Here are two videos I made to introduce the new version of the do-it-yourself BSF bucket composter. I plan on making more videos as I operate this unit through the summer. For details about how to construct it see this page.

DIY black soldier fly bucket composter – part 1

[youtube width=”535″ height=”317″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kjNvE5IOdw[/youtube]

DIY black soldier fly bucket composter – part 2

[youtube width=”535″ height=”327″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zFcDT8gBo8[/youtube]

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. 😉

23 thoughts on “DIY BSF bucket composter video

  • April 24, 2010 at 10:02 am
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    Good stuff GW. Could velcro also be used in the collection container to prevent the mature larvae from climbing on condensation?

    • April 24, 2010 at 10:54 am
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      Thanks Mike,

      The velcro would work but I would still keep some material in the harvest container so the larvae can hide. I like sawdust because it’s easy to separate the larvae from the sawdust by “sifting” them both through a 1/4 inch mesh net.

      I’ve been thinking about setting up a bucket to automatically dispense mature larvae to the peacocks that free range on our property. The biggest issue is how to catch the larvae in an open container without them escaping. Sawdust won’t help because it doesn’t work when wet. My current thought is a shallow pan with velcro around the inside rim which should contain the BSF even when wet. It would also need a few holes for drainage that would be too small for the larvae to get through.

  • April 28, 2010 at 6:48 pm
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    Thank you for this information. I am excited about these colonies and to begin my own farm to help feed laying hens.

  • April 28, 2010 at 6:51 pm
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    Aloha,
    I have question. If I did want to feed chickens, what do you think of the larvae just falling straight into the coop and be available as instant food for the chickens?
    Best, Ellen

    • April 28, 2010 at 7:31 pm
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      Hi Ellen,

      You’re very welcome! Letting the larvae drop into the coop would be great. I’ll bet the chicks would keep an eye on that spot. :)

  • April 28, 2010 at 8:12 pm
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    Okay, so now you got me thinking…. I suppose the larvae could just scale the bucket and drop out of the vents if I leave the velcro material off? Then the bucket could just set inside the coop with the larvae falling to the ground to their… ummm.. demise? In your opinion, would that eliminate the need to supply the funnel and exit tube?
    Mahalo,
    Ellen
    PS- I will be sharing your blog with my organic farming and sustainability class at Kauai Community College. I think they will be happy to see your site. Some of them had mentioned BSF when one of our instructors discussed chickens needing a high protein diet for good and prolonged egg production. Being on an island, so much of our “stuff” is shipped in. Chicken tractors and BSF help lower the feed cost and carbon footprint of shipping.

    • April 28, 2010 at 10:11 pm
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      Thanks Ellen, I enjoy visitors. :)

      Leaving the Velcro off would let the larvae drop out but the bucket would need to be tipped at least a 45º or the larvae won’t be able to exit efficiently. Even in a humid environment the walls won’t always have enough condensation to allow the larvae to climb a vertical surface. The main consideration if you tip it is that the usable volume will be a lot less.

      Now that I think about it you might be able to get all of the function you want from an unmodified bucket and corn. I’ve been working with whole kernel dried corn for attracting BSF females. I soaked some in water about three weeks ago and let it ferment. The sour odor is fairly strong and I think it will be a great attractant. Of all the BSF baits I’ve tried it has attracted the least amount of other species and there is very little mold or fungus. I think BSF will be able to thrive in a bucket of corn and water even if the water is almost as high as the corn. Wet larvae will be able to scale the vertical sides easily. I guess you would need to change the water occasionally, but maybe not; the BSF might stabilize it. The corn should be sufficient to feed the larvae. If that worked I’m curious what the effect of adding other foods might be. A drain would be unnecessary in a wet system like that. A lid might not even be needed, especially if the bucket wasn’t exposed to rain. It would be nice if we can create a low maintenance, semi-automatic feeding system with a simple bucket.

  • April 29, 2010 at 7:31 pm
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    Aloha,
    Hope you are great today. Another question. Do you have a shopping list for you proto type?
    Or a list of your PVC sizes for the intake on the lid?
    Much Mahalo.
    Ellen

  • May 14, 2010 at 5:22 pm
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    This is one of the best videos I’ve seen – in any venue. Your explanations were concise and well organized. Thanks so much for the effort you’ve put into this project and for sharing it with strangers (like me).

    I might add that I ran across your video by my usual free association type of searching the web – clicking from link to link, looking for information about aquaculture. Your 5 gallon bucket of BSFs seems an ideal way to provide food for the fish, while ridding ourselves of vegetable scraps. Win win.

    Thanks again.

    • May 14, 2010 at 6:24 pm
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      Thanks Rusty! I’ve always enjoyed sharing knowledge with people and it makes me feel great that you appreciate my efforts.

  • May 14, 2010 at 9:26 pm
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    Aloha All,
    Jim and I just had an amazing consult with an international aquaculturist today. We are very excited about the posibility of growing large amounts of food for Kauai. So not only will BSF come in handy for the chickens. They can feed our fish as well.
    Thanks all, for the Inspiration!
    Best,
    Ellen

    • May 14, 2010 at 10:35 pm
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      It’s great to hear from others who are excited about this and other elegant alternative technologies.

      Ellen, if your goal is to generate a large number of BSF larvae I suggest that you limit the number of them that you feed to other animals for a few years. For each pair of larvae that you allow to pupate and emerge as adults the potential is 500-900 more BSF. I would use half for feed and release the other half. I protect the larvae after they pupate because most of them would be eaten otherwise. I keep the pupae in buckets with a few inches of sawdust and holes that allow them to escape after they emerge. That way a lot more of them reach the adult stage which is key to building up a large population.

  • May 15, 2010 at 1:21 am
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    Aloha Jerry,
    Please tell me your thoughts on our tropical temperature and the amount of flies we can raise without continental US winter conditions. Our temp on Kauai does not fall below 52 nocturnally and is typically 65-75 in the winter and 75-88 summer months. This is a question Jim raised related to your suggestion that we allow BSF to grow to maturity related reinoculation of eggs and continuity.
    Out of curiosity, where is your location and do the BSF survive through your winter?

    • May 15, 2010 at 8:09 am
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      Ellen,

      I live in Georgia, 20 miles north of Tallahassee Florida. I see BSF activity roughly half of the year so in terms of temperature you have twice the opportunity to increase your BSF population. Another way to look at it is that you have twice the opportunity to feed BSF larvae to animals. Yes, BSF survive the winter here, but the important part is that they don’t reproduce during that period and consequently they are not available as feed and the population is (mostly) static.

      As important as temperature is to BSF reproduction it is far less a factor than predation. I’ve read that BSF females lay between 500 and 900 eggs and I’ll use the average of 700 for the purpose of this discussion. I’ve also been told that the ratio of females to males is approximately 1/1. If a BSF population is in equilibrium then a mating pair will ultimately produce one other successfully mating pair and so on. If the original pair of BSF are only survived by two successful adults then that means that 698 of their eggs/larvae had no effect on the reproduction rate, largely due to predation. In nature the vast majority of that 698 would have been eaten while in the larval stage by the wide range of animals that prey on them. We can effect the BSF population dramatically by increasing the survival rate of the larvae/pupae through adult from 2 to something near 700. On the other hand, if you protect the 700 BSF only to a point and then use them to feed animals you won’t have a noticeable effect on the size of the local population. In fact, if you are very careful about containing the developing larvae, and also very thorough in feeding them all to animals then you could theoretically be decreasing the local population. If my theory is correct protecting some BSF to maturity will have a far greater impact on the population than constant reproduction due to year round warmth.

      If my math is correct the typical survival rate is around .3% or less. Since the equilibrium of the population depends on a high BSF mortality rate you can effect the population noticeably even if you preserve only a small percentage of them to maturity. I have sold a lot of my BSF to others in the form of starter kits, and I have also fed quite a few to my pond fish, the local toads, and to the feral peafowl around my place. I haven’t kept records but if I had to guess I would say that I’ve protected 10-15% of my BSF to the point where they emerge and fly away to mate.

      I don’t know what the population curve will do if you protect higher and higher percentages of BSF to maturity, but my math challenged brain believes that the curve would be exponential. In other words; preserving 20% of the BSF versus 10% would result in many times more BSF than simply doubling it. It would be great if someone with better math/science skills would review my thinking on this, but that’s my best seat-of-the-pants effort. :)

  • July 16, 2010 at 2:58 am
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    I am noticing a buildup of BSF larvae in my compost pit (about 30 cubic feet). For the past year, I have been adding spent brewers grain from the local brewery at rate of 3-5 gallons a week. Every so often, I let the pile get out of balance or incompletely turned and the grain gets noticeably vinegary. From your comment above about a sour odor attracting females, am I correct in believing that the grain might have something to do with the increased BSF activity?

    • July 16, 2010 at 8:21 am
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      Hi John,

      Fermented grain is a BSF magnet. One of the names people use for BSF larvae in Georgia is “meal maggot” because they’re often found in damp and fermenting grain and animal feed. They don’t represent a serious problem because they don’t inhabit dry, properly stored feed/grain.

  • July 20, 2010 at 11:16 pm
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    This question is for john in hb,HB doesn’t happen to stand for Huntington beach does it?
    thanks.

  • July 21, 2010 at 12:25 am
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    Hi Akuma

    Of course it does!! 8^)

  • July 21, 2010 at 2:40 pm
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    hello john sorry to bug,but hey could i possibly purchase some of your grubs from you? i live in cm,been trying to get a colony started.
    thanks.

    Jerry,
    also a question,like i had said i’m new and still trying to get my bsf going,but my adult larva that i had put in a bucket with saw dust,well thay all look sucked up and flat, could you tell me what i am doing wrong,
    thank you.

  • July 21, 2010 at 10:13 pm
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    No bug, Akuma, but I don’t have a BSF colony.

    I have noted hatched BSF pupae on walls around my house for years without realizing what they were. It has only been in recent months that I’ve noticed live larvae in my compost pile, but that has been one or two here and there.

    Then, about three weeks ago, I was showing my compost pile to a columnist for the HB Independent and I hit a pocket of maybe ten larvae. Plus we saw an adult BSF. She was interested and has written a column that will be published in tomorrow’s Independent (a Thursday weekly). I have not seen the column. Maybe it will provide some sources. Good luck.

  • September 25, 2010 at 11:39 pm
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    Hi, I have purchased BSFL and they have begun to mature in my homemade bin. There are black ones in there that I am not sure are able to navigate the ramp or find the ramp. I did see several black ones trying to go up the wrong side. can I remove them for pupation ? -are pine shavings and shade sufficient for such? I am nervous about losing my small start to ignorance and the wrong garden zone. I plan on having them in a greenhouse for the winter. I am in southwest Ohio. Two black ones made it past my filter and were in my drainage jar. I scooped them out of the tea and they seem ok. I altered the drain to block additional ones and placed the two bsfl in the shade with pine shavings in a plastic ice cream tub with a hole in the lid. Whatcha think?

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