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 Young BSF larvae moving/escaping? 
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Joined: Sat Apr 26, 2014 8:41 am
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Location: Waynesboro, VA USA
Post Young BSF larvae moving/escaping?
The last two mornings have been a relief. From observations, I was concerned about dwindling numbers of mature larvae in collection bin, increasing numbers of other species, and fowl smelling odor from the bin. Now, after some regular flushing, the smell is more sour than anything, still some mature grubs self-harvesting, and the other species aren't as obvious as the BSF. I definitely have impressive quantities of young BSFL in my bio-composter now (see photos).

However, I'm wondering if the flushing with water is making the food cake-up in a wet, thick layer over the pine bark in the bottom. Is it preventing oxygen from within the pine bark medium from being available to the BSFL and becoming anaerobic?

Secondly, the young larvae are crawling all over the place. Past the Velcro boundaries, out the tube to the collection bin, outside the composter and everywhere. Should I be concerned about this development or its causes?


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Wed Jun 04, 2014 11:27 pm
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Joined: Sat Mar 05, 2011 11:35 pm
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Location: Central Florida, USA
Post Re: Young BSF larvae moving/escaping?
Hi jjw, thanks for the photos and for sharing your questions.

As you've seen, there is nothing stopping the small larvae from exiting this or any other vented BSF composter, but normally this isn't an issue as long as conditions are right in the waste. After reading another post of yours from a few weeks ago I'm concerned that your composter is in full sun. Overheating would be the most likely explanation for the migration you're seeing, and if so, you should move the composter into the shade if it isn't already.

When did you start flushing the unit? It appears that you have a thick layer in the middle of the waste that might be blocking the air flow. Fortunately I can see air spaces towards the bottom of the waste, but I would like to see more in the center. Below is what I said in another post about a similar issue:

Quote:
One technique I've used when the waste seemed a little too muddy is to flood the composter and stir the waste while it's suspended in the water. This works best if you flood it well over the top of the waste. A few weeks ago I had a dense layer in the middle of a composter caused by a bunch of cornmeal I had added, and it was slowing down drainage quite a bit. While the unit was flooded I stirred it so that the cornmeal was distributed to the upper and lower levels also. It still drained a little slowly, but in a few days it was back to normal.


Maybe what I described above will work for your situation. Certainly the foul odor was sign that not enough air was being distributed throughout the waste. Please let us know what the situation is in a few days.

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


Thu Jun 05, 2014 12:28 am
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Joined: Sat Apr 26, 2014 8:41 am
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Location: Waynesboro, VA USA
Post Re: Young BSF larvae moving/escaping?
Yes, it is in full sun as I was hoping to encourage native BSF with attractant scent while it was still early spring, but things have warmed up now. I think the observed numbers indicate eggs have been laid, but I didn't notice any. I will move it today.

Thanks for the flushing suggestion, I haven't tried stirring while flooding the waste. I started flushing the unit maybe three weeks ago, but I have not allowed much time for draining afterward. Typically, I drain the tube as it fills up in the days following the flush. That is probably why there is still air spaces on the bottom.

Thanks for your help. :D


Thu Jun 05, 2014 6:54 am
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Post Re: Young BSF larvae moving/escaping?
I'm very happy to help. Thanks for helping me test and develop this system.

Have you carefully examined the holes in the Styrofoam egg laying piece? Any eggs will be easy to see as cream or yellow material filling the holes. I'm sure you have egg laying based on the numbers of larvae in your photos. Welcome to the club! :D

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


Thu Jun 05, 2014 8:30 am
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Joined: Sat Apr 26, 2014 8:41 am
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Post Re: Young BSF larvae moving/escaping?
I'm still experiencing a lot of migration of the young larvae and wonder if some of them visible along the pine bark under the food waste haven't expired (not moving at all). I moved the bio-composter into a shady spot and flushed it (as well as stirred the food a bit) three times since your recommendations. Good news is that there is no fowl odor from inside the unit. However small larvae are still everywhere on the unit inside and out like the pictures I submitted in my first post. They still don't seem happy with the environment inside the unit right now.

Any thoughts on what might be happening inside? Should I stop adding new food? I am averaging about 2-3.5 lbs of food waste added to the composter every week.


Mon Jun 09, 2014 6:39 am
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Post Re: Young BSF larvae moving/escaping?
Black soldier fly larvae sometimes rest, and often they do it in places like you describe. I've found that shining a very bright light on them will usually cause them to react.

At this point a temperature reading from the center of the waste would be helpful because it might eliminate overheating as the problem. I don't remember your location jw (adding that info to you profile would be helpful) but in most places during the warm season it's necessary to keep the unit completely shaded, not partially.

The only other juvenile migration that I've experienced was caused by too much fat in the system, which I believe made breathing difficult for the larvae. PeteB described a similar issue in this thread:LINK

It might be helpful if you fed the colony a known quantity and type(s) of food and let us know what happens in a given time frame.

I would stop flushing for now, but of course you should keep draining the accumulated liquids.

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


Mon Jun 09, 2014 9:08 am
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Post Re: Young BSF larvae moving/escaping?
From your photo, the one's with black heads are not BSF - most probably housefly :(


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Mon Jun 09, 2014 9:31 am
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Post Re: Young BSF larvae moving/escaping?
Thank you Peter.

jw, are you feeding animal flesh to your unit?

Can you please give an estimation of the distribution of size (percentage of small/med/large) for your BSF larvae?

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


Mon Jun 09, 2014 9:34 am
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Post Re: Young BSF larvae moving/escaping?
No, I have not fed the unit any animal flesh. Primarily kitchen waste - watermelon, lettuce, potatoes, coffee grinds, bread, rice, etc. The new location in which I have placed the unit is essentially full shade. The size of the larvae varies from very small <1mm to 6 mm but very few if any > 1 cm with the exception of the mature BSFL of which I am averaging 2-3 each morning. I am in Waynesboro, VA and the weather is still quite mild, but I will attempt to get a temp in the unit this week.


Tue Jun 10, 2014 12:33 am
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Post Re: Young BSF larvae moving/escaping?
Can you please give an estimation of the distribution of size (percentage of small/med/large) for your BSF larvae?

60%/35%/5%


Tue Jun 10, 2014 12:35 am
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Post Re: Young BSF larvae moving/escaping?
That should eliminate overheating. I'm wondering if you need to feed more. If the larvae are finding a lot of bark, and not much food, they may be searching for food. As a test you might try adding a thin layer of new food/waste that covers the whole surface area. The slices from half a loaf of old bread would be easy to use, but it could be anything that is fairly soft. I would try to keep the food touching the walls of the composter as much as possible.

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


Tue Jun 10, 2014 9:25 am
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Post Re: Young BSF larvae moving/escaping?
I think I have your answer jw: LINK

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


Tue Jun 10, 2014 11:18 pm
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Post Re: Young BSF larvae moving/escaping?
On the other hand, in your photos I don't see any indication of the film that would be present on the walls of your unit if there was a resin issue. Let's just say that it's one possibility for now. Please watch for any sign of a hazy film on the composter walls, which would indicate too much pine resin as the problem.

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


Wed Jun 11, 2014 10:01 am
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Post Re: Young BSF larvae moving/escaping?
How is your composter doing jw?

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


Sun Jun 15, 2014 8:40 am
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Post Re: Young BSF larvae moving/escaping?
Thanks for checking in Jerry. Unfortunately, I have been out of town for a week on business and have not been able to problem-solve regarding the pine bark theory. Attached are some pictures I took yesterday and I think it might very well be a factor in the poor environment for BSF. While I was gone my family fed a little and drained the bio composter each day. I know we have lots of other species too, but I suspect my BSF population has taken a hit.


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Sun Jun 15, 2014 5:20 pm
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Post Re: Young BSF larvae moving/escaping?
Couple more


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Sun Jun 15, 2014 5:21 pm
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Post Re: Young BSF larvae moving/escaping?
Your situation could of course be different, but I didn't observe larvae dying from the resin. I saw some of them migrating out of the unit, but most did not. I had a good quantity of food for them to live on, and that may have made a difference. In other words, maybe they were able to escape the resin by staying in the fruit and vegetables that were present. I had added a lot of pineapple rinds, and I wonder if the acidic nature of the fruit helped in any way.

Are you considering the Dawn Ultra treatment as I outlined in this thread, or are you thinking of removing the pine bark?

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


Sun Jun 15, 2014 5:34 pm
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