Update: July 2013

Below is a photo of my new design that I think is easier to build and more efficient than the bucket design that was pictured when I first wrote this post. I will leave this page online because the link has been shared so many times, but I highly encourage everyone to build the new composter. You can find detailed photos and ask questions about the new unit here: LINK It is also available to purchase: LINK

6 gallon BSF Bio-composter 500px

I believe this BSF composter design is as efficient as any other design, or more so, in terms of its drainage, harvest, and larva containment systems, and that it is the easiest to keep balanced (aerobic). It is also the only composter that I know of which is designed to produce a large volume of BSF “tea”, or liquid fertilizer, which is very good for gardeners. I know that doesn’t sound too humble, but I’m being honest. It’s very common for BSF system to become anaerobic (an therefore stinky), and I’ve found this design to be very easy to keep in a balanced state. I’ve also done my best to keep it very affordable to purchase.

 

 

 

236 thoughts on “BSF bucket composter v2.1

  • June 28, 2010 at 11:50 am
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    I am so excited to find your website. I learned about BSF last year when they invaded my compost pile and I went and researched how wonderful they are. Now I have just started a colony in my compost (on purpose this time) and can’t wait to build your 2.1 composter. I was so thrilled when all the BSF started flying around and now I have tons of larvae that are about to need to be harvested!!! I just got some free buckets from my local grocery store bakery and am looking forward to the parts list you will post so I can complete it! I can’t wait to feed them to my hungry chickens! Thanks so much!

    Reply
  • June 28, 2010 at 10:35 pm
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    Just wondering if carrion beetles are bad. According to Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_carrion_beetle ) and a few other sources, they feed on fly maggots. I can’t find any info on whether they are detrimental to BSF or not.

    There are some in a bucket I have and if they are harmful to the larvae, any ideas on what to do?

    By the way, thanks for the great blog! I will be building a real bsf bucket soon!

    Reply
  • June 30, 2010 at 7:37 am
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    Great job Jerry. Just to let you know BSF is great food for reptiles.
    I am feeding my turtle and a water dragon BSF as their main diet and they love them. From what I have read they are the most nutritious form of food for the reptiles.

    Reply
    • June 30, 2010 at 7:21 pm
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      Thanks injunjoe,

      My girlfriend is a veterinarian and she’s extremely impressed with the nutritional value of BSF larvae. She highly recommends them to her clients.

      Reply
  • June 30, 2010 at 1:14 pm
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    By any chance can you email me a parts list for the piping? I. Tried to find most of it at home depot but had no luck on some of the items.

    Thanks!

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    • June 30, 2010 at 7:31 pm
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      Hi christopher b,

      I’m working on a shopping list and I’ll add it to this page in the next day or two. I deleted your email address from your comment because I think there are issues with spambots to consider. The only parts that Home Depot wouldn’t have are the one gallon water jug and the practice golf balls. One item most Home Depot employees don’t know that they sell is magnets. They’re in the fastener isle with the brads.

      Reply
  • June 30, 2010 at 6:21 pm
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    I was wondering if I can put oils and fats straight in the colony. Will the BSF larvae eat lard?…..The kids just caught a toad and want to keep it for a little while and I said SURE since we have all this free food! He gobbles the larvae up! YUM! Ha!

    Reply
  • July 11, 2010 at 2:53 pm
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    Jerry, Thanks for posting about building your own biopod. Someday when I get the time, I hope to build one. I enjoy reading your blog and because of it, I bought my biopod last year and it is going full blast this year.

    Reply
    • July 11, 2010 at 3:02 pm
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      I’m glad your enjoying your BSF Glenn! :)

      Reply
  • July 12, 2010 at 1:10 am
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    Jerry,
    Could you please email me the shopping list too.
    Question: How often do you put food in for your colony and how much each time?
    Thanks

    Reply
    • July 12, 2010 at 7:23 am
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      Hi Byron,

      I’ve been super busy for the past few weeks and if you don’t want to wait for me to do it you can simply read through the description above and make the list yourself. Everything that would be on the list is described in detail on this page.

      Reply
    • July 12, 2010 at 10:27 am
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      Bryon,

      About feeding; When you’re establishing a colony some amount of rotting food is part of it, and will help attract female BSF. Once you’re established then I think a good guideline is to feed the colony only what they will eat (on average) in a day or two. I say “on average” because very soft foods like a tomato should be eaten in a few hours and hard items like a raw potato will take several days. If you see food sitting and becoming more moldy for several days you’re probably overfeeding.

      If you look at the post I wrote about attracting BSF with fermented corn you’ll see that I favor that or other fermented foods as an attractant over table scraps. You can’t easily use that method in the composter because the liquids that are needed for the fermentation will drain away. Something that might solve that would be to place a smaller container with the fermented material inside of the bucket. That way it can stay wet consistently. Eventually the wet corn or other attractant will become populated with BSF and at that point you can empty it onto the filter and let the liquids drain away. At that point you could begin adding small amounts of table scraps, increasing the quantity as the colony grows.

      Reply
  • July 12, 2010 at 2:35 pm
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    Thanks for the advice Jerry. I figured you might come back with the dont be lazy, I already told you everything you need just read. I plan on buying the stuff to build it today and I already have some food out trying to collect some eggs. I will definatly get some corn and follow that advice as well. Thanks for all your help. I will keep you posted.

    Reply
  • July 13, 2010 at 10:34 pm
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    I recently built my first bucket and it still needs work. The flies were amazingly easy to attract and cultivate in North Florida. I also harvested a couple of hundred larvae and tried them for fish bait – they worked very well. At some point I intend to feed BSF larvae to fish and chickens. Thanks for the info.

    Reply
  • July 14, 2010 at 10:12 pm
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    Jerry, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for. A little over a year ago our animal ordinance was modified to allow urban hens. I along with another friend worked 18 mo. lobbying city council and we were successful. Since then I have hosted a monthly group POtCLuCk that meets once a month to share local resources and provide education. I want to share your fabulous design with them. Organic feed costs are astronomical ($35/50 lbs.) so I am diligently working on other ways us do-it-yourselfers can provide economical nutritional protein/food for our girls. I’m inclined to see if I could purchase an already made one from you but I’m reluctant since you haven’t done any testing on this model yourself. Any luck in that department? Best, Cathy, Asheville, NC.
    http://www.motherhenconsulting.com
    facebook: Mother Hen’s Chicken Club
    facebook: Asheville City Chickens

    Reply
    • July 14, 2010 at 10:42 pm
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      Hi Cathy,

      Congratulations on your success with the bureaucrats!

      I’ve been testing this design for a few weeks and it’s functioning well. I still might try some variations on the filter but the current one is still draining fine. I’ve had a few small larvae escape via the expansion gaps in the Velcro so I’ve narrowed the gap to almost nothing. Also, it’s necessary to make regular adjustments to the harvest tube position, but it’s a quick and simple adjustment. This DIY unit might not rival the efficiency and convenience of the commercially produced BioPod but it does what it’s intended to do pretty well.

      I hate to promise anything because I’ve been very busy with family stuff lately, but if you’re interested I’ll do my best to come up with a price for a finished composter. I’m also planning a 10 gallon version based on a little Brute garbage can although the cost of the can alone is $25.

      I love what you’re doing and wish you well.

      Reply
  • July 18, 2010 at 2:16 pm
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    Hi Jerry,
    I’ve been talking with my neighbor who is a metal fabricator/welder and together we’re going to tackle making one of yours. However, don’t hesitate to send me an off-line message about pricing, shipping, etc. I live in a community where your worm making machine would be quite popular!
    Thanks for the props for our efforts to cut through the bureaucrat b.s. but it took almost 2 years. Boy what a great feeling when it did pass! Now we have over 550 facebook friends on Asheville City CHickens. Join us!

    Reply
    • July 18, 2010 at 2:30 pm
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      Cathy,

      With skilled help available I doubt it makes sense for you to buy/ship one that I made. Please let me know if you have any fabrication questions or suggestions.

      Thanks for the facebook invitation, but I don’t participate in any online social networking at this time. :)

      Reply
  • July 21, 2010 at 2:13 am
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    Can the black soldier fly eat meat as well? Thinking about using it for scraps from hunting.

    Reply
  • July 22, 2010 at 8:27 am
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    Help!! My BSF population has begun to take off, and I now see constant adult activity around the bucket. Well, obviously, the increase in population caused an increase in feeding and waste. I have been making sure that they are able to eat the scraps within a day assuming this meant that I wasn’t overfeeding, and did realize that the waste had become thicker and more “sludge-like,” which I attributed to more grubs. However, what I did not notice was that, because it is so much thicker (I am guessing), things are not draining like they should-not sure how long this has been going on, but I am thinking several days. Anyhow, today I went to add scraps to the bucket and noticed it was VERY wet and not smelling great. (I also had about 10 adults flying out of the bucket, which thrilled me, until I realized why!) I moved the bucket to a new spot where I could tilt it to try and improve drainage from the tubing and began to try and mix in some shredded paper (cross cut) to absorb the moisture. The minute I disturbed the surface, the smell was overwhelming. I am talking about a stomach turning event! I turned in a large amount of paper (while holding my breath) along with a bit of dry bread. This morning I checked and the only difference is I can smell it from a distance now. I know that this means things are completely out of whack, but I am not sure what to do. Once I saw the population increase, I removed the golf ball that I mentioned in an earlier post. Things are barely draining. I think it is so thick in there that I have gummed everything up. In hindsight, I am guessing that I should have completely cleaned the bucket yesterday and strained the larvae to start fresh. The problem is that now that I added the bits of paper, I don’t think that will work! My daughter also saw some coffee and strawberries out last night, and out of habit tossed them in the bucket (more wet items-lucky me). I have TONS of eggs all over the bucket and velcro (this is the favorite place to lay eggs lately), and don’t want to rinse them away. What can I do? This is a truly horrible smell! If I don’t figure this out, my family may revolt-assuming the neighbors don’t first! I spent much of last night searching online. I saw a recommendation to add flour products, but think I may end up with paper mache at this point! I also clearly need to work out this drainage issue long term. I teach kindergarten and was so hoping to set something small up outside for my class to put some snack scraps in to teach the kids about BSF, but will have MAJOR problems with co-workers and parents if I repeat the issues I am having with my home system. Please tell me what to do-I have created a monster!

    Reply
    • July 22, 2010 at 11:54 am
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      Hi Jenn,

      Thanks for reporting this issue; this is how we can refine our equipment and techniques. Below I will list some general concepts you may or may not be aware of, as well as some new ideas inspired by your current situation:

      Don’t overfeed – The bucket composter is a relatively small BSF unit which can only process a few ounces of waste per day, maybe up to one pound (.5kg) if carefully managed. Rule of thumb; don’t add more waste than can be consumed in one or two days on average. The shape of a common bucket isn’t ideal for what we’re doing with it. I believe the key factor that determines the volume of waste a unit can handle is surface area and we don’t have much with this design. I should make it clear that this unit is not intended to be a workhorse, it’s more a tool for learning about BSF.

      Drainage drainage drainage – The unit must drain well. :) Just today I found that the system I’ve been using in version 2.1 for about a month is gradually failing. This wasn’t exactly a failure of the filter medium which is still in a condition to filter liquids; the problem is in the support system which, in this version is done with plastic golf balls. Due to the constant churning of the larvae the golf balls are mixing with the filter medium. I suspect this arrangement would still filter adequately for a while, but at this point I’m going to test some type of disc to support the filter. I will probably continue to use the golf balls or some similar items to create the liquid collection area, but I will insert a porous disc on top of them. I may also use an additional disc on top of the filter medium to help minimize expansion.

      I think that we may not be able to rely solely on a filter material for adequate drainage; it may be necessary to monitor and adjust the content and consistency of the waste material itself. BSF larvae can’t eat wood shavings but I add them to my unit because I believe they work as a moisture buffer and they might also effect the texture of the waste in a way that improves drainage. It just now occurred to me that ground corn cob might be even more effective than wood shavings because of its sponge-like texture. Corn cob might facilitate better drainage and also result in better aeration of the waste. The need for, and quantity of cob or wood shavings will vary with each unit because the waste is different in each.

      Jenn, based on the above information I suggest that you:

      *Remove the waste from the unit and modify the drainage system. If you don’t get a clear picture from my description above for the filter send me an email and I’ll go into more detail. I hope to add a new description and photos for the modified design on the composter page today or tomorrow. I think we’re seeing the development of version 2.2. :)

      *Mix corn cob bedding into the waste. I know you can buy it at pet stores, and I hope to find it cheaper, maybe through feed stores. I can’t tell you how much to use but you can start out conservatively and add more if needed. I would also add an inch or two (40mm) directly on top of the filter material before to return the waste to the unit.

      *You might consider adding only a portion of the waste back into the unit since it’s clearly anaerobic.

      *Stop or reduce the addition of new waste to the unit until the bad odor (anaerobic bacteria) is under control.

      It might have been nice if everything had gone perfectly with your attempt to use the current design, but I’m glad you took the time to report the problems since we both have an opportunity to learn from them.

      Thanks!

      Reply
  • July 22, 2010 at 11:11 pm
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    Do you find that you have problems with wasps building hives in your BSF system?

    Reply
    • July 23, 2010 at 7:02 am
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      Hi John,

      I’ve never heard of wasps building a hive in a BSF unit or seen any that appeared interested in doing so. Have you seen this?

      Reply
  • July 23, 2010 at 9:52 am
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    First let me thank you for having so much information on your blog about the BSF. This is a great source of information. I am starting to work on building a system like you have here and was wondering why you don’t put the drain on the bottom of the bucket and put the bucket up off the ground on cinder blocks, etc.? I looked at some of your earlier versions and it didn’t seem like you’ve tried that yet.

    Also, rather than trying to attract the natural BSF in my area, do you know of a place I can purchase a start-up colony? Is that something you sell? I’ve spoken with some of the entomologists at the local university and they are not sure how prevalent BSF are in my area.

    Thanks for the information. And thanks again for a great source of information about BSF.

    Reply
    • July 23, 2010 at 3:17 pm
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      Hi Stephen,

      I’m glad you like the blog and I’m glad you’re going to build your own unit. I’ve made units with bottom drains and the only drawback is that you can’t move them around easily. I take this bucket composter with me if I go to visit family for more than a few days. I can just grab it by the handle and throw it my truck and go. I also don’t think there would be much advantage in having the outlet on the bottom. The set up pictured here drains down to about 1/4 inch. A bottom drain would require some type of nut or fitting to secure it so you would still have some standing liquid. With the side outlet you can empty most of the liquid simply by tipping the bucket a few degrees. Either method is fine, but I bet that if you can move your bucket around easily that you would end up doing just that.

      We normally do sell starter kits but we had to stop this year because of family issues. I’m guardian to my stepfather and power of attorney for my mother and issues just keep coming lately. There are broken bones, e. coli infections, MERSA, bleeding brains, house to buy, houses to sell, and investments to make. I hate to stop selling kits but I’m on the road so frequently that I can’t do it well. Hopefully things will settle down soon and I can focus on BSF stuff more. That’s probably more than you need to know but it felt good to type it out. :)

      Reply
  • July 23, 2010 at 1:57 pm
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    I was wondering the same thing about putting a drain at the bottom and setting it up a bit using bricks or something like that.

    Reply
  • July 24, 2010 at 5:38 pm
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    Wow Jerry. I hope things can get back to normal for you somehow. In the meantime, it’s great you can take care of your family.

    Now a seemingly meaningless question, based on orders of importance, but there is something I can’t quite figure out.

    Why is there a tube ramp to let out grubs, but also a velcro strip to keep them from escaping?? Is there something about older grubs that causes them to use the ramp, whereas younger ones should not crawl up the sides?

    Perhaps it is just for ease of collection… Maybe that is it.

    Thanks for taking time out of your very busy and important schedule to consider this question. And thanks very much for the best source online for BSF!

    Reply
    • July 26, 2010 at 8:06 am
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      Hi Bruce,

      Thanks for the kind words. Even with all of the turmoil, my family and I have a lot to be thankful for and we’re making progress. My favorite thing to do is to discuss BSF so it’s no imposition.

      “Is there something about older grubs that causes them to use the ramp, whereas younger ones should not crawl up the sides?”

      Yes, mature (dark) larvae are programmed by nature to migrate away from the food source in search of a safe, dry place to pupate. This behavior allows us to design self-harvest mechanisms for the mature larvae. Theoretically, the juvenile larvae stay in the food source since they still need to grow, however in practice they tend to migrate also. We want to harvest the mature larvae which don’t eat in that stage, and to contain the juvenile larvae in our unit to consume waste. There are a few reasons why juvenile larvae might try to exit the unit with the main reason being overheating. In that case the harvest ramp serves as a safety exit, and having been collected the juveniles can be added back to the unit once it cools down. Juveniles might also try to exit for reasons I’m not certain about like overcrowding. If I see a lot of juveniles in the harvest container (not from overheating) I will often remove them from the system. The bottom line is control; we want to contain the larvae for the most part, and when they exit we want them to end up in our container, not on the ground.

      All that was a long way to say that your assumptions were correct. :)

      Reply
  • July 24, 2010 at 11:32 pm
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    Hi Jerry, wanted to update on the situation here in Central Texas. The non-linearity of the BSF numbers is a sight to behold, I’m feeding a thousand a day to my small flock of chickens and there’s at least 20 females (BSF’s) laying eggs when I’m out there in the mid-afternoon. So as the numbers have grown I have had to split the bins and create new ones to keep the temperature down a bit along with modulating the feed cycle – mostly feeding at night when it’s cooler. I’m using alot of stale grains that I had around and ferment them in a bucket with water for a few days or longer and then just spread them out over the top. Just have to be careful that the females can’t get into that or some of them manage to drown. The grains help when I run out of fruit and veggie scraps. I think they run a bit hotter when they’re feeding on grain. One bin hit 112 today and I tossed half the bin into another empty one and dug down in the hot one and mixed everything up. That brought it down to 104. They were really clustering up in the corners and all over the surface trying to cool off prior to the intervention. For a drying action I’ve been using some crushed coir from the compressed bricks as a layer on top of the food and dry oatmeal occasionally. There’s very little liquid coming out of the bins and they have a distinct rich earthy sweetish smell. It really has been easy to let them crawl off out a hole or two down near the bottom on the end side. There’s always a few immature ones each morning in the catch-buckets but it seems like it’s less than 5 percent of the daily catch. I did a count on the percentage that hatched out but I lost track of it around 25 percent and had a container of mature grubs labelled “old guys” that were at least a month old and recently got a bunch of flies emerge from there. One morning there were 8 of them waiting to be released. Yeah, I’ve gone nuts on this and bring the pupation containers inside at night just to be sure. I’ve tried to estimate how many grubs are in each bin but it gets increasingly difficult as each days laying outpaces my ability to feed that many to my 5 birds. I’m going to start seeding my neighbors with fully functioning bins outfitted with a few features for security against predators and a sure fire way to get them to lay where I want along the inside upper edge of the bin. I’m using the big black tubs from Home Depot as I mentioned last time. I’ve got them tilted up on cinder blocks and leave the tops open all day. At night I put a 1×2 frame with 1/4 inch hardware cloth stapled on it over the top and clamp it down in 4 places. No more raccoon problems, plus they stay cooler and there’s no moisture build up on the walls enabling crawl-off in that direction. Whenever there isn’t sufficient crawl-off to feed the birds I just put a couple of handfuls of immature grubs from the bins into a deep fry strainer with fairly large holes and shake it for a bit to let the smaller ones fall through back into the bin. So presently I’ve got 6 bins going and figure to ramp it up as the food scrap supply increases. My feed store guy is going to give me the stuff they normally throw away due to being out of date or broken packages. He’s got 300 pounds sitting there right now and more each week. That might be a good avenue for anyone thinking about going beyond what they can generate from their own kitchen. He’s been throwing this stuff in the dumpster for years. I’d be keen to hear if there is any downside to feeding scrap animal feed that is not made with animal byproducts or laced with medication. Once I get it all pretty enough to take a picture of I’ll send it along. Thanks for all the info and our prayers are with you on your caretaking of family members. Best regards, John

    Reply
    • July 26, 2010 at 8:15 am
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      Thanks for the great report John!

      I’m impressed with the numbers you’re seeing; I think you have a larger native population in your area than I have in mine. You can freeze the larvae to use as future chicken feed when you have excess if you have the freezer space, just put them right next to the pork chops. :) Thanks for the suggestion about getting discarded feed from the feed store, I’m going to check with my local store and see if I can do the same. I look forward to seeing photos of your, now very large BSF ranch.

      Reply
  • July 26, 2010 at 3:43 pm
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    Hi Jerry,

    Well I can’t seem to get my husband to help me build a version of your composter. He is so good at that sort of thing and I am not, but he is so busy. Right now I just have 4 big plastic rectangular tubs that I am keeping the larvae in which I keep tilted so the mature ones can crawl out into a container (metal rabbit cage bottom). I’m keeping a big kids plastic pool over them to keep out the rain. I do have eggs being laid at the tops of the containers in the little handle crevices. I know it is not the proper set up as it is too wet and a little stinky at times. I’m sure it is not very efficient, but I am getting quit a bit each day for my chickens. Maybe one day I can get my hubby to put it on his honey do list. :)

    I have a question about feeding chickens…..John, maybe you can answer this. I am new to owning chickens and of course none of the books on chicken raising mention BSFL as feed. I’m just wondering how much of their diet can be the BSF and how much you should supplement with other things like grain or regular chicken feed.

    So sorry for your family stress Jerry. Sending up prayers that they will get better soon!

    Cheryl in Longview, TX

    Reply
    • July 31, 2010 at 12:37 pm
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      Hi Cheryl,

      I’m sorry to hear that hubby is too busy to build a composter. I know exactly how that is.

      The most likely reason you’re getting bad odors is the growth of anaerobic bacteria. A lot of liquid is released as BSF rapidly break down food scraps and the flooding starves the bottom layer of oxygen. If you can work out some type of system with good drainage it should improve this problem. I’m also experimenting with corn cob bedding mixed into my BSF units as a moisture buffer. You might try adding some to yours as it can’t hurt and it’s pretty cheap.

      I don’t know about limits for feeding BSF to chickens. In nature it’s not likely that any bird would have an unlimited supply of fly larvae so I would err on the side of caution. I imagine the best scenario for chickens is a varied diet and from what I’ve seen they might eat excessive amounts of BSF larvae if allowed to. I’m not sure what that means in terms of numbers of larvae per chicken; I’ve fed more than 30 larvae to fish only 5-6 inches long, and our peacocks can eat 100 as fast as you can throw them. If I find any tests that give hard data about this I’ll post it. In the meantime you might find the following study interesting: http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/waste_mgt/smithfield_projects/phase2report05/cd,web%20files/A2.pdf

      Reply
  • July 26, 2010 at 7:34 pm
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    Hi Cheryl,

    Enjoyed reading about your creative BSF adaptations! I’m pretty new to chickens also – we got our first batch about a year ago. We used to free range them from dawn to dusk but lost a bunch to fox and coons so now they’re in large enclosed yards that adjoin their coops. When they were out and about I got to see how many insects they eat – alot – which is why I was excited to learn of the BSF as a food source now that they’re in their new accomodations.

    I still free feed a mix of grains and seeds from the bulk aisle at the local health food store and some commercial feed for the probiotics and minerals. I think they eat at least 50 percent grubs at this point and probably higher. I haven’t yet found a portion size on the grubs where they leave any behind uneaten – they really love ‘em. I feed both mature grubs to them as well as larger-sized immature ones depending on the amount of crawl-off that day. I try to save half of the mature ones for fly production.

    I’m sure that professional chicken producers would have something to say about the high protein level of the BSF and its relationship to the moulting cycle but I haven’t gotten there yet. What I do know is that the egg yolks are getting a deeper color of orange and the shells are stronger. There is definitely a nutritional value that they were not getting from their dry feed – even when I’d sprout portions of it for them by soaking it for a day or two – which packs a punch in its own way.

    The chickens raised by Joel Salatin eat a ton of fly larvae since they move the chicken tractors regularly over areas where cattle have been recently and the chickens tear up the cowpies for the larvae. He grows out his meat birds in 8 to 12 weeks and they’re out there on pasture all the time – so I’m assuming it’s one of those things where it’s ok to let the birds decide because I figure his operation has no practical way to regulate how many larvae they eat.

    I’ll put a response to Jerry here too if that’s ok. My neighbors who are avid long-time gardeners have all mentioned that they’ve never seen so many grubs in their compost piles and worm bins. So I think this must be just a really good year weather-wise for the BSF in this area. Last year Hays County was the epicenter of the drought nationwide and we had around 70 consecutive days of 100 degrees and up.

    Have fun with those chickens!!

    John in Driftwood, TX

    Reply
  • July 27, 2010 at 6:50 pm
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    Hi Jerry, a buddy of mine took a picture with his new phone today and I managed to get it up on Picasa Web Album (whew!)

    You can’t really tell from the picture but the grubs in the gutter are heavily clustered at each end and I’m estimating 800 to 1000 overnight crawl-off. I’m going to count and weigh them tonight for a sense of input/output dynamics.

    One of the bins is presently empty and another has no crawl-off hole (experiment in progress), so all of those dudes came from 4 bins. The gutter is 10 feet long and it’s removable so I can take off one end cap and tip them all into a bucket.

    The little hoop structure cost 120 bucks and is 12×12. I’m going to do the same thing on the other side over the next few weeks for a total of 12 bins with a 4 foot walkway down the middle.

    I’m thinking of winter already since it gets down to 20 degrees F occasionally here. What I might do since my wife probably won’t let me bring 12 bins in the house is build a big box out of structural insulated panels. SIP’s have very strong plywood on each side sandwiching a dense insulative foam that can range from 4 inch to 12 inch thick. Line the inside with heat tape like we used to use on water pipes up in Michigan and bingo – a cheap way to stash the bins for three months.

    I’m looking forward to all the wintering ideas that are sure to surface as we get closer to the season.

    Adios,
    John

    Reply
    • July 31, 2010 at 1:45 pm
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      John,

      Thanks for sharing your cool BSF system. Judging from the amount of surface area you have I think you’ll see far more than 1000 larvae (about 2 cups) being harvested per day at some point.

      For holding larvae through the winter you’ll need to decide to feed them or not to because the set up will be different. Either way you won’t need much insulation with such mild winters. If you keep the whole area too warm you might trick the larvae into pupation and premature emergence. If you choose not to feed then cooler temps might be better, as long as the larvae don’t freeze. Maybe this year we can get a good discussion going about winter BSF strategies.

      Reply
  • July 28, 2010 at 1:40 pm
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    Wow John, that is quite the set up.
    Jerry,
    I built the BSF bucket a little over two weeks ago. I had put out some food in buckets and even the corn several weeks ago in hope to attract some BSF’s. I went to take the trash out a week ago and found alot of BSF’s in the trash. I transfered them to my bin in hopes it would help attract the adults. I have had it sitting in the wood line by the corn to help attract the BSF’s. The only thing I attracted was a large brown spider in my harvest bucket getting free meals. I decided to move my bucket by the trash can since that is where I have seen them. I checked my bucket today and there were two adults laying eggs in the cardboard. Just had to find the right place to put it I guess. I will keep you up to date.

    Reply
    • July 31, 2010 at 1:52 pm
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      Hi Bryon,

      Moving the BSF unit next to the garbage was clearly a good strategy. While you’re trying to build up a colony it’s good to reduce competition from other eggs laying sites like the garbage can. You need the unit to be the most attractive food source so you might want to keep the garbage can in a garage or shed during the afternoon when most egg laying happens. Now that you’ve seen BSF laying in your unit it’s only a matter of time before you have a good colony going. Thanks for the update!

      Reply
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  • July 31, 2010 at 6:04 pm
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    Jerry -
    Your instructions/level of detail are incredible – thank you so much for all this effort.
    I completed my BSF unit yesterday and brought it to a gathering this morning – everyone was really impressed, especially by the cost compared to the biopod that the host had.
    It took me longer to run get the supplies (multiple trips since I wasn’t organized) than it did to put it together.
    The only thing I’m not happy about is the “ramp” to the outside. I bought clear plastic tube that is two big – it isn’t really flexible…
    have you experimented with other ramp material? I envision taking a styrofoam (or other similar material) disk, cutting a 1″ strip and gluing that to the side of the bucket – do you think it would hold up?

    Reply
    • July 31, 2010 at 6:34 pm
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      Hi Connie,

      It’s great to hear about people trying out my design. Please keep in mind that this unit is very small compared to the BioPod. It can probably handle a few ounces of waste per day, maybe close to one pound under optimal conditions. The main point of this design is to serve as an introduction to BSF culturing. Of course the principles used to make this unit can be used on a larger unit as well. I need to add that information to the composter page…

      The harvest ramp is always the trickiest part. I’ve tried using adhesives on several different versions but the larvae and the environmental conditions have always caused them to fail. The fact is that most adhesives don’t work well on polyethylene and polypropylene. Uneven rates of expansion combined with a damp environment and the aggressive digging of the larvae all work against the adhesives. I did some research and found a few adhesives that I think would work but the cost was extremely high. Styrofoam would definitely not work because the larvae would shred it easily, even if you managed to attach it. The best way I can describe a colony of BSF larvae is that it’s like several thousand little muscles armed with crowbars and the desire to separate anything they come across. :)

      Actually, I’ve thought about using larger diameter tubing because sometimes I see a “traffic jam” in the ¾ inch tube used in this version. The main problem is finding an adequate funnel to replace the water jug handle. You can lessen the congestion issue by keeping the angle of the tube as steep as possible but not so steep that the larvae can’t climb it.

      I’ve used pvc pipes cut in half lengthwise on rectangular storage bin units, but this requires more skill with tools and there is still the issue of attaching them. I have a few untested ideas that I hope to work on this winter.

      Reply
  • August 1, 2010 at 3:48 am
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    Hello,

    Firstly, thank you for a very informative site.

    I am very interested in setting up a BSF composter in the UK, but this presents a few problems I would appreciate your views on.

    The main problem is that BSFs are not common here, and attracting them at all, let alone consistently, will be very difficult. There are larvae commercially available (imported from the US and sold as livefood for reptiles and other exotic pets, which is my main area of interest), but in order to make this work, it would presumably be necessary to make a totally enclosed system in which some flies were allowed to hatch.

    The second is our climate, which would not seem entirely conducive to BSF culturing.

    Any suggestions as to how to modify this for use in the UK (and indeed other countries where BSFs are not native, or very scarce, or even use indoors?) much appreciated.

    Cheers,

    Matt (Reading, UK)

    Reply
    • August 1, 2010 at 9:05 am
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      Hi Matt,

      Your climate may not be ideal for BSF, but it looks very similar to Vancouver, B.C. which is known to have wild BSF. Although a few people have succeeded in raising BSF indoors it would require specialized equipment and effort. I couldn’t help you with that because I’ve only worked with open systems in an area rich in BSF. I’m fairly sure you could raise BSF outdoors where you live but you would only have a short time during the summer for reproduction. You can store larvae through the cold season, but you would need to focus on building the largest colony possible in a few months. BSF fair best in strong sunlight so a greenhouse would be great or you could possibly work in a screened area. Ideally you should get wild BSF from the Pacific Northwest. I assume the BSF which have established in that area would be conditioned to your climate, but I don’t know of a source for them. I believe you can find a way to culture BSF, the question is how much time and energy will you need to invest and will it be worth the trouble. Please keep us posted on your progress if you give this a try.

      Reply
  • August 1, 2010 at 12:52 pm
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    Hi Jerry – thanks for the heads-up on the research pdf, that was very interesting and got me to question my previous assumptions about how many to feed my chickens.

    After reading your comment to Cheryl regarding how many larvae a bird might encounter in a natural setting I talked to a neighbor who had cattle and chickens on her place years ago. She said that there really aren’t that many larvae in a cowpie – so I’m going to research some more on the question and back off from the 50% feeding for now. I did run across a thread from years ago where one of the posters said no more than 25% was advisable but didn’t cite any references.

    Last nights crawl-off was 27 ounces – which at 180 grubs per ounce is nearly 5,000 grubs. I was pleasantly surprised this morning, after a late night of dancing at the historic Albert Dance Hall. How lucky we are to have insects working 24/7 on our behalf.

    The other day when I took the picture I hand counted the yield and it was 1,264 and I put them in a baggie to weigh them. A neighbor dropped over and she put the baggie to her ear and got this really serene look, so I did it and it is the coolest, silkiest white-noise you ever heard. The next day when I had more grubs I filled two baggies and did both ears – all I can say is WOW. My feed store buddy was just over here minutes ago and tried it and he didn’t put the baggies down for at least 3 minutes – with a big grin on his face from the first moment. I think I’m going to get it recorded and make a CD. I’ll send you one when it’s done.

    Y’all have a great summer,
    John

    Reply
    • August 1, 2010 at 1:02 pm
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      Thanks for a great mental image John! :) It’s always nice to hear from others who are enthusiastic about BSF. I haven’t tried the larvae-headphones approach, but if it’s quiet outside you can often hear what sounds like rain falling by closely listening to your colony at work.

      Reply
  • August 6, 2010 at 2:18 pm
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    Hey Jerry, Great website… Great information. Are there other things you can use instead of velcro…in either round or rectangle containers. Maybe angle tubing of some type… or will they crawl over and around a lip…? Got any other ideas? thanks.. Dan

    Reply
  • August 6, 2010 at 2:29 pm
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    Oh… I forgot to say that I use damp chicken starter to draw in momma …. she is on it in 2-3 days. Eggs quickly appear and the larvae swarm the chicken starter when I feed them with it. But I can’t keep feeding them that stuff… to costly, but it makes for a great starter. thanks…..Dan

    Reply
    • August 6, 2010 at 4:03 pm
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      Hi Daniel,

      I’ve thought about using angle as a larva barrier but the problem is adhering it. Of course it isn’t practical for a round container, but most rectangular containers have round corners so you still need to address those areas. The Velcro isn’t 100% effective but it’s pretty good considering how quick and simple it is to install.

      Reply
  • August 9, 2010 at 1:48 am
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    Hey Jerry, a quick update. I tried the window screen and it does not appear to be clogging. It looks like the larvae both tunnel to the bottom making drainage paths and churn the feed to the edges and the liquid on top drains off there. There is an issue with larvae in the liquid, but the ones that don’t drown (if any do) can crawl out at the corners as the screen isn’t sealed to the sides. It’s more of a net pudding cloth supported off the liquid trap by a wooden frame.

    The drainage and ventilation dramatically reduced odor, even with liquid puddled on the bottom several inches deep when I moved the bin and set the drain uphill for a week.

    This bin is too small and too much fine solid waste is going out with the liquid, ( I need to control nitrogen levels in the compost ) so I’m converting the old 55gal drum end bin to a filter sim to yours, but sandwiched in hardware cloth and 2 layers of filter and adding the harvest tube. It is on a tripod to give a convenient work height and allow ant control (axle grease on the legs and an occasional spritz of hot shot when I’m too busy/lazy to re-grease) so I can use the bung to bottom drain into the compost heap.

    I’m thinking of trying a chunk of old hose with a piece of hard steel cable inside as a spring to act as a bug-stop.

    Re the magnets for the escape funnel (was that a pun?) try old hard drives. Free, not too hard to take apart and immensely strong, esp if you leave the backing plate on. It may tale a few tries to get some with flat backing plates, some have tabs bent up at the ends, but then you have more of the things to play with. They are great for sticking notes around doorways and sealing/blacking out windows if you have steel corner bead in your drywall.

    John- Great setup, I love the humor and the headphones too. If you keep expanding, you’ll have to replace your bins with bedliners, which btw make great weather covers. I get mine new from a local dealer’s clearance at $20 each and also all the ones I can scrounge. A bed-coating place sells used ones..for the same price. Go figure. You can put a 2x frame at the end, then a plywood tailgate covered in plastic and sealed in with deck screws and silicone caulk, if the plastic is kept very well shaded.

    Someone mentioned wasps, Ive had a few yellow-jackets in mine several times, I think the fruit attract them. I remember a study that said available sugar peaks very closely with alcohols in rotting fruit (yes, it was a drunken monkey/parrot study) and the alcohol seems to attract nearly everyone in the neighborhood.

    Happy Monday everyone!

    Bob

    Reply
    • August 9, 2010 at 8:12 am
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      Hi Bob,

      Thanks for the detailed update. I’m glad to hear that the improved drainage and ventilation worked for you.

      I’m glad you’re testing window screen as part of the filter, but I still have doubts about it. I’ve learned from my own efforts that something which seems to working fine for a month or two can still fail as conditions change in the unit. Presently your small larvae are keeping the screen open, but that might not be the case as the level of waste rises or as some other factor changes. On the other hand I hope that it works over time because it would represent another tool we can use for BSF culturing.

      Thanks again for sharing your experience, I hope you’ll keep it coming.

      Reply
  • August 9, 2010 at 5:13 pm
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    Ok,
    Are the husks of the adult larva that I am finding in my bucket adults that have turned into flys or are they dead ones that have died?
    Bryon

    Reply
    • August 9, 2010 at 6:46 pm
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      Bryon,

      What you’re describing sounds like the cast off skins that remain after the larvae progress from one stage (instar) to the next. BSF have six instars and I believe that includes the final mature stage (pre-pupal) when they turn dark and stop eating.

      Reply
  • August 10, 2010 at 8:10 am
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    Hi Jerry,
    Thanks for the great info, this site is very helpful!!
    I’ve been trying a combo of Bob’s and John’s bins.
    I drilled several holes at the lower edge of a square bin. Then I slid screen material into the bin. I then tilted the bin 10degrees or so, and allowed the run off to catch in a smaller container. That worked for a week or so, but now the main bin seems really dry, should I be adding water to the bin?? It’s full of maggots and grubs, not sure how many BSF’s grubs and how many are regulare old yucky black flys. There is no smell so that’s good, but lots of black flys. (not BSF) The tub is mostly full of Horse manure and slimed veggies.
    Thanks again for your blog, and the active group that posts here!!
    Every time I get excited about something I read on here, my Wife just shakes her head!! :)
    Steve

    Reply
    • August 10, 2010 at 8:39 am
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      Hi Steve,

      I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog, maybe your wife will come around some day… ;)

      The waste should be moist but it’s normally not necessary to add liquid to it. The exception is when you add mostly dry items like grains and in that case you might want to moisten them first.

      Reply
  • August 10, 2010 at 8:45 am
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    Lol…I keep bringing up the BSF at dinner or family outings. Not only is my wife shaking her head, my kids are too. They keep saying, “Dad can we not talk about the BSF?” I keep trying to convince my wife, et. al, that the BSF is going to be a good thing flying around our backyard. Plus, when it produces free food for our reptile, not too mention the other good qualities it has, they will all be smiling. I keep telling them that it would be a great science project for school.

    Reply
    • August 10, 2010 at 8:59 am
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      My girlfriend is a veterinarian so she isn’t too squeamish, but she really appreciates the BSF since we got a few peacocks. :)

      Reply
  • August 13, 2010 at 10:08 am
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    I ordered 400 BSF from phoenixworms.com.
    tossed them into the bin, and as I said in my last post the bin is full of maggots, I don’t want to be raising black house flys!! How can I tell which are good maggots and which are bad?? I’ve seen 1 BSF since putting in the grubs, but my card board “nests” are still clear. And no worms in the harvest container. Still no smell. I reached to the bottom of the bin this morning and it’s not hot, and it’s dry. Any ideas?? My wife is getting sick of the flys!!! :P

    Reply
    • August 13, 2010 at 10:31 am
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      Steve,

      I’ve never tried using horse manure to attract BSF but I would guess that it’s more effective at attracting house flies. BSF larvae don’t process high cellulose items like the grass that horses eat. Pig or chicken manure would be a better attractant for BSF but I would definitely choose fermented corn or cabbage as an attractant over any type of manure. I’ve used corn mostly, and it seems to attract relatively few house flies and works great for BSF.

      Reply
  • August 13, 2010 at 11:40 am
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    How nice to see how active the blog has been.

    Today I made a new bucket. When I thought about the filter it hit me, I have been doing heat and air work and have a scrap coil that is like a bottle brush and is 100% aluminum. I put a length in my vise and made a tight coil that fits into the bucket. In the center it has a 2″ leg. This holds it up off the bottom.

    I don’t see anyway they can destroy that!!
    These coils could be found at scrap metal collection places for just a little more then the scarp price!

    I will get pictures ASAP if this sounds like a good idea. It is not yet tested but I loaded it with handfuls of larvae.

    Oh and John (TX) What an impressive setup! I also like to supplement my chickens feed with BSF.

    Reply
    • August 13, 2010 at 12:27 pm
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      A photo of that filter would be great injunjoe.

      Reply
  • August 13, 2010 at 2:13 pm
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    First I would like to say I feel for you and your family. I am going through this with my dear mother in law.

    Ok this is very primitive thinking and as you know that is what I am all about! I love to reuse things!

    Here is the raw coil I saved.

    This is a rough, (very rough) filter. I just made it for the pictures as the other one is covered with BSF already. The bucket is churning just hours after completion and addition of larvae.

    I would have to think this is indestructible!

    Nice part is I have enough to make about 12 filters and will save more as they become available.

    Reply
  • August 13, 2010 at 2:17 pm
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    Sorry Jerry I thought the Image codes would work!
    Let me know what to link to and I will be happy to fix it.

    Doooh!!

    Reply
    • August 13, 2010 at 2:33 pm
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      Thanks for the kind words about my family injunjoe, we’re doing pretty well considering my parents ages.

      Posting images here requires html code. I fixed the code but it looks like there’s a problem with one of the urls.

      I sure does look like that filter would hold up fine, hopefully it will filter the waste well without clogging. Thanks for sharing the idea and I hope you’ll let us know how it goes.

      Reply
  • August 14, 2010 at 11:17 pm
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    So, I built my first BSF compost bucket today. I was able to get everything at Home Depot or Lowes with one exception; I could not for the life of me find the caps for the 3/4 barb 3/4 threaded. All I could find was some similar parts in sprinkler parts but the cap won’t cinch down enough to provide a seal. Even with the O-rings liquid leaks from the hole. I guess I’ll look around online to see what I can come up with. I hope I’m not doing this too late in the summer. We should have a couple of more months of heat before real cold weather starts.

    Reply
    • August 15, 2010 at 10:13 am
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      Hi John,

      I’m glad you’ll be trying your hand at culturing BSF.

      The threads on the barbed adapter I used are identical to the threads on a standard garden hose. The caps are very common and can be found in the garden section where the hoses are kept. I suppose there could be variations in different manufacturers and I can’t remember if I got my parts at Home Depot or Lowes, but I got the adapter and the caps at the same store.

      It shouldn’t be too late to start in most parts of the country. Of course the warmer your climate is the more time you have. If I were you I would start fermenting some corn or cabbage to use as an attractant.

      Good luck and please keep us posted.

      Reply
  • August 16, 2010 at 8:17 am
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    I’ll have to go back to home depot or lowe’s today. When I went the other day I did the unmanly thing and asked for help :). Both stores told me they didn’t have a cap. Of course, I was talking to the plumbing people. I strolled the hose section too but didn’t see anything.

    Reply
    • August 16, 2010 at 12:11 pm
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      Here’s a link to one I found at Lowes’ website: Hose Cap

      Home depot’s website shows a brass cap, but I’m sure they carry plastic ones in the stores.

      Reply
  • August 16, 2010 at 2:46 pm
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    Yeah, that’s the one I found too but only online. I’ve ordered it. It’s weird that Home Depot has nothing online with exception to Home Depot Canada. Do Canadians use hose caps more than we do?

    Also, does it take a month to ferment corn? Is there a faster process? What quick alternatives are out there instead of the corn?

    Reply
    • August 16, 2010 at 3:43 pm
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      I promise that Home Depot has the plastic caps in the store, but much of what they have in stock doesn’t show up on their website. You can probably find this part in any decent hardware store and also Walmart, Kmart, Target, etc.

      I found the caps at an abandoned (cached) page at HD’s website. I think they only put items on their website that cost enough to be worth shipping. Here’s the link: Caps

      It can take a few weeks before whole kernel corn gets ripe enough, and probably less for ground or cracked corn. For faster results start out with cabbage instead. If you shred some and keep in water it should ferment in a few days. I’ve also put cabbage in a closed plastic bag without water, outdoors in the heat for a few days with good results.

      Reply
  • August 16, 2010 at 3:53 pm
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    I love Home Depot. So, I’ll look around again. I’ll say this, my local Home Depot doesn’t sell the vinyl tubing by the foot in 3/4 inch ID. They only sell it in rolls of 20 feet. I found that Lowe’s does sell it by the foot. I even mentioned it to a supervisor at Home Depot. They didn’t seem to care. I appreciate the help. I should have everything up and running in a few days. Looking forward to seeing those little flies come to my home (I never thought I’d say that in my life but I am looking forward to it;))

    Reply
  • August 17, 2010 at 2:32 pm
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    I am in the process of building a bucket collector and wondered if I could contact some other BSF people? I live in the Tacoma, Seattle area and would like to have some input from others who live in this area. My concern is that there may not be BSF in this area, or may take some time attracting them, so maybe someone in this area would be willing to sell or give me a small starter bunch. Thanks.

    Reply
    • August 17, 2010 at 3:18 pm
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      Hi Harold,

      We know for sure that black soldier flies are in the Seattle area, but there might be notable differences in working with them there compared to where I live in SW Georgia. I hope to start a forum here soon so people can network more easily. In the meantime you might want to register on the BioPod forum to look for someone near you. For now that’s the most active BSF forum I know of. I fear it’s a bit late in the (short) season where you are to get started. Still, if you want to try attracting local BSF I would start by spoiling some cabbage as an attractant. You shouldn’t have strong odors once the colony is established, but they do help attract the BSF females in the beginning.

      Reply
  • August 17, 2010 at 6:57 pm
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    Thanks Jerry, I put a bucket together this afternoon with a couple things to complete, so now let the BSF fun begin.

    Reply
  • August 17, 2010 at 10:12 pm
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    Great site. Several ideas for the drain to try: A hole plugged with a metal kitchen scrubby. Gravel in the bottom.
    A short piece of pvc pipe with slots sawn in it to allow drainage across the bottom of the bucket.

    I’m going to build one tomorrow.

    Reply
  • August 18, 2010 at 10:30 am
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    The harvesting method is great too. you can lengthen the tube and just drape it over the edge into a bucket if you can do without a lid.

    Reply
    • August 18, 2010 at 11:52 am
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      Hi David,

      I checked out your website and looks like BSF would be a great benefit to your operation. The potential seems great to convert some of your “waste” product into high grade feed. Good luck with your bucket, please keep us posted on your progress!

      Reply
  • August 18, 2010 at 4:53 pm
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    Dumb question: Isn’t fermented cabbage, in essence, sauerkraut? Wouldn’t that work as an attractant?

    Reply
    • August 18, 2010 at 6:04 pm
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      John,

      I think the cabbage will smell stronger during the fermentation process as opposed to the finished product, but why not experiment?

      Reply
  • August 20, 2010 at 9:55 pm
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    Well, had to dump my grubs!! :(
    Went out the other night to toss in some meat and saw some ants. I moved the tub into a bucket full of water to keep more ants from getting in. The next morning I went out and found about a MILLION ants crawling through my bin!! And no Grubs, magots, anything!! Guess the ants ate them!! I was headed out of town that day so the whole lot went into the trash. I’m so bummed!! Guess I start over!! I think I’ll just spring for the biopod and be done with it!! I’ll let you know how that gos :)

    Reply
    • August 21, 2010 at 11:46 am
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      Steve,

      Ants will be the same issue regardless of which type of unit you use. The first thing I recommend is that you don’t add meat to the unit until you have a very dense colony established. In a BioPod or larger DIY unit you can support a colony of tens of thousands of larvae. A dense colony will have enough larvae to make a layer 2 or 3 inches deep; 400 is practically nothing and is only useful to help attract BSF females so you can build up a significant colony. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get a BioPod, but it’s not realistic to think that it will resolve the issues you’ve had.

      http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/2009/08/01/the-biopod-is-not-a-toaster-a-disclaimer/

      Reply
  • August 21, 2010 at 10:45 pm
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    OK, Well Ill get another batch of BSF, and give it another go! Thanks Jerry!!

    Reply
    • August 21, 2010 at 11:14 pm
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      Steve,

      Judging by historical weather data I think you’ll probably see BSF activity into October. Good luck.

      Reply
  • August 24, 2010 at 8:52 am
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    I fermented cabbage and put the cabbage in the BSF bucket. So far nothing after several days. It’s not in direct sun light. It has been a little cooler the last few days. I think it’s in a good spot. It’s close to our garbage cans. It’s also close to a large tomato plant. Would the strong, tomato plant, smell deter the BSF from finding the fermented cabbage?

    Reply
    • August 24, 2010 at 10:17 am
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      John,

      The tomato plant won’t effect the BSF. I wouldn’t assume failure at this time because BSF females may have laid eggs when you weren’t watching. Often the eggs are scattered randomly and won’t be visible. If there are currently eggs you still won’t see the resulting larvae for up to two weeks because eggs take four days to hatch and several more to be large enough to easily see.

      Where are you located?

      Reply
  • August 24, 2010 at 10:55 pm
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    Howdy Byron and injunjoe – thanks for the kind words – it was alot of fun setting it all up after just having a couple of bins on blocks for the first 6 weeks and dreaming of something different. This thing has really taken on a life of its own lately.

    Hi Bob, I read your post to my wife, the one about using truck bedliners and she looked at me and moved her head reeaallll slow back and forth and I said – “but honey, he says we can get ‘em for only 20 bucks”!! I’ll definitely keep those in mind for other projects. She keeps a close watch on me ever since we lived by the Missouri river and I started to build a wooden barge in the backyard of our duplex. Just couldn’t talk her into a quick trip to New Orleans.

    Hey Jerry, how right you were about surface area and yield. It went kinda crazy a couple of weeks ago when the crawl-off wave went from a pound to two pounds to a whole gallon of mature grubs on the third night. Then it tapered off bigtime and then I struggled daily to keep the bins cool enough. I split a few of them again and there are ten now, but I just realized it’s not the way to go – I usually learn things the hard way – after losing a whole bin of grubs to heat stroke. The ones that were not yet dead were in shock and died off over a few days and the smell got kinda funky so I pitched the whole thing out into the garden and let the neighbor’s birds have a field day. So, even with the splits, the watering and fans are necessary for part of the day when we’re hitting 100 degrees.

    Yesterday I did the numbers on what the next wave might look like since there have been well over 50 flies hatching out every day from the pupation bin. It’s astronomical – so today I decided to get ready for it and harvested about half of the immature grubs and put them in the freezer. I prepped for it by using a bunch of canteloupe rinds to draw them up into that amazing cluster thing they do underneath – where they push and literally fill the whole inside of the half-rind – what amazing energy they have. I weighed all the baggies – 42 of them at about a pound each – and subtracted a bunch for any castings. I figure about 30 pounds of grubs. I felt a little sad putting them in the freezer before they had a chance to live a full life, but it’s probably a better way to go than heat-death where they’re frantically bunched up in the corners. I’m just going to harvest this way from now on to keep the numbers down and the bins cool. All the crawl-off of mature grubs will be saved for pupation. I’m just getting into setting up neighbors with smaller bins ready-to-roll with 3 or 4 inches of grubs in their castings. Hopefully we can start a fad in this area.

    I’m wondering what you think might be the cause of very small mature grubs. I measured one small fly coming out of its casing and it was just a bit longer than 1/4 inch which is the smallest one I’ve seen yet. I get alot of tiny mature ones, maybe a quarter of the total. Do you think it’s how much food they managed to eat before their next stage timing clicked in?

    thanks, John

    Reply
  • August 26, 2010 at 7:02 am
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    Thanks Jerry, that is an awesome study and answers a bunch of questions I’ve had. Wow, did those folks get super-detailed with their measurements, or what! Really a nice piece of work.

    My wife knows a rancher in south Georgia who’s experimenting with BSF’s feeding on slaughterhouse waste and he’s been having difficulty keeping them alive. I’ll pass this report on since it addresses a couple of issues that are sure to be relevant to his situation.

    Adios

    Reply
    • August 26, 2010 at 7:22 am
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      John,

      I live in SW Georgia and you may tell the rancher I would be willing to help him diagnose problems.

      Dr. Tomberlin has done extensive work with BSF. I want to study this recent experiment because the data is interesting and somewhat confusing to me. The experiment indicates that a temperature of 97ºF (36ºC) causes fatality but we know that BSF thrive in climates that often see higher temps. My current theory is that a consistent temperature of 97º is harmful but that higher temps are tolerated when offset by cooler periods.

      Reply
  • August 27, 2010 at 5:24 pm
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    I live in Utah. I’ve had my bucket up and running for over a week now with fermented cabbage. Still nothing other than dozens of fruit flies. No sign of any BSF yet. Suggestions? Should I buy some phoenix worms and put them in the bucket and see what happens or should I just wait?

    Reply
    • August 27, 2010 at 7:24 pm
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      Hi John,

      I’ve never heard of BSF in Utah that I can remember. Also, I’ve read that BSF are not typically found above 5000 feet of elevation. You might want to do some investigating locally to see if people with compost piles have seen BSF larvae; that is the most common way people discover BSF.

      Reply
  • August 28, 2010 at 1:49 pm
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    Where I live in Utah it’s 4,600 feet in elevation. I tried to do some research before I built the BSF bucket. I saw quite a bit of research done in Idaho and thought that our region is similar in elevation. I guess I was wrong. :( I did find this link to the Stratiomyida Odontomyia. Is this from the same family as the BSF. Here’s the link:

    http://amazingnature.us/insects/soldier_fly.html#sf

    Or the Hedriodiscus binotatus

    http://amazingnature.us/insects/soldier_fly2.html#hedriodiscus_binotatus

    Both of these are indigenous to Utah. I’m sad that I didn’t do all my research before building the BSF bucket. Maybe it’s time to introduce the BSF to utah. :)

    Reply
    • August 28, 2010 at 4:13 pm
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      John,

      You may be within the limits of elevation, but climate also is a big factor. Plant hardiness zones aren’t perfectly organized for predicting BSF presence but they can be a helpful tool. Of course the higher the zone the more likely you are to find wild BSF. I’ve had a handful of reports about BSF in zone 6, and maybe a few from zone 5. If you’re in zone 5 and at 4600 feet, then you might want to try establishing a micro colony based on the assumption that no wild BSF are nearby. If so you should start as soon as the weather will support BSF reproduction. The BSF should do fine in the summer months in Utah, and the challenge will be to overwinter enough larvae/pupae to restart in the spring. I’m sure it can be done, but it will take a fair amount of effort and attention.

      Reply
  • August 29, 2010 at 12:38 am
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    RE through-fittings

    A couple of thoughts for cheap fittings. PVC softens with heat and both the hard pvc plumbing pipe and the bucket material can be remolded.

    2 options that come to mind are:

    1. Drilling a hole in a bucket undersized, then using a heat gun or propane torch to soften the edge of the hole so whatever pipe or fitting can be passed through with no or little clearance. A long splash of water will harden the bucket wall.

    2. Drilling the hole to fit the pipe as nearly as possible, heating the middle of the pipe, then quickly inserting the pipe until the softened area is centered and pressing inward from both ends. This will cause the pipe to shorten and bulge to fit the inside rim of the hole. This does not work well with large pipe btw.

    Either can be sealed with PVC cement or silicone, Clean the area and pipe with a pvc cleaner before drilling and avoid the fumes from both the cleaner and the hot PVC. I wouldnt trust these to seal against a full barrel or bucket, but they’d be slosh or splash proof.

    Bill Pentz’ site has a great page on hot-forming PVC, he regularly converts 8″ pipe scrap to 24″ sheet. Which reminds me, I need some barrel lids…

    http://www.billpentz.com/Woodworking/Cyclone/PVC.cfm

    Have fun,

    Bob

    Reply
    • August 29, 2010 at 12:29 pm
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      Hi bob,

      Thanks for the thought and input! The information about forming pvc may come in handy.

      I’ve wondered how pvc cement would work on a polyethylene bucket. I have some doubts about the effectiveness of silicone on one. I have tried silicone on these buckets before and it didn’t seem to adhere well at all. The challenge with any adhesive in a BSF unit is that if the larvae can reach the joint they will dig at and widen any tiny gap they find.

      Reply
  • August 29, 2010 at 3:49 pm
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    Hi Jerry,

    I didn’t think to do the temperature conversion until you mentioned the 97 degrees puzzle – I just assumed it was higher. My experience here is based on using a meat thermometer every day and usually multiple times each day and in different areas of each bin. I find that they are very active and healthy in the 95 degree range and start getting antsy above 105 and I have measured 110 and above quite a number of times after which I water and fan them down into the 90′s as soon as I can. I think the bin that suffered heat stroke was measuring 116 just prior to the die-off.

    Apparently, the shock kills alot of them right away but others linger for days before they give up the ghost. You can actually feel it while they are still moving but start becoming flaccid and discolored.

    The recent big harvest really helped the temperature situation. I just went out to check and even with the ambient at about 95 degrees, the bins are running between 95 and 98 and that’s with a full feeding this morning and alot of activity evident in the top layer.

    Thanks for the offer of help to our rancher friend. I’m e-mailing him today so you might be hearing from him. He’s in Clay county near Bluffton. He’s an absolute top-of-the-line grassfed cattle producer and a real gentleman to boot.

    I’m experimenting lately with a 56 qt. bin from Home Depot that costs 5 bucks. No holes for crawl-off or drainage, the only add-on is two wood strips with lots of small holes drilled for egg laying. Even though they’re clear plastic bins the grubs seem quite happy. Part of my thinking on this is that it will be an easy and quick way to hand off a mess of grubs to neighbors and folks I meet at farm markets, as long as they don’t mind a bit of management and hands-on.

    I just pulled a few handfuls out of a bin yesterday, spread it all out in a wide, shallow galvanized pan and picked about 200 mature grubs out of the mix in about 5 minutes. Into the puparium bin they went. Alot of the rest found their way out of the castings and out to the edge of the pan where I could scoop them up easily and take ‘em over to the coop for the hens. Then I just dumped everything back into the bin.

    One thing I’m thinking is that due to heat considerations I can’t let the populations get too large or let the castings get too deep anyway – so a smaller, cheaper bin is sufficient and easier to transport.

    I need to design a filter table upon which I can dump a bin with 3 or 4 inches of castings and grubs in order to get the grubs to drop through and leave the castings behind. I’m thinking that a few layers of hardware cloth on a 2×4 frame – offset from each other to create a baffle effect that the grubs will crawl through – might do the trick.

    The object is to have a method of rapid cool-down, easy culling of big larvae for feeding purposes, hand-picking mature ones out for pupation and harvesting the castings if I can determine that they’re not laden with newly hatched babies, in which case it will all just go back in the bin along with whatever grubs are not culled.

    So far I’m not having any fluid problems but I am adding some crushed coir every couple of days for texture and absorption. I ordered 24 of those bricks of coir and might be using up one a week at a cost of about 4 bucks. My buddy with a greenhouse is going to experiment with the castings as a supplement to the mix he uses for starts. We’re hoping they accelerate the growth and health of the plants.

    I’m trying to remember that feeling when I first saw a handful of grubs in the compost pile I had on the ground a few months ago after reading everything I could on your blog. It was a pretty exciting and I immediately put a big bin over the top of it to protect it from the coons. And it’s been nothing but an adventure ever since. Muchos gracias, John

    Reply
    • August 29, 2010 at 4:06 pm
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      John,

      I’ve really enjoyed reading about your BSF adventure and I look forward to future modifications of your system. I also hope you have some luck devising something to separate larvae from residue; I haven’t had much luck.

      Reply
  • August 29, 2010 at 11:09 pm
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    My bad Jerry, PVC cement will not work on PE or HDPE buckets, not much does. FWIW, I use Lexal or lexol brand silicone, it wets and adheres well, but remains very soft and flexible even outdoors. PE would be either a melt to a jam fit or a threaded flange and fitting with a soft silicone washer or both. I used to make filter stacks with take-offs out of construction site scrap mainly large scale pvc sawn and solvent welded. Think of 8″ and up with added rings inside to support the screens and added bottoms and drilled take-off ports. gotta love blu-mol hole saws, until you run them too hot or fast and the scrap piece is melted to the inside.

    That reminds me, a lot of those kitchen grease catchers have nice stainless screens. Most are too coarse for the clays I was messing with, but you can cut the handles off, warp it like a potato chip and if you get lucky with the sizes it pops back into shape just ahead of the rubber or neoprene seal in the bell end of the water/waste pipe scrap. Someone may have a use for that trick.

    Reply
  • August 30, 2010 at 12:52 am
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    Just for fun- How much do they eat?

    When we returned from vacation the pumpkin on my front step had finally given up the ghost. As the larvae were hungry after two weeks and they loooove pumpkins, I whacked the top off, then the rest in half and tossed it in my 18×24 bin. Here is before, it’s the big one in back:

    What’s left after 5 days:

    That rind is maybe 1/16 thick and polished inside, it had around an inch of meat on it when I tossed it in. I should have saved some of the seeds :(

    After I took these, I broke up the shell, ALL of it fit into that 12″ fryer basket with room for another quart of scraps for the bugs.

    Reply
    • August 30, 2010 at 9:22 am
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      Bob,

      Thanks for the photos. I’ll bet you could still retrieve some viable seeds from the residue…

      During the summer of “09″ I kept records of everything I fed to a colony in an original BioPod, and also of the larvae I harvested. I’m ashamed to say that I still haven’t finished entering the data for the end of the season, but you can still get an idea of the volume I was feeding. Of course I could have fed and harvested more but keeping a unit balanced becomes more challenging as you increase the volume of waste. This test was designed to calculate my conversion percentage from waste to larvae. You can see the details HERE.

      Reply
  • August 30, 2010 at 9:24 pm
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    Jerry, do you have any estimates of how much liquid is generated? Just as an example, I returned the pumpkin shell and added a gallon of food waste (1/2 gal of very dessicated peaches, a leftover fruit cobbler and a few greens) and at least a pound and a half of uncooked rice. By the next morning there was well over a gallon of additional liquid. I’m wondering if they are relatively inefficient at converting misc carbs to sugars and generate a lot of CO2 and water. Have you seen any research considering the liquid waste?

    Reply
    • September 28, 2010 at 4:12 pm
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      Hi Bob, I’m finally getting a little time to think about BSF questions.

      I only have a very simple way of looking at the liquid waste that BSF generate. I believe that it’s primarily the moisture contained in the waste being released by the larvae processing it. Fruits and vegetables are mostly water and when they are broken down the liquid is released.

      In general I think of BSF digestion as highly efficient since they reduce the volume of typical household food waste by about 90% or more. They also increase their body weight by a factor of hundreds in a few weeks given adequate warmth.

      Reply
  • August 30, 2010 at 10:19 pm
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    Jerry,

    You really should sell the Phoenix worms to reptile fans. They are out of stock EVERYWHERE. And to think, I built a BSF bucket to raise them for that purpose: to feed my chinese water dragon. Now I find that they aren’t here in Utah (well, actually I contacted an entomologist and they have record of them being here in 1936 but they don’t seem to be common here now). So, my intention was to buy several hundred of them and put them in my BSF and see what happens. I really only have about a month or so before it gets cold.

    Are there tips to have them continue to reproduce during the winter? I really think they would do well here in the summer. I’d like to be the experimental rat so to speak to see what I can do here in the state of Utah.

    Reply
    • September 28, 2010 at 4:22 pm
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      Hi John,

      I was selling BSF primarily for starter kits until my schedule became too full this summer. Hopefully I can manage it next year.

      If BSF were reported in Utah in the past I have no reason to think they aren’t there now. Don’t be misled by the fact that they seem scarce; I live in an area rich in BSF and most people here have never heard of, or seen them, at least not in the adult winged stage. The reason for that is that BSF spend most of their life in the larval stage and only a few days in the adult stage, solely for the purpose of reproduction. As adults they aren’t attracted to human activity so in terms of the winged stage they’re scarce just about everywhere. More people here are aware of them as larvae but don’t contect them with the adult fly that they rarely even see.

      The only thing that would eliminate your area from having a BSF population is if the elevation is above 5000 feet. I’ve read that they aren’t found above that elevation.

      Wintertime BSF reproduction is highly specialized and I’ve never tried any indoor techniques. The first step should be to learn about them by raising them in warm weather which you can probably do even if they aren’t already common in your immediate area.

      Reply
  • August 31, 2010 at 6:04 pm
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    Jerry -
    I’ve got “ramp failure”. All the larvae are crawling under the filter material into the bottom where the whiffle balls are.
    I’ve got my filter sandwiched between metal window screen on the bottom side and hardware cloth on the top side, but they are still able get around the edges and into the bottom of the bucket.
    I had to switch out the ramp collector – the piece of milk carton busted up so I replaced it with the opening from a juice container. maybe it’s too slippery for them to get started up?
    Any suggestions would beat having to take apart the thing every couple days and grabbing handfuls from the bottom of the bucket !

    Reply
    • September 28, 2010 at 4:35 pm
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      Hi Connie,

      The larvae will migrate under the filter and there’s no reason to worry about it. They will crawl back up when they need to. My intention was to design a filter that would allow the larvae to pass through easily, but without them expanding it to the point where it loses effectiveness. I don’t really like the idea of window screen as part of the filter because it is more prone to clogging. I just don’t worry about where the larvae go inside the bucket as long as they are kept from completely escaping. Any system I’ve used will let some larvae escape but I don’t mind an occasional escapee.

      “I had to switch out the ramp collector – the piece of milk carton busted up so I replaced it with the opening from a juice container. maybe it’s too slippery for them to get started up?”

      I’m surprised that the milk carton broke, the water jug I used seems very flexible and durable. You can roughen the surface if it seems slick but I expect the larvae would be able to climb just about any surface if it’s at less than a 45º angle, especially if it’s damp.

      “Any suggestions would beat having to take apart the thing every couple days and grabbing handfuls from the bottom of the bucket !”

      Are the larvae you’re removing the dark colored mature larvae or the light colored juveniles? I wouldn’t mess with trying to dig out juvenile larvae, as I indicated above, and I would be surprised to find the mature larvae down there because they usually try to climb up and out. I’m not sure why you haven’t seen larvae using the ramp; do you have the opening (funnel) at the same level as the surface? I partially bury the funnel in the compost so the opening of the tube/ramp is at or close to the surface level.

      Reply
  • August 31, 2010 at 6:07 pm
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    Oops another question….I took the extra “hand” harvest and put them in a container in the fridge. Used to keep the mealworms for my chickens that way…
    After a few hours in the fridge, there was no movement. Did I kill them or will they start moving if I take them out of the fridge and they warm up?

    Reply
  • September 1, 2010 at 6:35 pm
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    I’m pretty excited. I contacted an entomologist at Utah State University. This is what he said, “Hermetia illucens is found throughout the US and is found in Utah. It should do well here.” Now if I could find some phoenix worms to get my BSF bucket going. I’m trying to find some for sale online. Any suggestions??

    Reply
  • September 1, 2010 at 11:11 pm
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    “Phoenix Worms”, is just a trade mark name for BSF.

    I think people get confused with this point.

    John, (Utah) If it was said they should do well you should be able to attract them. They are very prominent around here in FL and I had a had time starting a colony. But with what I have read and reread here and a bit of trial and error I have it!

    My pets eat like kings/ Queens now and again I thank Jerry for all the help he has provided.

    My dear lady actually likes my “Poop Flies” as she calls them, after explaining what they are capable of. She likes to catch the fly and set it in my Vivarium for Liz to hunt down and eat. It’s a jungle around here! LOL

    Reply
  • September 2, 2010 at 11:20 am
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    First of all, thanks, Jerry, for the wonderful site.

    John (Driftwood), I’m in Austin and would love to come check out your set-up sometime if that’s OK. I’d be happy to bring some wonderful cookies to help make it worth your while. You can contact me at bruce_curtis@yahoo.com. That’s an email address I use when I expect to get spam, so I don’t care about it being posted here.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • September 2, 2010 at 6:58 pm
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    Howdy Bruce, that’d be great to show you the operation, I just sent you an e-mail with all the details. I harvested a few pounds and froze them today but there’s a number of bins still going strong plus a ton of mature ones in the pupation bin. Hopefully they’ll be hatching out when you visit. That seems to be a cyclical thing, maybe weather dependent plus age. You’ll also get to see the casualties from overheating which is our main challenge here – plenty of those, I don’t feed ‘em to my chickens but the neighbor birds don’t seem to mind them.

    @John (Utah) – I’d be happy to ship you a bunch of mature grubs so that you can get some flies going hopefully this year. I could send them USPS and you could just cover the postage after you get them. Ask Jerry for my e-mail if that’s OK with him.

    Reply
  • September 3, 2010 at 1:04 am
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    Jerry, THANKS for all your hard work, and willingness to share this info. I have been looking to culture these guys for a few years now…14,000 crickets every 2 weeks get’s ridiculous! LOL

    Hey John in UT, just got 800 “Repti Worms” from reptiworm.com. They have plenty from what I can tell! Use the coupon code “Kingsnake20″ to get 20% off. Shipping was also only $2.99

    Reply
  • September 3, 2010 at 4:57 pm
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    Thanks for the suggestions. Also, thanks to John from TX for offering to help me. I appreciate it. I’m looking forward to starting as soon as I can. What are some suggestions to keep them going during the winter or make sure they come back in the spring. Should I continue to use fermented corn or cabbage throughout the winter? Other food products? Do the grubs naturally burrow in dirt during the winter? How can I assure that BSF will come back in the spring and I can enjoy seeing them grow all next summer?

    John

    Reply
  • September 6, 2010 at 9:36 am
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    This year has gone by very fast so far Jerry. Remember me with the big box idea. Last year went very well and I learned alot. This year is even better as all our scraps plus dead chickens, rabbit guts, possums, raccoons, a goat, fish carcusses (sp?), etc. are all being turned into chicken food inside my enclosed chicken pen. The only ones that get away are the ones that drop out at night. I have alot of fun turning scraps into chicken food and helping the environment.

    This fall I think I am going to try to insulate the box to see how long I can keep them going and who knows, maybe all the way until spring. Sorry to hear about your family issues Jerry! God Bless

    Reply
  • September 18, 2010 at 8:09 am
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    Well I got 1200 of the little buggers from Pheonixworms, and placed them into thier new house, along with an old apple and a necturine and a tortilla. In less than 18 hours the apple is hollowed out the tortilla is torn but the necturine is untouched!!
    My wife is completely creaped out!!
    My work here is done!! ;P

    Reply
  • September 21, 2010 at 10:50 pm
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    These things are voracious! I set my biopod up with a scoopful of BSF larvae about mid-August.
    Right now I’ve probably got 3-4 inches of larvae in the bucket….and I can’t throw enough food at them! Anything that looks remotely old or suspect goes into the bucket, but as a single person, I just don’t have that much food in the fridge.
    These larvae are eating me out of house and home !!
    My hens sure appreciate it, but when it (ever) gets cold, I’ll have to back off the protein and start feeding them more calories, grains etc.
    Guess it’s time to start putting larvae into the freezer….

    Reply
  • September 22, 2010 at 9:02 am
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    The reworked bin has been up and running for a couple weeks now and I’m not sure if it’s in a holding pattern, decreasing due to local weather and underfeeding or waiting for more food to hit a full stride. I had the bright idea to dump the sieved liquid (with larvae) into it and it took a few days to drain, now it there a thin layer of moist waste on the filter and lots of larvae in the food basket, not many on the filter. Previously they were everywhere. Ive fed them a few gallons of mixed fruit and veggies, I think I need to get together with another restaurant.

    OTOH, we had the wettest August in years, followed by the driest September NO rain here and mostly 95-101 degree weather.

    The velcro works great, now they drill into the filter (as expected) but also crawl down the drain hole to drown. I do get some grays in the collection bucket, but it s much easier for them to find the drain than the funnel. I’ve added a screen to the liquid bucket so I can dump them back into the main bin. I’m wondering how many are in the bin below the filter and if they are migrating back and forth to the food or just starving down there. No real odor unless you stick your nose in the bucket. Even the liquid waste buckets aren’t bad, though Ive sieved them a couple times so they may be minimally aerated.

    I’m waiting for the local feed store to let me know when they have a broken bag or two.

    Ah, anyone else seeing a LOT of roaches? I have flying asians and “palmetto bugs” here, I back to a forest and they like the leaf litter. It’s just in the last week they hit the bin, I think it’s the moisture drawing them as much as the waste.

    Hope everyone else is having fun,

    Bob

    Reply
  • September 22, 2010 at 11:38 am
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    I completed my DIY composter. I seeded it with existing compost riddled with BSF larvae. After a week, the mature larvae found their way into the retaining bin. It was very gratifying seeing the composter work as advertised.

    The larvae in the retaining bin didn’t move very much. I thought they may have died. I combined them with younger squirmers and it appears they woke up. Is this a correct observation?

    Reply
  • September 23, 2010 at 10:56 pm
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    Hi Steve, from what I’ve read (right here in this blog) is that when the large mature BSF are ready to pupate (become flies) the shell darkens and hardens. That may be what is happening with your’s. Someone with way more knowledge will answer…..

    Reply
  • September 23, 2010 at 10:58 pm
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    Now I have my own question, if I don’t have a havest ramp for the mature BSF, will they pupate in the container?? Or is it really best to allow them to get out!!
    Thanks
    Steve

    Reply
  • September 24, 2010 at 4:42 pm
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    Connie – it’s really cool when they’re all up near the top and you get the visual on how many there really are – glad to hear your bin is rockin’. I fed alot of deer corn when it reached the stage where our scraps weren’t enough. Just let it moisten for a few days in a bucket and they’ll munch until they just leave the hull behind. It’s funny to see two or three larvae sticking out of the same kernal of corn. It’s pretty cheap, I think it was maybe 7 bucks for a 40 pound bag. Lasted quite awhile before I sourced the free stuff. I just started using some frozen larvae and the birds love ‘em. I don’t even thaw ‘em out, just hit the baggie on my hand to loosed them up and pour some out into their pen. Adios !!

    Reply
  • September 24, 2010 at 4:51 pm
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    Hi Steve (Fresno) – I’ve seen some hatch right from the bin but not many. I think it’s better to let them get out somehow. I have a pupation bin where I put alot of my crawl-offs and it has a few inches of crushed coir on the bottom and there’s motion every time I disturb it even though many of the grubs have been in there a long time. And on various days there will be large hatch-outs and other days almost none that I see. I take the lid off every morning and some mornings there’s a bunch waiting on the walls ready to fly out. So, probably best not to disturb them too much just so once they settle in they can got into the zone and stay there until they turn into a fly. Adios

    Reply
  • September 24, 2010 at 5:33 pm
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    hey Bob,

    I’ve had some roaches too, they seem to like it in there. Not too many, maybe 3 or 4 in a bin at the most. A few bees too, lapping up canteloupe juice and such. I had a lag period recently just after the die-off stretch. Not many flies coming around was the main issue. I wondered if the smell wasn’t right or something. So I’m in the start-up phase again after a complete harvest and cleaning out of all the bins. I figure it will be a month before I know if it’s possible to get it up and running this late in the year. I’m hopeful to have some to nurture through the winter.

    On the techniques you’re developing – I bet it even helps enhance the attractive smell to run the liquid back through. It seemed to drive the females a little crazy one time so I started spraying the top of the the piles of food with a couple ounces every day from a mess of liquid I had from the early days – when I was flushing them out from a catch bin below the main one. I was even pouring a few gallons a week along the driveway to try and attract native females. It was pretty diluted but it still had that rich smell to it.

    When the die-off was happening and I was trying to figure out a way to separate the living ones out I tried something that worked pretty well. I built a wood frame that fit snug around the top of an empty bin and stapled 1/2 in. hardware cloth on it. Then on top of that I stapled 1/8 in hardware cloth. The overall size was 32 by 21 – so it had a decent surface area. The lower layer just provided some rigidity and the upper was the real filter. Then I’d gently dump handfuls of castings full of live and dead larvae on top and come back in an hour or two and 95 percent of the bigger live ones had crawled through the small openings and fallen into the bin. No doubt there were tons of tiny ones left in the castings but I just piled them up for the neighbor birds to pick through since I wanted the dead larvae gone. Next year I think I’ll use this method when the bins get hot and then freeze the big ones that crawl down through the screen and return the castings to the bins to let the little ones mature.

    It’s great to read your posts, keep on having fun – we’re on the cutting edge :-)

    Reply
  • September 24, 2010 at 5:45 pm
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    Hi Steve S -

    Almost every time I add new mature grubs to my pupation bin they crawl around and wake up lots of the ones that were lying dormant – pretty soon the whole bin is in motion but after a couple of hours most of it is settled down again. So I think what you’re seeing is normal. I’ve been thinking about tagging some mature grubs with a tiny spot of paint (next season) and track how long they can be in the pupation bin without hatching out but still able to wake up and move around. I know it’s a long time but can’t put a number on it without some easy way to identify when they went in there. Glad to hear of your success!!

    Reply
  • September 24, 2010 at 9:54 pm
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    Thanks John, I have the hole cut for the tube just hadn’t installed it. I’ll get in in this weekend. Maybe a picture too!!

    Reply
  • September 26, 2010 at 3:35 am
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    It looks like it was just lag from 2 weeks without food during my vacation, maybe the weather had an effect too, but my BSFL are happy, there are thousands of half-rice-grain-sized larvae and I have a double handful of grays in the collection bucket. Time to scare up a new food source, the fridge is nearly cleaned out. I’m putting velcro in the strainer bucket, the escapees made a mess on the way out.

    I looked at my bucket of old manure from last year, it’s tucked into a cold covered compost pile and it not has a crust with a big handful of grays under it and a gooey layer with younger larvae under that, then paste with scattered larvae a foot deep. Apparently there are still enough nutrients to keep the ball rolling in there.

    John – I’m seeing around 6-12 adults of misc species of roach on top and thousands of nymphs in the filter material when I open the lid. If I catch any big ones, I toss them to the banana spiders.

    I was thinking along those lines, spread the castings thinly on a 1/4 mesh tray with fresh chow below.

    The runoff is down to a slow drip, it is running much drier than the old bin.

    Has anyone experimented with using the runoff as a liquid fertilizer? Say a 30:1 dilution? On centipede grass?

    Anyway, have fun!

    Bob

    Reply
  • September 28, 2010 at 10:08 pm
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    “As adults they aren’t attracted to human activity”
    I’ve found the adults are very attracted to fluorescent light (not sure about incandescent). Their actually getting to be somewhat of a nuisance on our lanai at night. Mostly between 5 and 10 adults will quickly be attracted to the light when we go outside. Our colony is quite large (few inches deep of grubs in a BioPod) and only about 100 feet from our house. Luckily the adults are extremely easy to catch and the lizards love them.

    Reply
  • October 1, 2010 at 8:05 pm
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    Jerry:

    “In some parts of the world people even eat them.”

    Where, how, what do they feed them and what’s in the sauce? I have about a pint of pre-pupals in the collection bin…

    BTW, I usually see from a half to two dozen pre-pupals in my drain filter most mornings, they seem to go down fairly often. My drain is a 2 or 2.5″ tube from a fitting screwed into the bung of an inverted 55 gal drum into a 5 gal bucket. The filter is a screen stretched between two nested cut-off top halves of 5 gallon buckets that nest into the drain bucket.

    One of this weekend’s projects is to add another collection tube to the filter stack and then make the rounds of the local restaurants again for coffee grounds.

    Have fun!

    Bob

    Reply
  • October 2, 2010 at 4:05 am
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    Oh…anyone seeing a lot of earwigs? I have several hundred and get as many of them in the collection bucket as I do greys. They dont seem to be preying on the BSF larvae, just hanging out and running around on them when disturbed.

    Reply
  • October 5, 2010 at 9:20 pm
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    Heh, forgot to mention the ant attack, thats already sorted out. Axle grease on the legs, extra hot shot a foot around the legs and 6″ above and below the grease, & kill all ants outside the bin and on the inner walls, the rest go away after a day or so.

    Ive soaked my deer corn about 4-5 days now, it isnt soft and the BSFL are ignoring it. I think I’ll boil it with those carrots they dont seem to care for either.

    80 or so greys in the filter bin, still need to add the new collection tube there.

    Reply
  • October 11, 2010 at 1:28 am
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    Just a couple of observations I would like to make and I plan to implement in my construction and operation that some of you might want to try.
    1. Instead of using the tubing, how about taking a marker to draw the line of path from the bottom of the bucket at the opposite side from where your exit hole is near the top. Draw the line on the insides of the bucket to circle the bucket all the way up to the exit hole (in both directions) Then instead of using the tubing, bow about using some silicone caulk to make a grub trail for them to crawl up to the hole. Instead of having the piping on the inside for the exit hole, the pvc would come just through the bucket inner wall and glue in place with plumbers gloo or shoe goo, or use the caulk. the two strips of caulk would come right up to the exit hole leading the grubs right out. Take a look at the inner workings of the Bio-pod to get the idea of what I mean.
    2. I am going to try to add some red wiggler worms as they will promote the aeration of the waste, and create additional castings. The benefit of the red wigglers is that they don’t actually eat the produce. They leave that for the grubs. The red wiggler worms eat the bacteria that develops in the whole composting process and will purify the castings to be used on the garden. Any juice from the red wigglers finished product will serve as a high end fertilizer for your favorite plants.

    Reply
  • October 15, 2010 at 11:25 am
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    Hi, Jerry I live in the UK and have been tring to come up with a way of rearing BSF for my lizzards. Thanks to your work in putting this site together and a few other sources I think I have the basic plan set out now but I have a couple of questions if you don’t mid – I plan to build an inclosure for them which will be located inside my house. the inclosure will be insulated and heated by a nocturnal heat lamp and will be located in the basement, so here’s the question I know the larve don’t like the light which is fine as nobody really goes down there so the lights always off but I’m guessing that when the BSF hatch they will need a certain amount of light per day so I plan to re-create this by using a D12+ strip light – but I don’t know if using this type of light will effect the larve or just how long the light should be on for? Also I’ve read that installing false plants – the type that are used in fish tanks etc provide a good egg laying area I’ll be interested to hear your views on this.

    Many Thanks

    Reply
  • October 23, 2010 at 3:51 am
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    What a fantastically detailed blog! DIY is best! Great job all!
    My cabbage is already rotting & in the morning I will be on my way to the big orange box. I’ll have a bucket up and running tomorrow.
    I’m into aquaponics and this is a perfect marriage. The only real problem with aquaponics is the fish food. In quantity it is a bit destructive to our oceans, because the best feed is mostly made from ground up small fish like Mackerel and Herring. The problem is we pillage the small fish from the ocean, and they were the feed for other fish, that now, are all fished out and heading for extinction because we continue to take their food. OOOPs!
    I would really appreciate it if anyone has any input on doing this on a industrial scale. I saw the pictures of the larger bins in a row under a shaded cover and would like to know more about that setup or any other large scale ideas. How is the draining of liquids? Is there a filter medium? Is a top not necessary with just the shading? I cant see how the grubs get into the gutter?

    Did I read something about using a truck bed liner? Could I convert a 250 gallon liquid transporting tank 4’X4’X4’ and do the same thing as the 5gal bucket? I realize the heat issue but I could quickly think of 7 or 9 different ways to easily cool the grubs if that was the only dilemma. I cant even begin to grasp the amount of waste that can be converted. Its really amazing. Its late and I’m tired the hallucinations are starting,……..

    Pre thanks to all :-)

    Reply
  • October 23, 2010 at 12:26 pm
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    This message is for all of those having an issue with smell in their compost.

    Use sugar! (+ molasses, etc)

    I had a 32+ gallon trash can that I filled full of watermelon rinds and such, and the BSF had a field day, and eventually it filled up, but also full of liquid and eventually a REALLY foul stench that filled the whole neighborhood when disturbed.

    Pouring in about a cup of sugar and a cup of molasses two days in a row fixed the issue — apparently by feeding the “good” bacteria that don’t smell!

    Of course you should let the liquid drain, aerate it, etc., but when the smell has to go NOW the sugar does wonders.

    Reply
  • October 24, 2010 at 7:07 pm
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    John in Driftwood Texas. Could you post more detailed pictures of the tub system. I would love to build a 4 tub unit.

    Thanks

    Reply
  • October 25, 2010 at 1:41 pm
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    Hi Tom and Jim (Hawaii) – I’ll get some updated pics up as soon as I can. I’ll show the variety of bottom edge holes that worked pretty well for me. Also the gutter now has a downspout into a bucket w/ lid and hole. And I built a top screen framed out of 2×4′s with hinges so I could close the whole row at one time and protect from racoons at night. I managed my inputs in a way that resulted in almost no run-off but I must admit that it became a bit more than an occasional visit sort of hobby. I was out there multiple times per day and lots of night visits to observe behavior, take temp readings, cool them down, manage moisture etc. I know there’s a better way to facilitate crawl-off using the bins I selected but the edge holes worked good enough for the first season and I didn’t have too much success with ramps up the sides. Some of those holes were 3/8 inch all along the end edge as even with the bottom as I could get the holes and others were as large as 2 inch diameter with a bit of screening and coir to hinder stuff falling out. They all crusted up after awhile but that didn’t impede the “muscles with chisels” as Jerry calls them. I have my thinking cap on for next year and hope to come up with something interesting which has been half the fun so far. Best of success to y’all. John

    Reply
  • October 27, 2010 at 7:22 pm
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    So, I’m pretty excited. I decided to buy a bunch of phoenix worms just to see if my Chinese Water Dragon would eat them. Well, they were on back order so when I finally got them they sent an extra container of 250 worms. Well, in previous discussions with other members on the forum, I thought it was too late to try and raise them here in Utah due to weather but I couldn’t resist trying to put quite a few of them in my bucket. So, I did and watched them grow. Then the cold hit. So, I pulled them out of the bucket. About 300 of them grew quite large. So, I decided to try a little experiment. I put 10 of the dark ones in a water bottle in saw dust and hung the bottle in my reptile enclosure under my mega-ray UV from reptile UV, which is about as close to sun as you can get in a bulb. Occasionally, I would add a bit of water to the bottle with a spray bottle. After a couple of weeks I thought they had all died. Well, when I got home from work today there was a BSF flying around in the bottle. Here are the pictures (hopefully they will work as thumbnails that you can enlarge–if not then I’ll just add the direct links):

    http://i199.photobucket.com/albums/aa231/don_juan_el_guapo/BSF/CageandBlackSoldierFly2010fly.jpg

    http://i199.photobucket.com/albums/aa231/don_juan_el_guapo/BSF/CageandBlackSoldierFly2010_10_27_.jpg

    http://i199.photobucket.com/albums/aa231/don_juan_el_guapo/BSF/CageandBlackSoldierFly2010_10_27_15_55_2900310_27_20102_30PM_0001.jpg

    Now I have to figure out what I am going to do with it. Hopefully, more will appear in the next few days.

    Reply
  • October 27, 2010 at 7:25 pm
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    How do you embed photos on the blog? I took a few more pics of the BSF in my reptile enclosure.

    Reply
  • October 27, 2010 at 10:07 pm
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    Jerry, I heard you say in your video that you lived in south-west Georgia. I live in Savannah and was wondering if it was to late in the year to start trying my hand with BSFs? I’ve have quite a few reptiles and have already started two large colonies of Blaptica Dubia roaches, but I would like to add some diversity to their diets. I was also wondering how late in the year your BSF buckets continue to produce?

    Reply
  • October 27, 2010 at 10:14 pm
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    Good experiment. The next step would be to get a mating pair to produce eggs and new grubs.

    Reply
  • October 28, 2010 at 8:28 am
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    I would love to get them to mate now. I think I would need a larger container. Any suggestions on something large enough but something that would fit in my enclosure?

    Reply
  • November 3, 2010 at 2:04 am
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    I was going to do a stage 2 with redworms just for grins, so I tore down my bin and sieved everything, I was going to use the fines for the redworms.

    Prior to disassembly, I was getting a lot of fuzz from the filter on top, and a lot of prepupal and large white larvae in the filter screen for the drain underneath. Some waste fines were also in the screen. The presence of immature larvae in the capture bin creates a musty/funky odor. Not intense, but not pleasant. I may try seperating immatures and prepupals win a trough with food downhill and a drop to a bin uphill. If anyone gets around to it before I do, post the results. I dont mind picking a few out but not a quart of them.

    The bin was running full steam and probably is getting too warm. a couple pounds of chicken leg quarters say 10″ long and 4×2.5″ cross section were bare bones in 4 hours. a 5 lb bag of potatoes and a half gal of other scraps were gone in 2 days, and I think it took that long mainly because the potatoes were turned into lace, then dessicated from the colony heat. Lately Ive been getting NO runoff at all, even with a pint of salad dresssing or mayo added to several consecutive feedings. Apparently oils are thoroughly consumed.

    I expected to find a totally failed and drilled through filter, with loads of waste and fresh food fines beneath.

    What I found was a relatively intact filter except 3-4″ around the edges where it had been expanded and the edges pulled into the feeding area.

    Below the filter it was clean with a few dozen larvae, and not much waste.

    I had about 2 gallons of larvae, maybe more, and a gallon of fines.

    Oddly, the reds didnt like the BSFL waste, the kept crawling off into the lower trays of their bin. (I’d toasted it to kill any larvae, then let it cool) I assumed apparently in error this was due to the light. After fifteen minutes I dumped the mess into a bucket.
    An hour later they were all dead, and ten minutes after that I tossed them in the BSFL bin as lunch. Oh well. I’m guessing an enzyme that didnt denature with heat, salt content from dumping snack food in, or 90 degrees F ambient was still too warm. Possibly tin salts from the galv. hardware cloth dissolved in digestive fluids.

    I’m thinking of building next year’s filter with more tightly drawn edges and either heat sealing/hotwire cutting the filter or compressing the edge and saturating it with hot glue or silicone caulk. The 2.5″ scrap PCV cutoffs supporting the filter can probably be reduced to 1.5″ .

    Have fun

    Bob

    Reply
  • November 3, 2010 at 2:20 am
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    Jim (HI),

    Those containers are called IBC’s or Intermediate Bulk Containers. They are worth about $100 if you shop around and I’d use one as either a rainwater tank or a mini Koi/etc pond. For a worm bin, it’d be great but overkill/underuse, UNLESS….you find a damaged one cheap, then I’d split it into the top & bottom halves for two bins or a bin and a tank, since the bottom half has a nice 2″ drain valve on it. Hm. I paid $7 for a 20″ sq piece of filter, it’d cost a bit, maybe carpet scraps?

    Be careful, Ive seen some nasty stuff in them, acid (easy to clean) and polyester resin (probably not possible) but also lanolin which id be surprised if the larvae didnt just eat it, it’s just sheep fat/hide grease.

    Hawaii no ka oi!

    Aloha

    Bob

    Reply
  • November 5, 2010 at 3:10 pm
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    Hey TX John,
    Have you tried enclosing the whole greenhouse that you have the BSFs in and letting the adults mate in there? I’m loosing a lot of adults to lizards (anoles) and neighbor’s compost piles (which seem to be more attractive than my BioPod) so I was thinking of building a large greenhouse like structure around it made of shade cloth. Maybe 8′ by 8′ by 8′ . Now that my aquaponics system is up and running I’m looking to maximize my BSF output to feed the tilapia.

    Reply
  • November 18, 2010 at 8:32 pm
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    Jerry,

    Your site and videos rule. Had a thought regarding the funnel and ramp: rather than a coiled tubing around the periphery that needs be adjusted, why not a fixed, straight ramp up the middle?

    Imagine taking a wooden paint stirrer, dropping it in the bucket, and letting it naturally fall to one side. Snap off a section of the stirrer to shorten it so that you achieve your maximum 45 degree incline. It won’t quite reach the existing exit at the top of the bucket, but is that a problem? Im guessing the buckets don’t fill all the way to the top. Ultimately, it might be best to use a piece of something in a C channel or gutter shape so that the grubs wouldn’t fall off. But this way, as the level of the substrate rises, the ramp just stays put and you don’t have to fasten anything to the bucket wall. Only issue I see is grubs circling the bucket wall and missing the ramp emerging from somewhere in the center of the compost… but thought I’d throw it out there at the expert(s).

    Reply
  • November 27, 2010 at 5:49 pm
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    hello… this may be an already answered question, but am i to assume that the white larve in my trash cans are soldier fly larve, or could they be something else. I live in va, so are the adults common in my state?

    thanks

    Reply
  • December 19, 2010 at 12:26 am
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    No Will, pretty sure those would be just your regular old magots. Kill them with abandon. Otherwise you will have black filth flies.
    Sorry!!

    Reply
    • December 19, 2010 at 12:42 am
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      Hi Steve and Will,

      I know from experience that BSF larvae will populate a garbage can if it isn’t emptied for a longer than average span of time. A can that is emptied twice a week won’t develop BSF because BSF eggs take 4 days to hatch. Even in a can that has garbage in it for a week any BSF larvae that hatch would be very tiny and probably not noticed. I sometimes leave a garbage can full for an extended period of time as a way of monitoring the mating cycles of my local BSF and in my photo gallery I have a shot of several hundred eggs laid on a can liner.

      Luckily BSF larvae are pretty easy to identify. If the larvae grow to about 3/4 inches, have distinct ridges and small hair-like bristles, then they’re most likely BSF.

      Reply
  • December 21, 2010 at 9:31 am
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    Welcome back Jerry, hope you and your family are well!!

    Reply
    • December 21, 2010 at 9:58 am
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      Thanks Steve,

      I lost two family members that were an important part of my life in the past few months. I was legal guardian for one and the other was a primary caregiver for my parents. This has kept me busy and also distracted but I hope to start posting regularly again soon.

      Reply
  • December 22, 2010 at 8:36 am
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    Oh my goodness, Jerry!! I am so sorry!! My prayers and good wishes are yours!!

    Reply
  • December 22, 2010 at 8:54 pm
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    Hey Jerry, just wanted to say thanks so much for the helpful tutorial on building this composter bucket. Harvey Ussery put me on to your blog. I’m in the process of making my first one right now. For the problem of ants and other crawly insects, I was thinking of adding a band of tanglefoot around the outside of the bucket, once I finish it and figure out where it’s going to live outside. Should keep most anything out that can’t fly.

    Very sorry to hear of your loss this year. My sympathies and good wishes for the new year.

    -Kate

    Reply
  • January 23, 2011 at 11:25 pm
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    Hi Mr.Jerry and all members,
    I am from Indonesia a tropical country in Asia.
    I already followed and read your blog secretly -lol- for a few months….very nice blog indeed and it always comeup number one in google search.
    I already have some big compost heaps and a few smaller composting buckets which all full of bsf larvae.
    Problem:
    -our environment were full of small house lizard/small gecko which can walk on the wall, so I found that the thing could easily enter the bucket and weak havoc on bsf population, so I put a fish screen on all the bucket holes, the screen is about 2-4milimeters diameter so I guess the larvae which hatch could enter the bucket thru screen and the lizard could not, but -sadly- I observed that the larvae population is downward significantly.
    Question:
    -do you think my aproach is wrong? I mean should the adult bsf spawn outside the bucket and the larvae just enter screen instictively?
    Thank you.
    Best regards from Indonesia
    -ishady-

    Reply
    • January 30, 2011 at 12:56 pm
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      Hi ishady,

      First, I assume that your buckets will allow BSF larvae to crawl out when the waste is very moist or when there is condensation on the sides of the bucket. That will cause your BSF population to vary and there are also fluctuations in reproduction that are part of natural cycles. I do believe that you’re losing BSF to lizards, but I just want to consider as many factors as we can.

      I assume that you understand that reproduction almost always happens outside the composting container. The winged adults mate in flight and female lays eggs near a suitable food source.

      Your idea of covering the openings with screen is good. It might be better if you use a size that will allow adult (winged) BSF to enter the bucket, but that will prevent the lizards from entering. 7 or 8 mm screen should be large enough to allow BSF females to enter so they can lay eggs inside. If you use smaller screen the BSF females will lay eggs near the screened openings and the tiny larvae will crawl inside when they hatch, however, you may have better results by allowing the adults to enter. There also may be an advantage of using the smaller screen in that it may help contain the larger larvae, but if you prevent the dark mature larvae from migrating out of the bucket you will be preventing them from pupating, emerging as adults, and mating to increase your local population.

      If you have more question please feel free to ask. Good luck!

      Reply
  • February 1, 2011 at 2:20 am
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    Hi Mr. Jerry
    I am a 14 year old kid and i am trying to build your BSF bucket composter.
    As i am a kid, i have limited supplies. I live in California and there isn’t rain for the entire summer to autum. Not even a single drop. So, do i really need the drainage? i dont really have the materials to build one. If i could i would post a few pictures on mine. Thanks for you blog. I really love it

    Reply
    • February 1, 2011 at 9:39 am
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      Hi Derek,

      Drainage in a black soldier fly composter has very little to do with rainfall, it is necessary because of the liquid released when the larvae process waste. Most food waste has a high percentage of liquid, especially fruits and vegetables. For example, if you add a few pounds of spoiled melon to the composter the larvae will quickly break it down which will release a cup or two of liquid. If you regularly process waste then this liquid will quickly build up in the bottom of the container and create a zone where anaerobic (stinky) bacteria will thrive. Normally the waste in a BSF composter is kept aerated by the churning action of the larvae, but in a flooded container the liquid prevents sufficient oxygen from reaching the bottom.

      There is an alternative to a drainage system, but it requires that you regulate the moisture content of the waste you process. You can still add high moisture items, but you would need to absorb the excess liquid by adding dry food waste such as dry grains, cereal, bread, etc. If you keep your composter under a roof of some sort you can also encourage evaporation by leaving the lid off of the unit when possible. Adding sawdust or shavings from non pressure treated wood can also help a little.

      Drainage is one of the most problematic issues with BSF composter design, but a well functioning drainage system makes odor-free composting fairly easy to accomplish. One approach you can take is to apply the principles of my drainage system but use other materials that are cheaper. You could probably find cheap material at thrift stores or maybe there are materials around your house that can be sacrificed for the project. If you have a place to set the composter where the liquid waste can safely drain onto the ground you might try making several small holes in the bottom of the unit and layering some type of material to act as a filter on the bottom. My design is only one approach out of an almost infinite number of possibilities.

      Please keep in mind that the surface area of a 5 gallon bucket will not support a large BSF colony and that this unit is designed more as a learning tool than one for processing a lot of waste. In any BSF unit it’s best to find a rhythm where, on average, new waste additions are consumed within a day or two. For my bucket design that will usually be only a few ounces of waste per day, not pounds.

      Please let us know if you have more questions and I hope you’ll keep us updated on your progress. Good luck!

      Reply
  • February 1, 2011 at 9:45 pm
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    Thank You Mr. Jerry

    Your reply answered my question really well. I dont seem to find ingredients for a filter and so i decided to work on the other parts first hoping that my allowance will build up. I started on the lid. You claimed that you cut the angle of the pipe is because of rain. since there is no rain, i left it flat, is it ok? If it is, i am officially done with the lid. I did add cardboard as you suggested.

    Reply
    • February 16, 2011 at 8:11 pm
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      Thank You Mr. Jerry

      Your reply answered my question really well. I dont seem to find ingredients for a filter and so i decided to work on the other parts first hoping that my allowance will build up. I started on the lid. You claimed that you cut the angle of the pipe is because of rain. since there is no rain, i left it flat, is it ok? If it is, i am officially done with the lid. I did add cardboard as you suggested.

      Yes, flat is fine if your unit is out of the rain. Once you have a drain system that works well a little extra liquid won’t be a problem.

      Reply
  • February 2, 2011 at 1:03 am
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    hi mr jerry,
    Am i annyoning? Anyway, i have a question with the tube for larval harvestation. I see you didnt need anything to keep the tube pushing against the walls of bucket. The pipe i am using do need some support do you have any suggestions? thank you very much for all your help Jerry. My cousin had a compost pile and i found BSFL. They were very fascinating and i did research on them. I have oscars (fish) that are highly carnivourus and i hope that i can harvest these larvae to feed them.

    Reply
    • February 16, 2011 at 8:15 pm
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      hi mr jerry,
      Am i annyoning? Anyway, i have a question with the tube for larval harvestation. I see you didnt need anything to keep the tube pushing against the walls of bucket. The pipe i am using do need some support do you have any suggestions? thank you very much for all your help Jerry. My cousin had a compost pile and i found BSFL. They were very fascinating and i did research on them. I have oscars (fish) that are highly carnivourus and i hope that i can harvest these larvae to feed them.

      No Derek, you’re not annoying me, but I’ve been busy with other things lately. :)

      The tubing I bought came rolled up on a spool so it was roughly shaped to fit the bucket already. I used disc magnets, four on the inside pulling at four on the outside, as a support for the tube.

      Reply
  • February 2, 2011 at 1:24 am
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    sorry just one last question mr jerry

    since i am feeding them to fish, do i need to feed larvae specific things? Will they have bacteria? Will they sicken my fish because of the things i feed? I know they are fed to reptiles.

    Reply
    • February 16, 2011 at 8:19 pm
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      sorry just one last question mr jerry

      since i am feeding them to fish, do i need to feed larvae specific things? Will they have bacteria? Will they sicken my fish because of the things i feed? I know they are fed to reptiles.

      Since a fish tank is a relatively small, closed environment it’s wise to be cautious. In a balanced BSF unit there won’t be excessive bacteria because the larvae digest them, if I understand correctly. You might want to avoid feeding the larvae feces and I always recommend not feeding them any meat products that are spoiled or of an unknown origin.

      Reply
  • February 2, 2011 at 8:58 am
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    Derek, I’m here in cali too. I cut the ends straight and it’s fine.
    I keep my composter under the back porch so it’s fine. The little buggers are dormant right now so no hurry getting your’s built.
    I used a 20 gallon rubbermade storage bin.
    Scavenge away!!!

    Reply
  • February 2, 2011 at 10:43 pm
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    Jerry,

    I am currently conducting a vermicomposting pilot using biosolids (human) generated from the wastewater treatment plant I work at. Has there been any research into using BSF on biosolids? Also, as my main goal is volume reduction, what would I do with the larvae if they couldn’t be sold (due to pathogen issues)? Thanks for any insight, facinated by this!

    Reply
    • February 16, 2011 at 8:38 pm
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      Jerry,

      I am currently conducting a vermicomposting pilot using biosolids (human) generated from the wastewater treatment plant I work at. Has there been any research into using BSF on biosolids? Also, as my main goal is volume reduction, what would I do with the larvae if they couldn’t be sold (due to pathogen issues)? Thanks for any insight, facinated by this!

      Hi Chris,

      Black soldier flies were often called “privy flies” in the days of outhouses. They do very well on a diet of human waste and they’re fairly effective at repelling other fly species once they dominate the pile. I assume the biosolids would be similar and a good medium for BSF. I would probably just release the mature larvae to let them build up the local population. I don’t fear overpopulation by BSF because I feel their numbers would be limited by available food. Good luck and please keep us posted.

      Reply
  • February 12, 2011 at 1:00 pm
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    Hi Jerry,

    Absolutely fascinating blog and videos. I live in the UK, and currently trying to raise meal worms for chicken feed and already use red-worm (I think this is the name) for composting in worm bins.

    I am having trouble raising enough meal worms to make it a practical source of food for my chickens. I started with close to 500 lave, 20 of which pupated successfully and laid eggs. Generation 2 is about half as populous as the initial generation.

    Reading down the comments, people seem to be getting fantastic amounts of lave collected, and are reducing down their vegetable waste much faster than my pair of 50 gallon worm composers can manage.

    I would go and order some BSFL online now, but I am worried that they would be an invasive species in the south-east of England. Do you know if this is the case, and if so, is there a local species I could use?

    Thanks for your time and effort on the blog!

    Regards,
    Matt

    Reply
    • February 17, 2011 at 9:26 am
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      Hi Matt,

      I’ve only worked with BSF so I can’t recommend another species.

      Human movement has already transported BSF around the world so at this point they are free to migrate to anywhere they can survive. What I believe limits that spread is the ability of BSF to survive the cold season and/or the lack of adequate humidity in any particular region. People can support BSF in areas not otherwise able to sustain a wild population, but if that support is removed the BSF will not survive. In a sense BSF have already “invaded” a large part of the world, but have never been reported as “invasive” that I am aware of. In my mind BSF do represent competition to other fly species, but those are the species that have benefited from human activity anyway such as the common housefly. Good luck!

      Reply
  • February 13, 2011 at 10:58 pm
    Permalink

    I was able to built a bucket composter and get the BSF colony I ordered to do well to the point where the mature larvae would be captured in a bin and emerge as adults. Unfortunately I didn’t get many adults coming back to lay eggs, so the all-important cycle of life didn’t continue more than a few months. The area I live in is pretty dry and hot, so I’m thinking that the BSF are just not suited to this environment.

    As a new experiment, to the old BSF bucket I have added wet, shredded newspaper, a few dozen earthworms, and a bit of food. I’m hoping to get some worm tea out the bottom, some composted material, and perhaps even some earthworms, if they start reproducing. It is too bad about the BSF, but the earthworms seem to be happy!

    Reply
    • February 17, 2011 at 10:01 am
      Permalink

      Hi David,

      If you had any egg laying in your unit at all then I believe you can increase your local BSF population each year. The heat and lack of humidity shouldn’t be an issue with reproduction. BSF larvae need a moisture level of at least 70% in the waste they inhabit but the adults seem to do fine in dry conditions. In a very dry area you may need to add liquids to the unit, but usually the waste added results in too much liquid making drainage a bigger issue. I’ve heard from several people in hot dry climates who have succeeded with BSF and I think you can too, especially if you’ve had egg laying.

      Combining BSF and worms is certainly an appealing idea but it will probably be a high maintenance affair since the two creatures thrive in different environmental conditions.

      Please keep us posted on your progress.

      Reply
  • March 2, 2011 at 12:59 am
    Permalink

    Thank you Jerry for your site. It’s very informative. I recently built the BSF bucket composter you designed (very easy btw…with the pictures and descriptions you provided).

    I saw that you had issues with the lavae destroying the filter..don’t know if you’ve found a solution yet, but here’s what I did that seems to be working: bottom layer is the practice golf balls (same as the design). on top of that is a circle of hardware cloth cut to size–it kind of scrapes the sides of the bucket as it’s going down, but once it’s in place it holds well. then a circle of window mesh cut to size, then the filter itself. the next layer is a larger circle of mesh. the extra material around the edges folds upwards. this is held in place by a final layer of hardware cloth…this (hopefully) will prevent the larvae from pushing their way down any gaps in the sides.

    Again, thanks for this site, I enjoyed reading every bit of it. My chickens will thank you!

    Reply
    • March 3, 2011 at 2:43 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Raymondo,

      You’re welcome and I’m glad you’re experimenting with this unit. The main problem I see with window screen is that it would be likely to clog easily. I must add that I have never tried using it so if you get a different result please let us know.

      Reply
  • March 7, 2011 at 1:20 pm
    Permalink

    Here is the shopping list that I came up with. I haven’t gone to the depot so I sure if Im missing anything.
    Materials
    5 gallon bucket with lid
    two small bungee cords
    pvc pipe 1½ inches (38mm)
    1½ inch tee fitting
    1½ inch pvc connector
    ¾ inch pvc piping
    3 – ¾ inch pvs 90 degree tee fitting
    pvc pipe cement
    cardboard
    rubber band
    1 inch wide (2.5cm) “Ultra Thin” “Sticky Back” Velcro
    filter medium
    ¾ inch vinyl tube (18 inches)
    hose clamps
    2 plastic threaded caps
    nylon barb male to hose 3/4″
    O ring 1″ OD x 3/4″I.D. x 1/8
    practice golf balls
    blue filter
    braided nylon
    plastic crate material
    milk gallon
    large snap lid container (Tupperware)
    pair of magnets
    dry sawdust
    pet bedding

    Tools
    razor knife
    2 inch hole saw
    1 inch hole saw
    drill
    yarn needle

    Reply
  • May 22, 2011 at 5:42 pm
    Permalink

    Hello,
    I am thinking about building a BSF composter out of cement blocks and leaving the bottom open and set on sand. I would like the larva to climb out and drop into my chicken coop. I can plant a large tomato plant on the south side to shade it and so I can still open the top to put food scraps in. I have tried to build the bucket verson several times but they never attracted any BSFs. My garbage cans do though. Has anyone ever tried to build one out of concrete?
    Elda

    Reply
    • May 22, 2011 at 5:55 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Elda,

      The bucket doesn’t have any special ability to attract BSF. The females are attracted to the most desirable scent which in your case is from your garbage cans. To attract BSF to the bucket you would need to create an attractive odor inside, like that from your garbage cans, and you would need to remove the desirable scent from the cans. Having said that if you’re attracting BSF to your garbage cans the easiest approach is to simply collect and transfer their eggs to whichever unit you wish to populate. The following link may be helpful and includes information about collecting eggs from garbage cans: http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/2011/05/18/attracting-black-soldier-flies-the-basics/

      You can use just about anything to culture BSF but in an ultra basic set up like you describe out of concrete blocks you will have little control over the process. There’s nothing wrong with a simple approach and the least that can result is that you learn more about BSF.

      If you want suggestions the best place to get them would be our new forum: http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/forum/

      Reply
  • May 24, 2011 at 2:26 am
    Permalink

    Hi Jerry,

    I love your blog and meticulous explanations of how to build the BSF composter! Thank you so much for sharing.

    I came across BSFs by accident when I opened up my homemade composter and saw hundreds of swarming mature larvae inside! Perhaps they really multiplied after a week of heavy food scrap disposal. My composter is a 32 gal black plastic garbage can which I cut the bottom 18″ off and sunk the top part into the ground in my backyard. I drilled a few 1/2″ holes up along the sides every 9″ around the can. Drainage is not an issue.

    I would love the BSF to keep colonizing in my current composter, so wonder if you have any suggestions to improve it. The composter is in full sun, and I live in Hawaii. I could move it to a different location or simply build a tin roof over it. I thought the BSFs would die from the heat, but they just burrowed themselves down into the bottom of the can where it’s all muddy mush. I drilled a few 1″ holes on the bottom, only to read one of your users comment about the geckos feasting on the flies. I did see a gecko in my composter this morning, so I’ll need to plug up the 1″ holes. I could drill some 1/2″ holes on the top of the lid, for the female flies to get in easier, or try building your T-connector handle, but I’m concerned about the geckos.

    Thanks again!

    Suzanne

    Reply
    • May 28, 2011 at 7:08 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Jerry,

      I love your blog and meticulous explanations of how to build the BSF composter! Thank you so much for sharing.

      I came across BSFs by accident when I opened up my homemade composter and saw hundreds of swarming mature larvae inside! Perhaps they really multiplied after a week of heavy food scrap disposal. My composter is a 32 gal black plastic garbage can which I cut the bottom 18″ off and sunk the top part into the ground in my backyard. I drilled a few 1/2″ holes up along the sides every 9″ around the can. Drainage is not an issue.

      I would love the BSF to keep colonizing in my current composter, so wonder if you have any suggestions to improve it. The composter is in full sun, and I live in Hawaii. I could move it to a different location or simply build a tin roof over it. I thought the BSFs would die from the heat, but they just burrowed themselves down into the bottom of the can where it’s all muddy mush. I drilled a few 1″ holes on the bottom, only to read one of your users comment about the geckos feasting on the flies. I did see a gecko in my composter this morning, so I’ll need to plug up the 1″ holes. I could drill some 1/2″ holes on the top of the lid, for the female flies to get in easier, or try building your T-connector handle, but I’m concerned about the geckos.

      Thanks again!

      Suzanne

      Hi Suzanne,

      All you need to do to keep the BSF coming to your composter is to keep adding food scraps. Since the composter doesn’t have a mechanism for containing larvae the population will ebb and flow, but I assume there will always be more eggs laid to replace them in sufficient quantities to see an effect.

      The full sun may lower the capacity of your composter to hold BSF larvae so you might experiment with some shading or relocating the unit. Full shade may not be necessary in your climate, but it wouldn’t hurt the BSF either.

      For the most part the larvae will be beneath the surface of the waste so your geckos probably won’t decimate the BSF population. Ants, mice, racoons or other animals that may burrow into the waste would be a bigger concern I think.

      I would love to hear more about your experience with BSF. It would be great if you registered to our new forum to continue to share and ask questions. http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/forum/

      Reply
  • May 29, 2011 at 8:46 pm
    Permalink

    I live in Utah and I’d like to try again to see if I can make the BSF bucket work. I was able to get some grubs to mature to the BSF stage. However, it was very late in the summer and I ran out of warm weather. They never mated. Anybody willing to send me some grubs to get my bucket up and running?

    Reply
    • June 7, 2011 at 9:54 am
      Permalink

      Hi John,

      I’m not sure who is selling BSF larvae other than Phoenix Worms which are a bit expensive for your purposes. If you find a good source please let us know.

      Reply
  • June 24, 2011 at 4:08 pm
    Permalink

    We have 3, one yard compost bins. Each will sit for 1 year before it is used for the growing season. They are always full of BSF larva, they are fed to the Guinea Fowl as treats. The bucket makes it much easier to collect the larva for feed. Placing it near the bins ensures a ready supply of female BSF.

    Reply
  • June 30, 2011 at 9:17 pm
    Permalink

    Hello Jerry

    I am going to try the 5 gal. BSF compost it is the only thing I can get my Green Bottle Blues to eat so I hope it works. If you can give me a shopping list that would be grate .

    Thank You
    Jason

    Reply
  • July 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm
    Permalink

    Do you know if the black soilder fly is also native to North Carolina?

    Reply
  • July 8, 2011 at 6:30 pm
    Permalink

    your fly brooder look simply. does it work? I have found BSF in my worm bins, should I take them out?

    Reply
  • July 12, 2011 at 7:29 pm
    Permalink

    Hi jerry, sorry to bother again but i was wondering does their need to be a certain angle to you ramp that the bsf larve go up to? the bio pod plus has one at 40 degrees.

    Reply
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  • September 13, 2011 at 2:32 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks for all the helpful information! I am building a BSF composter out of an old 1/2 yard rolling tote as part of an Aquaponics demonstration project for the City of Clovis. I have arranged to get the coffee grounds from a local coffee shop. Can BSF live primarily on coffee grounds?

    Reply
  • September 17, 2011 at 4:10 pm
    Permalink

    Hi, I used your guide to make a DIY composter, except a larger storage container instead of a 5 gallon bucket. I used the same method for constructing the filter and they burrowed into it immediately. The middle area was already fairly torn up 2 days later. I also used 2 layers and a lot of them had burrowed down to the second layer as well.

    Is this normal? it seemed like a lot would get stuck and the filter would get shredded quickly.

    I took it out and put the egg crate directly on the bottom and put gravel in. I wait to see if they will be able to borrow into the gravel. I have a feeling if it was just a gravel bottom they could, but the egg crate keeping the gravel packed I feel like they wont be able to borrow the gravel out of the little squares (or try)

    Have you ever tried this or do you have any other filter methods you can think of? If this doesn’t work I might just not bother using any sort of filter and let them run into the bottom (with only some filtering around the drain hole)

    The only problem I have with both those ideas is if the drain gets clogged it will be hard to service and unclog, having to get them all out then the gravel then unclog it. Maybe it would be better to just wall off the drain hole from the dirt and grubs with something permeable, like the blue filter, since they seem to like burrowing straight down and not so much sideways, maybe ti would be the best of both worlds.

    Reply
  • October 7, 2011 at 10:34 pm
    Permalink

    I made a near copy of this composter three weeks ago. Today was the first day mature larvae were harvested. 14 larvae dropped into the outlet container. I fed them to my Tilapia in the aquaponics system. They loved them. I have a few modifications but overall it is virtually the same thing. It works. I live in Nicaragua very tropical here.

    Reply
  • October 30, 2011 at 9:56 pm
    Permalink

    I live on Kauai, have a BioPod that has been working great for a month. I got BSF almost immediately. Great chicken food. In the last week blow flies have gotten really bad and it stinks like sewer. I am trying to figure out what I have done wrong and how to fix it. I have a garden so have a lot of waste, I probably have a couple of pounds of kitchen waste a day. Am I putting too much in it? I empty the liquid tea everyday. I’m wondering if I need to let it drain all the time. How often should I clean out the dirt compost, seems like there is a lot now.

    Thanks for your blog!

    Reply
  • November 8, 2011 at 8:08 am
    Permalink

    I have a question about using this in places where BSF are not native. We are in NW PA — northern zone 6. I understand I can buy a set of larvae to get started, but how do I keep the population of adults alive to keep repopulating the bucket? Will I need to start over again with new purchased larvae every year?

    Thanks!

    Reply
  • November 9, 2011 at 11:37 pm
    Permalink

    Hi, I have been trying out my Unique DIY BSF composter for a few months now and have found it very nice. It is unique from what I have seen and I thought it would be good to break the pattern of what people perceive as a workable system…. I also thought it would be a good way to give back to this forum and the people who have inspired me… oh and there is ego involved to :)

    Reply
  • November 23, 2011 at 3:14 pm
    Permalink

    First of all, I would like to thank you for all the information. It is very detailed and I appreciate that.

    I live in the US but will be going to the Philippines for a very long visit to setup a farm. I want to raise BSF larvae to feed to chickens and tilapia.

    My right hand man can’t read English. I would like to have this page translated to Tagalog. I would like your permission to do the translation. I would like to put the translated page on my web site, WikiHobbyPedia.com. Please contact me via e-mail to discuss this.

    Thanks so much!
    Bruce

    Reply
  • December 6, 2011 at 4:45 pm
    Permalink

    Well, I have certainly learned a lot here. While I never knew of BSF until stumbling across them on a chicken site I am certain that I have seen them here in western SC. And now I am certain that what I thought was a housefly maggot infestation of my composter (thought a well meaning family member had put meat scraps in there) was probably BSF larva. If memory serves they did seem to be a bit larger than housefly maggots. It is comical that for the BSF we call them larva and for the common housefly we call them maggots – one sounds so much more acceptable. With my new education I will build 2 of the design shown here and locate one on my farm and one at my residential home. Plan on having a dozen laying chickens this spring and intend to feed em to the chickens. Does anyone know what the larva’s life cycle is after it goes to the ground? Does it over winter and emerge the following year as a breeding adult? If not where do the breeding adults come form in the spring?

    Reply
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  • January 5, 2012 at 9:41 pm
    Permalink

    Thank you, Jerry, for all your information.

    I used to get the BSF larvae out of my worm bin and feed it to my beagle, who acted like they were snacks. The dog’s no longer living (old age and having to be put to sleep after an accident), but do you know if there are pathogens within the larvae? Thanks.

    Reply
  • January 28, 2012 at 10:18 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks for the very informative piece – I have completed 2 and am looking forward to putting them into service this spring but I have one question/problem – the 1 gallon jugs that I have tried are all so thin that they distort the funnel function. Did you have this issue and if so how did you deal with it? I am currently trying to use thicker orange juice containers but the handle is a greater outer diameter so Im trying to heat and dilate the vinyl tubing – all very frustrating.

    Reply
  • February 7, 2012 at 1:49 am
    Permalink

    alternatively you could cut the handle where it is inserted into the tubing so that it would collapse some and fit into the tube. then seal it with silicone (or some other non toxic sealant/adhesive)

    Reply
  • February 27, 2012 at 3:15 pm
    Permalink

    Planning on Attempting a couple of these out in Las Vegas and may have my work cut out for me. Looking around at several ideas, I think I like this one best being the 5 ga buckets easy to find, easy to work with, relatively inexpensive, and easy to tote around.

    Thinking out loud trying to resolve this filter issue (and maybe you already have). What if, rather than using the plastic balls or some other method to support the filter 2″ or so above the bottom, you use another 5 gallon bucket? Seems to me, you could drill holes, however large and however many you’d like (although smaller and more holes would likely work best) in the bottom of the inner bucket holding the composted system, line it with a type of fabric, set that into the second bucket, and then creating your drain tube from the outter bucket to release the fluid trapped. Seems to me, the typical gab when stacking these buckets is about the amount you’re looking for and the bottom of the inner bucket would be all the support needed. In addition, You could pull the entire inner bucket for some type of maintenance or cleaning of the bottom “fluid” container.

    Food for thought, and curious on your thoughts as I look to start my adventure.

    Reply
  • February 29, 2012 at 4:14 am
    Permalink

    I was wondering how to make a unit for bsf using an old bathtub.. any ideas? i would like to process alot of material, such as lama manure (they conveniently poop in the same spot every time).

    Reply
  • March 3, 2012 at 8:46 am
    Permalink

    This is so cool, I can’t wait to try it. My chickens will love the larvae!

    Reply
  • March 11, 2012 at 11:10 am
    Permalink

    Thankyou for taking the time to share this awsome design!!! Here is a supply list being I didnt see one, feel free to edit if needed…Im going to get to work ;)
    Bucket W/ Lid Cardboard
    1 ½ in T Milk Jug
    1 ½ in Coupling Large Rubberband
    1 ½ in Pipe Clear Container (for harvesting)
    (3) ¾ in Elbows Sticky Back Velcro
    ¾ in pipe Woffle Balls (holey golf balls)
    2 plastic hose caps A/C Filter
    barb fitting Plastic Mesh
    Clear Hose String, or thin rope

    Reply
  • March 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm
    Permalink

    Where do the flies comes from? I live in Delaware County, PA. Are they native to my area? And if they are, will they just naturally find the composter?

    Reply
  • April 9, 2012 at 7:46 am
    Permalink

    I didn’t read your entire list of comments and don’t know if you have considered using “stainless steel” wool pad for your filter. It won’t rust or break down like your typical steel wool pads do.However, they are more expensive. If you do use them, and they work, will you update me?
    Wendy

    Reply
  • April 21, 2012 at 9:18 pm
    Permalink

    How do you keep ‘regular’ flies from invading before the bsf get established?

    Reply
  • May 15, 2012 at 9:04 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks!!

    One of the most descriptive and informative “How to Guides” I’ve seen on the internet lately. I really appreciate you taking the time to share your experience with us.

    I will be getting one of these going in a couple weeks time, shopping for supplies next week. Like Mikal’s idea on the 2nd bucket filter idea, but will stick to the v2.1 for my first one. Look forward to more updates on people’s success failures.

    I live in the city of Little Rock and will be using this to feed neighborhood chickens.

    Reply
  • May 16, 2012 at 7:22 am
    Permalink

    I add the liquid from the bottom to my compost pile. I have no scientific proof, but I am sure that the composting process loves it. After all fruit, vegetable, and other left overs from the kitchen and chicken droppings make great compost. Earth Worms in a compost pile are a sign of good health, I have an abundance. Worm casting is known to be wonderful fertilizers so why not the product of digested foods from BFL. Just in case I don’t use the compost for a month after using the liquid, plenty of time for the soil to make it pure. I use this compost on my garden. I also use the liquid to fertilize my fruit trees. I get about a cup and 1/2 of liquid daily, this I add a gallon of water to for the trees and the compost pile. I don’t use manure or much in the way of meat products in the BFL composter. My chicken think the BFL is candy.

    Reply
  • May 28, 2012 at 11:08 am
    Permalink

    @ Faye– I was thinking of the same question– I have been reading about the use of “liquid compost” in
    an organic gardening book, and they say it is very beneficial. If you have been using it successfully, the
    liquid from the SF composter would qualify as that type of thing. I know that some catalogs sell expensive
    devices for making liquid compost (mostly for people who grow medical marijuana), but these devices
    are also easy to make.

    Reply
  • May 28, 2012 at 2:53 pm
    Permalink

    I would like to clarify that I do not use the BFL liquid directly on my veggie garden. I use it in my compost pile that sits for a time ginning before I use the compost in my garden. I really have no idea if it can be used directly in the garden itself. Probably so, but I am eating these veggies so am very careful. But I know that the liquid makes for a better, richer compost. However with Fruit trees I use the liquid directly after watering it down because it is going into the earth and will be some time before the fruit bares.

    Reply
  • July 17, 2012 at 6:34 am
    Permalink

    The mature larva crawl up the clear tube & exit into the small container outside of the bucket. What is done with these mature larvae?

    Reply
  • July 30, 2012 at 10:51 am
    Permalink

    In this system of yours (which I am currently copying!) there appears to be nowhere for flies to hatch, emerge and lay eggs. Should I assume that not all mature larvae make it to the escape hatch? Do some flies hatch out in the bucket? Can you please clarify?

    Reply
    • July 30, 2012 at 12:21 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Tim,

      You’re correct about the BSF system not accommodating hatching, emergence and egg laying; it isn’t a closed system. The mature larvae are removed from the unit and either fed to animals, released into the wild, or protected through pupation in a separate unit which I recommend during the process of building up a local (wild) BSF population. I protect mature larvae with a simple bucket with a few inches of sawdust in the bottom and some holes on the upper walls large enough to allow the emergent adults to escape but small enough to keep most predators out. I usually make them 3-4cm (1.5 inches or so). I would avoid releasing or using larvae as animal feed until the unit is at or near capacity. The survival rate of larvae released into the environment is probably very low. Mating can take place in a closed system but it requires a lot more space and knowledge than the open system that I promote. If you have more questions please feel free to ask. Good luck.

      Reply
  • July 30, 2012 at 3:01 pm
    Permalink

    Thanks Jerry. As you know, UK is not much of a climate fo BSF in the wild. My project is experimental, just to get the hang of this. Eventually I hope to have an aquaponics unit in a fair sized greenhouse, which would allow for the flies to mate I presume. For the moment, I have a small greenhouse, which I hope will be OK for now. I don’t know if the colony would survive through the winter in the greenhouse through an English winter (in the mild south west). I presume that where you live you can just let it all happen outside? When I have finished writing up what I’m doing I will post a link here. i am broadly following your instructions, but I am trying a different solution to the filter. I shall be interested to see what happens, as will some of my friends!

    Reply
  • July 31, 2012 at 2:24 pm
    Permalink

    Jerry
    How long to these grubs last if you don’t give them any new food?

    Reply
  • August 1, 2012 at 6:23 am
    Permalink

    Thanks Mike – yes, I am watching the Bristol project with interest and hope to call in on them some time!

    Reply
  • August 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm
    Permalink

    Hi, I have a question. In the section explaining the larva barrier you wrote The hook part of the “hook and loop” material is best because larvae sometimes become entangled in the hook side of Velcro.

    Is this a typo? I wouldn’t imagine that you’d want the larvae to get tangled up in the velcro.

    Reply
    • August 22, 2012 at 9:23 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Joe,

      Yes, I believe you found a typo. It should say the larvae can get caught in the loops. Thanks.

      Reply
  • August 27, 2012 at 10:54 pm
    Permalink

    Are there any BSF colonies known in Western Australia??
    I am into “Aquaponics”and want to use the larvae to feed my fish.
    Cheers,
    Otto

    Reply
  • September 23, 2012 at 4:47 am
    Permalink

    Jerry, Thank you for the very informative blog, and the step by step instructions. I built my own composter, and it’s turning out a healthy population of larvae which I give to my friend who raises chickens. He says he may trade me some chickens for the larvae. I may have fresh eggs in my future.

    Reply
  • November 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm
    Permalink

    Hello, great info, thank you very much. I live in Colorado and looking to supplement feed for my chickens with this system. I was wondering what temperature ranges people have found to work without killing your colony? I’m debating, based on time of the year, where they bucket would need to go from my hen house, barn, shop, garage, basement etc. I assume heat is not a problem but at what temperature would you consider too cold for them? No greenhouse yet but it’s in the future. Many thanks!

    Reply
  • November 11, 2012 at 11:28 am
    Permalink

    An outdoor colony would have problems as they overwinter as larvae which would have to get below the frost line to survive. Thers’s more info in the blog post ”
    Black soldier fly composting in the frigid north
    ” (link)

    For greenhouse project see “BSF project in Colorado” (link)

    Reply
  • November 11, 2012 at 11:32 am
    Permalink

    Let’s try those links again

    There’s more info in the blog post “Black soldier fly composting in the frigid north” (link)

    For greenhouse project see “BSF project in Colorado” (link)

    Reply
  • November 11, 2012 at 2:36 pm
    Permalink

    Hi Ryan,

    After posting this I see that BW also answered. Thanks Mike. :) I’ll leave my post for reference.

    I have some doubt about there even being BSF in Colorado, at least in many areas. If I recall correctly, BSF are limited by altitude, maybe 5000 feet, and I know that low humidity doesn’t bode well. Mating usually happens on warm sunny days and the temperature in the colony is best between 80 and 90 degrees F. How you keep it in that range depends on ambient temps. The first thing I would do is determine if BSF are present in your area; if they’re not then culturing them will be more complicated. If you show a photo of the larvae to people who composed food waste you would probably find someone who has seen them, assuming they’re present.

    As usual I recommend that you join our forum for a more detailed discussion.

    http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/forum/

    Reply
  • November 12, 2012 at 1:38 am
    Permalink

    I’ll do some digging, many thanks!

    Reply
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    Reply
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