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DIY BSFL Bin

DIY BSFL Bin

Believe it or not, one of the most popular posts on this entire site happens to be one that has nothing to do with worm composting! Go figure.
It seems that more than a few of you have a keen interest in Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) as composting organisms – and I certainly can’t fault you there. I myself find the topic to be quite fascinating as well. I think the only thing that’s really held me back from actually trying this approach out is the fact that I live in a relatively cold climate (where you don’t find naturally occurring BSFs).

The post I was referring to above is “Vermiman’s DIY BSFL BIN“, which was posted about a year and a half ago and STILL continues to receive new comments (68 in total, as I write this post). Some of you may recall that the initial interest generated by the post, and the connection I made with Dr. Paul Olivier (who I must apologize to for mistakenly referring to as “Dr. Paul Oliver”) – a well known BSF expert. As a result of this connection, I posted a YouTube video version of a intriguing powerpoint presentation that Dr. Olivier put together (you can view it here: “Black Soldier Fly Larvae – Revisited“).

Anyway – long story short, I have been recently thinking about adding more BSFL content here at RWC, and strangely enough someone sent me an email the other day informing me that Dr. Olivier had some publicly available plans for a DIY BSFL system. I e-mailed Dr. Olivier directly and he provided me with more info (and some images). As such, I thought this would be the perfect time to launch a new “Soldier Fly Larvae” category on the blog, where I’ll add all future posts on the topic.

Here is a link to the PDF plans for this system: DIY BSFL Bin

Hopefully some of you Do-It-Yourselfers with an interest in BSFL composting will give this system a try. If you have any questions/comments be sure to post them here. If Dr. Olivier’s contribution to previous discussions here is any indication, I have little doubt that he’ll be more than happy to field any questions and take part in any discussions that result from this posting.

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Written by Bentley on April 9th, 2010 with 24 comments.
Read more articles on Soldier Fly Larvae.

24 comments

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Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Mike
#1. April 11th, 2010, at 3:38 PM.

Bentley I find the whole BSFL composting idea fascinating too.

Looking forward to you having all related info in a new “Soldier Fly Larvae” category on the blog

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bruce Westfall
#2. April 11th, 2010, at 11:57 PM.

I think BSF are an excellent addition. After all, you have a group of people here fascinated with worms eating their garbage, right? Do you really think a page entitled “Fly Maggots eating rotting things” is going to attract some higher class of people??

Go Worms! Go Maggots!

I guess our team colors are red, white and black now.

I live in southern Ohio where the temperature is not known for tropic breezes in February. Last year I found a BUNCH of wiggling black things in a barrel with old compost and chicken manure. ( Wish I knew then what I know now ) They must be around here – just not sure when to start trying to attract them again.

So I’m trying now. And will try to let everyone know when the little bundles of joy arrive.

P.S. Oh yea, my worms are doing great!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jerry
#3. April 13th, 2010, at 1:53 PM.

This is a good thing. People working with worms will often find BSF in their bins so understanding them is a good idea whether you want to specifically culture them or not. Worms thrive in BSF castings resulting in the most efficient process for handling putrescent waste. In the future I think we’ll see a lot of people culturing both species and a DIY BSF unit will help to introduce BSF to a wider audience.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Mark in SB
#4. April 13th, 2010, at 8:56 PM.

This ought to be a good discussion, and a good time of year to start it. There are not many discussion groups on BSFL.

I live in climate zone 9-10, (So-Cal coast), but so far the BSFs haven’t visited my DIY BSFL bucket. What about other sightings?

- Mark in SB

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Werner
#5. April 24th, 2010, at 10:51 PM.

Dear people,

I live in Europe, in the Netherlands, not really the location where to find BSF, however, im going to try to get them to reproduce in a Greenhouse. If you all got some tips or suggestions, please, let me know

If people are interested ill keep you all updated on how things work, and go.

-Werner

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jerry
#6. April 26th, 2010, at 12:12 AM.

I recently uploaded a video to YouTube demonstrating how my DIY BSF bucket composter operates.

Part 1

Part 2

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com tony
#7. April 28th, 2010, at 10:11 AM.

i live in dayton ohio do i have a native population of bsf here?
or could i get a starter culture.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com tony
#8. April 28th, 2010, at 7:44 PM.

hi jerry the last few weeks i have read a few of your web links and like your 5g bucket diy bsf project and plan to make one this week.is there some were i can get a few bsy to start off with or are they here in dayton ohio native?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jerry
#9. April 29th, 2010, at 3:29 AM.

tony, BSF might be in Dayton but I haven’t hear any reports of them there yet. I did hear of wild BSF in Champagne, IL so that’s a good sign. You can always get “Phoenix worms” which are a brand name for black soldier fly larvae. Phoenix worms are raised specifically as food for exotic pets so the cost is high if you want them to seed a BSF unit.

I will be offering starter kits on my site in a few weeks. There might be a few other sites selling them too, I just don’t know at the moment. Even with a kit it’s difficult to culture BSF where they don’t exist in the wild. If they are there then a kit is purely optional. Also, it wouldn’t be efficient to get a starter kit before your weather is warm enough to support mating. I’m close to Tallahassee and here mating begins in mid April when the days start to get into the 80′s.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com tony
#10. April 29th, 2010, at 2:27 PM.

ok thanks, i will wait untill mid june when its warmer.i culture meal worms and wax worms in the house over winter for bait and chicken feed but the number are way lower then bfs so i thought i would try them out here,is it posible to seed a area then get them started in a new micro area?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jerry
#11. April 30th, 2010, at 1:05 PM.

Starting a population in an area with no wild population is possible, but I think it would require a lot of effort. I can only guess because I haven’t tried it. If you don’t have a wild population it’s probably because the BSF can’t survive the winter where you are. To build up a micro population you might need to overwinter larvae/pupae in a semi-protected area that stays above freezing.

To be clear; a starter kit and is not designed to be the only source of BSF for building up a dense colony. Its primary purpose is to speed up the process of attracting females from the wild population. The theory is that even a tiny colony like that from a starter kit helps guide the local BSF to your unit via a distinctive but very mild scent.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bruce Westfall
#12. April 30th, 2010, at 1:55 PM.

Tony – I’m just acroos the state from you near Athens and I know we have a very similar climate. There are most definitely BSF here, though I don’t know if they are active yet. They are apparently a very widespread species, but little known since the fly is rarely seen and only people with compost piles seem to notice them.

If there is a farmers market around, take a picture of the larvae and see if some of the eco-farmers ( we call them hippies still in Athens ) have seen them. You might get a bucket of them for free.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bruce Westfall
#13. April 30th, 2010, at 2:22 PM.

Tony – I’m just across the state from you near Athens and I know we have a very similar climate. There are most definitely BSF here, though I don’t know if they are active yet. They are apparently a very widespread species, but little known since the fly is rarely seen and only people with compost piles seem to notice them.

If there is a farmers market around, take a picture of the larvae and see if some of the eco-farmers ( we call them hippies still in Athens ) have seen them. You might get a bucket of them for free.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jerry
#14. April 30th, 2010, at 3:54 PM.

Bruce, that is good information and advice. I always suggest that people interested in finding BSF talk to anyone in their area who does traditional composting or raises animals. Cow and horse manure aren’t great for BSF but they are commonly attracted to chicken, pig, and rabbit manure. If you find some material with BSF larvae in it try to get both the larvae and some of the material itself (compost or manure) to start your colony. That material will probably have the remaining scent of other BSF larvae and this will help attract your local BSF.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Tarvus
#15. December 5th, 2010, at 6:03 AM.

This is a really cool website! Some years ago, I started composting. Shortly later, I started raising Eisenia Foetida. Both my compost and my worm bins soon became over run with Black Soldier Fly larvae.

I went over to the dark side and started raising Black Soldier Fly larvae exclusively. Now, I raise them commercially. They compost EVERYTHING! Pet waste, meat and dairy products, avian manure, human manure, fish, mammal and poultry viscera, the fruit and vegetable stuff you feed your worms – even bacon fat! The only thing they don’t do well is high cellulose stuff.

I’ve read with particular interest your blog posts on “home made manure”. Let me say this. Running the kitchen scraps thru a blender or food processor is not necessary. Run them instead thru a colony of Black Soldier Fly larvae! They’ll process EVERYTHING! In addition, through bio-remediation, they will eliminate virtually ALL of the harmful pathogens worm farmers tend to worry about with processing pet wastes. Your worms will get rid of what the BSFL don’t! Feeding your worms BSF feces is every bit as safe as feeding them pig, cow, horse, human, or poultry feces. The BSF manure is automatically innoculated with beneficial microbes that make it perfect for a staple food for worms.

In the past, when introducing eisenia foetida worms to a new bin, I had real problems with crawl off. When a mix of moist, aged cardboard chunks and BSF manure is used as a substrate, there is virtually ZERO crawl off in my experience.

I have an abundance of BSF manure. While I could use it all as a soil amendment/mulch for my tropical fruit trees, I have decided to take it a step further and get back into vermicomposting. Presently, I have a colony of eisenia foetida going. But I have a number of bins of BSF feces and am going to experiment with a variety of other composting worms to see which prosper best here in southwest Florida. Perionyx Excavatus are native here, but I am going to try Pheretima hayawana, African Nightcrawlers, and European Nightcrawlers all in separate locations to see which prospers best in my conditions. I will share as data develops.

I would urge all worm farmers to give Black Soldier Fly feces a try as a precursor to feeding your worms. BSF feces won’t overheat, it’s biologically active the moment you feed it, it’s cheaper than livestock feces, it doesn’t stink, it’s moisture content is ideal, and BSF are MUCH easier to raise than other livestock sources of feces!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com MikeB
#16. December 6th, 2010, at 8:42 PM.

Tarvus do you have a website or would you provide some details on your operation?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Tarvus
#17. December 6th, 2010, at 10:08 PM.

MikeB, thanks for your interest, but no, sorry! No website for my BSF operation. (Not yet anyways).

I started with a standard BioPod after reading about it on http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/

Subsequently, I build a plywood bin very similar to the one described in this article. It sits on a stand and I incorporated an effluent drain that drains into a container. The exit ramp has some board strips that channel the exiting grubs into a 2″ PVC tube leading to a covered bucket. The surface areab of the bin at capacity is a bit over 4 sq ft.

My next bin was contructed from a 35 gallon trash can sawed diagonally. I bolted the lid in place and welded/sealed it with a bead of hot melt glue. I incorporated a filter and drain in it as well – along with an effluent container, It’s covered with a sheet of 1/4 inch plywood cut to fit. I suspend a bucket from the open end of the bin and mounted the bin on a stand such that the cut edge is parallel to the ground and the side slopes up at about a 35 degree angle. The grubs march up the bin and collect in the bucket.

My market is for the soldier fly eggs so I was feeding them a mix of soaked and soured cracked corn, Starbucks coffee grounds, saturated horse feed (with molasses) and kitchen scraps to attract the mature, laying female flies. Despite harvesting every single egg cluster I could find, the population exploded and soon I was at full capacity again.

For my next bins, I cut the bottoms out of three 35 gallon plastic garbage cans and buried the open ends 8 inches into the ground. I removed 90 pounds of grubs from my existing bins and seeded each of the garbage cans with them. These bins have no exit ramps though. I planned to feed them until full, harvest eggs from them, and let the grubs finish off the compost at which time it will be innoculated with eisenia foetida to process further into vermiocompost. Again, despite harvesting every egg cluster I can find, each of these bins has exploded in a huge population of baby grubs.

Since the garbage can bins did not allow for exiting grubs, I then built a bin from a 30 gallon Rubbermaid tote that has two sloping exit ramps constructed from 2″pvc pipe. Again, it incorporates a filter and drain for effluent. I’ve been scooping full sized larvae out of my “no exit” bins and allowing them to mature to the crawl off stage from this rubbermaid tote bin.

All the pupating larvae I store in buckets with pine shavings. In two or three weeks, they hatch out and the flies head off into the wild to mate and lay eggs which I then hope to harvest.

Though still seeing some egg laying, it has slowed due to cooler weather here is southwest Florida the last week or two. My next project is to erect a recently purchased 10x10x7 foot greenhouse tent, hatch my pupating BSF within the tent and entice them to mate and lay eggs in some new bins I will locate there.

I am also experimenting with some “in-ground” BSF bins which I will also innoculate with worms once they are completely full.

I have pictures of most of this but have not organized them to share. If you have any particular questions MikeB, let me know and I will try to answer.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Tarvus
#18. December 6th, 2010, at 10:32 PM.

MikeB, here is a link to a video where you can see three of the different bins I use and described in my post above. The small rubbermaid totes you see in the video are my egg traps. A few days after I took this video, I harvested 90 pounds of grubs out of the big bin. It still has a huge population and is getting full again! Pardon the sound on this video. My little camera does not have a good microphone in it.
http://s283.photobucket.com/albums/kk306/tarvus33991/BSF/?action=view&current=PB170011.mp4

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com MikeB
#19. December 6th, 2010, at 11:20 PM.

Tarvus thanks for the link. The videos and photos are great (and the sound is just fine). You mention that your market is for the soldier fly eggs??

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Tarvus
#20. December 7th, 2010, at 12:40 AM.

MikeB, yes. Up to this point, I have concentrated on harvesting and selling the eggs. I will be selling eggs and grubs come springtime as a starter kit for those seeking to establish their own colonies of BSF, but would discourage anyone trying to start a colony until spring or early summer when the weather warms up.

Markets exist for the larvae themselves as fish bait, poultry feed, and food for reptiles and frogs kept as pets, but I have not sought to pursue these markets yet.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Mike aka BW
#21. March 31st, 2011, at 4:41 PM.

The Black Soldier Fly Blog has set up a BSF Locator map (link) displaying the locations of confirmed BSF sightings/populations. If you’d like to contribute there’s a ‘Report BSF sighting’ link in the upper right corner of the map or you can use this link.

Only locations which are submitted with adequate documentation will be used.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Galkaen
#22. April 24th, 2011, at 1:42 AM.

Hi Tarvus!

Great design! do you have an instructable or pictures for this project? I’d appreciate it!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Mike aka BW
#23. April 26th, 2011, at 12:34 AM.

Tarvus has a few designs shown on his website http://raisesoldierflies.com/

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com BorealWormer
#24. January 10th, 2013, at 4:29 PM.

Brian’s site was hacked in August 2011 and is still down. There are some photos and a sketch plan at the link below:

http://s283.photobucket.com/albums/kk306/tarvus33991/Bug%20Barracks/?start=all

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