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 Bug-Blaster Modified Unit 
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Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2015 4:59 am
Posts: 148
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Post Bug-Blaster Modified Unit
My DIY bin was created from a 20 litre tub and a large plastic pot.
I have attempted to create climbing barriers by using insulating rubber strips (the kind used for weatherproofing windows) and 100% silicone gel. For those in Australia all of this was from Bunnings.

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The bottom has a screw in plastic nut with a sink strainer glued on, but this design clogged up almost immediately, and I was forced to mix in copious amounts of dried coconut coir - which worked amazingly. Within one day the sewer stench from the undrained bucket that I used to attract the flies became sweet and musky, and more eggs were laid in short order. I am considering ignoring drainage altogether in lieu of simply adding dried coir, which is inexpensive and expands to several times its volume upon contact with water.

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My wife wanted to use this lens fluid container for the collection tube, which I initially opposed, however it's now become clear that the extremely hydrophobic interior plastic prevents crawl-outs and works really well. I had about 50 pupae self-harvest in the first few days.

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I also quickly encountered problems with ants, but I have since employed the petroleum jelly method that someone suggested on this site, and a double ring of jelly has solved that issue entirely.

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I don't know if all the eggs were laid on the cardboard before the transfer into this bin - I do remember seeing a few, and I don't know if the current entrance is too narrow for BSF. When it had a sewer smell none of the houseflies went to the top area - preferring so stumble around the sealed lid where smells must have been emanating stronger. (If you look really closely you can see a pupae who has been confounded.

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As I continue to add food, we'll see what happens with drainage.

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Thu Feb 12, 2015 3:13 am
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Post Re: Bug-Blaster Modified Unit
Aussiemoo wrote:
My DIY bin was created from a 20 litre tub and a large plastic pot.
Nice looking bin and thanks for sharing.

Quote:
...My wife wanted to use this lens fluid container for the collection tube, which I initially opposed, however it's now become clear that the extremely hydrophobic interior plastic prevents crawl-outs and works really well. I had about 50 pupae self-harvest in the first few days.
Very interesting method of preventing escapees.

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I Believe The Black Soldier Fly Has The Potential To Be A Beneficial Insect Second Only To Pollinating Bees


Thu Feb 12, 2015 12:28 pm
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Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2014 3:03 pm
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Location: Western Australia
Post Re: Bug-Blaster Modified Unit
Very interesting set-up, Aussiemoo. Have you also constructed a breeding enclosure for the adults?
Thanks for the tip re the coconut coir. I have most of a bulka-bag of cocopeat, which I think is the same stuff, sitting on a pallet with no other use in mind so I may try some in one of my Larvae Lounges.


Thu Feb 12, 2015 2:55 pm
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Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2015 4:59 am
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Location: Perth, Western Australia
Post Re: Bug-Blaster Modified Unit
Hi Rooster,
At the moment my adults are 'free range' and they will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.

When my next lot harvest I will have a surplus for the first time ever, and if you're in the neighborhood you are more than welcome to take a handful home with you.

The photos I took last night show that they've grown in size even from yesterday, and now I'm worried about having enough food for them. When i checked in after work there were a lot of pre-pupae crawling all over the interior walls so I fear that the daytime heat may have been too much for them. Also I noticed a couple of houseflies were happy enough to land right next to them and walk around, which makes me think that the chemical signalling is also affected by the health of the colony - there's no room for new egg-laying, so perhaps the fly-repellant substance is no longer secreted? The overall smell at the moment is like an early morning butcher's market, not bad, not good, just meaty.


Thu Feb 12, 2015 11:31 pm
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Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2014 3:03 pm
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Location: Western Australia
Post Re: Bug-Blaster Modified Unit
Aussiemoo wrote:
Hi Rooster,
At the moment my adults are 'free range' and they will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.
Free range BSF at my place means that if they get out, they're gone!

Aussiemoo wrote:
The overall smell at the moment is like an early morning butcher's market, not bad, not good, just meaty.
Haha, great description!

Aussiemoo wrote:
Also I noticed a couple of houseflies were happy enough to land right next to them and walk around, which makes me think that the chemical signalling is also affected by the health of the colony - there's no room for new egg-laying, so perhaps the fly-repellant substance is no longer secreted?
That can't be right, Aussiemoo, coz Wikipedia says otherwise:

"Larvae are beneficial in the following ways:

Prevent houseflies and blowflies from laying eggs in the material inhabited by black soldier fly larvae."


Even the grammar is terrible.

Aussiemoo wrote:
When my next lot harvest I will have a surplus for the first time ever, and if you're in the neighborhood you are more than welcome to take a handful home with you.
Thanks for the offer. I'll at least drop in for a look and a chat, bearing gifts of home-grown produce.


Fri Feb 13, 2015 2:08 pm
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Joined: Tue Feb 03, 2015 4:59 am
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Location: Perth, Western Australia
Post Re: Bug-Blaster Modified Unit
Just an update here:

Even the meaty smell has now gone and the smell is completely neutral. I have seen a few younger soldier flies in the mix, but most of my boys are now 75% done in my estimations. I've been using paper towels to wipe down bowls and pots after cooking, and those soiled towels go down a treat, although they do leave the cellulosic paper towel - completely cleaned.

Here's a video:



And another



Still no egg clusters that I can see in the egg trap, and I only saw one adult recently - although we have just gone through a wet spell.

Rooster the next batch have harvested whenever you're ready!


Sat Feb 14, 2015 11:04 pm
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Post Eggs!
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Not where i'd like them, but hey you take what you can. No activity spotted anywhere near the rain shield area. My guess is that the smells move upwards with the heat.


Fri Feb 20, 2015 2:07 am
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Joined: Wed Feb 12, 2014 3:03 pm
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Post Re: Bug-Blaster Modified Unit
Aussiemoo wrote:
... Rooster the next batch have harvested whenever you're ready!
I've just seen this now, Aussiemoo. Great, I hope to see you soon and we can swap notes directly.


Fri Feb 20, 2015 2:27 am
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Post Re: Bug-Blaster Modified Unit
Image

All is going well in the BSF bin at the moment, there are definitely some more design flaws that I'm noticing - one being the accumulated moisture at the apex of the bin weakening the silicone and allowing escapees, and another being the narrowness of the rain-shield preventing adults from entering.

I have been combatting drainage issues with ripped up yellow-pages and have witnessed the BSF eat the yellow pages when they are covered in food juices - so that's working well.

Finally got some eggs laid in fluted cardboard, but only when I opened the lid and was checkin on the grubs - the female flew right in and went to work! BSF are amazing like that. No new hatchings from the previous clutch, but the lid is a bad position and they may have dried out.

Rooster paid a visit and got some pupae, it was great to meet a fellow BSFer and I hope my pupae and pre-pupae serve him well!


Tue Feb 24, 2015 2:21 am
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Post Re: Bug-Blaster Modified Unit
8-) 8-)

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Tue Feb 24, 2015 2:30 pm
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Post Re: Bug-Blaster Modified Unit
DISASTER!

Hours after I checked in on the bin today the ants launched an attack.

Some of the escapee BSF pre-pupae must have cut holes in the white petroleum jelly barriers earlier in the month, and when combined with the accumulated dirt of the outdoors my defences were down. The number of ants was astonishing - they were everywhere. I saw ants in the food pile, ants in amongst the cardboard flutes...I saw an ant carrying away BSF eggs. It was horrifying.

I hastily re-applied petroleum jelly and let the ones still in the bin starve to death.

Today was a dark day. :cry:


Tue Feb 24, 2015 10:28 pm
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Post Re: Bug-Blaster Modified Unit
Thanks for the updates Aussiemoo. Keep them coming :)

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Tue Feb 24, 2015 10:32 pm
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Post Re: Bug-Blaster Modified Unit
That's terrible, Aussiemoo, and I feel for you. Bloody ants! You have to admire the little bastards' ruthless efficiency and single-minded determination, though. I may soon be in a position to return your recent favour with replacement stock, if required.

I have my own shocking ant story that I will post as soon as I get around to it.


Wed Feb 25, 2015 12:18 am
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Post Re: Bug-Blaster Modified Unit
We now have the 3rd generation!

Looks like some of the eggs survived the ant attack and have now joined gen pop in the food pile. Moisture levels have remained low, although my rain shield was somehow knocked off and there is an open hole in the top of the bin, so drying out is something to look for. I moved the bin to a new location, and it appears that liquid had been leaking directly into the soil, so much so that a tiny BSF larvae somehow thought it was a good idea to roll around in the rotting mulch down there. I don't know how he got there - perhaps an egg cluster was laid near the leaking leachate.

Had a good harvest recently, all donated to friends' chickens, and now I've decided to only use screenable media for the collection jar so that it's easier to harvest them.

Image


Mon Mar 02, 2015 10:47 pm
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Post 4th Generation
After more harvests, probably close to half a kilo in the last two weeks, I now have 4th generation eggs being laid.
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They're still preferring the lid to the egg-trap, but after some trauma to the rain shield, they're now comfortable flying into the bin when the lid is closed as well. At one stage yesterday I had 3 females laying in bin at once - all from free range. My neglected worm farm was getting stinky and this also seemed to attract females to lay there - but I didn't see any eggs despite ovipositor probing.

Three weeks ago I had a mass of escapees, maybe 50 pre-pupae escaped from a dish when I left it out overnight with another dish on top that was bumped askew. The past few days I saw at least 5 adults inside my screened patio area which is mosquito proof - meaning that they had hatched within there. I do not know how many hatched elsewhere in the garden. The mass hatchings followed our first rain in weeks, so perhaps that is a catalyst naturally.

Note
I've been using the FCR of 20% pupa mass and 80% frass/compost when talking on these forums, but my own experience has been quite different. I have not had to flush, drain, or empty my bin since I first posted on here. I have not personally removed anything except plastic coffee pods (completely cleaned out by BSF) and egg shells. You can see by comparing photos that the bin has filled up substantially - but that is no where near 80% of the volume of what I've put in there. I have put coco coir, ripped newspapers, bones, banana skins, whole eggplants, watermelon slices, and all sorts of crap that should be indigestible but the level has stayed the same for ages now. I don't know if some other factor is further breaking down the indigestible material, but I'm getting lots of grubs and hardly any waste.

Because I'm multi-generational, I don't want to remove anything that might have young in it, but I have to say I think the dry method works really well. I have not seen any dead larvae ever, and some of the larvae I saw were absolute monsters, 25% larger than the average larvae (maybe destined to be female?). I have to say, reading the problems that other people are having with disease, drainage, smells, and the like - this method is so maintenance free that I have to recommend it.


Sun Mar 15, 2015 11:40 pm
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Post Re: 4th Generation
Aussiemoo wrote:
... but I have to say I think the dry method works really well. I have not seen any dead larvae ever, and some of the larvae I saw were absolute monsters, 25% larger than the average larvae (maybe destined to be female?). I have to say, reading the problems that other people are having with disease, drainage, smells, and the like - this method is so maintenance free that I have to recommend it.
I think the commercial BSFL outfits use a 'dry' method too. Theirs results from dry feed stock (spent grains, etc.) rather than adding dry materials to wet feed but the end result is the same.

I add dry feed (dogfood pellets) to control moisture levels in my small indoor system which also results in a drier friable frass which is much easier to work with.

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Mon Mar 16, 2015 12:37 am
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Post Re: Bug-Blaster Modified Unit
I have at least four separate clusters of eggs unhatched at the moment, and two which have already hatched. There's another one I found laid directly in the food, but this might be housefly and I have not attempted to move them elsewhere.

Most of my guys are very small right now - as far as I can tell, but the few which are near maturity are very large indeed, absolute monsters. I got worried when I couldn't find any larvae and then I found almost a hundred tiny ones all writhing together in a nescafe coffee pod. There's definitely some herd mentality that goes on, whether it's some kind of chemical signal in fresh frass that attracts other larvae or what - but the entire cohort was in that coffee pod and no where else. Perhaps it was also the insulation against the cold.

The weather has been colder which has made them visibly slower, and they do not seem to be reducing the pile as quickly as they once did. They have also been avoiding a lemon that I threw in there - perhaps they need to be of a certain age to handle citrus.


Sun Mar 22, 2015 11:54 pm
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Post Re: Bug-Blaster Modified Unit
After returning from a 4 day holiday

Given that there were plenty of eggs and there was plenty of food in the pile, I had expected to return to either a large amount of harvested grubs or a wriggling, healthy food pile. Unfortunately I encountered neither, as the weekend had been wet and relatively cold. Instead there was a sluggish amount of activity in an odourless food pile that was very clay-like in consistency and had large uneaten portions of food visible.
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A number of pre-pupae had recently harvested - all of a large size, and there was even a hatched fly hanging out in the jar. It looked a little bit worse for wear and not as 'clean' as others I had seen.
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There was also a strange/flattish truncated pupae in the jar. I can't imagine a full sized BSF eclosing from such a small casing.
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I used a stick to probe through the pile whereupon I discovered my first casualties - a smaller BSF that looked flattened and a torn adult BSF. I don't know if their deaths were a result of the greater forces I used to turn through the pile or whether they were environmental - I did see mites.
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They didn't look like the stretched and elongated deaths I have seen posted on these boards, but they still worry me.

I added ripped newspaper and opened up the bin in a bid to remove excess moisture. The next bin needs better drainage even if I intend to keep it dry all the time.


Tue Mar 31, 2015 1:03 am
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Post Re: Bug-Blaster Modified Unit
Sorry no photos, but I have finally cleaned out my BSF bin after roughly four months of accumulation. The frass was pretty compacted, and I may have even killed a few BSF with the effort required to loosen it enough to get it out of the bin. Initially I thought that many of the BSF were dead, as I saw lots of light skinned larvae which were big and fat but not moving. I now believe that they were undergoing an instar shift (to fifth?) and were reconfiguring themselves to darken their skin and grow a beak. I also think that there may have been garden soldier flies in my bin, as I found several smaller, chubby pre-pupae that were a lighter colour than the normal dark brown.

There were a handful of younger larvae - some very young, but overall the bin was quite mature. It also seemed like many pre-pupae liked to try and over-winter inside the nespresso coffee pods that they had opened up and hollowed out. Much like the Aesop's fable about the fox and the woodcutter, I think many larvae crawled into the nespresso pods as young ones, and then grew so large that they had trouble getting out of the hole in the foil. I spent quite a bit of time freeing them up. To my mind that is one of the benefits of BSF composting. They are really unconcerned with other types of rubbish, but it does make it a pain in the behind to get them out. I think I will pre-emtpy the pods in the future, even though the BSF can open them themselves.

As I got to the bottom I discovered quite a few fatalities - pratically mumified and difficult to identify. The bottom smelled like turpentine - so much so that I looked around to see who was painting or working with chemicals nearby. There were live pre-pupae down there as well, but not much liquid. All the frass I took out of the bottom carried that smell as well.

In the higher layers I found the healthiest earthworm I have ever seen. it was practically bursting with vitalitiy and a very healthy pink colour. I had thrown an earthworm in there for kicks two weeks before and it seemed as if life had been good for him.

Now that I have plenty of pre-pupae harvested out of the bin I am considering what kind of structural changes to make to it. It didn't drain well, but there was no liquid accumulation at the bottom, and if anything the dryness of the bin encouraged pre-pupae to stay in there and pupate. I don't want to move to a wet bin as flushing is too much work, but perhaps I should clean the bin out more often? suggestions?


Thu Apr 16, 2015 11:12 pm
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Post Re: Bug-Blaster Modified Unit
Aussiemoo wrote:
... In the higher layers I found the healthiest earthworm I have ever seen. it was practically bursting with vitalitiy and a very healthy pink colour. I had thrown an earthworm in there for kicks two weeks before and it seemed as if life had been good for him.
Folks sometimes but the frass into worm bins for further processing as the worms will process cellulose and peels that BSFL ignore. Also 'vermicompost' or 'worm castings' are better known to (and more easily marketed to) gardeners.

Quote:
Now that I have plenty of pre-pupae harvested out of the bin I am considering what kind of structural changes to make to it. It didn't drain well, but there was no liquid accumulation at the bottom, and if anything the dryness of the bin encouraged pre-pupae to stay in there and pupate. I don't want to move to a wet bin as flushing is too much work, but perhaps I should clean the bin out more often? suggestions?
How long had the bin been in operation? Usually folks empty bins in the 'winter' when BSF are absent but if you're having them overwintering in the bin I'm not sure what to suggest.

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Fri Apr 17, 2015 1:45 am
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