Dried corn kernels soaked in water are the best bait for attracting BSF females that I have tried. I’m currently using a batch that I began soaking over a month ago. Once fermented, the corn and water give off a strong sour smell that is great for attracting black soldier fly females.

Once the BSF are established the result is a nearly odor-free process, but in the beginning it’s best to have a strong odor so the females can locate the unit. I like using fermented corn because even though it has a strong odor I don’t find it as offensive as most rotting food. It’s not a smell that I necessarily like, but it’s one I can live with during the set up phase and once I’ve got a dense colony I can go back to the normal, mild and pleasant odor of a balanced BSF composter.

One advantage of this method is that you don’t need to deal with food scraps which tend to become moldy and also attract a lot of undesired species. I did see a few fruit flies and other small flying insects in and around the corn, but compared to other baits I’ve used corn is best in this regard. Most notable is the absence of blow flies and to a great extent, house flies.

I’m using two techniques based on this idea. I have small buckets of soured corn and water in a few places and BSF females are laying eggs in the buckets. Some eggs are laid on the bucket walls and others are laid on the dry corn that’s above the water line. The resulting larvae should be able to develop in the buckets, as long as the corn isn’t completely submerged. When there are a good number of larvae in the corn/water I’ll remove and reserve the liquid and use the corn and larvae to seed a new BSF composting unit. The corn will eventually be consumed by the larvae in the new unit and the liquid can be used alone as an attractant if needed.

The strained liquid can be used to help attract BSF females directly to new composting units. Attracting egg laying females is automatic if you have an established colony, but it is the biggest challenge in establishing a new unit. Adding the corn liquid to other scraps you place in a new unit will increase the attractive odor of the bait. Also, if you live in an area that has a limited BSF population or a cool climate this attractant might help you maintain a denser colony throughout the mating season by directing more females to your composter.

I’m sure there are many other foods that could be used in a similar way. I used corn because I can buy a 50 pound bag (22kg) for about $8 at the local feed store. The key is to develop a strong smell that will represent a food source to the female BSF who are searching for an egg laying site. I’ve been told by people in the Philippines that BSF are often found in rotting coconut meat. I imagine that if you applied the principle I described above with coconut as the base that it would also work well. Likewise, I noticed good results once after adding sour milk to a unit. Your goal should be to have a bait that you can smell from a few yards/meters away. If you can smell it from that distance the BSF will have no trouble locating your composter.

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. :)

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29 thoughts on “Attracting black soldier flies with corn

  • May 11, 2010 at 8:41 pm
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    Jerry,

    great concept. I love it. Especially usefull for the larger ProtaPod. Your logic to use corn makes sense. A lot of insect can be conveniently raised using a corn based meal or substrate. I guess it makes sense that a hood feed would make a great attractant.

  • May 17, 2010 at 11:33 am
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    I think. I will try. But, i`m live with many neighbours. I will try too.

    • May 17, 2010 at 7:39 pm
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      Hi Afiq,

      If you’re worried about the smell of the corn you can control it by keeping it partially covered. If you can smell it slightly from a few yards/meters away that should work fine. The BSF have a good nose for these types of scents.

  • May 21, 2010 at 7:47 pm
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    Hello
    Where can I buy buckets of larvae ?

    Cheer
    CH

    • May 23, 2010 at 8:56 am
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      Hi Chris,

      I think you can always buy “Phoenix worms” which are BSF larvae online and in pet stores , but the cost is high. I promote BSF starter kits on my blog which I collect and my sister sells through her company “The Green Man”. You can find information about our kit on this blog and they should be available very soon. There have been other site that sell BSF starter kits but they seem to come and go and I don’t know of any doing it now.

  • May 24, 2010 at 6:51 pm
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    Hello, I had a general question on organic standards you might know…if you feed the grubs scraps that aren’t considered organic, and use then use the grubs to feed your chickens/fish, would that pass through the food chain so the chickens/fish would no longer be considered organic?

    • May 24, 2010 at 7:22 pm
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      Hi Bruce,

      I’m afraid I can’t help with the question about the organic standards. It’s a good question though, please let us know if you learn anything.

  • May 30, 2010 at 8:06 pm
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    Hi Jerry – thanks for all the great stuff you’ve posted here. I’ll try to get some pictures up somewhere of the DIY rig that I figured out. While waiting for a BioPod ordered awhile back I ran across your site and decided to jump start things even though I didn’t really expect to have much success unless I ordered a BSF kit from y’all. Well, it’s crawling with grubs and the smell is really nice and there’s always 3 or 4 BSF’s checking it out. I got a picture of a female laying her eggs today and figured out a good way to facilitate that by observing what she preferred. She crawled along one of the 2×4’s that’s across the top of my bin. It holds the cover of the bin up so there’s a gap that they enter in. She found a knot with a pretty good crevace and she stuck her hind end in a bit and splayed her wings out maybe 30 degrees and sat there for about 5 minutes. After she was gone I checked the hole and sure enough a mess of tiny eggs. So I proceeded to drill a bunch of 3/8th inch holes along both sides of each 2×4 to accomodate egg laying. I’m using two of the big black bins you get at Home Depot, the one’s with the yellow tops and stack and drill them so that the bottom one is a fluid reservoir with a spigot and put them on cinder blicks for a little extra height and offset from the ground. Ambient today was 94 and I had a big fan working but had a feeling I should check using a meat thermometer and sure enough it was running 104 plus in the compost so I ran up and got a bag of ice and put a layer down on top and about an hour later it was melted and the temp was 95. Being in Texas I’ll have to watch that close. Is it your experience that it’s a 10 degree differential? And I listened to the first part of the interview but couldn’t recall if you said trouble begins at 105 or 115 degrees. It was pretty exciting to lift up a piece of peach the other day and see the mass of different size grubs working it and then realizing that most of the tub was in motion if I watched carefully. Wow. I’m in it for the chicken feed but after seeing the dark compost after such a short time it has me thinking about other angles as well including compost tea. Most of my neighbors are gardeners and have taken up vermiculture in a big way but aren’t aware of what those grubs are in their piles. I’m about to do a grub for egg swap with one of them so I can accelerate my operation and build more units. Hopefully I’ll find the time to bring them all up to speed at the next garden club meeting and we all can advance the learning process. I really appreciate all you’ve done to bring this to our awareness. These are really cool critters and I love it when I’m out working on the coop and a couple of them come around to check me out as they do. Well, I’ll check in as things progress. Adios, John

    • May 30, 2010 at 10:07 pm
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      Hi John, thanks for the great comment.

      My favorite source of BSF info, BioSystems Design, lists upper limit for BSF survival at 113ºF. From my experience the trouble begins and ends there. One minute the larvae are extremely active and next their all dead. You were wise to take steps to cool the larvae at 104º. There isn’t a consistent differential between ambient and internal temps because there are too many variables. Container type, surface area, food type, the density of larvae, and amount of ventilation can all be factors and I’m sure there are more. In such a hot climate I would probably operate a BSF unit without a lid if possible. I would also want to have a lot of surface area relative to the depth of the unit. The food scraps are fuel so if you’re running hot I would stop feeding until it cools off. You might want to add the bulk of the waste in the evening so the larvae can process it mostly at night while temps are lower.

      I look forward to hearing about your progress.

  • August 19, 2010 at 8:27 pm
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    Hi everyone. I created a bsf bucker just like the one in the pics. I have started throwing all my veggy and fruit scraps in there. All I am getting though is fruit flys, tons of them. I am in northwest indiana. It seemed like it was so easy just put the stuff in and get bsf larvae. Not going so easy here. I am open to all suggestions.
    Thanks,
    Brent

    • August 19, 2010 at 8:57 pm
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      Hi Brent,

      I won’t say that BSF aren’t in NW Indiana but hardiness zone 5 is pretty cold for them. I’ve seen evidence that they’re present in Champaigne IL, so maybe there’s hope a bit further north. If I were you I would start talking with people who do a lot of composting in your area because compost piles usually have BSF larvae present when there is a wild population. I wish I could be more encouraging. If you’re really motivated you could try building up your own micro colony, but that would have to wait for next summer I think.

  • December 30, 2010 at 4:59 am
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    Hi! I’m currently trying this corn technique. However, would this method also attract other types of flies, not to mention mosquitoes?

  • January 3, 2011 at 12:51 pm
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    Yes Chris. Initially you will attract houseflies and possibly fruit flies with soured corn – until your BSF population gets established, then they will stay away. We have plenty of mosquitos where I live in southwest Florida, but I have not had any attracted to my bins – regardless of what bait I used.

  • January 3, 2011 at 9:26 pm
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    Oh I see. Then I shouldn’t be worried then (well I should in the short term).

    Will it work if I just use the cob? (I finished the kernels already)

  • April 26, 2011 at 3:54 pm
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    Hi!

    Can i use frozen corn as bait?. Has anyone tried it?

    • April 26, 2011 at 5:53 pm
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      Hi Galkaen,

      I’ve only used dried corn but any food item that can be fermented to point where it will give off a sour smell should work. I like dried corn because for some reason it seems stable. It gives off a nice sour smell but doesn’t go anaerobic or grow excessive amounts of mold or fungus.

  • April 26, 2011 at 10:42 pm
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    Frozen corn would work. I’d add some sugar and water to it, boil the dickens out of it, then leave it in a open container outdoors for 24 hours to get a good load of bacteria innoculated into it, then cover it and let it ferment in the sun for a few days. It will be nice and funky by then and will definitely attract adult BSF if you have them in your area!

  • June 13, 2011 at 12:50 pm
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    If you are raising chickens already and intend these for chicken food, then a bit of you chicken pellets or crumbles will work as a bait very quickly- the feed sours in a single day when soaked, and that foul odor we all know and hate in our coops or runs is perfect for bringing in the female BSF.

    Thanks for all the info here, and keep up the great work!

    • June 13, 2011 at 1:06 pm
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      Thanks ChooksChick!

  • July 31, 2011 at 10:13 am
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    I have just started out with making two bsf composting buckets and have put out three one gallons of whole corn with water to attract bsf. I just read that you collect larvae and your sister sells these as a kit on site the green man. I ck. that site and didn’t see it. Are they avail. now, I would like to purchase this. I am starting a aquaponic system and want to feed these to my fish and chickens. Also on the buckets of corn and water do I partially cover the buckets for when it rains. Thanks for the info. I appreciate it.

    • July 31, 2011 at 10:21 am
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      Hi Paul,

      We aren’t selling starter kits anymore. I though I had removed references to selling the kits and I will look again to find them.

      A little rain shouldn’t hurt but you wouldn’t want it to overflow with water.

      Paul, I recommend that you join our new forum so that others can easily respond to your questions with a wider knowledge base than I can provide alone. http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/forum/index.php

  • August 5, 2011 at 3:37 pm
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    If I buy the soldier grubs and heat my bins, as I do for my roach colony, can this be done indoors? I am trying to create reptile food and the grubs are perfect, if I can do them year round in Indiana. I’m in northern Indiana and don’t believe I can attract the flies. Can they be raised this way? Thoughts? Suggestions?
    Thanks
    Pat

  • August 7, 2011 at 4:51 am
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    Thanks Mike/BW,
    Both examples were helpful. At least, I know it’s possible now.

    Pat

  • November 21, 2011 at 9:21 am
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    I am still confused with ferment corn, corn + fed water into the bottle tightly closed (an-aerobic / air over time and arise out of gas) on the mark with a harshness bottle. after 1 month, opened the bottle cap, and corn placed in the box as bait BSF (aerobic).
    What am I doing wrong?

    Thanks for guide.

  • September 3, 2012 at 9:18 am
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    i think your bottle is not totally tight….

  • September 30, 2012 at 9:35 pm
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    Hi, Thanks you all for your time in helping others with suggestions and advice, I have been trying to get an established colony in Guadalajara Mexico, my success has been extremely low, at this point I’m wondering what a standard colony looks like? for the first year I tried a DIY rig with limited succes, 3 months ago I purchased the BioPod and still success is very limited, I’m frustrated with the fact that all I have to show for my work are very few grubs harvested (which I leave in hopes of growing the colony) and tons of flies all over my back yard! help!
    I started with the fermented corn mix but honestly didn’t see a single bsf grub until I started adding house hold waste in the pod about 3 weeks later after I started with the corn, always kept it moist and with a layer of moist shredded paper and wood chips, I want to stop breeding house flies and get to bsf grubs

    • October 1, 2012 at 11:57 am
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      Josh, I suggest you join the forum and start a thread about your project so several people can assist you.

      http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/forum

      I’m not surprised that it took three weeks for you to see larvae after starting with the corn because it usually takes that long before they’re big enough to notice. You have all of the elements needed to have a thriving colony, you just to learn more of the basics of culturing BSF.

  • October 1, 2012 at 12:55 pm
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    thanks jerry, ill post my work on there, thank you for all your help towards all of us trying it out

Comments are closed.