12 and 6 gal composters

Black Soldier Fly Bio-Composters – 6 gallon (23 liter) and 12 gallon (43 liter)

This system is designed to be operated outdoors, in areas with a wild black soldier fly population. Please confirm that BSF are present in your area before ordering. Our BSF mapping project may help, and you may contact us for an opinion.

Composters are built as orders come in, and the time to ship can be from a few days to a few weeks.

(Shipping anywhere in the U.S. – Please contact us for international rates)

6 Gallon Bio-Composter – Florida residents (SHIPPED TO FL ONLY) $68 + shipping & handling

12 Gallon Bio-Composter – Florida residents (SHIPPED TO FL ONLY) $88+ shipping & handling

6 Gallon Bio-Composter $68+ shipping & handling

12 Gallon Bio-Composter $88+ shipping & handling

The 6 gallon (23 liter) bio-composter has a working (wet) capacity of 5 gallons (19 liters), and will process approximately 2 pounds (1 kg) of household food waster per day, depending on several factors such as type of waste, ambient temperature, colony density, proper maintenance, etc. The 12 gallon  bio-composter has 10 gallon (38 liter) wet capacity, and can process approximately 5 pounds (2.2 kg) per day.

Refinements are constantly being made, and I will try to change the photos as needed, but you should expect the unit you receive to be a little different from any photos on this site.

You can navigate to the following link for information about the concept and details of the original version of the 6 gallon unit: LINK

Bulking material – not included (some type of bulking material must be added for proper operation)

This system is designed to be used with some type of bulking material, and the drainage system will not function properly without it. The amount required is between 1/3 and 1/2 of the total volume of the composter. This can include wood mulch, hardwood lump charcoal (see below), pine bark, etc. We have discovered that while pine bark mulch works very well in most cases, some batches contain a lot of resin which can possibly gum up the system. We still prefer pine bark, and if you use a batch that has excess resin you can easily fix the issue by rinsing with Dawn Ultra dish soap. For more on our experience with pine bark you can read the following forum post: LINK

Hardwood lump charcoal (biochar) – not included

We have successfully used biochar as half of the bulking material, and in theory, charcoal could have advantages in a BSF composter. If you would like to research biochar this article is a good place to start: LINK

The charcoal we use is sold for cooking on barbecue grills, and is fairly common. Here are a few links were it is sold: LINK LINK Lump charcoal is different than charcoal briquettes which we do not recommend. Lump charcoal typically comes in irregular shapes and sizes, and it’s probably best to break it into pieces that are approximately 1 inch/2.5cm square or smaller, but not so small that it could clog the drainage slots. You can easily break it up with a hammer.

Personalized support

Advice about any aspect of using this composter is available at our forum. This is much better than answering questions via email because everyone benefits by making the answers public. Another benefit of the forum is that the entire community is able to answer questions so a wider knowledge base is available. Registering and posting comments on the forum is a simple process and we will be happy to help with the process as needed. The registration link is located in the upper left corner of the forum: FORUM

You may find the Bio-composter support section of our forum here: LINK

Bio-composter Shipping

We normally use FedEx ground to ship the composters to the 48 contiguous United States. In some cases the cost of FedEx is significantly higher than our published shipping price, and if so we will use USPS instead.

We use the same flat shipping rate to Hawaii and Puerto Rico, but we use the USPS, and shipping takes a few weeks. Expedited shipping is available, but it is relatively expensive.

Durability

Our composter is made from lightweight, but relatively durable components. We have used units made from similar materials for several seasons, but do not offer a guarantee, which allows us to price the unit as low as possible. Damage during shipping is covered by FedEx.

Assembly

Assembly consists of attaching the lizard barrier, bolting the two lid pieces together,  and attaching the drain tube/valve. Instructions for set up and operation can be found here: LINK

You can find a video of the assembly process here: LINK

Features

Drainage system

This system consisting of vertical and a horizontal slotted pipe, combined with bulking material as mentioned above (not included), and has been proven to provide superior drainage. The slots in the pipe are better than circular holes for containing the compost while allowing effluent (liquid waste) to pass through. This provides good filtration without the problems associated with filter pads, screens, etc. Blockages in the drain plumbing are easily cleared by flushing with a stream of water from a garden hose. The perforated pipes also allow air to reach the lower levels of the waste and therefore help control anaerobic bacteria. The larvae aid in keeping the slots open by constantly passing through them resulting in a low maintenance-effective drainage system.

CAUTION: The vertical drain pipe is held at a 90º angel by a small plastic piece that is glued to the horizontal drain pipe. Twisting the drain outlet (horizontal) pipe may resulting in breaking that plastic piece. If you wish to re-position the flexible vinyl drain tube by rotating it on the drain outlet, it is best to support the vertical pipe while doing it. Over time, the vinyl tube will begin to rotate more easily on the drain outlet.

Drain tube and valve

The key to keeping this system balanced is regular rinsing/flushing with water. To make this process as convenient as possible we include a length of flexible vinyl tubing and a high quality pvc valve. You can learn more about this by reading the assembly and operation page: LINK  We also include a short length of pipe that is shipped inserted into the valve, but not glued. This helps channel the liquid into a neater stream.

Self harvesting system

One benefit of BSF larvae is that, upon maturing, they will migrate away from the food source (waste). This allows for passive systems for collecting them. This single ramp system has been proven to be very efficient at channeling the mature larvae into the collection bag. You may view a video of a test of this system here: LINK

The clear canister that is included with these composters allows the user to see what type and quantity of larvae have been collected. It resists flooding by rain and contains the larvae very well. You may install the 90º pvc elbow with the short length of pipe without using glue as the friction should be enough to hold it in place.

Larva barrier

BSF larvae are very good at escaping from containers and Velcro hook tape is a relatively effective way to contain BSF larvae. The Velcro in this unit has been carefully applied and should resist peeling. Occasionally it becomes necessary to repair gaps (vertical tunnels) that form if the tape pulls away from the wall of the unit. These areas can be carefully cut out and replaced using the extra Velcro included with your composter, or they can simply be filled with silicone caulk.

Egg collection strips

egg collection strips

Your Bio-Composter ships with a strip of corrugated cardboard sandwiched between two strips of corrugated plastic installed on the lid. These are attractive egg laying sites for female BSF entering your composter. The plastic pieces can be cleaned as old egg casing build up, and of course you can add more cardboard strips as needed. Cardboard strips are handy if you want to transfer eggs to another unit in that you can simply drop them into the new composter and they will protect the eggs until they hatch and then the cardboard will break down in the compost.

 

Lizard/frog barrier

Lizards and frogs can make a significant impact on your BSF colony by eating the females as they enter the unit to lay eggs. The lizard barrier provided is a plastic mesh that allows the BSF females to enter the unit but prevents these small predators from entering.

27 thoughts on “Purchase the BSF Bio-composter

  • June 19, 2014 at 12:01 pm
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    are the black soldier flies on the north shore of Kauai?
    thanks

    • June 19, 2014 at 6:42 pm
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      Yes, to my knowledge all of the Hawaiian islands have BSF.

  • June 24, 2014 at 10:39 am
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    I love your ingenuity – I will definitely support you and get a composter.
    As per the kit. There is one on amazon that claims “latest breed, flies and larvae”. As opposed to your egg kit for attracting local flies, what is your opinion? I am in southern cali, and Im pretty sure the black flies that I thought were wasps might actually be soldier flies, so your kit would probably work…

    Cheers!

    • June 24, 2014 at 12:37 pm
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      Hi Shaun. Thanks for your support.

      I don’t know if I found the exact seller that you referred to on Amazon. I don’t understand “latest breed”; as far as I know there is only Hermetia illucens – black soldier flies and larvae. I sell eggs because I would rather have the larvae develop in my composter for as long as possible, instead of getting medium or large larvae that will mature in a week or two. The eggs I ship will be medium size larvae in as little as a week in hot weather. Keep in mind that BSF are plentiful in your area, so you don’t require a starter kit at all. If you ferment some fruit/grain/vegetables you can attract females from your local population. In fact, the main purpose of a starter kit is to do just that, attract local BSF.

      It’s true that any BSF larvae you get will eventually pupate, emerge as adults and mate, and then some will find your composter and lay eggs. That might be the best route in areas with sparse BSF populations, but where BSF are plentiful there’s no need to wait for bought larvae to complete that cycle. The local BSF should find your composter well before that.

      I hope that helps. Please consider joining our forum, especially if you start culturing BSF.

  • June 27, 2014 at 6:23 am
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    HI, Luv your equipment.
    Do you ship to AU and would you happen to know if there are any BSF in the southern Queensland area – east coast?
    Thanks

    • June 27, 2014 at 8:02 am
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      Many thanks bert!

      Yes, BSF are found in your area. We can ship to AU, but I’m afraid the cost would be excessive.

      I’m working on making the plans available for those who want to build one of my composters themselves. Even with instructions it’s a fairly difficult project for anyone without certain tools and skills…

  • July 7, 2014 at 6:59 am
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    Love the system you build. Recently received one from my friend and we want to set up more here in Jersey City, NJ. I spoke during the Jersey City Zero Waste conference about BSF and there is a growing interest. We are sharing the system with the rest of the city.

    • July 9, 2014 at 5:15 pm
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      That’s great Dennis, thanks! If you’re inclined to join our forum we would love to hear about your progress there. I think a lot more people will see it there than here in the comments on the blog. Thanks again.

  • July 22, 2014 at 5:23 pm
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    Do you know if I could do this in Ireland?

    • July 23, 2014 at 8:02 am
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      Hi Jerilyn. Indoor culturing of BSF can of course be done anywhere, but I honestly don’t know if you can operate an outdoor system such as the type I specialize in. Plant hardiness maps are often a good indicator of BSF presence, with zone 6 and up being the normal BSF range. (Being in zone 6 is no guarantee of BSF, and warmer zones are more likely to have them and have denser BSF populations in general.) Hardiness zones are based on average low temperatures which are an important factor, but BSF prefer hot weather so very mild summers would seem to limit their range.

      We know there are BSF in Seattle, WA so I compared historical high temperatures there with Ireland. Your weather is cooler to the point where I have doubts there are wild BSF there. We typically don’t see much activity below 21ºC.

  • July 26, 2014 at 1:20 pm
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    I really like the idea of rinsing and filtering the BSF compost in order to get liquid fertilizer. Is it possible to burn my plants with this type of fertilizer? I can’t find any information about dilution ratios or how much water to use to rinse the compost. I don’t yet have one of your nice fancy units, but it is on my Christmas list!

    • July 26, 2014 at 3:40 pm
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      Hi Kelly. I’m not aware of any controlled studies using the liquid. To my knowledge our composter design is the only one that involves adding fresh water. Most BSF composters aim to drain and collect only the liquid that leaches out of the waste from BSF activity. I imagine that means the liquid from our composters is significantly diluted. I routinely collect and pour it directly on my ornamental plants and I’ve never noticed any burning. One of my goals is to do a test comparing our liquid to the commercial fertilizer.

  • July 26, 2014 at 4:02 pm
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    I love your compact, clean, efficient design Jerry.
    We live just south of Windsor, Ontario (South of Detroit MI) and we are the local distributor of Phoenix Worms.
    We’ve attempted in the past to raise our own BSF with very limited success and gave up on the idea.
    We always have some flies available (in small quantity) and I think we are now ready to try your system for year round indoor harvesting, if that’s possible?.
    We do have a Detroit mailing address you can ship to.
    I’ll be placing our order in the next few days.
    Thank you Jerry for so much great information, and a great looking harvester too!

    Kindest regards,
    Peter Brenner
    McGregor, Ontario, Canada

    • July 26, 2014 at 5:21 pm
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      Hi Peter. Thanks for the kind words and for considering our composter. Our system is designed to be used outdoors. In theory it can used in a greenhouse, although I don’t have experience with that. Before investing in our composter you might want to look into indoor BSF systems. Our forum moderator lives in Canada and has had success keeping several generations of BSF. His system is very small in scale, but the topic he started about it has a lot of great information you might enjoy. You can find that topic here: LINK

      • July 27, 2014 at 6:53 am
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        Thank you for your integrity Jerry …

        I still think that your system would work sufficiently well in a greenhouse environment.
        Since we only get 3-4 months of the year when the outdoor temperatures are suitable, for BSF rearing, and we will be supplying our customers BSF larvae year-round, Annie and I are willing to give your system a try.
        We are placing our order for the 12 gallon today and hopefully we can receive it this week so we can get started ASAP.

        Thanks again Jerry for all your assistance.

        Kindest regards,
        Peter Brenner

  • August 17, 2014 at 6:41 pm
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    I am fascinated by these larvae. I found a bunch of them eating my watermelon in my compost bin, eating at a visibly rapid pace!

    I am so interested now, that I want to purchase one of your kits, however I have a few questions first…

    1) While summer time here in the pacific northwest seems like a great climate to breed these little fellas, what happens in the winter time? Do they all die and then I attract more in the spring? If so do I just use the BSF composter as a regular composter with earth worms in it? Or do I leave it alone until spring? Or do the worms and flies continue their process outdoors throughout the winter?

    2) My second question is: The reason why these guys fascinate me is that it seems like a great way to make compost and add to it to my garden beds, I want to be certain that the compost that these buggers create are good for vegetable garden beds? If so I love it! They obviously create compost much faster than my red worms do. It would be great to implement this in the garden too.

    • August 18, 2014 at 7:44 am
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      Hi J. Rose, thanks for your interest.

      At some point in the fall BSF will stop breeding, and our composters no longer get new eggs to replace maturing larvae. The larvae in the unit will continue to eat as long as the temperature inside of it is above 50ºF/10ºC. Some of these late larvae will mature (turn dark and stop eating in preparation for pupation), but some will slow down and go dormant in the composter. In the wild, larvae will be digging in for the winter to avoid freezing which would kill them. At this point there are a few options. One is to empty the unit until the season begins again in the spring. It’s also possible to keep the colony going through the winter by insulating the composter. It’s been indicated that you can continue to process some waste with an insulated unit in cold weather, but I haven’t found clear guidelines. BSF culturing is still in its infancy so we have a lot of unanswered questions. In theory you could add worms to the unit for the winter and continue processing waste that way, but again I couldn’t tell you exactly how to go about that.

      BSF casting should make a good soil amendment, but there hasn’t been must testing that I know of. Compared to worms, BSF make little compost because they process waste so thoroughly the volume of their casting is small. My design has a unique drainage system and I use it to flush the composter with water on a regular basis. This rinses out the fine BSF castings and I pour this brown liquid directly on my plants. Again, I can’t give you hard data showing the benefits of this liquid, all I can say is that my plants do well. I produce 5 or 6 gallons of this liquid per week in my small composters.

      As you can see there is room for much discussion and experimentation. If your interest in BSF grows, I recommend joining our forum so that you can get input from people with a wide variety of experience.

      • October 28, 2014 at 3:32 am
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        i have soldier flies in my cmpsoot they are amazing and keep it perfect. i haven’t tried the chicken feeder but have posted the link to the original author so you can ask them. enjoy!

  • September 3, 2014 at 1:45 pm
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    Hi,
    I’m in the. British Virgin Islands and stumbled across the BSF larvae in my bin.
    Had some good success making my own bin, but had to interrupt the cycle when I went on vacation and am impatient to start again.
    Can you ship the eggs to me?
    I’ve already contacted our local Agriculture department and have an okay for an import permit.
    Huge thanks for all your useful info!

    • September 3, 2014 at 10:34 pm
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      Hi Tarajeanne. If you would like to send us any forms that are needed we’ll take a look. Please us the contact link on the right sidebar under “BSF pages”.

      Thank you.

  • September 4, 2014 at 1:46 pm
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    How many NSF larva can be produced from the 12 gallon unit? I have a flock of about 50 various birds that I am feeding and want to make sure I get something that produces enough….
    Also I’m wondering if the unit is kept in a heated basement through the winter if it could survive thru the winter?
    Also, what types of “garbage” would to add to it? Same stuff you would put in a compost bin?
    Thanks so much!
    Jennifer

    • September 7, 2014 at 7:08 am
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      Hi Jennifer. You’re very welcome.

      I tested the 6 gallon composter and found that I could process about 2 pounds of waster per day. Of course results will vary depending on the type of food, ambient temperatures, colony size, etc. There may be some gain in efficiency with the 12 gallon from its larger surface area, so I wouldn’t be surprised if 5 pounds per day was a good estimate.

      These systems aren’t designed to be used indoors. In a heated basement I would expect the larvae to mature fairly quickly. Without an elaborate indoor breeding system you wouldn’t have new larvae to replace the larvae that mature. The larvae don’t reproduce, it’s the winged adult stage, and with this system that happens outdoors in warm/hot weather. There are methods for indoor breeding, but they are somewhat complex and if you want to discuss that I suggest joining the forum. I don’t have experience with indoor methods but there are members on the forum who do.

      BSF can eat a long list of waste including everything we eat, manure, dead animals and more. They can shred, but not digest, leaves, grass or paper.

  • September 10, 2014 at 11:56 am
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    Do you have an agent in either Ireland or the UK?

    • September 11, 2014 at 12:07 pm
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      Sorry Ivan, we do not.

  • September 22, 2014 at 9:23 am
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    I see the problem with trying to do this indoors, but what about in a small greenhouse? We do have BSFL in my area (Raleigh NC), but it is getting late in the season. Our greenhouse is not a true four season (it gets in the low 50s/upper 40s in the winter in there, it has a dirt floor and is about 12’x10′. I’d love to compost with BSFL year round, as would my chickens & ducks. Any information/thoughts/advice on keeping a unit in the winter in these conditions?

  • October 6, 2014 at 2:42 am
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    Hi Jerry,

    Black Soldier Fly season is just starting here in Australia and I just loved your composter, I know that sending it over might be too expensive, but would you be able to give me a quote (via e-mail)? If prohibit Ely expensive, would I be able to purchase the plans?

    Thanks a lot,
    Victor

    • October 6, 2014 at 9:20 am
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      Hi Victor,

      It’s been my plan for a while to make plans available, but I’m not there yet. BSF season is finishing where I live, so maybe I can accomplish this soon. I will certainly let you know. If you would like a quote, please use the contact link in the right column. We will need an exact address.

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