I have released a new version which has many more features than this design. To see the BSF Bucket Bio-Composter version 2.0 please navigate to that page by clicking HERE. Please note that there are several very good and informative comments at the bottom of this post.

diy unit v1-1 lowered drain

A no-frills approach

Introducing the Black Soldier Fly Bucket Bio-composter v1.1, a minimalistic approach to black soldier fly composting. Despite it’s limitations I hope this simple DIY composter will inspire people to try their hand at attracting and culturing BSF grubs.

Each bucket will vary but the basic concept is the same.

Vent Holes

diy unit-pilot holesdiy unit-drilling vent holesdiy unit-drilling vent holes closeupdiy unit-finished vent holes

I used a 1/2 inch flat drill bit for the vents, but a larger hole is acceptable. Smaller might work but the vent holes are the primary entrance for the adult BSF and they might have difficulty with less than that. The pilot holes were drilled level with the bottom of the raised band that is near the top of the bucket. I put the vents there for two reasons. 1) By placing them close to this “overhang” there is some protection from rain entering the bucket 2) The female BSF will be attracted to the scent coming from the vents and the protected spaces created by the reinforced rim will present them with a good egg laying site. I expect most of the eggs to be laid in these protected spaces.

Go slowly when drilling or you may tear up the overhang. I drilled very slowly and still chewed it up a little. :)

On my particular bucket the reinforced rim was 3 to 4 inches below the top of the bucket, but it’s higher up on some buckets. Higher is better if you have a choice because as we all know, hot air rises. To exhaust the dead space above my vents I drilled the singe hole that you can see in the photo of the finished composter.


diy unit v1-1 lowered drain diy unit-draining inside view diy unit-draining

This composter doesn’t utilize a continuous drain system. There is a drain hole on the side of the bucket and periodically you’ll need to tilt the bucket and let the accumulated liquids drain out. I plugged mine with a cork.

I picked a place about 3-4 inches from the bottom so that when tilted all but a small amount of liquid will drain out. The bucket biocomposter can be placed at an angle in the opening of another 5 gallon bucket for draining. Handle this liquid or “tea” carefully and sanitize your hands afterward. The tea can be used as fertilizer, but I don’t have experience with that so you’ll need to do your own research and testing.

Coconut Coir Liner

diy unit-coir discs diy unit-coir discs installed diy unit-coir discs demo

(The photos above are from version 1.0. In the newer version the drain hole is placed lower.)

Coir is made from the outer husks of coconuts and is commonly used for lining wire planters and hanging baskets. I bought a flat piece at a garden shop about 1 inch thick and cut 3 disc shapes to fit the bucket. Coir is also available in loose form. I don’t think it matters which type you use, and I’m guessing that about 3 inches of total material should work. Be careful if you cut it because it’s pretty tough. I set mine on a thick piece of Styrofoam and “sawed” through it with a utility knife. I feel fortunate to have completed the task with all ten digits still intact.

The purpose of the coir liner is to provide a space for liquid to accumulate without flooding the food scraps that you’re composting. The BSF grubs cannot process the scraps well if they’re submerged, and the liquid creates an anaerobic environment (no air) that encourages the growth of bad bacteria. BSF grubs create an aerobic environment (with air) through the churning action that happens when they feed. By maintaining aerobic conditions you will avoid imbalances that are easily recognized by offensive odors. A balanced BSF colony smells like wet straw plus whatever food you’ve added recently.

The Lid

diy unit-lid with knob

You can snap the lid into place on your bucket composter but I don’t want to go through that process every time I open and close the unit. A simple solution is to just set the lid on top without pressing down and then secure it with small bungee cords as you can see in the photo. My dog keeps raccoons and other scavengers away so usually I don’t even use the bungees. Of course if you have a dog it might be the worst scavenger of all. :)

The knob serves a more important function than the obvious one. I’ve observed BSF females laying eggs on the top of the lid on several occasions and by using the knob you can avoid crushing the fragile eggs. It won’t be the primary area for egg laying but there’s no good reason to crush good BSF eggs and the knob is easier to handle anyway.

Avoiding Ants

diy unit-in water pan

In the photo above I’m using a barrier created by setting the composter in a pan of water to prevent ants from invading the contents. You can also set the bucket on a stand like a stool and treat the legs to repel ants. Similarly you could suspend the bucket on a chain or rope.

One issue I didn’t consider with the water pan is that the black soldier fly grubs that migrate out of the bucket may drown. A possible solution is to put the bucket in a dry pan that in turn sits in a larger pan with water.

The process of composting

I’ll go into detail about using the bucket composter on a separate page and I will add a link here when it’s ready. The basic concepts will be the same as using a BioPod, just on a smaller scale and with a few addtional steps. During hot weather keep the bucket in full shade, don’t overfeed, and if it begins to smell bad you’re doing something wrong. :) I expect I’ll be able to process about a half pound (.25kg) of food scraps with this unit each day, or maybe a little more. This composter isn’t designed for high effeciency or high volume, it’s designed as an introduction to bio-composting with black soldier fly grubs (Hermetia illucens). If you enjoy this you’ll probably want to graduate to a BioPod or a more elaborate DIY system. On the other hand you might find that this bucket design is all you need…

Harvesting Grubs

To harvest the mature BSF grubs you will need to periodically leave the bucket in a tilted position. Alternatively you could mist the inside walls of the bucket and set the unit in a larger container with a layer of sawdust (not pressure treated), peat, or some other dry bedding material. The moisture on the walls will allow the grubs to climb vertically, exit via the vent holes, and onto the bedding material. Assuming the bedding remains dry the grubs will not be able to escape the catch pan.

Coming soon: “how to” page for the BSF bucket biocomposter v1.0\

Update: Since we now have a discussion forum we will be disabling comments here on the blog. Anyone can read the forum, but to join in on the conversation you will need to register. This is an easy and painless process, and it’s necessary to keep spammers from, well, spamming up the place. :)

The forum can be accessed here (forum) and you will see a link for registration in the upper left corner of the forum. The legal language on the registration form is very basic and is what came with the forum software. In short, we won’t share your information, and please don’t be vulgar or break the law. 😉


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141 thoughts on “Do-it-yourself BSF bucket bio-composter

  • August 14, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I love your bucket because it is so low tech. I tried a fancy do-it-yourself-bucket imitation of a biopod, and while it raises the grubs well, they self harvest right out of the bucket and not up my ramps. I am going to try your suggestions for harvesting from this bucket with mine.

  • August 14, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Thanks Garbly,

    I started culturing black soldier fly grubs before the BioPod was available. Dr. Olivier had made images of the prototype available online and I also tried to replicate it when I made my original DIY composter. Like you I had less than perfect results, but it was enough to get by.

    My idea with the bucket biocomposter is something that almost anyone can put together inexpensively. I don’t want to see people sitting on the sidelines only because they can’t afford a BioPod. BioPods are a good value for people who know they will enjoy culturing BSF and the bucket can offer the opportunity to discover whether you like it or not.

  • August 16, 2009 at 7:29 am

    I was wondering if you or anyone else has done any research on this “TEA” that leeches from the leftovers????
    It seems like a good breeding system for bad bugs like ecoli, botulism, salmonella, etcetcetc.
    I wonder about the safety of using the tea on food related crops. I would have no problem putting the tea on flowering plants for ornamental uses but worry about edibles.

    Any thoughts or can you point me in the direction of someone who may have done more studies on the “tea”???
    Thanks Mike :)

  • August 16, 2009 at 7:38 am

    I haven’t done any research about the “tea” Mike and I agree that it needs to be handled cautiously. I would guess that if you studied how to use manure as fertilizer you would find some answers that might relate.

    Harvey Ussery has recently started culturing BSF and if anyone can unlock the mysteries of the “tea” it’s he. You can visit his website here to watch for future BSF articles: http://themodernhomestead.us

  • August 20, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    I have been trying to find research on BSF digestion. Research is out there indicating that BSF reduce toxic bacteria like e. coli. But what about beneficial aerobic organisms? Do they survive? Earthworms digest organic material with bacteria, not acid. THis leaves an abundance of beneficial micro-organisms for the garden. Again, there is no literature out there on BSF digestion that I have encountered.

    I inquired with Stefan Diener of eawag.ch and he responded:

    “The question of BSF-larvae reducing beneficial organisms is indeed a very interesting topic and to my knowledge there exists no literature dealing with it. As you mentioned, the focus in literature is more on the reduction of unwanted material. However, since the reduction process in BSF-systems is based on digestion and not on heat as it is in composting, the microfauna and -flora which is either depleted or untroubled may vary from BSF-residue to compost.
    I’m sorry, I cannot give you a more detailed answer but if you should ever decide to investigate further on this topic, I’d be pleased if you informed me about the outcomes.

    Best greetings

  • August 20, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Good question Joe.

    According to what I’ve read using BSF residue as worm bedding results in increased worm growth and vitality. I wonder what causes that?

    There are a lot of unanswered questions…

  • August 21, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    I have built a very similar DIYPod and have found that it works well, also.

    My differences is that I screwed a used glass container lid to the bottom, after having drilled holes in the bottom of the can and jar lid. Then I could just reach down, grab the jar that was screwed on, and unscrew the lid and pour out the jar.

    I have used the tea as a compost and have seen no detriment. I diluted it and poured it it the plant pot. Some did get on the leaves, and it may have been too strong and the leaf withered.

    An adjustment that I did have to make was to take a light weight 10 gallon black garden planter/container and invert it over the white container in order to make it dark enough in the maggot bucket for them to come out of hiding.

    I have had some trouble having them exit though. The maggots just climb up the sides of the wall or to the top of the lid and just sit there. The will actually sit right next to the air hole and stay there. Do they all leave the nest? Do they ever pupate in the container with the food?

  • August 21, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Hi Lee,

    I’m glad to hear about your success. My bucket is still in the process of getting established, but I’ve seen a good number of BSF laying eggs in it.

    I haven’t found the need to provide a darker environment than what the white bucket and lid produces. I have my bucket bio-composter in full shade, but it does get a lot of indirect sunlight. I find that the grubs simply eat the food from beneath to avoid the light. You may see a slight increase in consumption with darker conditions but I’m too lazy to remove such a device every time I open the unit. :)

    The composter is not a good environment for pupation and the dark colored mature grubs will make every effort to migrate out of it. The light colored juvenile grubs do shed their “skin” 5 times as they grow. The grubs you see remaining motionless may be pausing from their constant feasting in preparation for passing into the next larval stage.


  • August 22, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Thanks for the insight about the fact that the darker larve may be pausing. They do seem rather leathery, dark, and still. But they still seem to want to stay in. Usually, I have just been grabbing them and throwing them over in the leaves, thinking that they haven ‘t been able to figure out how to get out.

    I am still having regular house flies around it quite a bit. They fly around when I take out the tea, and they will still fly into the bucket when I throw something in. I haven’t really seen it as a good housefly repellent that I have often read about. Do you have any further insights?

    Who could we send our tea samples to in order to find out its nutritional value?

  • August 22, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    Lee, I didn’t realize that the larvae that were staying in your composter were dark. Are they “black coffee” dark or a dark tan color? The juvenile grubs are often dark(ish) but not almost black like the mature grubs.

    The fly repellent effect is limited to the container and to some extent just outside of it. It depends on the density of your colony and what type of food you’re adding. A dense colony will discourage flies to a very large degree, but if you add a few pounds of 3 day old dead fish (like I once did) the flies will overwhelm the pile. On the other hand I added over 2 pounds of fresh fish scraps to my BioPod on a hot summer day and even after several minutes with the lid off only a few house flies ventured onto the fish, and those didn’t stay or lay eggs. Of course at the time my colony was 3-4 inches thick across the diameter of the BioPod. Here’s a photo showing a lone house fly: fish in BioPod

    This photo was taken later that afternoon and you can see BSF laying eggs and at that point a few house flies would land on the edge but they wouldn’t go onto the fish: fish in BioPod

    If this fish had been a few feet away from the BioPod it would have been covered with house flies. You can see larger versions of these photos here: BioPod log-waste in-grubs out

    I’m sorry but I don’t know where you might send the tea for analysis. I’m sure there will be more data in a few years as interest in this technology grows.

  • August 23, 2009 at 3:21 am

    hello jerry and all,

    thank you so much for sharing your precious experience with us through this blog … I have set up a DIY unit in my garden where I have established the grub colony that has taken residence in my can-o-worms …

    my container is very simple, made of a simple plastic box and a plywood-hood … I placed it underneath a table with a plastic napkin in order to protect it from rain and harsh sunlight … I drilled the holes with a manual drill, used some hemp-fabric left from my can-o-worms as a bottom-drainage, and my crawl-off-ramp consists in a piece of garden-hose leading into a black inversed flower-pot put directly on the ground, bedded on a thick layer of dry garden-mould …

    here is a pic of it (hope the link works):

    I drain the liquid directly into the soil, which seems to work well, but I forgot to drill some bigger vent holes in order to attract females in order to lay their eggs … thanks for the hint …

    it has been around a month now, and I am surprised that the grubs are doing so well, given the fact that I had very little how to info in the beginning … the foul smell did teach me some lessons, and I am still in the learning-process …

    I am also happy to see that the hose-solution seems to work more or less and that the grubs actually migrate ! I’ve found a huge number of them in the pot when I last checked … since there are 1-inch holes in its bottom (having become the top), I hope that once they transform into flies, they’ll be able to exit the pot …

    I must admit that I have gotten attached to the grubs, admiring their wonderful work they do with our garbage, so I have some resistance feeding the grubbies to the songbirds … therefore the “retirement home” … :o)

    another option would be to create an outdoor pupation site for them, letting nature do its job … any recommendations for me ?

    thank you

  • August 23, 2009 at 7:26 am

    Hi marion.

    I think your success speaks for itself. You may have problems with ants at some point and in that case you might consider putting your bin on a stand of some sort.

    The ramps are always the hardest part which is why I didn’t attempt them in my DIY unit. If you start to see the dark grubs (pre-pupae) accumulating in the bin you can mist the walls with water to help them in climbing out. That may also result in some of the juvenile grubs leaving, but with a balanced environment you shouldn’t loose enough to worry about.

    As far as letting nature do it’s job, I’m afraid nature wants most of the grubs to get eaten. :( Each BSF pair lays 500-900 eggs and typically only two would survive to mate and lay eggs. I do understand the sentiment though. :)

    Thanks for the feedback and the great post!

  • August 23, 2009 at 8:10 am

    Hi Jerry,
    I found your website when I was researching what kind of insect had taken over my Sun-Mar compost tumbler, and was thrilled to find that they are beneficial. I started trying to catch the dark larvae as they exited the tumbler, in plastic bottles lined with sawdust. Since I keep a small flock of chickens, I threw them into the chicken coop, and the hens went totally nuts for them, I haven’t laughed so hard in ages! Then when I saw your page on making a DIY Bucket Bio-Composter, I set about making something similar.

    I don’t have a photo I can share with you (my camera is ‘kaput’, alas), but I drilled a hole in the bottom of 1 foot diameter blue bucket just large enough to fit a small hose, and then glued the hose into the bucket. The hose drains the ‘tea’ into a 500ml plastic drinking water bottle sitting underneath.

    I put eight 12mm (1/2″) holes in the lid of the bucket for the adult flies to enter the bucket, chucked in some veg scraps and moved some of the grubs from my compost tumbler into their new home.

    I can hear them munching and squirming around in there, so I think they’re happy enough, although it is pretty light in there, I guess they hide inside and under the scraps. Every night the dark mature larvae migrate out of the bucket and fall into a box I lined with sawdust. They climb straight up the inside wall of the bucket, which are damp from condensation. I didn’t get round to sorting out migration ramps yet.

    What I’d really like is to get a proper Bio-Pod though, since I have a constant supply of veg scraps, and some chickens very eager to eat the resulting larvae. There are also lots of small lizards around my house these days, and I now understand what they’re here for!

    The thing is, I live in Europe, Portugal specifically, and I can’t find a European distributor, or anyone who would ship to the EU. Would you know of a company who do?

    Many thanks, Alan

  • August 23, 2009 at 8:17 am

    Great comment Alan.

    It sounds like you have reasonably efficient system. I wish I could ship BioPods internationally, but we haven’t yet found a good way to do that yet. We’re working on though…

    Unfortunately I don’t know of any European distributors but I will contact you if I can locate one.


  • August 23, 2009 at 8:52 am

    hello again jerry and alan,

    like alan, I live in europe – france for my part – and truly hope jerry finds a way to ship the biopods internationally soon … my neighbors are already very intrigued by the diy system and amazed about the beneficial qualities of these little crawling munchkins …

    thank you for your precious advice, jerry, concerning the ants … haven’t seen any around yet, but the trick with the water-bucket sounds great …

    I have just checked the “retirement-unit”, and saw that out of the maybe 50 grubs I saw about two weeks ago, only a few dark mummies are still in there. have they gone underground ? have they become flies already ? have some lizards had a feast ? who knows …

    nature is doing a good job, if so many grubs become building matter for other species, only leaving 2 out of 500 to reproduce themselves …

    but one thing is sure: I no more consider potatoe peels or rotten peaches as “disgusting garbage”, but yummy food for my grubbies …

    thank you jerry for sharing your enthusiasm with breeding grubs …

  • August 23, 2009 at 9:17 am

    marion, the mature grubs that were in the “retirement-unit” may have simply crawled out as that is their typical behavior. The mature grubs often crawl up to 100 meters in search of a suitable pupation site and it’s difficult to contain them. With enough condensation they can even crawl upside-down on a suface.

    I also don’t look at anything as “garbage” anymore, there is only people food and grub food. :)

  • August 25, 2009 at 3:03 am

    Great Idea for a bucket technology…however I feel that these fantastic little buggers need even less! I have a 7 gal bucket (nursery gal size that is) with kitchen garbage including coffee grounds, a lot of banana peels, tomatoes, melon rinds, bell pepper,etc crap. Sometimes old leftovers which include rice, veges and turkey or fish. All that I did differently than I have done before was to wet it more frequently. (Of course not soggy wet) there have always been an abundance of fruit flies but I rarely see house flies or the blue or green bottle flies. There are an abundance of other organisms including the so-called ear-wig bug which has been known to feed upon small insects and possibly other organisms. (They have gotten a bad rap because of their desire to feed upon flowers such as rose blossoms at night when you aren’t looking!!!)

    At any rate I think that the BSF are amazing creatures! The closest insect that I can come up with for its tolerance and likeability for otherwise putrid environments would be the Crane Fly. This is an insect that would be able to survive in more aquatic environments than the BSF. It looks and has often mistaken for a GIANT mosquito! The larvae have the ability to survive in totally oxygen depleted environments because of a kind of narrow ‘snorkel’ which it keeps at the surface of any water or fluids while it feeds as much as 10 or more milimeters below. Mostly they are found in So CA during the wet winterl months because of the abundance of very wet decayiing material.

    Of course the BSF win out because of their long season and easy access to all grub harvesters! I can say that I can’t help but admire any critter that has the tenacity for survival as the BSF. I hope to be a frequent harvester for raising my fish, my box turtle, and my frogs!!!


    • August 25, 2009 at 7:26 am

      Hi Michael,

      I only started my bucket composter when I first made this post and I’m still seeing fruit flies in it. Of course my BSF population hasn’t reached its potential yet and I believe the fruit flies will be repelled eventually. We’ll see! :)

      Thanks for the great post.

  • August 26, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    I purchased a BioPod and starter kit from you today but in the meantime decided to get a head start with the DIY model on your website.

    I built the DIY model just like yours except used 5/8″ holes rather than 1/2″ holes. I got a single 22″ circular sheet of coir from Home Depot and was able to cut three full circles to fit the bucket plus piece together a 4th layer from the leftover scraps. The coir comes to just below the cork plug for the drainhole.

    I scored 4 gallons of coffee grounds from Starbucks and used 10 handfulls (maybe 5 or 6 cups worth?) to seed the DIY model. Also added 1/2 of an over-ripe tomato, some fresh pineapple trimmings, and a few small pieces of raw chicken scraped off the breastbone of a roaster I cut up for the grill. I figured the tomato and pineapple would attract fruit flies, the chicken meat some houseflys and that the other flies might attract soldier flies to lay.

    Down here in Florida (I’m in zone 10) I should be able to keep a colony active all through the winter. We have a huge native BSF population and I had enormous colonies in my worm bins and compost pile a couple of years ago. I think the BSF larvae ate all the food before the redwornms could get to it and the heat of summer and BSF generated heat eventually doomed the redworms. I may try again feeding all my garbage to the BSF BioPod, then using BioPod compost to feed the worms.

    I hope to have a colony established again by the time I receive the BioPod, and probably didn’t need to order the starter kit, but figured it would be cheap insurance and I’ll use it to augment any natural population that gets established.

    You do a great job on this blog! Thanks for the time and effort you put into it! I’ll try and post pics here of both my DIY setup and the BioPod as it progresses.

    Thanks again!

    • August 26, 2009 at 7:30 pm

      Hi Brian,

      It seems like we’re on the same page with improvements to the bucket composter. I’ve been intending to enlarge the vents on my bucket to 5/8″ for a few days now. I’ve seen some BSF laying eggs inside the bucket, but I’ve seen even more on the outside. I think some of them are reluctant to pass through the 1/2″ holes. I also think it’s a good idea to make the drain a little lower the the coir layer higher so that it covers the drain hole.

      I liked what you’re using as starter scraps until I got to the chicken. I don’t recommend adding any flesh to a BSF unit until it’s running near capacity, but especially not in the beginning. The pest flies you’ll attract will not help attract BSF in my opinion.

      I agree that you don’t need a kit and I’ll be happy to issue you a refund for the one you ordered. If you have ten bucks to blow it’s a cool project, but certainly not necessary in your case.

      I’m glad you like the blog and that you’re trying BSF culturing. I look forward to some pics.

  • August 27, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    I made a hinge for the lid by drilling small holes in the lid and bucket and run plastic zip ties through. The lid has not been found off of the container since I installed this. You can seal the top holes from rain with a dab of glue.

    Another suggestion for the bucket is to use a small kitchen trash can with a foot pedal operated lid. You could open the lid while both hands are full of vittles. Be sure to route the drain holes away from the foot pedal-to-lid parts.

    • August 27, 2009 at 5:10 pm

      Thanks Mike,

      I’m hoping to get a lot of photos of various rigs here in the future. :)

  • August 28, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    Refer to #20- Jerry’s response to #19 Brian,

    I would agree 100% to not add much if any animal flesh material to a start-up. I watched a friend’s efforts to attract BSF to a bucket of kitchen garbage turn into a writhing mass of plain old fly maggots almost overnight by adding a few dead fish! These common ‘garbage’ flies seem to lay their eggs underneath pieces of flesh or dead animals so that it appears that nothiing is going on and then suddenly the dead critter literally bursts from the inside out with maggots. Since these flies lay huge amounts of eggs and have a very short life cycle the BSF maggots will not stand a chance.

    On the other hand Fruit flies may even help but for sure they do not hinder the BSF. I do notice fewer and fewer fruit flie but still see what look like tiny mites, these shiny little beetles, the earwigs, and a host of other critters who seem to be an important part of this composting process. Imagine what it all would look like under a microscope!!!

    I would also like to add that smell is a good indicator for a healthy decay. It still may be stinky but I am sure that there are varying degrees good and bad stinks!

    • August 28, 2009 at 9:46 pm

      I’ve been surprised since starting the bucket BSF colony about the continued presence of fruit flies. I haven’t gotten around to posting about my progress with this DIY system yet, but that’s one of the things I need to mention. I think I have a fairly good colony going at this point to have so many fruit flies present. My BioPod never has any fruit flies and if an occasional housefly checks it out it never lingers or lays eggs. The only larvae in my BioPod are BSF. I have been seeing a continuing presence of BSF females laying eggs in the bucket composter so maybe in a week or two the colony will be strong enough to repel the fruit flies.

      Michael, if you’re still having even slightly stinky conditions then your colony isn’t properly balanced. On the hottest days of the year you can almost always lift the lid of my BioPod and stick your face right in there without any foul odors to contend with. Once in a while it gets faintly stinky and I quit adding food for a day or two and it rebalances itself. I’m very sensitive to bad odors and if dealing with that was part of BSF culturing I’d find a new hobby. :)

  • August 30, 2009 at 9:47 am

    I have a few pics finally uploaded to share. I made 5/8″ holes in my bucket rather than 1/2″.

    I got 3 discs and pieced together a 4th disc of coir from a single 22″ circular sheet. I wish I had waited to drill the drain hole until AFTER seeing the level of coir in the bottom. I would have preferred the hole below the coir rather than above as in this photo.

    I scored about 4 gallons of coffee grounds from Starbucks. They said it was about a day and a half’s worth of grounds. I used 6 handfuls to seed the BSF bucket.

    • August 30, 2009 at 10:31 am

      The coir will expand as it gets wet and also as the BSF grubs move through the top layers so I think it will come up to the drain hole. I think the coffee grounds might be too dry for the grubs. If you haven’t already soaked the coir you might consider adding a few quarts of water to the bucket and letting it drain out.

      Brian, I don’t recommend adding any type of meats until a BSF colony is completely established with confirmed reproduction taking place. The meat will attract blowflies as well as houseflies more than it will BSF. The larvae of Blowflies are large and resemble BSF grubs to the untrained eye.

  • August 30, 2009 at 9:48 am

    I had 6 handfuls of coffee grounds, 1/2 a rotten tomato, 2 halves of a mushy avacado, pineapple trimmings, and a small amount (less than 1/2 ounce) of raw chicken m,eat trimmings for the initial load of the bucket.

    Though I had the bucket in a water pan, the side was touching the pan and ants invaded within 12 hours. There was an abundance of fruit flies and a few houseflys too.

    Three days (78 hours) after loading the bucket, I saw the chicken scraps totally gone and the tomato and avacado crawling with larvae (probably housefly). The pineapple is untouched. There are a few larger grubs in the coffee but most are in the veggies.

    There is no noticable smell when I remove the lid, but it sure does look like a funky mess in there! No sign of adult BSF doing egg laying as yet. I hope to see their grubs show up in about 2 more weeks. Hope to have a robust colony started when my BioPod arrives!

  • August 31, 2009 at 6:03 pm

    Jerry, I followed your advice today and added a few cups of water to moisten the coffee grounds a bit more. Plenty of small maggots in the bin but I also noticed what I believe to be an abundance of BSF eggs on the lid and sides of the bucket! Have not seen any adult BSF in the bin, but it sure looks to me that they’ve been visiting! These pics were taken today (day 5 since loading the bin last Wednesday). Hope the slideshow thing works on this post. If not I will send a pic or two later.

    Those sure do look like BSF eggs to me.

  • August 31, 2009 at 9:05 pm

    Since the maggots don’t eat fiber, and alot of our food scraps have fiber, is there a point that we need to take out the undigested fiber? Does the tank ever get too full? I have one of those 7 gallon buckets I see in the pictures and Ihave it about half full of chewed food and maggots. Is that too much?

    • August 31, 2009 at 9:30 pm

      Lee, the BSF can eat whatever you eat. Foods high in soluble fiber like beans and fruit are perfect for BSF grubs. What they can’t process are items that are high in cellulose like grass, leaves and paper. I think your unit isn’t too full if it still functions.

  • September 5, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Recently we have had questions about the value of the tea. Also, about worms thriving in the remnants of the bsfl. What value is the solid mass left by the BSFL? Is it a good soil suppliment? Is it high in nitrogen? Should it compost more in a compost pile before being used? Any thoughts from anyone?

  • September 5, 2009 at 11:48 am

    Also, I was wondering if there is an equivalent to a BSFL that can live in an aquatic environment. Some thing that can process waste like the BSFL that would be in like a septic tank or koi pond runoff or pig farm wash out basin.

  • September 5, 2009 at 11:57 am

    Dr. Olivier who invented the BioPod claims that red worms grow significantly faster in BSF residue than in most other mediums.

    I’ve added over 200 lbs (100kg) of waste to my BioPod since I restarted it in early May and today I removed the residue (castings). It’s loose in texture, kind of fluffy but still damp, and it has a volume of only about 5 gallons. I’m in the process of separating the BSF and after that I can do some informal tests with it. Maybe I can take it to the County for testing too.

  • September 5, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    How are you separating the BSF from the residue?

    Also, is there any name for the residue? Castings doesn’t sound quite right.

    • September 5, 2009 at 1:33 pm

      Hi ernie.j

      I put the castings in a plastic tote with several holes drilled in the bottom and set that in a larger tote on top of new food scraps. I hope that most of the BSF will migrate into the larger tote. I may also combine a technique I’ve already posted about for removing juvenile BSF which you can find here:

      Residue is the main term I’ve heard used to describe what’s left after BSF finish processing waste. I sometimes use the term castings because it’s familiar with worm enthusiasts. What do you think about “grublarvamaggotpoo”? 😀 (BSF have public relations issues…..)

  • September 5, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    How ’bout calling it ‘pudding’. Its wet, pliable, soft, jiggly, “fluffy”, and I am sure the outer layer hardens just like the real stuff.

    Larve Pudding

    • September 5, 2009 at 7:00 pm

      Lee, “larva pudding” might just be the answer to the BSF public relations issue!

      I think each batch will vary in texture/consistency a fair amount. What I have this year isn’t wet, it’s damp. It doesn’t have a muddy quality at all. What it does have is about a million fish bones because almost a quarter of what I processed was whole fish. I wonder if I should pass it through a screen before using it…

  • September 6, 2009 at 10:57 pm

    I was playing around with some ph paper today and I tested the ph of the tea that I get from my diybiopod. It was 5.5. Does that sound right?

    • September 7, 2009 at 9:50 am

      Lee, I don’t have a clue about what you could expect with the tea. It probably varies with diet and other factors and it will be interesting to see what results others post in the future.

  • September 7, 2009 at 3:13 am

    Jerry, I am also working on a diy bsfl composter. Instead of a 5 gallon bucket, I used a Rubbermaid storage container. I haven’t explored all parts of the system yet, but I have tested my ramp that allows them to self harvest. It is working well and I think even Dr. Olivier would be proud of the crawl-off efficiency. You can see the PVC ramp here: http://www.resplore.com/projects/bsfl_harvester.html

    After all of the bsfl have self harvested I transfer the compost to the redworm bin… they love the bio-“pudding”

    • September 7, 2009 at 9:56 am

      Looks neat resplore! I’m looking forward to the finished project.

  • September 7, 2009 at 10:33 am

    Hey Resplore,
    Love your website! Your DIY BSFL composter is quite ingenious! I like the way you kept the exit tube centered in the bin!

    I may build one similar just to play with the idea. The one change I may try is to have the exit tube go straight down thru the center and out the bottom rather than the final 90 degree elbow and lateral exit tube. That way I can rest the entire bin on top of a collection bucket and have the grubs drop straight down.

    It will be interesting to compare surface area and harvest rate against my BioPod and DIY bucket bin. Thanks for the link to your website! (Hey, I grow and make my own chipotle peppers too by the way!)

  • September 9, 2009 at 5:04 am

    Would like to clarify my comment #25 concerning stink. I know that there is an earthy and healthy stink that is associated with a balance in the process of decay that is both chemical and biological. Then there are other stinks that are the “gag” type stinks…they make you want to puke because you would probably do the same when you have the same imbalance in your own gut! I have spent much of my life in pond muck, chicken shit, cow manure and other ‘leathal’ substances most of my life…believe me I know a good stink from a bad stink!!!

    No joke people! You must rely upon your nose as well as the texture of your decaying compost. This means in the initial set-up and every time you add something else to the transforming glob… Yea, that is really where true composters achieve their knighthood. Think of it as turning lead to gold! You are the master alchemist… how and when you add the various ingrediants determines the purity of the gold you produce!!!

    There must be a balance between the mushy rotting stuff and the more gritty stuff (which includes composted materials as well as stuff like coffee grounds). I used to love the smell of a corn field recently seeded with fresh cow manure…now what you find is dairy farms and stock yards inundated with manures to the point where there is a toxic overlode, seepege of unprocessed chemicals into the water table, storm water polution to streams and rivers, piles of anaerobic decaying manure with no place to go! This is definitely really intense bad stink! and I mean that in more ways than one!

    So in conclusion…trust your nose! after all…the nose knows! (sorry this is not my own pun, but heard it in the early ’70s)


    • September 9, 2009 at 11:10 am

      Michael, I think we’re on the same page but I need to make sure the casual reader doesn’t get the wrong impression about the odor of a properly balanced BSF colony. As you pointed out smell is an important indicator of how well your colony is operating. You’re obviously very involved with a wide variety of natural processes and I value you’re input greatly. I think we agree about the odor issue, but I believe the word “stink” will confuse people. It implies both a strong, and to most people, an offensive odor. When a BSF colony is in balance the odor is subtle and unoffensive. A healthy BSF colony smells something like wet straw, plus whatever waste is being processed. If you’re feeding cantaloupe to the colony the smell should be a subtle combination of wet straw and cantaloupe.

      Thanks again for your contributions.

  • September 9, 2009 at 5:43 am

    Forgot to add some of my successes! My 7 gal BSF nursery pot seems to be in somewhat of a stasis. I got distracted by finding a male and a female praying mantis (actually I found the female and 2 days later a male flew into my bedroom!) This is a species that is not native to CA but frequently used for garden insect pest control. Even though I water through my garden several times a week I have NOT found ANY more mantids. At any rate after about a week of facing off (the male keeping his distance at about 12 in. or so) he succeeded in grasping her in just the right place so that she could not turn and eat him. The mating is really a prolonged ordeal. They broke up once and then got together again for a day or two.

    The female has attempted to start one foamy egg cluster but apparently I or some other intruder must have disturbed her! She looked justifyably perturbed so I caught a juicy green grashopper for her which she took with great gusto!

    Anyway this is not the success that I wanted to talk about. I have BSF maggots dropping upon the floor of the butterfly cage that covers the compost container (and houses the mantis love-birds) I found adult soldier flies buzzing around the butterfly cage so unzipped the front to let them in. Got a couple of pics which hope to post.

    A few days later found even more maggots in a 5 gal nursery pot in which I had just started with more kitchen garbage (no starchy stuff or animal flesh). Since the ants were present in greater numbers than a mid-sized city I decided to take action. I shook the material, brushing away the ants wherever I could. Then I made a concoction of a processed horticultural oil and spinosad in water. I was careful to spray only the areas where the BSF would least likely come in contact with it. I found an old aluminum turkey basting pan in which I placed the 5 gal nursery pot and propped this up upon another nursery pot is a dishpan of water. I checked two days later and there were only a couple of ants and the BSF maggots were squirming ever-so-happily!

    This certainly proves at least to me after a couple of similar experiences that the BSF have at least some tolerance to the presence of ants, fruit flies (see previous comments), and other critters. There may even be a simbiotic relationship that we do not understand…so in our search for BSF heaven let us not be TOO gung-ho about eliminating the critters that we otherwise find repelling!


  • September 9, 2009 at 6:44 am

    Lee, (32)

    Larvae closest to BSFL would be the Crane fly (sorry don’t have the Genus & species on the tip of my tongue). The issue would be to understand more about their life cycle and breeding habits. All that I know is I have found them in puddles and wet plant decaying environments, soome of which included manure or manure run-off.

    What is interesting is that the redworm that is commonly used in composting is also very adaptable to an aquatic environment. There may be different species of redworms…allthat I know is I keep finding redworms in what I would normally consider nearly toxic conditions. This would include decaying soil in overly wet nursery containers as well as in very smelly pond muck.

    There is also a mosquito-like gnat that is popular with aquariasts called the blood worm. I do not know about anywhere else in the country, but is you set a bowl of water out for a few days and swished around a bit of some vegetable in it that you would soon see little hyroglyphic-like squiggles upon all of the water covered surfaces of the bowl. With enough food the little shiny red ‘worms’ will thrive. They appear to like an abundance of decomposing plant material and the presence of some algae. From my experience I would guess that the bloodworms proliferate in great abundance under warm conditions but the most robust worms I found were the ones having a cold water period.

    Snails always have a bad rap but there are aquatic snails that endure pretty foul conditions. In the absence of fish the common pond snail is really tough, propagates very rapidly, and thrives upon an abundance of decaying plant material. They are also attracted like magnets to dead animal flesh. When fish are present the rams’horn snail will fill the bill although they may not propagate as rapidly.

    One last critter that should’t be ignored in the “aquatic composting process” would be a small aquatic shrimplike crustacean. It is a little over 1/8″. It is often transferred from pond to pond via plants. In the abscence of fish it like the pond snail is extremely prolific. This is as excellant a fish food as the blood worm.

    All of the critters that I mentioned and many more are, as I see it, a necessity to what we might just as well call “aquatic composting”. The breaking down of plant and animal tissue in to simpler structures that may be recycled back in to whatever system is involved is not all that different from ‘dry’ composting. The rich muck taken from the bottom of a healthy pond is as good or better than any compost or compost tea that you could come up with!


  • September 9, 2009 at 10:33 am

    wow, thanks, natureguy

  • September 12, 2009 at 9:47 am

    Hi Jerry, I took your email advice and dumped the contents of my 15 day old DIY BSF bucket into the BioPod. I am happy to report the contents are SWARMING with big BSF grubs! Still a few smaller grubs are visible, and a few houseflies still visit, but the BSF are definitely becoming the dominant species. I’m amazed to see the population growth in just two weeks since setting up the DIY bucket!

    I’m anxious to see how long it will take to see BSF egglaying in the BioPod now that I have an active population there. I’ll try and get a picture to post later today if the rain ever stops.

  • September 12, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Regarding egglaying in new BioPod:

    It stopped raining minutes after my previous post and I stepped outside to try and get photos of the new BioPod occupants. Imagine my surprise when I removed the lid and found THREE egg deposits inside the lid! The eggs were laid on the BioPod lid itself – not in the corrugated plastic circles. The amazing thing is that they weren’t there yesterday (the day I dumped the DIY bucket into the BioPod) but they are there this morning – less than 12 hours after seeding the BioPod with my DIY bucket contents!

    Here are some pics:

    The grubs were wiggling so fast that the image looks blurred, but here is a shot of the current occupants!

    I am apparently going to have a vigorous colony!

    • September 12, 2009 at 11:05 am

      Great news Brian!

      It’s not unusual for the BSF to lay eggs on the lid and walls of the BioPod.

      I recommend protecting all mature larvae that you harvest until your colony is built up to it’s capacity. Here’s an excerpt from our starter kit instructions:

      As the grubs mature:

      The dark mature grubs will gradually accumulate in the collection bucket. In an established colony you could feed these grubs to pets, livestock or wildlife, but when starting a new colony they must be allowed to pupate into adult form (winged stage) and mate. The BioPod is not a closed system which means that the adult BSF are released so they can mate outdoors and then return to the BioPod to lay their eggs.

      A BioPod™ at full capacity will have enough grubs in it to cover the surface area with few inches of solid grubs, maybe more. Until you achieve that density you should focus on building up the colony. I don’t recommend feeding any mature grubs to animals until you completely establish the colony. Each pair of BSF that you sacrifice represents 500-900 eggs that might have been laid in your unit. I also don’t recommend scattering the mature grubs while building up a colony. I think it’s best to protect every mature grub until your colony is at capacity.

      If you scatter the collected mature grubs on the ground near your BioPod that leaves them vulnerable to the many predators that target insects. It’s fair to assume that only a small percentage of released grubs will survive to become adults. It’s best to keep the mature grubs in a container such as a bucket with a lid to protect them. The container needs to have several holes with a diameter of at least 3/4 inch to allow the emerging adults a way to escape. The holes will also provide necessary air for the pupating BSF and also aid in keeping the temperature regulated. Like the BioPod, the prepupae container must be completely shaded and protected from rain. Adding an inch of bedding material such as sawdust (not pressure treated), peat, etc to the container will encourage the grubs to pupate, but it must stay dry and loose so the emerging adults can climb to the surface.

      Brian, also keep in mind that BSF mating will stop this winter, even in your southern location. I estimate you will see an end to mating sometime in December and continuing through March and possibly April. If you want to continue processing waste during the winter you should start that period with the largest colony possible. Maintaining your colony will be relatively easy due to your subtropical location, but you’ll still need to use some insulation and regular feeding to keep the colony from becoming semi-dormant.

  • September 13, 2009 at 3:39 pm

    It appears that 18 days after constructing my DIY BSF Bin, and two days after dumping the contents of the DIY Bin into my BioPod, I have BSF larvae self-harvesting!

    There are still a few smaller maggots in the BioPod, but the volume of BSF larvae is increasing much faster and is crowding them out. Many of the housefly maggots have self harvested and pupated in the collection bucket. But today i noticed a number of dark BSF pre-pupae in the collection bucket as well.

    None of the BSF have actually pupated yet, so I am going to pick out the housefly pupae, feed them to the fish in my backyard canal, and sequester the BFS pre-pupae in my DIY bin which has now become my incubation holding pen. (Thanks for the hints on saving the mature grubs, Jerry!) You can see quite a few housefly pupae mixed in with the BSF grubs.

    Once again, I am amazed at how quickly these guys have populated my setup. I had to harvest the liquid collected in the jar today too. The jar was nearly completely full. I diluted the liquid about 4 to 1 and fed it to my Mango trees. I picked a mango tree some distance away from my BioPod so as not to distract egg laying females from the pod itself.

    Oh yeah, at last count this afternoon, there are no less than eight egg clusters on the BioPod lid.

    • September 13, 2009 at 3:57 pm

      Excellent Brian! The hot weather in south Florida is a distinct advantage for raising BSF.

  • September 16, 2009 at 4:27 am

    Jerry, #47

    When I say “stink” there are many earthy smells that I find quite appealing…but to others they may find them offensive. What I was trying to communicate was that there is a distinctive difference between the smell involving healthy bacterial activity vs. the smell of say a massive bean or broccoli fart!!! If you think for a moment about it why do some farts really stink and others seem much better…well it is all in the bacterial content! I am dead serious when I alert people to the smells that they experience! If they are serious about BSF then they must pay attention to this before they lose their set-up whatever it is because of an over ambitious load of some material or other that is literally “combustible” for excessive bacteria and other organism infestations.

    natureguy, Michael

    • September 16, 2009 at 8:02 am


      I think I understand exactly what you’re saying, but we still may have a disconnect in our experiences with BSF.

      there are many earthy smells that I find quite appealing…but to others they may find them offensive.

      What I’m trying to point out to the general reader is that the odor of a balanced BSF colony would not be offensive to any reasonable and objective person. I understand that some people don’t mind odors that others find offensive, but I’m talking about odors that we would all agree are mild and often pleasant.

      I recently posted this at the BioPod forum:

      I’ve never heard that a BSF colony can be be odorless, however I’ve said many times that a balanced colony smells like wet straw and whatever waste you’re processing. (I believe that’s a quote from rolivier79) If you process poop then your colony will smell like poop and wet straw, but mostly poop. If you feed cinnamon bread to the colony it will smell mostly like cinnamon, and wet straw. While a BSF colony won’t be odorless the smell can sometimes be very faint. I often lift the lid of my BioPod™, stick my face about 4 inches from the waste and take a big inhalation. I’m a chef by profession and I have a better than average sense of smell and I promise you that my colony has a mild and usually pleasant odor. On occasion it’s a bit smelly and if that’s the case I stop feeding for a few days or throw a little sawdust in it (not pressure treated). Please note that I’ve added about 60 lbs of fish to my unit this summer. Imagine taking 60 lbs of fish and placing it in a plastic drum in south Georgia summer heat. The fact that my BioPod™ doesn’t smell bad is amazing, but it’s true. If you didn’t guess already I’ve been answering a lot of questions about the smell factor lately. :)

      Lately rolivier79 has recommended lining BioPods with an inch or two of coconut fiber which is also called coir. I believe this is very important for keeping the liquids moving through the waste and this in turn is key in keeping the colony balanced and the odor mild. Several weeks ago I removed the contents of my BioPod™ to install a layer of coir. I replaced the contents and since that time my unit drains very well. Everyone should do this.

      I wish everyone reading this could drop by and smell my BioPod but of course that can’t happen. Fortunately we do have several studies done by qualified researchers over several decades that make the claim that no offensive odors are associated with healthy BSF colonies. Since BSF culturing is a very new hobby I’m seeing a lot of comments about bad odors. This is understandable because it takes a few seasons to learn how to manage a colony properly. As BSF grow in popularity we will see more and more comments by people who are amazed about how mild and even pleasant the aroma from their BSF units are.

  • September 21, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    I was interested in figuring out a typical “weight per grub” for BSF larvae. A Google search turned up a number of references which varied widely in weight per grub. Newton/Sheppard in “A Value Added Manure Management System Using the Black Soldier Fly”, report weights ranging from 0.15 to 0.22 gm/grub.


    But adding to my confusion, Newton/Sheppard in “Using the Black Soldier Fly, Hermetia illucens, as a Value Added Tool for the Management of Swine Manure”, report “37,978 prepupae for harvest, weighing 26.2kg” which, according to my calculator, yields a 0.69 gm/grub weight. That seemed pretty high to me.


    Hen/Toure/Sagbla/Legendre report a 240mg/grub weight (0.24 gm/grub) in “Bioconversion of Palm Kernel Meal for Aquaculture: Experiences from the Forest Region (Republic of Guinea)”


    The ESR International – Bioconversion of Putrescent Waste website reports “Upon reaching maturity, prepupal larvae are about 25mm long, 6mm in diameter, and they weigh about 0.2 grams.”


    So the reported range of weights runs from 0.15 to 0.69 gm/grub. Assuming the 0.69 gm/grub is a flawed data point, 0.15 to 0.24 remains as a reasonable range of grub weights with 0.195 being the average of that range.

    This morning, I decided to weigh my BSF grub harvest, then count the number of grubs to see how close to this average my grubs were. My little kitchen scale showed exactly 50 grams weight and my count showed 263 grubs which was 0.190 gm/grub. That might be a convenient number to use if you weigh your harvest and want to estimate the number of grubs, or if you count your grubs and want to estimate their weight.

    • September 21, 2009 at 12:29 pm

      I have some count/weight data around here someplace….

      I did some tests where I took batches of 20 and 30 egg clusters, hatched and raised them in separate containers, then weighed the total colonies. I counted a thousand from each group and weighed them. I do remember that the average number of larvae that hatched from a cluster was approximately 400 individuals. I did this to get an estimate of how many BSF were in the egg portion of our starter kit. The minimum number of clusters I include is 5 for an average of 2000 viable eggs per kit.

      When I weighed the results of the 30 cluster batch I had over 12,000 large juvenile BSF larvae in a container without food or bedding material of any kind. I was tempted to run a contest similar to the “guess how many jellybeans are in this jar” contests… :)

  • September 23, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    I have pictures of my own homemade BSF bin, which is in a 55 gallon barrel, posted on my blog. The blog was long so I wont reproduce it here, but I think the pictures are pretty awesome.

    I thought I would give a tip instead for separating the BSF from their substrate ( my word for the “compost” they leave behind.)

    I tried an experiment in separating the BSF from the substrate by using the same method for separating red worms from their castings. I took a shovel full of substrate, which always contains a shovels full of BSF, they pack themselves so full, And piled this up in a cone shape on top of a very large lid for a plastic bin set outside. The BSF, like the red worms, don’t like light and they all crawl down to the bottom next to the lid pretty quickly. It was easy then to scoop off the top layer of substrate separated from most of the BSF.

    I said most, because it is impossible to get all the babies out. This is why I dont put the substrate in with my red worms as I then get BSF flying around my house. The red worms are in the laundry room.


    • September 23, 2009 at 3:10 pm


      I enjoyed reading your blog entry about your DIY unit. I think the adult BSF you’re finding in the laundry room are ones that emerged from pupae that were in with the worms. The pupae are very dark and hard to see in substrate.

      Thanks for sharing and good luck with your colony.

    • September 24, 2009 at 8:43 am

      Garbly, I read that you’re feeding the larvae to your cats mixed with commercial cat food. My girlfriend has been a veterinarian for 20 years and she said the BSF will be a great addition to their diet. I imagine that many people reading about this will be repulsed, but anyone who knows cats knows that they often catch and eat insects. I’ll bet that BSF larvae are far more nutritious than the canned or dry food that most of us rely on as pet food. Thanks again for sharing your experiences with us.

  • September 23, 2009 at 8:22 pm


    Can you provide a link to your blog. I would like to see the pictures of your BSF bin.


    • September 23, 2009 at 8:39 pm

      Shaun, just click on Garbly’s name and her blog will open.

  • September 24, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Yeah, Animal feed is how I found out about the BSFL. I am building an aquaponics system in the back yard and some like to use BSFL as food for the tilapia. That is kinda why I asked earlier about ‘aquatic type equivalents’ to the BSFL-other creatures that work the same way as the BSFL but in water.

  • September 24, 2009 at 9:36 am

    If the eggs are laid on the outside of any container will the babies migrate to the food through the holes. I also have a DIY version but I have mine covered to keep the sun off of it. So the eggs are actually being laid on the outside and I am having to scrape them off and put them inside. Do I have to do this?

    • September 24, 2009 at 9:52 am

      Lee, you don’t need to transfer the eggs but it’s possible you may end up with a denser population if you do. The larvae that hatch on the outside will migrate into the unit, but I suppose some might not find their way. If you have an abundant BSF population on your property it might not matter in the end because I have a sense that the females will keep laying eggs on your unit until it’s at capacity. I believe there is some type of signal that tells the females whether or not there is room for more. It’s just a theory but I’m sure that you can build a dense colony without transferring eggs if you have ample BSF where you live.

  • September 24, 2009 at 11:58 am

    A couple of weeks ago, I had several palm trees removed from the south side of my property. A week later, I noticed the egglaying in my BioPod had ceased. Not only that, but the eggs previously laid on the cover of my BioPod looked like they had been cooked. It suddenly dawned on me – those palms had been providing afternoon shade to the BioPod and though the live larvae in the pod appeared unaffected, the heat was apparently keeping the adult flies from egglaying in the pod.

    I promptly moved the BioPod to the north (shaded) side of the house. It took about 4 days, but this morning I noticed new eggs inside the lid (in the corrugated plastic this time), and adult soldier flies in the area. One was in the BioPod when I opened it up and the other (this girl) was on the outside wall of the house behind the pod.

    My prepupa grub harvesting peaked about 2 days before my eureka moment – more than likely because the population was not being replenished as grubs were self-harvesting.

    I’ll keep the BioPod on the north side of the house until the weather here starts to cool below egglaying temps (probably late November, early December) Hopefully there is still time to rebuild my population before then.

    • September 24, 2009 at 12:53 pm

      Brian, I’ve been at this for a few years and I’m still learning about the cycles a black soldier fly colony passes through. All of your theories may be correct but I’ll interject some guess of my own.

      The eggs that look cooked could be old, empty egg casing which turn a darker color and appear kind of fuzzy in texture. I believe the eggs could tolerate as much heat as the larvae but they are vulnerable to drying out. If your humidity has average 70% or more the eggs should be fine. My BioPod has been at near maximum capacity in terms of the BSF population all summer and regularly see several days go by without egg laying activity, even when the weather seems perfect. I can have food scraps available in the BioPod, hot sunny weather, and even dozens of adults BSF emerging from my pupation bucket and still see no egg laying. I wish I understood the factors effecting this, maybe someday. :)

      I’m not sure what effect the peak harvesting of mature larvae had, but as I mentioned in my recent response to Lee I think the female BSF can sense when there’s room for new larvae. I do think you have time to build up your colony and I would keep adding more waste as fast as the colony will process it. The current heat wave we experiencing is a great opportunity to increase our BSF population before winter arrives.

  • September 24, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    Jerry, Thanks for the veterinarian thumbs up. I felt instinctively that the BFS would be OK for the cats since my cats eat a lot of bugs. Bugs are high in protein, and cats need a high protein diet. BSF are high in protein.

    The only thing I wondered about was if they were “safe”, but since people are feeding them to fish and chickens with no bad consequences I guessed they were safe.

    Too bad I cant just plop them into a bowl and expect the cats to eat them. If they were dogs they probably would. I suggest an experiment for dog owners.


  • October 5, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Is there any advantages of just growing the bsfl in an open container instead of some enclosed pod like structure. Will Lizards crawl in? or it attract other vermin like house flies.

    • October 5, 2009 at 6:16 pm

      BSF larvae are highly mobile and the moment conditions become less than ideal they will crawl away in search of a better location. With a proper container you can keep the larvae in place when they would otherwise crawl away. They’ll be fine until you deliver the next meal, but in an open environment many larvae will simply leave. A semi-closed container does work to concentrate the info-chemicals that repel other fly species. A container also protects the larvae from the long list of predators that prey on them.

      I’ve also heard from people that had BSF colonies in open compost piles that saw their larvae just disappear. There is a natural ebb and flow to a colony of BSF larvae and a proper container allows you to maintain it consistently.

  • October 9, 2009 at 7:45 pm

    Some things I’ve learned since starting my DIY bucket and getting my BioPod:

    1. Watermelon makes your BioPod a soupy mess!
    2. Harvesting rates of the mature, black larvae vary incredibly from day to day.
    3. BSF larvae will repel fruitflys a lot sooner and more effectively than houseflys.
    4. BSF egglaying is not consistant. It goes in cycles. It takes them a LONG TIME to learn to lay in the corrugated plastic discs too – but once they start, it seems they all want to lay their eggs there. Must be a pheromone/scent thing.
    5. The DIY bucket makes a perfect BSF incubator when bottom-lined with coir. Every morning I am seeing anywhere from 6-10 mature BSF crawling up the sides of the bucket/incubator when I open it.
    6. Once a colony is established, fish guts, fish heads, and leftover meat scraps can still attract houseflys. But if you cover the scraps with two yogurt containers full of Starbucks coffee grounds (about 2 pounds worth), the BioPod won’t stink and the houseflies stay away. I’ve started covering ALL garbage into the BioPod with coffee grounds. It keeps the BioPod from getting muddy and keeps smells and houseflies away. The BSF larvae absolutely LOVE coffee it seems!

    • October 9, 2009 at 8:20 pm

      Brian, thanks for the update.

      Watermelon does release a lot of liquid as the BSF quickly consume it. The drain needs to work quickly for processing wet items like melon. After adding a coconut fiber (coir) prefliter to my BioPod I can add a gallon of water to it and it drains within a few minutes. When I added the coir to my BioPod I had several gallons of BSF compost that I returned to the unit which kept the coir together on the bottom. If you’re just starting your unit I think the BSF tend to shred the coir resulting in less effective filtering. I think it may be best in a new BioPod to cover the coir with a layer of rocks or something similar to hold it in place. The bottom line Brian is that your BioPod isn’t draining properly and I’d like to work with you to resolve it.

      You can deter both house flies and fruit flies by covering the waste with something. Coffee grounds are great since the BSF love it so much but you can also use shredded office paper or even a piece of cardboard or thick plastic as long as it’s not too hot. It takes a dense colony of BSF larvae to repel house flies and even then you can’t overload them with something like fish guts. I add fish to my BioPod often and I rarely see any house flies in it because my colony is dense enough to consume 4-5 lbs of fish in a day.

      In the photos below you can see that there are a few BSF laying but house flies are not present except for a few that checked it out while the lid was off. One or two house flies may have ventured into the BioPod because of the fish but only briefly and there’s no evidence they laid eggs. That’s pretty amazing considering this during a hot south Georgia summer day. There was virtually no odor while the fish was there, but it’s an important point that the fish was fresh. BSF can’t make stinky fish smell good.

      (click images to enlarge)

      There definitely are noticeable cycles in egg laying and larval maturation. I’ve seen days when everything seems perfect for BSF egg laying where none get laid. I’ve seen several days pass with nothing in the collection bucket and then one day it’s full. Still much to learn. :)

      Brian, if you’re getting any bad odors at all you’re probably overfeeding. If you withhold food scraps for two days there should be no visible whole food in the unit with the exception of hard items like potatoes etc.

      Thanks again for posting your progress Brian.

  • October 10, 2009 at 5:22 am

    I don’t actually have an “official” set up for our BSFs, however they are very abundant in two of our compost piles. I go to the back yard every few days just to see the large pile moving and see how quickly they devour everything.

    Every since I learned what they are, I have been fascinated.

    This might be gross but we raise chicken, quail and outdoor fish and recently one quail died and we had about five fish die also. We put them in the separate compost piles in the midst of the BSF and the quail was gone in one day. All we saw remaining were feathers. Those eventually were gone too. I don’t know if the BSF ate the feathers too or they just decomposed???? The fish were completely gone within two days. These weren’t even complete 24 hour days. We put them in the piles in the morning before work and later in the evenings, we checked the piles.

    We have a total of three outside compost piles lined up side by side (about 12″ apart). They are in a bin made from pallets and open completely on the top and only one of the piles shows no signs of any BSF. That pile doesn’t have much food in there though.

    It is so amazing because our piles are really hot but the BSFs are thriving. They stay near the top because we keep cardboard over each pile so it is nice and dark.

    We live in Portland, Oregon and it is getting much colder but the piles are still very hot so maybe I can enjoy them for a few more months. Hope so. By the way, no odor in our piles either.

    • October 10, 2009 at 1:04 pm

      Hi Frugal,

      Thanks for the thoughtful post and welcome to the BSF club!

      I’m not surprised that the quail was eaten so quickly but I only learned a few days ago that BSF eat feathers. I’ve been feeding a lot of fish to my BSF colony and I can confirm that they’re eaten very quickly. Given the heat your compost is producing I wouldn’t be surprised if some BSF larvae overwinter in your piles in the juvenile stage and wait until spring to mature. That would allow you to quickly process food scraps all winter. I hope you’ll keep us posted.

  • October 14, 2009 at 12:01 am

    Frugal: the quail would have made a great before/after photo series. Did you bury the bird in the compost or just place it on top?

    Jerry: I’m fairly certain I haven’t posted on your site yet. I’ve been reading & posting about BSFL on so many sites recently I can’t keep track.

    In any case, here’s a link to my DIY BSFL bin details:

    It’s only been 2 days, but so far the self-harvesting ramp & pupating area seems to be working out. However, it’s very likely that as the babies grow into juveniles, this mini-bin is going to prove too small. I’ll give them a few weeks to grow before moving them into the larger version 3 bin.

  • October 14, 2009 at 9:03 am

    One day it rained pretty hard and filled my (sterelite) container up about half way. (I’ve since moved it further away from the edge of the porch.) I now have BSF soup as my drain hole seems to always get plugged by the goup. Even with the extra water, it still isn’t draining much. One thing I’ve noticed though is that the BSF are a lot more active in the soupy mess than they appeared when it was a lot drier. I have added plastic coffee cans on their side in it but I rarely see them climb up onto them to get out of the soup. The soup does have a weird odor if you get about 12 inches from it.

    • October 14, 2009 at 9:25 am


      Good drainage is essential to keeping the pile aerated (aerobic). I’ve decided that a pre-filter layer covering the entire bottom of your unit is the best approach and I’ve had success using coconut fiber (coir). I describe installing coir in my BioPod here: https://blacksoldierflyblog.com/the_biopod/biopod-tips-and-tweaks/

      I recently added the statement about weighing the coir down with something and I hope to get some suggestions from others. The issue is that in a new unit the larvae crawl through the coir expanding it which reduces it’s effectiveness. We need to layer something on top of the coir in a new application, like rocks, soil, compost, or maybe wire mesh, to keep the coir on the bottom. I wonder if a layer of lava rocks would work as well as coir…

      It’s good that you have to get so close to be able to smell the “weird” odor, but I would take it as a warning sign. In flooded conditions you may be having a bloom of anaerobic bacteria which will lead to a bad odor. It’s best to avoid that type of bacteria. I recommend getting the drain flowing soon. If the material is too soupy to work with you can dry it by adding non-pressure treated sawdust or shredded office paper (not glossy or newsprint). Then I would remove the material and address that drain.

      Thanks for the update and good luck.

  • October 14, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Why do you not recommend adding shredded newsprint to you bio-pod?


    • October 14, 2009 at 11:09 am

      Why do you not recommend adding shredded newsprint to you bio-pod?


      I’ve never tried adding newsprint but I’ve been told that it compacts too much, at least I think that was the reason for not using it. That advice came from the head of ProtaCulture (BioPod manufacturer) who is the son of Dr. Olivier who patented the BioPod. BSF larvae don’t eat any type of paper as far as I know, and this has to do with the way the paper effects the texture of the material I think.

  • October 14, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Jerry, would adding flour to it help? The BSF would eat normal cooking flour, and it would thicken it back up, right?

    • October 14, 2009 at 11:17 am


      I’m afraid that flour would become pasty which would work against the goal of aerating the pile. I’ve usually added sawdust to my BioPod whenever it seemed like it was getting too wet, although I haven’t done it as much since I improved the drain function with a coconut fiber pre-filter. Here’s a statement I made about sawdust:

      I often add a few handfuls of sawdust from non-pressure treated wood to my BioPod. Pressure treated wood contains insecticide, not a good thing for BSF. My feeling is that the sawdust might work as a moisture buffering agent. By that I mean it will soak up excess liquid when it’s present and retain it to help keep the compost consistently moist. Moist but not wet is the perfect balance. The texture of the compost in my BioPod is almost always like potting soil; damp but not sticky and with a loose “fluffy” texture. It’s true that the sawdust adds bulk that will fill up the unit faster, but I don’t see that as a big deal, especially if it results in a more consistently aerobic (aerated) environment.

  • October 14, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    Jerry, I do not do woodworking and putting in and taking out enough shredded paper to soak it all up will also mean that I take out BSF with it. Currently it is slightly thicker than tomato soup. Any other ideas? Would oatmeal work?

    • October 14, 2009 at 1:51 pm

      Jerry, I do not do woodworking and putting in and taking out enough shredded paper to soak it all up will also mean that I take out BSF with it. Currently it is slightly thicker than tomato soup. Any other ideas? Would oatmeal work?

      You wouldn’t remove the paper, it will eventually get shredded to the point where I doubt you could recognize it. I happen to live by a lumber mill that has a pile of sawdust the size of semi trailer. If I didn’t have that source I would find a local cabinet shop and see if I could collect sawdust that wasn’t from pressure treated or particle board. BSF larvae are fairly resistant to chemicals, but I’m not sure about the formaldehyde in particle board.

      Alternatively if you want a fairly cheap source of drying medium you could check a pet supply store for various bedding options like pine or aspen shavings or maybe even corncob material. I think these would all work well.

      I think oatmeal would make it sticky and not be very effective. If you want to add a grain the only one I might consider would be very coarse cornmeal. Added dry this will soak up a lot of liquid and it will slowly feed the larvae for a long time. You probably couldn’t add other food for a while until the corn was eaten, otherwise you might have too much uneaten food which would defeat your purpose. I occasionally use cornmeal from the local feed store which costs $8 for a 50lb bag. I doubt that this is the same corn (field corn vs sweet corn?) that is used for human food preparation but it’s great for BSF. I feed this cornmeal to my colony when I go out of town for several days because it takes them a long time to break it down. I usually wet it first, but in your case the liquid is already present.

  • October 14, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    “The texture of the compost in my BioPod is almost always like potting soil; damp but not sticky and with a loose “fluffy” texture…. it results in a more consistently aerobic (aerated) environment.”

    My small bin with ~1000 grubs may not be typical, so what I’m trying may not work for larger units. The “loose, fluffy texture” is what I want to maintain from the beginning. I will try to control the moisture content of the food (eg: fewer melon rinds, more bread) added and will add coir (dry, sawdusty coir instead of the mats used for filters) when needed. Since my bin does not have a drain, such control will be needed to avoid anaerobic conditions.

    Currently my grubs are constantly churning the food & bedding, which spreads the moisture throughout the bedding and keeps everything loose & fluffy. Again, this is with strict control of food added. Eventually I will want to just throw food in the bin with minimal restrictions. At that point the addition of sawdust or coir would hopefully offset any over-wet conditions.

    • October 14, 2009 at 2:01 pm


      Sometimes my compost is less “fluffy” and more “clumpy”. It’s all good unless it becomes “sticky”. I’m not sure if all of those “quotation” marks where “necessary” but grammar isn’t my strong suit.

  • October 14, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    LOL. certainly not mine either. I used the quotes to quote someone, but who’s really checking?

    toober might ask a lumber store (not a mill), but I doubt they would separate sawdust from only non-pressure treated wood. Most of us city folk don’t have a local feed store, but wouldn’t cheap dog food work? I think you suggested this in another thread as a mold preventative? Big stores (walmart, etc) probably sell 50 lbs. bags for ~$10.

    Someone gave me a 5 kg brick of coir (which will probably last me years). I think it’s pretty cheap if you can find a local garden center or hydroponics store that carries it. Otherwise shipping would make it expensive:

    • October 14, 2009 at 3:04 pm


      I’ve used dry dog food as an attractant for female BSF but the cornmeal suggestion to toober was for drying out the waste in his unit. Dry dog food might work for that to a degree, but I don’t think it would work as well as cornmeal which very dry, dense and hard.

  • October 14, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    Has anyone had any success growing anything with the tea or the pudding from the bucket?

    • October 14, 2009 at 3:06 pm

      Hi Lee,

      I think calling the residue in a BSF unit “pudding” would be a good use of quotation marks. 😉

      I cleaned out the “compost” from my BioPod several weeks ago but I haven’t used it yet. I’ll letting some red worms finish it for now. I’ve never tried anything with the tea.

  • October 18, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Grubs escape!! My DIY bin obviously needs more tweaking. I had thought the self-harvesting ramp leading to a pile of dry coir as a pupating area was working. I knew mature grubs were going up the ramp, but I didn’t actually check to see if they were burrowed in the pile. Yesterday I saw a mature grub on the floor. I had already started a separate pupating bin for the 2 local pupae I’d found in my compost bin, so I stuck the escapee in there. Looked around some more and found even more grubs…26 and counting. 2 were tangled in spider webs but were still wiggling around. I removed as much web as I could and they burrowed into the coir when I put them in the dedicated pupating bin. I’m sure I’ll find more in the days to come as I rearrange stuff in the shed. I need to watch where I step for a while.

    These grubs were able to climb the walls of the bin because of condensation and sneak through cracks in the loose fitting lid. They dropped into the cardboard box with insulating bubbles and then climbed out of that onto the floor. Some stayed in the cardboard box and burrowed into the foam peanuts at the bottom. My solution was to replace the cardboard box with an 18 gal. storage bin that has a tighter fitting lid. Hopefully the sides of this will stay dry and will prove too steep for the mature grubs to climb. The larger bin essentially becomes the harvesting container.

    A couple of hours before I discovered the great escape, I opened the bin to find many babies on the lid. Since this bin doesn’t have any vent holes, condensation is always present on the walls and ‘ceiling’. The little grubs had made their way up and were just hanging out. Bin temp was 85F and nothing seemed amiss. The large juveniles were churning away and I still found many babies in the food. So what made these 20-30 little guys head up like that?

    I’m think incorporating the pupating area in the same bin as the feeding area will have to be scrubbed. I finally checked the pupating pile and extracted 60 mature grubs who had burrowed in, so it does work in part. But even if the bin had vent holes and insulating the bin was not needed, I think condensation would still form in the cool mornings here. The mature grubs would still be able to climb up the walls and escape through the vent holes. Does this happen with anyone’s 5 gal. DIY bucket? It wouldn’t matter if you had a large local population and lost a few mature grubs, but for now I want to make sure each mature grub pupates safely in a protected container.

    Maybe the modified bin-within-a-bin system will work. If condensation did not naturally take place to facilitate self-harvesting, you could always spray a fine mist of water on the sides of the bin every 2-3 nights so any mature grubs who wanted to migrate could do so. They could climb up the walls and through the vent holes to drop into the larger outer bin or bucket which would have a layer of coir or peat. Any obvious flaws in this idea? LOL. It all sounds so simple on paper. We’ll see what happens next.

    BTW, I removed top foam insulation and the surrounding bubble insulation since room temps are in the 60s. Bin temp is still in the 85-95 range.

  • October 19, 2009 at 2:14 am

    “…the quail would have made a great before/after photo series. Did you bury the bird in the compost or just place it on top?”

    Hopefully, we won’t have any more quail diie but if so, I will definitely take before and after pics when I give it to the BSF.

    We just put the bird on top. We have a layer of cardboard on top of our compost pile so we just lifted that up and put the bird right on top of the mass of BSF.

  • October 22, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Andrew, I’ve also used the “small bin in a larger bin” approach to collect larvae. Since my DIY unit doesn’t include ramps that has become my primary method of collection. If several larvae are trying to migrate out at the same time they can move fairly heavy objects by wedging themselves under in unison. I had a brick in one container to keep my DIY bucket at the right angle and 40-50 larvae crawled under the brick, lifting it completely off the bottom. I don’t know what 1/50th of a brick weighs, but it sure seems like a lot for one larva to lift.

    The little grubs had made their way up and were just hanging out. Bin temp was 85F and nothing seemed amiss. The large juveniles were churning away and I still found many babies in the food. So what made these 20-30 little guys head up like that?

    I’m not sure but I usually also see larvae that leave the food source and “hang out”. Some of it probably has to do with the stages the larvae pass through also known as instars. At this point the larvae shed their skins and they become relatively inactive for a period before that happens. I suppose it’s possible that they sometimes have eaten enough and need to rest. I don’t know exactly why juvenile larvae sometimes try to migrate away from an ample food source, but it happens regularly.

  • October 25, 2009 at 2:12 am

    Hi, I live in the UK and as far as I know BSF do not live here, the main reason I am interested in them is that I keep and breed reptiles and these grubs are sold as phoenix worms over here at a stupid price-I have never bought them. I think it is something like 150 large grubs for £6! Do you know if it is legal for me to culture the BSF in my garden?

    • October 25, 2009 at 10:48 am

      Hi Ryan,

      I haven’t heard whether or not it’s legal to culture BSF in the UK. I would think that if you can purchase the larvae legally that you could also raise them. The average temperatures in London are similar to Seattle, Washington and Vancouver British Columbia, both of which have wild BSF populations. If there are little or no wild BSF in your area then it will be more challenging to build up a reproducing colony, but it should be possible.

  • October 26, 2009 at 8:27 am

    I found a site that has a nutritional chart comparing BSFL with crickets and worms.


    Also another site that sold BSFL said not to refrigerate the BSFL after they arrived, but leave them at room temperature. I have been keeping my mature larvae that I intend to feed to something in the fridge thinking that they will last longer that way. They perk back up once they reach room temperature, Anyone know why they recommend that you not refrigerate the larvae?

    • October 27, 2009 at 6:11 pm

      This looks like the chart at PhoenixWorm.com

      I think the problem you might encounter by leaving them in the fridge is that it’s a dry environment. If you keep them damp and they can breath they should be fine refrigerated. It does stall their development.

  • October 31, 2009 at 10:37 am

    Has anyone here looked onto selling their BSFL to a local pet store? I was considering it but wanted advice. How do you package them? Price them for wholesale? It looks like on the Phoenixworm.com site that they are selling immature larvae. Is that best? Will they take mature larvae? I have a huge colony.

    Hope someone can help.

    • October 31, 2009 at 11:43 am

      I sell a few juvenile BSF as fishing bait at the local hardware store. I bought inexpensive bait containers online which are blue plastic with perforated lids. I put a few hundred larvae in each with a little damp sawdust. They keep them in a cooler with the earthworms they also sell, because otherwise they sometimes mature before they’re sold.

      It seems that most animals including fish prefer the juvenile larvae over mature. The mature larvae have a tougher skin and can pass through a digestive tract intact when eaten whole. This also can happen with juvenile larvae but probably less often. Collecting and packaging mature larvae is easier, especially if you have system that uses harvesting ramps. One area that represents a great market for mature larvae is people keeping poultry in residential settings. Keeping a few chickens, mostly for the eggs, is a fast growing hobby and from what I’ve seen and read most poultry will eat mature larvae almost as readily as the juveniles. There is a feral peacock (hen) on our property and she eats both with gusto.

      Phoenix worms are the trademark name for BSF larvae raised by Dr. Craig Sheppard’s company. His larvae are raised under controlled conditions and I believe the breeding adults are contained in a closed environment. He raises them on a grain diet I believe, and since his Phoenix worms have not been in the wild and don’t come from free adults they are more attractive to owners of expensive exotic pets. My experience with many of these exotic pet owners is that they are very nervous about pathogens that think might be present on larvae bred in an open system like a BioPod or similar device. In general I think they highly exaggerate the risk, but I wouldn’t try to convince them of that. My statements about Dr. Sheppard and Phoenix worms might not be entirely accurate, but I think it’s at least close. Dr. Sheppard has done extensive work with BSF for decades and I always try to promote his product. I don’t support anyone using the phrase “Phoenix worm” to market BSF larvae without his permission.

  • November 1, 2009 at 4:18 am

    I am a reptile keeper, and just to add a point, the reason we worry about any health risks is because vet bills can be huge and I don’t even think you can get insurance and you wouldn’t want to with some of the collections people have- so why take the risk?
    Also funny thing, I was looking around in the compost bin for fruit flies for my praying mantis nymphs 😉 and i saw some maggots, look exactly like normal maggots and it had climbed straight up the wet sides to the top? I asked mum if she had added any meat, which she hadn’t, so what are these?

    • November 1, 2009 at 11:25 am

      Ryan, my question is; what exactly is the risk? I don’t think it’s fair to assume that other insects you’re feeding to your reptiles are sterile. How can anyone know that the crickets or mealworms that come in the mail are more sterile than BSF which you raise yourself? When raising BSF you have the option of feeding them only relatively sterile foods like cornmeal. The only variable is that the adult BSF are let go to mate in the outdoors where they can theoretically pick up pathogens. The behavior or BSF adults is such that I think there is a very low risk that they will acquire pathogens in this stage. Even if an adult BSF did come into contact with pathogens it’s not a certainty that these pathogens will pass to the eggs or the container the larvae are raised in. Another thing to consider is whether or not it’s even wise to feed sterile foods to pets even if you could be sure of this. Animals build up immunities via exposure to constant small exposures to pathogens and I wonder about trying to provide a sterile environment. I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that you can indefinitely protect an animal from exposure to pathogens and if that does happen I think it would be best if that animal had built up some natural antibodies. It’s possible that feeding BSF larvae raised in an open system would expose pets to safe levels of your local pathogens, allowing pets to build up a resistance to those strains.

      I understand wanting to avoid illness and vet bills, but you must also factor in the excellent nutrition that BSF larvae provide. There is some element of risk in everything, but we know that BSF larvae provide one the highest levels of nutrition you can expect from any feeder insect. Including BSF in a pet’s diet is likely to improve it’s overall health which is the best defense against illness.

      Ryan, if you’re collecting wild fruit flies from a compost pile I think you’re more at risk of introducing pathogens to your pets than if you raised BSF in a semi-closed system like the type I promote. Fruit flies come into contact with food waste more directly than BSF do. House flies and other disease carrying pests also come into contact with food waste, to a much higher degree than black soldier flies. In other words, the fruit flies you’re collecting share territory with house flies many times more than BSF. I’m not saying it’s bad to feed wild fruit flies to your reptiles, I’m saying that the wild flies are more likely to be infected than BSF larvae raised with fresh food.

      There are over 100,000 species of flies and all fly larvae are commonly referred to as maggots. It’s very likely that the larvae you’re seeing are fruit fly maggots. Generally speaking fly larvae do not require meat as you seem to believe, with your fruit flies being just one of many examples.

      I’m not trying to give you hard time Ryan, I just want this blog to contain the fullest perspective when it comes to BSF. I think the common wisdom about risks of feeding BSF to pets is based on several wrong assumptions. Thanks for posting your comment, I welcome more discussion about this if you have more points or questions.

  • November 1, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    I understand exactly where you are coming from, I was simply stating that there probable is not much chance of people selling the grubs into the reptile industry if they are not a 200% trusted source, I would not feel comfortable feeding my bearded dragons for instance on grubs raised on some-one else’s waste. If the grubs are raised in a controlled environment on clean scraps and come into no contact with other animals, just like all other live foods in the reptile industry the grubs would be fine as in the case of phoenix worms.
    P.S. I said the fruit flies were for the praying mantis not the reptiles, the mantis are fine on the diseases and will not be affected and if they are it is not a incredible valuable animal. I also never said I would not feed bsfl that I had raised, I would have an issue with what others had raised them on e.g feces

    The issue here is that I think you are only looking at the side of the grub rearers and not the owners of reptiles that in some cases are worth literally thousands.

    • November 1, 2009 at 2:05 pm

      All good points Ryan. For the purpose of this discussion I’m not considering buying BSF from unknown producers. While I don’t think the risk is great, I can understand that level of caution. My perspective mostly relates to pet owners who don’t believe they can raise relatively safe BSF themselves because of the fact that the adults mate in the outdoors. I also tend to be skeptical that commercial insect producers maintain the high levels of sanitation that their customers seem to assume they do.

      I am doing my best to consider the owners of expensive exotic pets, but I’m trying to put it into perspective that meets real-world conditions. I know very little about exotic herps but I have to wonder how fragile they are. I wonder how often they would fall ill or die in the wild due to eating insects. I’m comparing this diet of wild insects to one that includes BSF raised on fresh food. It seems to me that most animals are fairly hardy and if they can avoid being eaten by another animal and if they find an adequate amount of food and water they will remain healthy. Even humans can ingest pathogens on a regular basis without falling ill. As I mentioned previously we still can’t say that it isn’t even better if these pets are exposed to local pathogens to build up the appropriate immunities. Unless you’re maintaining a perfectly sterile environment for the pet, “protecting” it from exposure to pathogens might ultimately lead to severe illness due to an inadequate immune system.

      I’ve had discussions with exotic pet owners where I’ve suggested that eggs could be collected from BSF that mate outdoors, which could be then be raised in a controlled indoor environment. I often collect BSF eggs from my BioPod which are only hours old, which could easily be moved to such a controlled environment. Still, I find that most exotic reptile and amphibian owners are fearful that even the larvae from these eggs will eventually transmit disease to their pets. That level of caution just seems misplaced to me considering the less than sterile environment that I assume most pets live in, and the fact that commercially produced insects could also be less than sterile.

      I appreciate your input about this controversial subject.

  • November 29, 2009 at 10:21 am

    to comment #54 by Jerry,

    I would like to report that I have had excellent results from a 7 gallon nursery pot and a 10 gal nursery pot sitting in a 24″ tray inside of my “butterflly” cage. There was absolute no loss of mature grubs that dropped out. I also had a 1oo% survival rate with a 5 gal nursery pot sitting upon a brick in an aluminum turkey tray full of water from a local supermarket. The only drawback is that every couple of days I had to run the water through a fish net to gather all the mature maggots. There was a period of several days at one point…I panicked and put them immediately upon a paper towel in a warm place. They all looked very dead. Then to my surprise one by one the started to move, slowly at first then almost in concert they were doing their squirmy stuff all over the place. Some how they either achieved some kind of state of torpor or are quite capable of absorbing oxygen through their skins for long periods. I found some in the compost tea that also appeared dead only to revive in a very short period.

    Without the butterfly cage using nursery pots is a difficult proposition in that you must pay almost daily attention to it. All in all before I even knew what BSF were I was already on the right track. I appreciate the info from this blog and other web sites.

    I must say that the whole smell thing as I presented it is certainly a valid one at least for me. This season has proved me right. I feel kind of put off because there are sure to be others out there who relate to smells in the way that I do! Now if you want to make rules that put everybody into the same slot for dealing with anything…not only smells; you are going to narrow your followers to more and more “yes” persons and less and less people who may offer some constructive criticism to furthur stimulate dialogue. If your ultimate aim is to sell Bio-Pods then why do this fool’s dance?


    • December 8, 2009 at 7:31 pm


      Thanks for sharing your successful set up. I hope to hear about your progress in the future.

      Concerning the odor issue; It’s not my intention to invalidate your experience, but as the administrator of this blog I wish to minimize confusion as much as possible. Few people reading or posting here will have more than one or two seasons of experience with culturing BSF and I want to be clear to my readers that foul odors are not a given in BSF culturing. There is no doubt that a BSF colony can emit foul odors, but that is not the normal smell of a balanced colony. The odor issue is a very important one because odor is one of the easiest ways to evaluate a BSF colony. I think you and I ran into trouble with your use of the word “stink”. I maintain that the word “stink” implies a foul odor and that a BSF colony that “stinks” is not a healthy balanced colony. If anyone makes a comment on this blog that might cause the casual reader to think that foul odors are a necessary part of BSF culturing I will correct them. A BSF colony can smell delicious, and that is my experience. I have added food waste to my BSF colony that created truly attractive smells. Cinnamon bread was one that made my unit smell great and another was some type of breakfast cereal that was given to me. You and I seem to be caught up in semantics. While I want to encourage you to post your experiences here I can’t let people use the term “stink” in any way that might confuse.

      “If your ultimate aim is to sell Bio-Pods then why do this fool’s dance?”

      First; my ultimate goal is to share my hobby and help people. I have spent countless hours answering questions for people who have made it clear they would not buy a BioPod, and I’ve given many people advice about how to construct DIY units. If I can ever make a living from BioPod sales that would be great, but that day is a long way off, if it ever comes. If by “fool’s dance” you mean the semantics concerning the word “stink” I don’t consider it foolish at all. Good communication is based on defining terms and on this blog the word “stink” will have a negative connotation.

  • December 9, 2009 at 9:21 am

    My bsf “soup” has come to an end. Oddly enough, they really did not seem to mind the anaerobic bad smelling conditions (you could smell it 1-2 feet away) that had been generated by rain getting in the container. I was trying to thicken it up with cornmeal. I was only adding a little bit of other food maybe once every other weekend for the last 2 months although it probably did not need it. I never was able to get it back to anything normal. The BSF were very active in the “soup/pudding”. It all came to an end once the cold fronts moved in and the weather got too cold for them. I looked in it one day and everything had come to a complete halt. They weren’t hiding at the bottom, nor were they all at the top, they were all over it just as they were when still alive except they weren’t moving at all. They are tough little critters who apparently don’t mind wetness, just not the cold.

    If your unit should get too wet, I suggest trying to relocate them to a drier unit and then clean the wet one, but it isn’t a deal breaker. FYI, before rain got in my container, there was no smell, even up close.

    • December 11, 2009 at 9:28 am


      Good drainage is important in a BSF composter if you want easy management. If I had a lot of water to soak up I would probably use a combination of cornmeal and sawdust. Both can absorb a lot of moisture and the cornmeal will encourage the larvae to churn through the material therefore aerating it and helping to discourage anaerobic bacteria that cause bad odors. At my local feed store I can buy a 50 pound bag of cornmeal for $8.

      Unless your colony froze they are still alive, but dormant or semi dormant. If you wanted to you could “restart” their feeding activity and maintain it through winter. My intention was to operate my BioPod through this winter but I’m afraid my schedule is interfering with the regular attention winter BSF culturing requires. It looks like I’ll have to wait until spring to get back into processing waste.

  • December 9, 2009 at 11:34 am

    My DIY bucket composter has nearly emptied of grubs. A couple of days ago I went to see if many had crawled out overnight, and the collection bucket underneath the main unit contained maybe a 1000 mature pre-pupae, a very large size. They’ve been eating well.

    But what now? The female flies aren’t laying any more eggs, and haven’t done so since October. I live in Portugal, which I believe is Zone 10. They days are still around 20C/70-75F, but the nights are getting cooler. The only thing that’s showing much interest in the composter bucket any more is fruit flies, 1000’s of the things.

    The ‘pudding’ is rich and black, but starting to go a bit mouldy where the grubs didn’t finish eating it all. I gave it a stir to see what else was in there, but couldn’t find any immature grubs, unlike the mass that was in there a couple of weeks ago.

    Since Jerry wrote about keeping the pre-pupae to start next year’s colony, and not feeding them to my chickens, I’ve been saving all those I can find, and putting them into a dark bucket with a lid set ajar on top. I put 2-3 inches of sawdust in, and there’s a pretty solid mass of pre-pupae in there now. I can put my hand to the bottom of the sawdust and pull out a solid fist of grubs, they’re jammed in tight. Occasionally a grub hatches, and a fly emerges, but I don’t where they going. There’s not much activity apart from that.

    So do I just store this bucket somewhere dry and frost-free, or what?

  • December 14, 2009 at 1:08 pm

    How do I post a picture? I have several pictures I want to post of my diybiopod.

    • December 14, 2009 at 6:28 pm

      Lee, first you need to publish the image on the web. I use Photobucket but there are others that are also free. Once you upload the image to your photo hosting account it will be assigned a unique web address. When you post a comment here click the button labeled “img” which opens a small window where you paste the address of the photo. Give it a try and if it doesn’t work we’ll figure it out.

  • December 14, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    Here is my DIY BIO POD for the BSFL. The bottom large container is a gardening container from a nursury that was delivering some trees in the large one. I filled it with compost material and set my 5 gallon biopod with the larve and my current amount of pudding on top of the compost.

    Then, I got a (I guess) 10 gallon gardening bucket and put it upside down over the composter. This serves several purposes. First, it keeps the light out. Second, I am hoping it helps keep the pod warm in the winter. It still has holes for the females to enter into the bucket.

    I don’t really worry to much about a ramp out of the five gallon bucket. There are numerous holes in the side of the five gallon container that they can climb out of. Usually there is enough moisture in the bucket for them to climb around and up.

    The mature larve can immediately drop down into the drier compost material and turn in to flies.
    The tea can drip out into the compost, without me worrying about trying to collect the tea and staining my hands with its terrible smell.
    I keep ants out of it by wetting the compost material. Also, when ever I deliver food to the 5 gallon, I get a stick and poke it in the bottom compost. This stirs up the compost and drives any ants crazy. Both the wetness and disturbance makes the ants not stay. The little bait traps you see in the pictures are not really effective that I can tell.

    I like to use these large garden contaners, like the one on the bottom, for my gardening. I fill it 3/4 way with material that I want to decompose. Basically, the core compost material-leaves, grass, etc. Then I add the top 1/4 with top soil or well composted material. This way, when I water the plants, the bottom compost material gets wet. Also, I don’t have to dig up the ground, roots, and weeds to plant. Also, it saves alot of space for composting.

    My ultimate goal is to have an aquaponics system and have the bsfl help feed the fish.

    Thanks for all of the ideas guys!

  • December 17, 2009 at 9:20 am

    Ants – the Grant’s ant baits in your picture only seem effective (around here – central Cal. coast) in the springtime when the ant colonies are building up. However, I have found some liquid baits at the hardware store that are VERY effective, year around.

    – Pete

  • December 17, 2009 at 9:28 am

    When the weather warms up I hope to raise some BSFL. From my reading, I see that a favorite time for BSF like to lay their eggs is on the shortest day of the year, if it’s a sunny day.

    The shortest day is coming up soon, so I’ve set up several five-gallon buckets with coir and rotting food scraps.

  • January 5, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Does anyone have any experience in intentionally mixing high fiber things (leaves, grass, napkinse) with the food waste?

    I decided to dump out my four month trial diybiopod. It was in a five gallon bucket and will filled to a solid four gallons. It was no longer a pudding but a wet smelly mass of decaying peat. As I dug through it, it seemed as if the bottom parts just got to the point that the larve had moved on and allowed the bottom gallon to settle and get compacted.
    Thus, I was wondering about getting a larger, wider bucket and mixing more leaves, or wasted napkins in the mix. That way, more bulk would be per gallon of food that was deposited. And since this is all going to compost anyway the leaves would get a head start on breaking down.
    Any thoughts or ideas?

    • January 6, 2010 at 9:21 am

      Good question Lee.

      It does make sense that a wider shape might work better with more surface area and shallower depth allowing for better aeration.

      My first thought when I read your question is that I routinely add sawdust (not pressure treated) to my BioPod. I do this mainly to help maintain the proper moisture content, but there could be other benefits. I’m not aware of any problems that leaves, paper, ect would cause for the BSF. One issue is that the container would fill more quickly, but I don’t see that as a big problem. It seems that traditional compost piles are the more common way people discover BSF larvae, so obviously the BSF aren’t avoiding these types of materials.

      Thanks again for the great question Lee.

  • January 6, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    how important is it for the larve to crawl out? Do they have to be far away from the food in order propogate?
    How interested is the immature larve in crawling out?

    If I try a wider bottom containter, (eg. 2 foot wide bottom) do you think that I could just put a pile of dry leaves on one side and the food to digest on the other and keep them all in the same container?

    Or heck, just get a kiddie pool, start the food processing on one side, and perhaps a few inches a way (Like an island in the middle) have the dry pile. Everytime I have something new to add, put it right next to yesterday’s pile, and day by day circle around the island/edge of the pool.

    If there was a constant food source, would the immature larve wonder off if they were not strictly contained like we have so often assumed in the diybsflbiopod?


    • January 11, 2010 at 10:17 pm


      The conditions in a BSF unit are not ideal for pupation so it’s best to find a way to allow the mature larvae to migrate away from the waste. The larvae CAN pupate in the unit, but it would become a problem if it happened in large numbers, in my opinion.

      The immature larvae are very interested in crawling out of a BSF unit, at least at certain times. If the food supply diminishes at any point the larvae will try to leave. If the moisture level drops below optimum level they will try to leave. If the density of the colony is high, as we try to accomplish, many of the larvae will try to leave. A well designed BSF unit will be efficient at containing the juvenile larvae so that they will be there to receive the next meal when we are able to provide it.

      I’ve never tried to contain the larvae in one section of a container but to do so you will need to use some sort of divider I think because the constant churning of the larvae will eventually mix the contents.

      Any type of design is worth trying in the end because regardless of the results you’ll learn more about BSF. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • January 12, 2010 at 1:49 am

    Lee, BSFL “in the wild” are clearly free to roam. The BioPod and DIY units try to optimize the environment for processing food waste. Often the mature grubs are used for animal feed, so the concentrated harvesting is important for those folks. For those like me who are trying to build up a local colony, it’s important to protect the mature pupae so they can hatch as flies.

    I’ve read of people who have large BSFL colonies in open compost heaps. I’ve found many empty pupal casings in my enclosed compost bin. I’m guessing the larvae fed on whatever was in the bin and then crawled away to a drier part of the bin to pupate.

    I did try to build in a partly segregated area for pupation, but like Jerry said, the churning action eventually spread that area out. I eventually converted my bin into a bin-within-a-bin system where the smaller bin was the active feeding area and the larger outer bin held dry coir for the self-harvesting mature grubs. Condensation on the walls of the smaller bin was sufficient to allow the mature grubs to crawl up the vertical walls. It’s similar in concept to the photos you posted here in Dec.

    I hope this photo shows up. I don’t put a lid on the smaller bin, only on the larger one.

    • January 12, 2010 at 6:33 am

      Thanks for the great post Andrew.

      My blog uses html code for links and images. I’ll have to check for WordPress plugins to automate it I think.

  • January 14, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    One of the reasons that I used the large bin under the diybiopod was for liquid management. I tried the jar under the bucket idea but there was so much liquid that I had to change it every day, then it would spill on my hand and it smelled really bad. (Just imagine changing a soiled diaper from a sweaty child that hasn’t showered in three days.) But I didn’t want to waste it in case it was good soil additive.

    Other than adding saw dust, does anyone have any other liquid mangement ideas?

  • February 28, 2010 at 10:48 am

    I have a small flock of chickens and am today building a bucket composter per the info here. I appreciate all the time you folks have put into this blog.

    I’m planning on using a short piece of polypropylene rope, screwed to the inside of the bucket, positioned as to make a larvae “highway” similar in shape to the ramp in the biopod – heading around the sides of the bucket and up to a hole that will have a PVC elbow, leading to a downspout and into a catch-device that can be unscrewed from the pipe. I’m curious if there are any downsides to this, to the use of PVC, or if anyone has tried similar ideas?

    • February 28, 2010 at 10:56 am


      The rope should work, but I expect you will see a lot of larvae wedging themselves between it and the bucket where ever they’re able. For a minimal set up like the bucket I wouldn’t worry about a few lingering larvae. The pvc is fine and it gives a lot of options for directing the larvae.

      For what it’s worth I’m considering a two bucket set up to improve the drainage system. The bottom bucket would catch the runoff and the top bucket would house the colony and have numerous holes drilled in the bottom. You would still need a layer of filter medium like coir and something to keep the filter from expanding as the larvae tunnel through it.

      Please keep us posted!

  • February 28, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Jerry, I like your two bucket idea for drainage management! I have a suggestion for a further modification to make it modular so you can manage pudding accumulation as well as liquid: Try three nested buckets, with a 4th on standby. The bottom one is a liquid catch, the second has a layer of choir and holes drilled in the bottom for drainage. This second bucket is a semi-premanent coir buffer. The third (top) also has drainage holes to allow drainage into the coir and catch buckets. The second bucket should have sufficient coir that the bottom of bucket #3 rests on the surface of the coir. As the third bucket (feeding and grub bucket) fills to a level where a 4th bucket bottom would just rest on the surface, add the 4th bucket and commence all feeding into that bucket. In a short period of time, all the larvae would migrate up thru the holes into the feeding bucket at which time it would be placed in the third position and the third bucket removed – full of pudding for compost use and absent MOST of the live larvae. As that 4th bucket fills, you still have a spare feeding bucket to use to repeat the process. This could eliminate the hassle of trying to separate live larvae from pudding when the diy system becomes full – which is the only complaint I have about the BioPod. (An issue I am facing now as my BioPod over-wintered chock full of mature grubs and full to the top of the exit rap.)

    Brian Travis

    • February 28, 2010 at 4:39 pm

      Brian, I think your idea has a lot of merit and I will probably try it this summer. Thanks!

  • April 4, 2010 at 9:48 am

    I wanted to report to everybody that my larvae over-wintered just fine in my set up. I have a fifty gallon water drum turned on its side with an access door cut into one side. This is sitting on cement blocks and has a drain tube in the bottom. I have two 2 inch PVC pies for ramps that go into buckets slotted over the pipes on the outside. Well when temperatures got kind of low I spread a layer of food over the top and then spread about 5 inched of shredded paper over that. Thats all I did. Well this week was pretty warm and I noticed activity in the barrel. The larvae are eating and some mature larvae have even begun to crawl up the exit tubes again.

    • April 4, 2010 at 10:24 am

      Thanks Garbly, please keep us updated on your progress this year.

  • April 17, 2010 at 10:40 am

    So I built the bucket version of a BSF pod at the end of Feb as I posted above.

    I used a 5-gal bucket, that coconut fiber in a cone, and a sheet-metal cone beneath that draining to a hole in the middle of the bottom that feeds into some clear fuel-line tubing out and into the ground to dispose of the liquid. I put thin cork on top of the poly rope I noted above as the highway for the grubs to crawl out. At the exit hole I have 3/4″ PVC going straight out, then a 90 deg down-angle to a drop into a screw-on piece of PVC about 3″ in diameter with some pine shavings at the bottom… From what I’ve read here and other places, this ought to work..

    Problem: I’ve put in table scraps (potato, meat, bread, fruit, salad, etc.) for a month… and all I have are gnats and mold on the strawberries… NO BSF…

    I live in the LA basin up against the mountains, about 2,000 ft elevation…

    Ideas? Do I need to get a starter colony of BSF? I thought they were everywhere and if I built it, they would come…

    • April 17, 2010 at 5:52 pm

      Dave, it sounds like you made an effective BSF unit. One suggestion I’ll make is to find some way to prevent the future BSF larvae from shredding the coconut fiber. If there is nothing to hold it in place they will mix it into the waste and it will lose its effectiveness. Since you have a cone shape you might try filling it with rocks or a similar material.

      BSF are not found everywhere, but I’m pretty sure they will be in your area. To begin with I don’t recommend using any meat to attract BSF. They can process flesh but they aren’t primarily carrion eaters. I wouldn’t add any animal protein until you have a dense colony established. Mold, gnats, fruit flies, house flies, etc. are just part of the process of establishing the BSF colony. The mold will be consumed once BSF show up and the other fly species will be repelled. If you don’t like the idea of having this particular waste in your unit you can transfer it to another container and continue using those scraps outside of the unit. One advantage to that method is that you can have several different containers in various locations at once. Whatever you do don’t give up on the waste you’ve been using, it may already contain BSF. Your unit may also have BSF eggs in it. It takes the eggs 4 days to hatch and after that it can be another week or more before the tiny larvae grow large enough to be easily seen. It’s a common mistake to throw out the initial waste because it looks bad or has other larvae in it, yet often it will contain BSF. (It may be too early in the season for you as I will discuss below). One thing you can do to lessen the presence of other fly species is to loosely cover the waste with shredded office paper. Fruit flies and house flies prefer to lay their eggs directly on the waste so covering it deters them. BSF prefer laying above or beside the waste so it has no effect on them.

      You don’t need a starter kit to establish a colony. With enough patience you will attract BSF given that they are present in the wild where you are. A starter kit can speed up the process because the subtle scent of BSF larvae is a powerful attractant for BSF females.

      Having said all of the above; it’s probably still too cool for BSF reproduction where you live. It’s possible that all the BSF are still pupating waiting for warmer weather before they emerge as adults to mate, especially since you’re at 2000 ft. I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t see adults around until the end of May or even early June. I only saw my first BSF adult of this season five days ago near Tallahassee, FL, and we’ve had a handful of sunny days in the 80’s.

      Hang in there Dave, the hardest part of culturing BSF can often be the process of attracting them. Once you have them in a properly designed unit it gets pretty easy.

  • April 17, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Dave, have you seen the new version of the bucket composter?

  • June 21, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    I wasted a lot of time looking at this website only to find out that it’s impossible to buy a container to raise BSF in. And that after spending a lot of time trying to find out why anyone would want to raise them. I’m disappointed. It sounds like something that would be fun, and good for my chickens, but I need a container.

    • June 21, 2010 at 10:17 pm

      Hi Dianne,

      If you don’t have the skills to make the DIY composter maybe you can convince someone else to make it for you, or you could pay someone. Also, I’m not promoting the BioPod Plus but they are available.

  • June 22, 2010 at 8:13 am

    My newest diy bucket assembly: 5 gallon bucket. Cut 2 inch hole in bottom middle and set the bucket on top of a 2-3 gallon smaller bucket to catch juice in. Set the smaller bucket on top of a 5 gallon lid so that vegetable oil surrounds the small bucket to keep ants out. In the 5 gallon bucket, run the thickest weather stripping you can find from the bottom to the top of the container. Now drill a hole near the top so they can exit out from the ramp. Experience has shown that the weather stripping will come off in weather. So secure it with silicone on top and underneath to the bucket. Place 5 gallon lid on top and only snap it on opposite sides so it isn’t a pain to take back off. Inside the 5 gallon bucket on the bottom, put an upside down colander that will allow it to drain. It is preferable to have this almost same width as the bucket so it won’t shift. I also put rocks in the small bucket to help anchor it from wind. Try to keep the bucket in a shaded spot. Noting that you don’t have to use the almost-adults as feed in my case, I use younger ones. My minnows never let the smaller white larvae hit the bottom of the tank when they get some!

    • June 22, 2010 at 3:19 pm

      Hey toober,

      I like this design, especially the oil moat.

      Here’s a few things to consider:

      -You may have problems with the lack of ventilation if you maintain a dense colony. If you keep the population low then shading it should be sufficient. Also, if you live in a cool climate overheating shouldn’t be a problem.

      -Keeping anything attached to the bucket with adhesive will be a problem because BSF are always trying to dig into every little crack they can find. If silicone will allow you to get through a whole season then I’ll call that a success.

      -You might run into drainage problems without a pre filter material over the colander. That all depends on what type of waste you process. Regular additions of wood shavings might keep the liquids draining.

      Overall great design, I hope you keep us up to date as you use this.

  • June 22, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    Are the mature larve, those that crawl away, are they light adverse? Or do they crawl through light?

    Because here is what I was brainstorming. Instead of building a ramp for them to exit on, just let them exit by holes in the side of your five gallon container. Since the young larve are light adverse, they would stay away from the light and not exit. But if the mature larve were not adverse to light, they would just crawl through the side in order to go away.

    If you needed to harvest the mature larve (which I don’t), you could have the five gallon bucket in a larger bucket with leaves in the bottom.

    What are other’s thoughts?

    • June 22, 2010 at 4:25 pm

      The mature larvae might be a little less photo-phobic, but it’s their nature to hide, probably because such a wide variety of animals prey on them. The mature larvae seem to migrate at night mostly which further indicates that they avoid light.

      Exit holes in the side would work, but juvenile larvae would also use them, if not in the daytime then at night for sure.

      I’ve used some primitive set ups that do collect larvae using your idea of setting the wet container in a dry container. The problem there goes back to the juveniles escaping. Btw, there’s nothing wrong with a system like that, it just depends on your goals.

      I’m also always interested in others ideas.

  • July 30, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Please post all pics of homemade BSFL bins! (black soldier fly larvae composters) I need a substitution for the expensive one but am still sold mostly on it’s design. Who can create the first one that is most like the biopod with other materials?

  • July 30, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    Jerry, quick update…. My colony is increasing, somehow. Some of the silicone is coming apart from the bucket and I did see some larvae trying to go between it and the bucket, they may have been the ones to tear it away too. Looks like larvae is falling through the bottom colander into the bottom white bucket. Maybe they think it is light and go that way instead of up the ramp? Maybe I should have painted it black. My lowes 5 gallon is gray and the bottom 2-3 gallon is white. It doesn’t look wet in the bottom yet but there is a good buildup that needs to be used elsewhere. I can see larvae in the otp and bottom buckets. Maybe I’ll drill a hole in the bottom bucket so they can get out of that one too (since I am not trying to harvest every one of them).

    I currently have one big rock in the bottom bucket to weigh it down, this has worked well. The buckets have not tipped over and are next to the house on the porch. I’m sure they get morning/noonish sun. Heat should be escaping the exit/entrance hole near the top of the 5 gallon bucket.

    The securing of the lid on only 2 opposites sides has worked well, easy to get off and snap back on without doing the entire 5 gallon lid hassle. Vegetable oil moat has worked well, no ants.

    • July 31, 2010 at 2:04 pm

      Hi toober, good to hear from you again.

      BSF larvae don’t normally crawl towards light but sometimes the mature ones will. Either way I wouldn’t say that they are ever attracted to light. I’d be cautious about any direct sunlight hitting your unit, especially if it’s a dark color. If it get too hot inside the unit the larvae will all try to escape, if they can’t and it reaches 113-115º (45C) they’ll die.

  • July 31, 2010 at 12:16 am

    Yes! more pics! I don’t know the best way to do this … save my money or craft one from clay or plastic or something. thoughts?.. and indeed more pics of different ideas for bins!

  • July 31, 2010 at 7:35 am

    I know that Jerry has kindly posted some of these pictures in another place, but I will provide the link to my blog of my BSFL Cannon and BSFL condo. They both work very well with the cannon being the simpliest to build and maintain.


    Comment from blog admin: You can also find a link to Lee’s site on the main page sidebar under Blogroll.

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