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 Worms and water. 
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Joined: Wed May 18, 2011 5:31 pm
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Location: Short Mountain, Tennessee
Post Worms and water.
I wasn't sure exactly where to put this but this seems the closest.

As I stated in my introduction, "I feed worms (ensenia fetida) in a gravel bed that floods and drains . . . The bed drains into a sump which is pumped to 5 other beds where I grow various vegetables."

A few days ago a fellow came by to see my system. As I was showing it to him, he says, "I see you are using black soldier fly larvae". What? What do you mean? He pick up a little black casing (or what ever you call it) that the larvae pupate from. I thought they were just from dead house fly larvae (embarrassing). They got into my ferment and I just dumped them in thinking the water would kill them. It didn't. I picked a lot of them out, thinking they were a nuisance. Anyway, he has one of those bio-pods and uses it to, well, what ever BSFs do and help feed his chickens. He didn't really know much about them. He was amazed that these apparently pupated right in the gravel bed, in water. I just had a dumb look on my face.

I'm obviously new to BSF but I am really intrigued. Seems to me there are real opportunities for integrated agriculture/gardening.

I don't really consider what I do in this system to be vermiculture as the object is not to grow worms -- it is to grow food for human beings. The worms are just a bio-reactor. It is similar to hydroponics except I don't use chemicals. It is all organic.

I'm interesting in finding a better way to process what I feed my worms -- as what is eaten (if that is really the right word for it) must be pre-digested. For the moment, I ferment rabbit pellets and soybean meal for worm food.

m

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Thu May 19, 2011 9:01 am
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Post Re: Worms and water.
mornings wrote:
He pick up a little black casing (or what ever you call it) that the larvae pupate from. I thought they were just from dead house fly larvae (embarrassing). They got into my ferment and I just dumped them in thinking the water would kill them. It didn't. I picked a lot of them out, thinking they were a nuisance.
I can see that the adult BSF would be attracted to your 'ferment' as that sounds similar to what Jerry recommends to attract them to lay eggs (link).

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He was amazed that these apparently pupated right in the gravel bed, in water.
I do remember reading about someone finding BSFL in a 'sealed' 20 litre pail of corn syrup (or something similar - I'll try and find the link) so apparently they can survive submerged, at least for a while

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


Thu May 19, 2011 1:22 pm
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Post Re: Worms and water.
mornings wrote:
He was amazed that these apparently pupated right in the gravel bed, in water. I just had a dumb look on my face.

I'm not sure about that either. Normally I think of BSF seeking out protected dry places to pupate. What percentage of time where the larvae submerged?

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For the moment, I ferment rabbit pellets and soybean meal for worm food.m

Sounds like the perfect BSF attractant. BSF are routinely found in rabbit droppings and grain that has gotten wet such as damaged bags of feed at feed stores.

BorealWormer wrote:
I do remember reading about someone finding BSFL in a 'sealed' 20 litre pail of corn syrup (or something similar - I'll try and find the link) so apparently they can survive submerged, at least for a while
BSFL can remain submerged without any air for several hours but I doubt they would survive it for days. I wonder if the bucket was sealed from the factory. It's more likely it was re-sealed after being opened like you can do with most 5 gallon buckets. I would like to read that if you can find it BW.

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Thu May 19, 2011 8:31 pm
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Post Re: Worms and water.
Jerry wrote:
BSFL can remain submerged without any air for several hours but I doubt they would survive it for days.

Jerry, the larvae I mentioned would have only been submerged for a 10-15 minutes at a time -- the bed was flooded and drain every 3-4 hours. The gravel would keep everything nice and most but there would have been plenty air to breathe. The worms can stay submerged indefinitely as they breath through their skin -- as long as the water has plenty of oxygen entrained. How do the larvae breath?

m

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Fri May 20, 2011 1:54 pm
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Post Re: Worms and water.
A regular rinsing for 15 minutes probably wouldn't harm BSF pupae since they thrive in places with very high humidity and frequent rainfall. Still, I would expect them to choose a drier place if they were able to migrate away from the wet location. If the BSF had pupated while in the ferment and then were dumped into the gravel bed it would explain things because they could survive the gravel bed and wouldn't be able to migrate in that state.

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How do the larvae breath?

Good question! I never thought about it but my impression is that BSFL are very simple creatures and I would be surprised if they had a complex respiratory system. If I had to guess I would go with "they also breath through their skin". BSFL are often found thriving in flooded containers although they have access to some air.

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Sat May 21, 2011 4:53 pm
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Post Re: Worms and water.
Ok, I definitely know that these BSFs are laying their eggs in or around to my flood and drain gravel bed. They just keep coming. The larvae seem to thrive unless the bed is flooded for more than a hour or so. Then they float up. But it doesn't like them.

I typically bury the food two of three inches below the surface. That doesn't seem to slo them down.

I don't think this is an ideal environment for them but the larvae mature, turn black -- some of them mange to crawl out but some of them pupate and hatch out right there in gravel. I've seem them. Doesn't have to be dry.

Problem, of course, is that I have no efficient way of capturing the black larvae except by picking them out by hand. I also have no way of keeping them out. It doesn't seem to bother the worms although I'm concerned that they may be eating the earth worm cocoons.

m

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Sun Aug 21, 2011 4:21 pm
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Post Re: Worms and water.
If I had to guess on this situation it would be that the young soldier flies would probably have no trouble being in the oxygen rich water that your worms are in. The might be slightly less mobile but they could probably stay indefinitely. If the black pupae are not making it out of your environment then it is probably because they can't find their way out. If you have a lot of porous rock that is dry for a while and wet for a while they are most definitely getting lost. When the rocks are dry or almost dry it is a perfect environment to hide. I have a rock pile near my worms that is a favorite place for them to go -- even in the rainy season. I have noticed that black grubs float and can't move when the water surrounds them.

I think the best thing for you to do if you want to get rid of them is to empty all the rocks out and let them dry for a few days and put them back in. I think the problem is that when you dumped the original black soldier flies in you made the environment soldier fly friendly. The females are attracted to where their own kind are already feeding. Also a net cover may help keep future problems away.

The other possibility for you is if you have Foetida (sp?) you can drop the temperature of the system for a while (no idea on a specific length of time) and reduce the feeding. This will make it so that your Foetida have a more favorable environment.

I am not sure it will be easy to harvest the BSFL because the environment you describe seems to be almost ideal for the BSFL until the moment they becomes flies. But if you were to try and harvest them you would have to have a way to make them to move out. I have noticed with my system that the mature larvae don't like wet environments for a length of time. When I want a good harvest, and my system is drier, I will wet my system and I tend to get more black larvae moving out. If you flooded your system for a longer length of time or more frequently and put something that was above the rocks possibly around the rocks, I think the larvae would have a tendency to climb that. You don't need a fancy ramp system it can be as simple as what I have done in my setup. The larvae will seek higher ground at every opportunity. My guess is the 15 minutes of water moves them up, but you are probably not flooding all the way to the top of the rocks and so the larvae find the spots that are dry or they simply don't have anywhere to go when the get to the top. Also mature larvae float and so at times they have trouble moving when they are flooded.

Anyways, your system has many opportunities for experimentation have fun with it... Maybe this will give you some different ideas: http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=129

When I get around to It I want to get into aquaponics as well. It looks really cool.


Sun Aug 28, 2011 12:05 am
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Location: Short Mountain, Tennessee
Post Re: Worms and water.
Thanks for the comments Timothy.

I'm not sure I want to get rid of the BSF -- although, when it gets colder, I'm sure they will disappear. But they'll probably be back next spring. If there is a problem at all it is that they clog up my pump.

I have a friend who has some kind of a BSF system where the earth worms eat up or transform the stuff after the BSF larvae. What the BSF leave behind is, I suppose, a form of manure (unlike what worms leave behind). Maybe that is what is happening in my system. If that is the case, BSF would actually be making it easier for the worms to do their job of creating a water soluble plant nutrient. Obviously, I must be losing something, some amount of protein (nitrate for me), from my system as there are flies hatching out, but it is not likely much.

I don't believe my system is anywhere near ideal for BSF once they pupate. But they do hatch out anyway. Many of the BSF I've seen are not in good shape. The gravel I have is never dry -- and for the worms sake, I don't want it to be. But sometimes BSF do manage to crawl out of the bed -- those probably do fine. Sometimes the black ones will cluster along the edges and I throw them out into dry gravel.

I guess the only point I want to make is that BSF are likely more versatile than is commonly thought. In time I may try to better utilize what they do.

m

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Sun Aug 28, 2011 6:02 pm
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Post Re: Worms and water.
Wow, that's wild!! I have a good size BSF bin, a smallish vermacompost bin, and decent size Aquaponics set up. I haven't seen the BSF paying much attention to the Vermacompost bin, and have never seen an adult around the Aponics. Tho I haven't been putting food in the hydroton grow media.
May have to experament this winter!!


Sun Sep 25, 2011 9:55 am
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Post Re: Worms and water.
Jerry wrote:
BorealWormer wrote:
I do remember reading about someone finding BSFL in a 'sealed' 20 litre pail of corn syrup (or something similar - I'll try and find the link) so apparently they can survive submerged, at least for a while
BSFL can remain submerged without any air for several hours but I doubt they would survive it for days. I wonder if the bucket was sealed from the factory. It's more likely it was re-sealed after being opened like you can do with most 5 gallon buckets. I would like to read that if you can find it BW.
While looking for something else I found this lost link (link) which you might recognize (link) ;)

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


Mon Apr 08, 2013 5:06 pm
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Post Re: Worms and water.
Thanks Mike, I'll reread that thread when I have some extra time. ;)

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*I'm not an entomologist, and much of what I write about BSF is an educated guess.


Mon Apr 08, 2013 10:06 pm
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Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2011 9:26 am
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Post Re: Worms and water.
I just noticed this thread. I have three large flood and drain growbeds in my aquaponics system. I do have worms in the growbeds (eisenia foetida, and African and European nightcrawlers) which I inoculated into the bins to help digest the build up of tilapia poop that seems to find its way into them despite filtration and settling efforts.

Once my BSF colonies are thriving again, I may put some BSF larvae into the growbeds as well! They should be MUCH more efficient than worms in disposing of the fish turds! Up to now, the only BSF input into my aquaponics system has been for feed for the tilapia. My growbeds flood and drain about 3 to 4 times per hour so there should be sufficient aeration for them to survive.

I would have thought though, that if the growbeds were a viable environment for them that they would already be there - given the large local population I have here. Maybe they just need some encouragement?


Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:48 pm
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