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.
In my most recent “Worm Inn Overfeeding Challenge” post, I mentioned that I started putting the newly harvested vermicompost (from the Worm Inn) to good use right away. As you will see in this video, my first fun test will simply be to see if I can nurse a philodendron plant back to good health. You can probably gather from the title of this post that there is a bit of a backstory here, so that kinda makes it a bit more fun!
One of the REAL turning points for me with this hobby came fairly early on, when I made my first vermicompost harvest (simply digging some of the material out of the bin I was using) and added it to the pot of a small Monstera plant (closely related to this philodendron in the video). I was completely floored by the results – the plant truly started living up to its name, and just took off like a shot. Based on what I had read about worm composting (and specifically, vermicompost), I was certainly expecting decent results – but it definitely exceeded my expectations.
SO, I am quite eager to see if there will be a similar result with this plant!
Apart from likely doing a video update at some point, I thought it would be cool to take pictures of the plant on a regular basis (as often as I can remember). This morning I took my first set of shots (included one below), using a cardboard box back-drop as a frame of reference. The plant has already perked up quite a bit, but that’s to be expected after a good watering and switch to a bigger pot. I’ll be interested to see how it looks in a month or more.
Once the weather warms up a bit, I plan to do some real tests with the vermicompost I am harvesting from my Worm Inn, to see how different plants respond to it, and what sort of differences there are (if any) with control plants (those that don’t receive vermicompost). I’ll talk more about those experiments fairly soon!
I recorded a two-part (only because I accidentally stopped recording part way through – haha) “Worm Inn Overfeeding Challenge” update yesterday. Two more weeks have gone by, and once again I’ve been leaving the system unfed – this time primarily due to the fact that I wanted to start harvesting some worm compost. Letting a system sit (without feeding) for a period of time before harvesting is never a bad idea since the worms can then process more of the material for you. Plus, it can help to reduce the amount of moisture in the compost (assuming it’s an “open” system).
As I mention in the first video, the system was actually starting to head toward “sour” conditions a short time after the last feeding. I started noticing a familiar sharp, tangy smell (some of you may recall my experience with a sour Euro bin a while back – “From Bad to Worse – Sour Worm Bin Decline“), the appearance of more white mites and white worms, and a reduction in the number of worms in the upper zone (where the most recent food was). I’ve been adding a lot of acidic stuff, and I certainly haven’t been holding back on the amount of waste being added in general, so I can’t say I was overly surprised.
In an effort to restore some eco-balance, I decided to add some nice aged manure and some “compost ecosystem” material in the upper zone. Something like aged leaf litter would work very well also. Something I WOULDN’T recommend is adding a bunch of lime to try and increase the pH – you’ll likely just end up shocking the system and making matters worse. As expected, the materials I added really seemed to help restore some balance in the system, and I no longer noticed the strong “sour” odors when digging around.
Now, the BIG question of course, was whether or not the worm compost harvested from the bottom was going to be any good. I have been adding a LOT of waste to this system, and while it’s certainly looked as though the worms have been doing a great job with it – it’s been hard to say for sure. Well, the good news is that the material coming out the other end is beautiful, rich stuff – nothing like the stinky sludge I’ve grown accustomed to with some of my enclosed plastic bins. I was also really impressed with the absence of worms and cocoons in it. After I finished shooting the second video I continued to scrape more down into my container until I started seeing a few adult worms falling down (these were easily removed and put back to work). I’m pretty sure there is still a lot more good stuff that could be harvested (with a few more worms likely needing to be picked out) but I’ll leave it for the time being. In an upcoming video you will see how I put the material to good use right away.