring almost no effort other than dumping in kitchen waste.
    I noticed the BSF larva in with the worms about a week ago and did some research. I’ve increased the type of food waste I put in (everything but bones) and it all disappears very quickly. The BFS seem to stay up top and the worms like it mostly just underneath the surface. So far they are coexisting OK. I have the temperature controller set to keep the bin between 75 and 85 degrees.
    I used to have fruit flies and house flies hanging around the unit but they have all disappeared. The only issue so far is the material inside the unit looks a bit on the wet side, but there is no smell so I don’t think it’s gone anaerobic. I will try adding some partially composted leaves to reduce moisture and help out the worms. The combination of worms and BSF would make an amazingly efficient composting system. Hopefully I can manage it so both survive.

    Reply
  • September 21, 2008 at 8:31 pm
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    I started my 2 BSF projects before I found this web site.
    The first was a 5 gallon bucket with wood screws and wood-filler
    for the exit ramp/pvc pipe with no lid.
    The food was garden scraps only and a very soupy foul mess from
    a garbage can full of just this “stuff”.
    This bucket was started 130 miles west of Houston, Tx where
    I saw my 1st female BSF.
    This bucket was brought home to Houston area, days before IKE hit.

    In this bucket the wood-filler did not stay .. Hard..
    lost the ramp at the food line.

    IKE left me with no power for 7 days which supplied me with lots
    of food for the second bucket project. So I began my 2nd bucket
    at my brother’s house, with power.
    This bucket used 1/4″ nylon rope for $1, hot glue gun, metal screws
    pvc pipe and still no lid.
    Self harvesting is happening in first bucket after more food was
    added past lost ramp from cleaned out refrig.
    I just scooped out “food” and larvae from 1st bucket and
    added it to the second bucket.

    I have not noticed BSF yet in Houston, but my food does have lots
    of meat currently.

    1st bucket, ramps are about 42 degrees.
    2nd bucket has 3 ramps, 2 at 45 degrees, 1 at about 40 degrees
    and was built before I saw self harvesting happening in the 1st bucket.

    I do not have a drain in either bucket.

    Reply
  • September 23, 2008 at 11:46 am
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    Andrew, by using the fan you’ve dealt with one of the issues relating to combining worms and BSF. It’s not unusual for temperatures to reach 100º F/38ºC in a BSF colony. Another thing you will have to deal with is the excess liquid that the BSF larvae produce as a byproduct of the large amount of food waste they consume. Adding leaves will help at first but at some point space would become an issue I think.

    Sorry I took so long to respond as I’ve been traveling, but I’m very interested in your progress.

    Randy, there are definitely BSF in Houston. It sounds like you’re getting the “bugs” worked out of your units. :) A lid isn’t necessary if you can keep rain out as well as rodents and other animals that might prey on your larvae. Rabbit cage type mesh can be used to keep critters out. The liquid can become a problem because the larvae can’t operate efficiently below that level. You might want to reserve any dry waste materials like grains and bread to use whenever it gets too wet in your units.

    I hope both of you will update us when you get more information.

    Thanks for posting.

    Reply
  • October 6, 2008 at 11:22 pm
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    Very interesting idea. Currently I am just starting my vermicomposting business so I’m not going to be adding BSF but I would love to hear how it works out for other people. Regards – Chris

    Reply
  • October 9, 2008 at 11:20 am
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    Ive been using my BioPod for a few weeks now after using a rubermaid bucket all summer. Im in NC and the temp has slowed down their aggressive eating. My escape bucket is ready to overflow with mature larve. Whats the best thing to do with these mature larve?

    Reply
  • October 9, 2008 at 4:42 pm
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    Hi Randy25,

    You can either release the mature larvae or feed them to birds, fish, lizards etc. A wide variety of animals will eat them, but it’s also good to let some of them go to keep the wild population strong. To release them just dump them out on your property near an area with shrubs so they have some cover.

    I’ve released 10’s of thousands of larvae on my property and you still rarely even see an adult. That’s because they aren’t attracted to people and the adults only live a few days.

    Reply
  • October 12, 2008 at 5:09 pm
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    Thanks! It’s great to have found this information before I completely shoveled out my active compost bin after finding many of these larval critters in there…I freaked out a little yesterday, because I’ve never seen them in my four years of composting. I’m still a little unclear if I need to separate them out. My goal, while using all vegetative household food waste and stuff from the yard, is to create rich compost for use in my garden beds. I’m getting the idea that I can still do that. I had huge amounts of red wigglers prior to this invasion of BSF larva. It looks like the BSF have over run the active compost bin and the wigglers have settled to the bottom, like other folks have reported. I’m certainly thrilled to find that they are not harmful as I initially worried. And the anticipation of shoveling today the whole pile wasn’t exactly exciting! So can someone clarify that I can continue without changing my composting methods? Will I still have some material for my garden or will these voracious creatures eat it all? How do they fare for the winter? I’m in southern Oregon, where it doesn’t get too cold in winter. And the pile is pretty toasty. Thanks. Hope my questions aren’t redundant; I haven’t done a full explore of what’s out there.

    Reply
  • October 12, 2008 at 9:16 pm
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    Hello Heidi,

    I’m afraid I don’t have much experience composting, but I’ve communicated with several people who often have BSF larvae in their compost without any problems. One thing to consider is that you can add several times more scraps to the pill while the BSF are present. You can also add almost any type of food waste including meats, dairy, and citrus, and the BSF will consume it quickly.

    I just heard from someone in CA were the temps have just started to cool a bit. They’ve had BSF larvae in the pile for 8 months straight and when they turned the pile recently it caused the colony to migrate en mass away from it. My guess is that the disruption of the warm center of the pile caused them to leave. If I were you I would leave the compost where it is and try to keep the colony going for the winter. As the weather cools the larvae will take much longer to mature. At some point maturation will stall until spring and you can probably maintain the colony through the winter by feeding them regularly. If the food supply is interrupted for too long the heat will dissipate and the larvae will go dormant. Of course if the temperature drops below freezing in the pile they will die.

    I hope that helps, good luck!

    Reply
  • October 27, 2008 at 8:30 pm
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    hey all! i have a worm bin (stacking tray) and tons of BSFL. yes, i freaked first, but then did my research and based on my own observations and what i have read, everyone seems to be doing great (worms & BSFL). i am curious about a couple of things however and would love to get some feedback:

    – the “worm castings” are not brown and beautiful and crumbly like i expected them to be – with the BSFL present. it makes it difficult to decide when to harvest the “compost”… any thoughts anyone?

    – i have recently seen a lot of the worms on the top of the bedding. the environment is very moist from the larvae, and i am concerned about this upward migration of the worms. how do people keep the moisture levels down?

    – what exactly do the worms eat if the larvae consume so much of the food? are they eating the BSFL “castings”. it would seem that the by-product is nutrient rich…

    thanks!!

    Reply
  • October 28, 2008 at 8:49 am
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    Hi Ade, welcome to the club!

    I’m guessing that the castings are wetter than you expected, and perhaps darker. I culture BSF without worms and the castings are almost black. The moisture content of the casting is directly related to the moisture content of the food scraps you add. The presence of BSF larvae allows you to process a lot of scraps very quickly and the combined moisture of all the food is released into your worm bin. BioPods are equiped with a liquid collection jar for this reason. If you want to make the castings drier you can simply reduce the amount of high moisture waste that you add. Adding dry grains/cereals will absorb some moisture.

    For what I’ve read the worms do very well on BSF castings. I don’t know enough about worms to guess why they’re at the top, maybe someone else will venture an opinion.

    Please keep us posted about any new developments.

    Reply
  • November 20, 2008 at 12:03 am
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    Updating on the flow through system with BSF and worms combined. Everything worked fine for a while, but I think I put in too much green stuff and the temperature climbed into the high 90s despite the fan. I turned over the material some and added partially mulched leaves but waited too long, all the worms died due to the heat (BSFs did fine).

    I ordered new worms right away and upped the fan size. Now I cut up part of a pizza box into roughly 2″ squares and throw them in with every pile of kitchen scraps to break things up. System worked great through October until last week. We are getting temps in the low 20s now at night and the composter is running around 55 degrees, too low for efficient composting. I will be adding a heater this weekend, hooked up to the temperature controller (it can be set for heating or cooling).

    The composter runs much wetter with the BSFs. I put in a drain and have the composter up on a stand (12″ diam. plastic pipe) with a small bucket under the drain to catch the drips. The castings I rake out of the bottom of the composter are very wet but don’t smell. I chuck them into the container plants, which seem very happy.

    I feed it all the kitchen scraps (pizza, pasta, rice, bread, salad, fruit, whatever) except meat, roughly about 2 gallons of loose material twice a week plus the cut up pizza boxes. When it was running at 75 to 85 degrees it handled the load no problem. With the current low temp it has slowed down. Hopefully the heater will get it back to the 75 degree range.

    Andrew

    Reply
  • December 3, 2008 at 8:27 pm
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    Thanks for the update Andrew.

    I think the biggest problem with combining the two species will be temperature because BSF larvae compost best at 35º C / 95º F and they can survive up to 45ºC/113ºF.

    You may find this blog helpful: http://biosystemsdesign.wordpress.com/2008/07/09/black-soldier-fly-compiled-research-on-best-cultivation-practices/

    If you insulate a BSF colony and provide regular food they can generate enough heat to thrive in cold weather.

    You probably already know it but BSF larvae will process meats fairly well and also citrus and dairy products.

    I’ll look forward to hearing more about your experiments.

    Jerry

    Reply
  • January 25, 2009 at 2:27 pm
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    Barbara wrote

    I checked the Phoenix worm site in Canada and their minimum order is $100. I’m not about to spend that on something that may not work for me. I’d order a couple of cups but not 100 bucks worth. Any suggestions?
    Thanks, Barbara
    —————————————————-

    Following the links from Phoenix worm site in Canada led me to http://www.bugorder.com which sell cups of 100-150 BSFL marketed as “phoenix worms” for $10 as pet food.

    I’d be interested in any updates to your experiments in Ontario.

    Reply
  • January 25, 2009 at 3:53 pm
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    Hi, I have a couple of Rubbermaid worm bins. They got ‘contaminated’ with BSFL over the summer. I haven’t had any problems, bins still work very well to get rid of household waste- I put in all fruit and veggie waste, eggshells, coffee grounds, newspapers, shredded junk mail, wood shavings from cutting treated fence posts, sawdust from cutting plywood. For the last four months they have been on my enclosed but unheated back porch. It hasn’t gotten below freezing on the porch but hasn’t been much above 50 either. The BSFL are mostly dormant, and the worms are doing most of the work.
    I am building an outdoor plywood enclosure and will be moving the bins into upright barrels sometime in the next month. May have supplemental heat. Wonder what’ll happen?

    Reply
  • January 26, 2009 at 1:19 pm
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    Hi Barbara,

    Do you want the larvae for pet food or to start a colony? Of course 10¢ per larvae seems expensive to me because I have 10’s of thousands of them that I got by putting wasted food in my BioPod. :)

    I have communicated with people in Canada about BSF but I’m not working on any project there. Eventually I believe people in the far north will perfect bio-composting under very cold conditions.

    Reply
  • January 26, 2009 at 1:24 pm
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    Hi Eden,

    Your set up sounds very interesting and I hope you’ll keep us updated.

    Reply
  • January 27, 2009 at 3:24 pm
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    Hi Jerry

    I was looking for information on anybody working with BSFL in Canada and was hoping Barbara would post an update on her progress.

    I may have confused you by quoting her earlier post. I used to forums and have little experience with blogs.

    Reply
  • January 27, 2009 at 5:11 pm
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    Here in Sydney I have two Tumbleweed composters that I alternate – filling one while the other is composting. At the moment, the one that I am filling is absolutely teeming with BSF larvae, and it is clear that they are doing a great job converting the material to lovely compost.

    My question is how do you know when the composting process is stopped? And if I were to take the compost off when I think it is stopped, (complete with BSF larvae) what happens to the BSF larvae? With one lot that I did, the BSF larvae died, and comprised a fair bit of the compost. Is that OK? And what if there are live BSF larvae in the compost as I use it?

    Reply
  • January 27, 2009 at 7:54 pm
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    Hi BorealWormer,

    I understand now, I was in a hurry when I read your previous post. I also hope to hear from Barbara. :)

    Reply
  • January 27, 2009 at 8:10 pm
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    Hi Ray,

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying the BSFL.

    “My question is how do you know when the composting process is stopped?” – If the compost/residue is mostly black with no visible food it’s probably finished or almost so. If you have a dense population of larvae it might only be a few days after you stop adding food assuming the temperature in the pile is optimal (30º-38ºC).

    “And if I were to take the compost off when I think it is stopped, (complete with BSF larvae) what happens to the BSF larvae? With one lot that I did, the BSF larvae died, and comprised a fair bit of the compost. Is that OK? And what if there are live BSF larvae in the compost as I use it?” – They will simply crawl off in search of food if they are juveniles or in search of a good pupation site if they’re mature. They won’t harm garden plants or anything else for that matter. I think any dead larvae would only help enrich the soil, but that’s just a guess. They might also be scavenged by something if they are dead or preyed upon if alive. BSFL are happily eaten by a wide range of critters.

    Thanks for sharing, please stay in touch!

    Reply
  • February 24, 2009 at 10:36 pm
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    I am experimenting with BSF and am quite impressed. Does anyone have any experience with breeding them indoors?

    Reply
  • February 25, 2009 at 9:05 am
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    Hi Jay,

    I’ve read that BSF have not been bred indoors yet, and I’ve also read a few claims that it has been done. So far I haven’t seen any studies to support indoor breeding but just yesterday someone offered to send me some literature that might confirm it.

    I believe the limiting factor has been lighting and the day/night cycle. If the new literature looks good I’ll reference it here.

    Reply
  • February 25, 2009 at 2:36 pm
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    Hi Jerry; Any info you can post on indoor breeding would be greatly appreciated. It would be wonderful to know requirements for: light intensity, light duration, temperature, humidity, space required and egg laying medium. To really take full advantage of these great insects for my project will require the ability to consistently breed in very large numbers. Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  • March 11, 2009 at 5:05 am
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    I would like to know how the BSFL will work with poultry waste, like the manure, guts, feathers, bone, etc. I would also have leaves and garden waste to add to the mix.
    Also, where can the ProtoPod be purchased?

    Reply
  • March 20, 2009 at 8:12 am
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    Hi S. Doyle,

    I don’t have much experience bio-composting the items you’re asking about but I’ll give my best guess.

    BSFL will certainly eat chicken guts. I’m not sure about the science, but I believe it’s not recommended to feed the larvae back to the same flock that produced the guts.

    BSFL will also consume chicken manure. From what I’ve read it is a messy process because the larvae liquefy the manure. I believe the reduction in volume will much less than the reduction you would see with typical kitchen scraps which can be as high as 95%. I think manure is usually reduced by approximately 50% in volume. Again, I believe it’s not recommended to feed the larvae produced from manure back to the stock that produced it.

    I’m pretty sure BSFL could break down poultry bone and feathers, but I imagine it would be a very slow process. You could maybe speed this up by grinding the bones and feathers before adding to the colony.

    BSFL can eat just about anything except high cellulose items like grass and yard waste. I don’t think they would be successful with most leaves and the same is true with garden waste that is high in cellulose like stems. On the other hand BSFL are the champions of processing rotting vegetables. Here’s a short video I made of my colony processing some old cucumbers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVjjc4uVaz4

    Adding high cellulose items to a BSF colony only results in added bulk under the best conditions, but may also cause problems. I haven’t tried it so I’m guessing (again :) ), but I think it could cause overheating during the summer months. The last thing you want in a BSF colony in the summer is any type of insulation. When BSFL process food their activity generates heat, that’s why a BioPod must be kept in full shade. I would think that layers of undigested material like leaves would trap the heat and drive the larvae out of the pile. If the colony overheats then you get premature crawl off because the juvenile larvae exit via the ramps as a survival mechanism.

    The commercial ProtaPods are expensive to ship due to their size and the shipping cost varies a lot. I don’t have them set up for purchase with an automated PayPal button for that reason. If you want a ProtaPod please contact me using the contact form in the right column of this blog.

    Thanks for your comments S. Doyle.

    Reply
  • April 10, 2009 at 10:11 pm
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    Hey Jerry,

    “We seek a peaceful coexistance” in one container just doesn’t seem likely to me. But, what if it were one container in two parts and both parts allowed species separation but mutual benefit?

    Worms would benefit from both the liquid and casts of BSFL, correct? BSF adults want to lay eggs around odor of BSFL liquid.

    Make a continuous flow worm bin from a blue 55gal plastic barrel. Good examples can be seen on the vermicomposting forum at Garden Web. Instead of cutting the top out of the barrel, we cut a hole in the top of the barrel to just fit the bottom of a BioPod snug and give that BioPod a mesh bottom, mesh size just enough to allow fall-through of the BSFL casts which are very small and would be facilitated by the action of the feeding larvae, correct? We’re feeding the BSFL colony so hopefully newly hatched larvae would not go through the mesh but stay in the food source. If a few fall through and die, well the worms will eat them.

    So below we have a continuous vermicomposting bin which has good air flow that possibly will be facilitated by heat rising from the above BSFL activity. Worms get fed through a door. We have a door to keep the air flow going upward and out the top of the BioPod, directing adult BSF to lay in the BioPod lid as normally since they don’t have access to the worm bin below that is benefitting from the casts and liquid from the BioPod and since the casts are never building up in the BioPod, we might just be able to lift it up to add our cellulose materials to the worm bin and do away with the need for a door!

    There you go, Composting2…I would try it if I had a junk BioPod to cut the bottom out of, lol but I’m not buying one to cut the bottom out of! Maybe I will try it with a bucket. How big is a particle of BSFL casting? I have some stainless steel mesh in different sizes…

    Hi Charlie, we can discuss this in detail at the BioPod forum thread I started about the subject. Black soldier fly larvae + Earthworms = bio-composting²
    Jerry

    Reply
  • July 1, 2009 at 4:08 pm
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    Hi there!
    Great site this one. Congratulations, you really do a good job keeping informed about BSF.

    I would like to share my experience with BSF. I started a compost bin (a 34 gal plastic trash bin with self made holes) and I expected to find earthworms time later. Those worms doesn’t show up, instead BSF appeared , I think I live in a place with conditions quite proper for BSF. First were a few maggots, but later I started to count tens and I was afraid when I discover those maggots were a kind of fly grub.
    Thanks to this forums I know the BSF better and I’m quite happy to have them in my compost.

    Need an advise, how can I make a kind of BSF trap around my compost bin or so to keep them quite. Once, on a rainy day, I found a few BSF inside my house! I don’t want my mother canceling my compost project. =P
    My compost bin is placed in a roof yard, is not placed in soil, separated from floor by bricks.

    Thank you again!!

    Reply
  • July 4, 2009 at 6:32 pm
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    Hi Esteban,

    I’m glad you found the blog interesting, thanks.

    If you can set some type of large pan under the bin you might be able to contain most of the BSF. In dry conditions the grubs can’t climb a vertical wall, but when there is condensation present they can climb straight up. If you can keep it dry you only need a wall of a few centimeters to contain the BSF. Keeping some sawdust or wood shavings in the pan might help keep it dry assuming no rain can get on it.

    Good luck with your BSF and your mother! :)

    Reply
  • July 10, 2009 at 3:28 am
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    Hi Jerry.

    I found this blog really helpfull, thanks.

    I’m doing my finally university project in Barcelona (Spain) about composting and BSF appear in our compost.
    At first we didn’t know what specie was this larvae, but a couple of months later we discover they was BSF.
    So I decided start a project about BSF in mediterranean area, (I didn’t find information about european studies).

    I wil start a blog about this research soon.
    Thanks again (and sorry about my horrible english)

    Reply
  • July 10, 2009 at 2:35 pm
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    Hi Laura,

    Please don’t worry about your English, mi Espanol no esta bueno. :)

    I’m glad the blog was helpful. Please inform us when you publish your own blog.

    Reply
  • July 13, 2009 at 8:30 am
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    First, I would like to make a comment about a misconception about composting with worms. Worms do not eat plant material, they eat the bacteria which have fed on the plant material, so the aerobic composting needs to happen first, and then the worms take over. Will Allen of GrowingPower.org says he lets the compost sit for six months before he puts it into worm bins. Yes, he adds worms to the compost heap when he makes the heap, but he knows that the worms will not get really active until it has composted for six months and then transfers the compost to worm bins. Worm castings are made from the waste of digested bacteria. So feed the bacteria and the bacteria will feed the worms. It is like with cows, the bacteria digest the grass in a cow’s stomach and the cow digests the bacteria. Isn’t nature fascinating.

    Two months ago, I got interesting in researching Aquaculture as a way of using the waste from processing chickens on the farm. I did not know about BSF at that time, although, all of my life, I have seen BSFL and thought of them of being a result of failed management practices on the farm. By shifting my perspective of one of BSFL as being bad, to viewing them as good and desirable, the world changes for me. My thought is to use BSFL to process the chicken guts and feathers into fish food in hoop house where fish are raised in tanks with the fish tank water being filtered by planter pots full of compost growing veggies in the greenhouse, with all water being returned to the fish tanks. So the idea is to get a crop of fish and vegetables with the only inputs being water, chicken guts, and goat stall bedding, plus labor.

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  • July 18, 2009 at 11:54 am
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    Hi chickenfarmer, thanks for the great comment!

    I’ve also read that black soldier fly grubs get their nutrition from aerobic bacteria more than from the food waste itself. That doesn’t seem to make sense given how quickly BSF consume food though. Anyone who studies BSF grubs has seen how quickly they can dispatch a watermelon or a cheeseburger. My theory is that the grubs process food several times instead of once like most higher animals. We know BSF consume manure and I think it’s possible that they also consume their own partially digested residue until it no longer supports bacterial growth. That seems like a better explanation for their super-efficient digestion than a single process.

    I’m curious what the BSF will do with chicken feathers. I’ve read that after a lengthy period they can break down fish and even chicken bones, so I guess they should also break down feathers.

    I also think aquaponics is a fascinating science with a productive future. Currently I only raise fish in traditional ponds, but aquaponics is on my list. I’ve been curious for a while about whether my pond water has enough nutrients to support hydroponic gardening. I’ve imagined a solar powered pump moving water to a greenhouse on the bank of my pond and then back to pond. If I lived for 1000 years I don’t think I would run out of interests. :)

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  • July 27, 2009 at 4:44 pm
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    I recently started experimenting with vermicomposting, and after a few disappointments with systems inside, I moved them outside to a larger system set in a spot that’s always shady here in the heat of inland Southern California. The lid is highly penetrable by those with creepy crawly intentions, and less than a month later, I found my bin “infected” with roiling, crunchy sounding masses of strange, armored looking larvae. I have inadvertently acquired an IMMENSE population of BSF. I have no idea how my worms are doing down under all of this, but the BSF are doing a bang up job of consuming the biomass I drop in the bucket. I was already planning to add my wrigglies to a Wicking Worm Bed (http://scarecrowsgarden.blogspot.com/search/label/wicking-water%20beds – popular in the hot spots of Australia). Apparently now my worm feeding half-buried buckets of compostables will include some BSF larvae as well… Thanks for making it easy to figure out what I’ve got and whether to keep them!

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  • July 27, 2009 at 9:50 pm
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    You’re very welcome Stacy.

    I love the phrase “roiling, crunchy sounding masses of strange, armored looking larvae”. I don’t know much about worms but I’m concerned that the BSF grubs are generating too much heat for them to thrive. You might want to don a glove and go for a dig. :)

    Please keep us updated about your surprise BSF colony.

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  • July 28, 2009 at 12:53 pm
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    Well, Jerry, I frankly had little hope for my worms just based on our weather in the first place. We’ve routinely been in the 90s for weeks.

    After several hours of reading online last night about the little buggers, my husband helped me install an escape ramp this morning (he split open a piece of PVC and heated it enough to open and create a U-shaped ramp as my box hasn’t smooth sides to use with something like angle iron), with a peanut jar for catch basin (too tall for the local jays to reach the little guys, hopefully). The drop is open to the outside, so I expect it will also act as an entrance for any bugs wanting access to lay. I also raised the unit up off the water catchment lid more as the drainage wasn’t happening and the bottom is rather soupy. There were adolescent larva down in the water catchment basin, too. They also got a new batch of slop from a bucket my mom handed me a while back. Sadly, the consumables at the moment are lots of corn husks/cobs, a small cabbage, and some baby artichokes, none of which are a prime source for the fleshy loving little guys, but there’s also some citrus and melon rinds as well. The partially decomposed bucket of stuff should, if nothing else, attract more adults to lay.

    Inspection indicates a fair population of smaller larva, and several egg clusters on the window screen used as a lid on my bin. They’re still pretty quiet this morning as they’re in full shade and our heat hasn’t hit yet today, but I expect things will get a little more rambunctious come afternoon/early evening – our predicted high today is 90.

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  • July 28, 2009 at 2:44 pm
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    Yup, there they go. 1 pm, 88 out, and that sound from last evening is gearing up. There’s a handful that have found, used the ramp so far, so it’s functional if not optimal. We’ll see how it goes over the next couple days/weeks.

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  • July 28, 2009 at 7:09 pm
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    By 4:30 there were several dozen prepupate larvae in the container, with more en route. There were about a half dozen or so on the walls of the container thanks to my mucking around earlier. I tried relocating them to the ramp via a leaf, but *every single one* of them headed downhill. Apparently, much like with my 3 yr old, it’s all about doing things on THEIR schedule, not mine. ;P

    The ants have been attracted by the latest infusion of muck, and there’s some flies as well. We’ll see if they adversely affect my crew. They’re still crunching and heaving away in there.

    It’s weird watching an entire lemon “breathe”…

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  • July 28, 2009 at 8:39 pm
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    Stacy,

    All BSF units need to be open to the outdoors and not too many other bugs choose to enter. Certainly a few other insects will visit from time to time, but very few considering that you’re presenting very desirable food.

    Concerning drainage issues coconut coir (stuff that lines wire hanging baskets) seems to be a good solution. If you line the bottom of your unit with it you get a filtering effect that might help keep drain holes clear. You might also want to reserve any dry waste items like flour mixes, bread, stale cereal, etc. for time when your unit is too wet. These things can help soak up the excess. You can also mix in some shredded paper, but not newsprint or glossy stuff.

    “Functional if not optimal” perfectly describes my first DIY black soldier fly unit also. When I started working with BSF the BioPod wasn’t available so I had no choice. It worked alright and I had fun using it. I was very grateful that Dr. Olivier had published diagrams of the prototype on his website for inspiration.

    Ants can be an issue with all of the tasty treats available. I haven’t had a full scale raid by ants, but I’m sure it happens. When I used my DIY unit I set it up on sawhorses and occassionaly I would spray the legs with insect repellent. Not the best solution perhaps but I didn’t need to do it very often. This year I haven’t had any ants in the unit except for the time I laid the lid on the ground and some red ants began raiding the eggs from the egg disc.

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  • July 29, 2009 at 6:23 pm
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    Last night I learned that the beasties prefer to migrate at night. While they avoided the ramp for the most part during the day, my evening delivery of kitchen trimmings revealed a line to get out, and the glass peanut jar had a good half to 1″ of them in it by morning.

    My 15-minute afternoon observation session yesterday included a single ovipositing female who was struggling valiantly to find places inside the bin to lay. This afternoon’s visit involved no fewer than three females, all present by the time I showed up. One of them found a handy cutout in the bed frame pieces I’m using as weights to keep the lid on, and further inspection showed similar egg deposits on other pieces. I never even got the cover off today – didn’t want to disturb the females laying more eggs. I need to get some currogated cardboard out there affixed in such a way that they have an easier time finding comfy spots.

    I don’t think I’ll have any trouble keeping a population stocked at this rate. Which is convenient as the lady down the street who provides me with homegrown eggs was interested in my offer of grubs for her birds.

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  • July 30, 2009 at 11:14 pm
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    Neat Stacy, thanks so much for sharing your BSF experiences.

    When the lady with the chickens sees how they react to BSF grubs she’ll probably want to work out a trade. :)

    I believe that when a BSF female randomely scurries around the sides of a BSF or compost bin she is laying eggs. Normally when I observe this behavior the female is dragging her tail end on the surface which is why I think they’re laying. It makes sense too because by scattering some of her eggs she offsets the risk of a predator finding all of the eggs in one place (basket?). The cardboard might be fun to experiment with but don’t stress about it, the girls will find places to lay without it.

    Thanks again and please keep the comments coming, I’m enjoying your experiments and your writing.

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  • August 3, 2009 at 5:10 pm
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    A friend randomly had an entire package of rice get infested with things he didn’t want to eat, so I’ve tossed that in the bin to help absorb my excess liquid. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve also tossed them some coffee grounds from the last “harvest” from Starbucks (most of it going to the big brown compost pile in the yard), in part because I’ve heard they like them and in part because it might make my bin less objectionable to others in the family. ;) They’re heavily overfed at the moment and I’m trying to give them some time to catch up. Leaving them alone is HARD!

    I’ve dropped off a second batch of grubs for my neighbor (whose chickens sadly are “on strike” on account of the heat!) – she said they loved them.

    I’ve not yet seen them lay in the “nursery” but there’s still clutches being laid along the edges of the bin on the window screen, so it’s all good. The bin is open to the outside via the PVC pipe hubby turned into a ramp, and gets plenty of ventilation with the entire top screened. The screen does help eliminate the more annoying flying creatures that tend to be attracted to my wastes!

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  • August 4, 2009 at 2:46 pm
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    I have been vermicomposting for the last year or so…with varying degrees of success. I am trying to move my bins outside to eliminate gnats and flies in my house. :) I live in the DFW area of TX…so it gets pretty hot here during the summer.

    My first outside bin became “infested” with these grubby looking things…and I had no idea what they were…so I dumped out the whole thing. Then, it dawned on me…when my next bin became infested…that the chickens would probably love these grubs, so I let them multiply.

    I have no idea how they get in the container. I took a metal trash can, cut out the bottom, drilled some holes along the bottom of the sides, then dug a hole and half-buried the can. This keeps the can cooler and allows the worms the freedom to move in and out of the container as they need to. I filled the can with leaf mold, covered the top of the mulch with a couple of layers of cardboard and then added a tight-fitting lid in hopes of keeping out those giant black cockroaches that love compost bins. I add my food scraps into the middle of the can once a week. Those grubs somehow managed to get in and are happily feasting in my worm bin.

    Today I realized that these grubs are BSF and I am happy to know that this is a good food source to have been feeding to my chickens…they sure love them!

    Meanwhile, the open bottom and the leaf mold seem to do a very good job keeping any moisture problems down. The BSFL seem to thrive in the hot middle of the can, while the earthworms are multiplying along the edges. I have read some of the concerns about raising them together, but mine seem to be co-existing together well…for about a month or so. Since this is all a great experiment on my part, I’m just watching to see what will work and what won’t.

    After reading some of the posts, I’m tempted to take the lid off of the can…but I’m really afraid of attracting those giant cockroaches. If you’ve ever been to a wooded area in Texas you know what I mean. :)

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  • August 5, 2009 at 8:15 am
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    Hi Trisha,

    Thanks for the great comment. The BSF grubs are entering your worm bin as tiny hatchlings less than 1/8 inch long and about as thick as a thread. The female BSF are laying eggs on the outside of the can and on the lid and the new grubs simply crawl in toward the delicious smells coming from your table scraps. :)

    There are many reports of BSF and worms sharing the same container and it doesn’t seem to bother either species. Since each of them have different requirements it’s difficult to design a container to maximize both species productivity. It can happen spontaneously as in your case but maintaining it consistently at productive levels is the challenge.

    If you want to vent your bin by removing the lid you might try a tight fitting window screen. The BSF will lay eggs on the screen the new hatchlings will drop right into the bin. Of course you need to keep the rain out.

    Thanks again and please keep us posted on your project.

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  • August 14, 2009 at 3:55 pm
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    Hi Jerry,

    I discovered BSF larvae in my compost bin a few weeks ago and I think I have read every shred of information available on the net. Very interesting little critters.

    I have a Rubbermaid compost bin about 3′ x 3′ in which we place our kitchen scraps. If we put them in the regular pile, the two dogs get into it. Now and then I add some brown stuff like grass clippings and recycled potting soil. The first time I saw them I was seriously repulsed. They were all over a cantaloupe rind. Went in and looked them up and have been hooked ever since.

    Went back out and looked again, and every time I open the bin there are at least 5 females flying around and lighting here and there. I had never even noticed them. They seem to like laying eggs on coffee filters. The larvae will just chew through the filter and eat the coffee grounds. There are numerous air holes in the bin and the adults seem to be able to find their way in and out.

    I don’t have fish or chickens (would like to) so I guess I can harvest them for the birds, lizards and frogs.

    I would love to have a BioPod but my husband thinks I’m nuts to pay money for maggot breeding. I might try Stacy’s idea with the PVC pipe.

    One question, my main goal was compost. Will there ever be a time when it is safe to use the compost left behind, or is it a permanent breeding bin now? How would you extract the larvae out, or is that even necessary? I saw a YouTube video where a guy put a large butter tub, drilled with largish holes, on top with some yummy scrap in it. Supposedly they go in after the scrap and can’t find their way out. Is that a good method?

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  • August 14, 2009 at 6:53 pm
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    Hi Connie,

    Yes, BSF do really like melons and coffee! :)

    I didn’t have any animals to feed my grubs to when I first started keeping BSF either. I simply released them. I may have released as many as 100,000 mature grubs over the past few years and the adult BSF are only noticeable around my BioPod. I still haven’t had one come into the house yet. If you release them on your property they will be shared by the long list of wild critters that love to eat BSF grubs.

    Of course husbands are always right, but there is a point to culturing BSF beyond just “maggot breeding”. By maintaining a BSF colony you’re accessing a powerful natural engine that converts waste into life. The amount and types of waste you can compost with traditional methods is very limited compared to what you can do with a BSF colony at your disposal.

    You certainly can use the compose. If you separate a portion of it from the main pile the BSF will soon cycle out of it assuming you don’t add more food scraps to it. The BSF grubs are there for one reason, food. If the compost is in an open container the grubs will simply leave after any remaining food is consumed. You could even use it for outdoor needs while the BSF are in it. I don’t think it will harm the grubs, they would just crawl off in search of rotting food to consume.

    You can also remove the light colored juvenile grubs with the method you described in the YouTube video. I describe how I do it here: http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/2008/07/25/collecting-immature-larvae/

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  • August 19, 2009 at 3:37 pm
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    Hi Jerry, thanks for your response!

    I am going to try using the compost soon. I just fed them some cantaloupe so I’ll have to wait a few days. I have about 20 cantaloupes on the vine now but I figure there will be a new batch of larvae to take care of those remains by then.

    I just love the whole idea of recycling with BSFL. Your web site has so much good information, I’ll be back.

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  • August 19, 2009 at 4:28 pm
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    Jerry, how do you think plastic gutter material would do as a ramp?

    I get the design of the BioPod, with the molded circular ramps…no matter which way they go, they’ll eventually find one and the curved edge keeps them from falling off at the top. Have to convince Hubby it’s worthwhile. He’s hard-headed if he didn’t come up with the idea.

    I’m sure he’ll come around since he wants to build a Koi pond…do you know if Koi’s like them?

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  • August 19, 2009 at 4:38 pm
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    Connie, any plastic in the right shape will work. Here’s the best advice I can give you; whatever your husband thinks is a good idea is a good idea. :P

    Your Koi will grow fat and healthy eating BSF grubs. I think BSF could supply 25% of their diet or maybe more.

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  • January 11, 2010 at 12:47 am
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    Hey Jerry! I’m scheming with some people that are interested in doing a vermi/BSFL-composting system, but on a large scale. Instead of household waste management, we’re thinking more like a city. Do you have any experience, or maybe some references to point me towards in that regard?

    My biggest question is, can the BioPod design be expanded to hold more than the household one does, or is there a reason for the size being the way it is that keeps the BSFs happy? Thanks!

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    • January 11, 2010 at 10:42 pm
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      Hi Josh,

      Using both worms and BSF to process the same waste give great results, but combining the two species in one container may prove to be difficult. Worms and BSF don’t harm each other but they don’t reach their maximum potentials under the same environmental conditions. Worms do thrive in BSF residue to at the least you can work with them that way. I’m not aware of any projects on the scale you’re thinking of but if I hear of any I’ll let you know.

      Any size container is fine for BSF with the main concerns being that you contain the juvenile larvae and that you provide adequate drainage.

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  • March 31, 2010 at 9:18 pm
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    We have been using bsf larvae as fish bait for decades here in the Philippines.We get our bsf larvae from the soil with lots of rotten coconut meat. Try using coconut meat to attract bsf.

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    • April 1, 2010 at 8:03 am
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      Thanks for the information nopi. It’s good to hear about people benefiting from BSF. I live in the southeast US and BSF larvae have also been used as fish bait here for decades. Earthworms are much more commonly used and sold here, but people who use BSF usually prefer them over worms when they can find them. The BSF mating season is just beginning here and I will try your suggestion of using coconut meat to attract the adults.

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  • April 13, 2010 at 8:49 am
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    Thanks so much for all this info. I have been vermicomposting with red worms for almost one year and I have enjoyed every moment. Unfortunately most people shake their head or laugh (as most of you know). I am trying to attain a sustainable farm. I am now interested in trying to encourage growth of BSF in my outdoor compost pile. I will visit this site often now that I found others with similar interest. Thank again from Nebraska!

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    • April 13, 2010 at 10:21 am
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      Hi Kim,

      You’re welcome, I’m glad to have you as a visitor.

      To entice BSF to your compost pile you can go a little heavy on the addition of kitchen scraps. You can also put out a container of whole dried corn kernels soaked in water. If you keep most of the corn submerged it will ferment which creates a great smell for attracting BSF females. A few weeks after the BSF eggs are laid in the corn container you will start to notice the larvae. It takes four days for the BSF eggs to hatch and another week or two for the tiny larvae to grow big enough to see easily. Once you establish BSF in your compost pile you might want to progress further to my DIY bucket composter. It’s a great way to observe the larvae closely and if you have chickens or other livestock/pets you’ll be able to use the harvested larvae.

      Reply
  • April 13, 2010 at 8:29 pm
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    One more question for now. I have a very large pile of horse manure and some chicken manure, do I need to add something to that? I want to use them for fish bait and chicken food. I am hoping that we have them in our region. I am going to check with my extension service.

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    • April 14, 2010 at 8:32 am
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      Kim, most of Nebraska seems too cold for BSF but occasionally I hear about wild populations in unexpected places. Of course your chances of having BSF are much better if you’re in the southern part of the state. If you’ve had chickens for a few seasons and haven’t noticed BSF in their manure I would be less optimistic. I’m not sure how attractive horse manure is to BSF but they’re found in chicken manure fairly often. The problem with herbivore manure is that it contains high cellulose material which BSF don’t thrive on. The chicken manure might be enough to attract BSF but I would add kitchen scraps to increase the chances.

      If you don’t have BSF in your area you could still experiment with maintaining your own population. They should be able to reproduce as usual during the warm season and then you would need to store the larvae in a semi dormant state through the winter. It’s easy to overwinter them; just make sure they stay moist and don’t let them freeze.

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  • April 15, 2010 at 11:12 pm
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    Hi Jerry! I am so glad I have you to ask all these questions, and I very much appreciate all your knowledge on the subject. I got my worm composter a year ago as a gift from my husband. I have now hinted about a biopod would make a great birthday gift. We are trying to make plans to have a small green house by winter. Will it work to keep my biopod going in winter if they are warm enough? I am trying to find a small local group with an interest in vermicomposting. So far, no luck. I want to order some biogrubs to get me started. How do I care for them when they arrive?

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    • April 16, 2010 at 8:22 pm
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      Kim,

      I’m happy to help. You can operate a colony of BSF larvae even in a cold environment if you insulate the container and feed them regularly. In that case you won’t have reproduction but the larvae you have at the end of the summer will remain in the juvenile state and continue eating until they pupate in spring. Of course you can’t harvest many of them because you only have a fixed number of them. To harvest larvae throughout winter you would need to have reproduction. That would require fairly high temps, probably in the 80’s which can be expensive to maintain in a greenhouse. Even in a heated environment I think it would be tricky to pull off. I’ve never tried anything like that so I can’t be much help there.

      Concerning the new BioPod Plus; I haven’t tested one and therefore I can’t recommend them and we aren’t selling them at this time. I will be selling starter kits in a few weeks since mating is just beginning where I live. For information about our kit you can read this page: http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/bsf-multi-stage-starter-kit/

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  • April 17, 2010 at 11:38 pm
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    I have put the corn in the bucket, like you recommended. I have it in a black trash can with small holes drilled. It has been kind of cool here for 2 days, but the black container seems to stay warm. The bucket almost looks like it is boiling ( maybe fermentation has started?) I am going to attach some coffee filters inside the lid in the morning. I will find a better container once I get them started. I have an idea to put one of my compost bins below my bunny cage. Would that work if I add kitchen scraps to it. I have many ideas, I just need to get at least a small population here to experiment with. My hubby has told me to find a place to order them if need be. What is the most reputable place to find some. I don’t want to end up with the wrong critters. How do I start them when they get here? Sorry for so many questions, I just have to ask them so that I will sleep.

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    • April 18, 2010 at 6:54 am
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      Kim,

      Since you last commented I remembered that someone I post with on another forum is from Lincoln NE. He is fairly certain he’s seen BSF there and he’s an intelligent person. That bodes well for southern NE, but I’m afraid you’re a bit early for attracting BSF. If there are BSF in your area I would think they’re still buried in the ground waiting for warmer weather before they emerge to mate. I checked historical weather data for Lincoln and I would guess that BSF will become active there around mid May, maybe a little later. I live about 30 miles north of Tallahassee, FL and I just saw my first adult BSF of the season on April 12th.

      As I mentioned a few comments ago, I will be offering starter kits in a few weeks. I think the kits I promote here are the best because they container multiple life stages including eggs. That arrangement gives you actively feeding BSF larvae for a month or more before they mature. The main reason a kit helps attract wild BSF is because actively feeding juvenile larvae are a powerful attractant to female BSF. You can also order Phoenix Worms in some pet stores or on the internet which are the same larvae, just branded with a more appealing name. Phoenix worms should be available now, but they cost significantly more because they’re raised under special conditions as exotic pet feed. There are also a few sources of BSF larvae for starting a colony but I can’t speak to their quality. All of those I’ve seen in the past consist of a single age group of juvenile larvae without the benefit of eggs or mature larvae. The link I posted above explains this in detail. Anyway, I don’t recommend getting any starter kit before the weather can support BSF mating and for that you probably need temps averaging in the high 70’s. When I saw my first of the year we had already had a handful of days in the 80’s.

      Reply
  • April 18, 2010 at 11:40 am
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    That is what I thought, it’s too early. I am still going to keep my outdoor composter going. I will just keep it more moist than normal. I have alot of fruit peels and scraps. I will add coffee grounds to keep the odor down on warmer days. I am interested in the start up kit when they are available. Thanks again for all the info. Have a great day!!!

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  • May 11, 2010 at 1:11 am
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    I live on long island, just found your site, very helpful. I just placed an order for about 250 larve. Is it breeding time up here? I want to feed them to the reptiles i have how long should i feed them healthy stuff before they got all the junk out of their system from in the bin?

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    • May 11, 2010 at 7:33 am
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      Hi george,

      I’m afraid it might be several weeks before it’s warm enough there to support BSF mating. It’s starts in south Georgia in mid May when temps are getting into the 80’s, however Seattle and Vancouver have wild BSF and they have much cooler weather. BSF definitely prefer hot weather but there seems to be regional variations. July will be good in Long Island, maybe sooner.

      how long should i feed them healthy stuff before they got all the junk out of their system from in the bin?

      BSF eat so much that I would think a day or two would be enough. In general bacteria don’t fare well in waste dominated by BSF.

      Reply
  • May 11, 2010 at 1:25 pm
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    Thanks. Love this site.

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  • May 16, 2010 at 7:08 pm
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    Thank you for your great website and all the information you provide!! We have a self-contained three-tier “Can-O-Worms” vermiculture bin, and the BSFL have been thriving in this as well as the earthworms (much to our initial surprise when we first discovered many unknown creatures clinging to the underside of the lid – BSFL looking to pupate, as we learned form your site).

    My question is what you’d recommend as the best way we could modify the layers of our bin to allow the BSFL to escape when they’re ready – should we drill a hole in each layer with a tube as a “ramp” somehow inserted into the hole to provide an escape route? Our main concerns are keeping the earthworms inside while preventing unwelcome bugs from intruding; since the system is designed to be closed for earthworm culture, we’re a little hesitant in making permanent changes without some outside advise.

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    • May 17, 2010 at 6:52 am
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      Hi Nancy,

      I’m glad you’re interested in nurturing your BSF. I haven’t worked with the Can-o-worms but I can give some general advice that might help. One misconception that trips people up is that the larvae will seek out a ramp. In designing a ramp you have to place it in the path of the larvae. When the larvae mature they try to crawl away from the food source and in a container they will reach the wall and then continuously circle unless they come to an exit. I’m not sure if you could use the tube ramp from my DIY bucket design, but even if you could I don’t know if the worms would also use it.

      You might find that collecting the juvenile larvae is easier than designing a ramp for the mature larvae. Whereas you can’t attract mature larvae with food because they don’t eat in that stage you can do that with the light colored juveniles. Here is a post about collecting the juveniles that might help you: http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/2008/07/25/collecting-immature-larvae/

      You might be able to minimize the number of BSF in the COW by operating a dedicated BSF unit next to it. Like the COW it is a nearly odor free process when done right and if you have a BSF unit next to the COW I think most of the BSF females will opt to lay in that. Of course you will still probably get some BSF in the worm bin unless you move it into a garage or screen enclosure.

      I wish I could give more specific advice, please let me know what you come up with.

      Reply
  • May 17, 2010 at 1:19 pm
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    What a terrific website and clear photos & writing for the bucket system! I live at 3500′ in the California Sierra Foothills and had BSF larvae last summer in my worm bin, but I didn’t know at the time what they were. I left them to work their magic and then they disappeared. Now I’ve got the parts for the bucket II system and have two questions. Could I substitute clear vinyl tubing for the nylon 1/2″ tubing? If not, where do you suggest looking for it? My local hardware store carries polyprolene and vinyl, but not nylon. Perhaps the brew supply store will have it.

    My second question is about insulating the bucket for winter activity. I have some excess foam insulation board and was thinking of lining a larger box with it, such as in my current orange peel composter, and then plopping the bucket system within the insulated bin. Thoughts? If you’ve already covered these questions, please direct me – I haven’t yet perused all the posts because there is so much good information here!

    Thanks.

    Barbara

    Reply
    • May 17, 2010 at 8:09 pm
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      Hi Barbara,

      I was mistaken when I wrote “nylon tubing” in the post and I’ve changed it to vinyl which is what I used. The barb adapter I used is nylon. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. The truth is you can use a wide variety of materials. I’m thinking about ordering some tappers that are sold for beer and wine making with plastic buckets. In that case I may attach tubing to the tapper or just drain the liquid directly into a container for disposal. The clear tubing does give you advantage of being able to monitor the level of the liquid, I’m just not sure yet how much I’ll use that information.

      Keeping the bucket in a larger insulated box will help, but the concept is to preserve the heat generated by the larvae and the larger the space you try to heat the less effective it will be. The box could be a good secondary form of insulation, somewhat like keeping the bucket in a shed or garage for the winter. The best way to preserve the heat of the larvae is to place an insulating disc directly on top of the waste. You would remove the disc each time you add food. In my bucket composter you could remove the harvest tube in the winter because few larvae will mature. Something to consider; if you keep the colony too warm you might get a large percentage of larvae maturing which won’t serve much of a purpose. I think a good arrangement for winter composting would be to keep the bucket in a protected space that stays between 50-60ºF (10-15ºC) and to use the insulated disc on the waste. I’ve used plain Styrofoam, but it gets torn up by the larvae. I intend on experimenting with different materials in the future.

      I hope your BSF become active soon Barbara. If I were you I would start fermenting some corn ASAP as an attractant. The batch I made 5 weeks ago is performing very well now. Good luck!

      Reply
  • June 3, 2010 at 11:48 am
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    Hola Jerry
    Muy interesante para el control y manejo ambiental por todas sus implicaciones,necesito más información en español si es posible, mi ingés no es el mejor, en colombia dónde puedo conseguir las larvas .
    mil gracias Allen

    Reply
    • June 3, 2010 at 2:17 pm
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      Hola Allen,

      Mi español es quizá un poco mejor que su inglés. Qué ahora estoy escribiendo se ha traducido usando ” Babelfish” traductor disponible en http://babelfish.yahoo.com/. No sé dónde usted puede ser que encuentre las larvas en Colombia. Usted puede querer investigar esta organización: http://biosystemsblog.com/about/. Realizan la investigación con BSF en Bogata.

      (translated using Babel Fish Translator)

      Reply
  • June 24, 2010 at 10:14 am
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    I got my starter kit, and installed the bag, but everything looks dead. Shall I give it a few days? Is there something I can do? Did they get too hot in shipping? It was very fast shipping, so I wouldn’t think so.

    Reply
    • June 24, 2010 at 4:46 pm
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      Hi Kim,

      Yes, the shipping was quick but it only takes a few seconds of extreme heat to kill the larvae. Your kit was guaranteed and I will email you to discuss your options.

      Reply
  • July 16, 2010 at 8:33 am
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    I wish I could get rid of the BSF in my worm bins; they make everything so mushy and difficult to get out. Before it was nice, black and crumbly (good ‘black gold’). If I can’t get rid of them I am probably going to find another home for the worms and wash everything out of the bins.
    Same thing happening in my compost bins. Everything turns mushy. I am starting to put cantaloupe rinds on the very top and when the BSF ‘maggots’ cover it, I pour boiling water over them as they are just taking over. Gross.

    Reply
    • July 16, 2010 at 9:14 am
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      Elfrieda,

      I’m having a hard time reconciling your email address “greenelf” with your pouring boiling water over harmless and greatly beneficial creatures that are fulfilling a crucial role in nature. What is “gross” is your attitude and behavior. If you educate yourself about BSF, an integral part of your environment, you might learn how to keep them out of your worm bins and you might also lose some of the close-mindedness that you’ve displayed here.

      Reply
  • July 20, 2010 at 2:36 pm
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    Hi Jerry, Just a note to let you know how things are going here in Buffalo, NY. Your starter kit was received very quickly and arrived in excellent condition. The contents were placed in their new home, ver. 1 bucket, as per your instructions. It has been about a month and a half and things are going better than expected. I had to learn about moisture control and feeding. I am happy to say that the BSF have left, mated, returned and I now have new larvae. Thanks to all on this blog, and especially you, for all the information that has been provided.
    Now the challenge of keeping them alive over the winter.
    Thanks again, Bill in Buffalo, NY

    Reply
    • July 20, 2010 at 10:13 pm
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      Bill, that’s great to hear.

      I’m not sure but I think you might be my first customer to establish a reproducing BSF colony in an area with no native BSF. I really doubt they’re found in Buffalo. I recommend that you protect as many larvae through maturity and pupation so you have the maximum number of mating adults to build up your colony. I’ll be glad to advise you this fall about getting ready for winter if you like, although since I live near Florida I don’t have experience with BSF in very cold conditions. We could both learn a lot from your experience.

      Reply
  • October 11, 2010 at 2:28 am
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    Not having time to read all the posts to present, but having read many, let me say this. With over 20 years experience and teaching on worms, my team and I have a pretty good understanding of what can and cannot be done with earth worms. I have noticed some truths and some half truths and some false info on some of the posts, so let me try to clarify some of what I have read. Perhaps this will help in your search for mixing the worms with the BSF.
    1. It makes a big difference as to the type of worm that you use in composting. If you use night crawlers for instance, they are slow to reproduce and they do eat the produce of all types that you put into the compost bin including meats.
    If you use the preferred Red Wigglers, of the which we sell, they reproduce fast and consume their body weight in food each day. They do NOT however eat the material you put into the compost bin, but rather they eat the bacteria that develops on the composting material. Just this process alone will speed up the composting process by some 3 times that of just letting things rot.
    All pathogens will be destroyed in the worms gut as well as heavy metals.
    Because the red wigglers eat a different food source than the BSF, they can co-habitate. The two challenges do arise and that is the temp. control and the harvesting.
    This would be a work through project to see what could actually work. Perhaps letting the worms exist in a bin below the BSF unit and let them process some of the sludge, or simply clean out the unit once a month. Keeping the plastic out of direct sunlight would help keep the heat down.
    A wooden bin would solve the heat problem and line the outside rim with pvc pipe with about 1/4 of a slit cut length ways to let the grubs crawl into as they reach the top of the bin and from there they enter a down spout exit hole.
    Lots available here for trial and error but if you have any questions about the little red wigglers, drop me a line. I’ll be glad to assist where I can.

    Reply
  • December 26, 2010 at 12:34 pm
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    Hi, I am glad I found this post!
    Yesterday, after a week of not supervising my compost/vermiculture bin, I checked it to see how the worms were doing and if there were any changes in population size, temperature, etc.
    To my surprise, the earthworms were gone. Gone!
    I was told this could happen, that if they didn’t like the conditions, they would just move on to a better suited location. Thing is, it happened so fast! I’ve had them for 2 months and they were doing fine, now all of a sudden they are nowhere to be found, and instead I have an overpopulation of overexcited larvae, eating everything that comes across their path… (after some research I found that they were BSF larvae)
    I got a bit desperate, but now that I read that these guys are actually used for composting, well, I feel more relieved!
    And it all happened by chance! I never introduced the larvae or the fly… I guess they found their way to invade the box? or maybe there were some eggs on fruit or vegetables I added to the box?
    Anyway, excuse my ignorance… I am a first-timer to vermiculture/composting, and I am not so used to having hyperactive creeters in my balcony! :)

    Now, I’d like to ask a question… should I try and reintroduce earthworms to the compost bin? should I add anything to the compost in order to make it more earthworm friendly?

    Thank you and good luck!
    Laura (Argentina)

    Reply
  • December 26, 2010 at 6:43 pm
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    Laura, what kind of worms are you raising there in Argentina?

    I do raise a colony of eisenia foetida in BSF residue mixed with shredded newspaper and cardboard. I do not feed any food to the worm bin other than pre-digested BSF residue. The worms seem to love it and are thriving. I process all the “typicall” worms foods through my BSF bins before feeding the worms.

    Since you evidently have a native population of Black Soldier Flies there, you might want to consider feeding the input you would normally feed to your worms to the BSF instead. Then later on, harvest the residue from the BSF bin to feed to the worms. Though you will doubtless have some BSF still appear in your worm bin, by not feeding the worm bin fresh food they will not be as dense as they might otherwise be and will be less likely to generate conditions unfavorable to your worms.

    Though I only feed “clean” BSF residue to my worms, I still see a number of BSF larvae in the worm bin. But the fact I am adding no fresh food keeps the BSF population in check and allows the worms to peacefully co-exist.

    Good luck with your worms! (And your BSF!)

    Reply
  • December 31, 2010 at 5:41 am
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    Hi! I’m searching for a supplier for black soldier flies in the Philippines. Know of anyone?

    What happens if you don’t harvest the mature larvae? Is that okay? They’ll probably just die off, right?

    Reply
  • January 3, 2011 at 12:57 pm
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    You probably have a good native population there, Chris, and can attract them yourself without buying a starter culture. Unharvested larvae will either find a way to crawl off on their own, pupate in the bin, or just die off. Unless you are deliberately seeking to harvest them, none of the above represents a problem.

    Reply
  • January 6, 2011 at 10:08 am
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    My corn cob (I ate the kernels) has been in a glass of water for about a week now. No sign of any sort of larvae yet. Strangely enough, there’s no smell.

    Reply
  • January 4, 2014 at 12:41 am
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    Hi. I have a few compost heaps with plenty of grubs, which I love because they help break down the dry leaves. I also have a worm farm. My question is, can I mix the grubs with my Australian worms? I wouldn’t like to upset my Australian worm. Thank you very much

    Reply
    • January 4, 2014 at 9:09 pm
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      Hi Gloria. I’m afraid I don’t know much about worms, but to my knowledge there hasn’t been much success with combining BSF and worms in one unit. If you would like to exchange ideas with people who know more than I do about worms, and also have good knowledge of BSF, I recommend joining our forum and posting your questions there.

      Reply
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  • September 8, 2014 at 1:46 am
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    Hi I have a question if BSF will eat duckweed mixed up with manure?

    also is there a solid design to make a combo bin for BSF and Compost worms or just worms?

    I would like to see large bins with a kinda of (hide area for worms) to go to when it gets to hot. so that it would give the worms time to digest what the BSF leave behind. so one could walk away from that bin and stop feeding it giving the worms a month or so to work on what is left?

    also what about blood? and other things??? anyway to convert that waste?

    sorry i posted twice my email was incorrect on the first one and just notice it

    Reply
    • September 8, 2014 at 8:31 am
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      Hi tokies, I’m not sure about the duckweed, but my guess is that it would have to decompose significantly before BSF larvae could eat it. For example; they can’t eat grass when fresh, but after it’s passed through the digestive system of an ruminant like a cow, it can eat the manure. I believe that’s because the bacteria in the cow’s stomach has broken down the high cellulose content of the grass.

      To my knowledge no one has come up with a system combining BSF and worms where they both thrive.

      I imagine BSFL would do very well with blood. They prefer high protein foods.

      Thanks for the questions.

      Reply
      • September 9, 2014 at 1:10 am
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        thank you for getting back to me. what about BSF and mushroom spores? you know the stuff they normally turn into mushroom compost? could they eat the mushroom brick?

        Reply
        • September 9, 2014 at 10:50 am
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          I don’t know anything about mushroom brick. I’ll bet that someone on the forum does though…

          Reply

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