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I can't grow BSFL because we are a zone 4/5 - they just aren't native here - but I love the concept and they sound like both awesome composters and wonderful, productive fish food.  Since I just wrote a blog post about them, and am selling the BioPod, they little guys are on my mind.  Is anyone using BSFL to feed their fish?  Is anyone doing this in a zone 6 or below?  What are your thoughts?

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Hay Sylvia,
I just commented on the blog post when I saw you had a special going on with the bio-pods.

By the way, from just looking at pictures and reading about them online, I do believe this new bio-pod design is a big improvement on the previous one.

Some notes about BSF larva, like worms they are a bit high in fat to be the sole food for fish like catfish or tilapia (I don't really know the dietary requirements for some of the other fish types) but they could certainly be a supplement as variety is good.

I'm not currently using BSF larva to feed my fish, chickens, or ducks but that is mainly because I don't have a huge supply of them. I have had them take up residence in my worm bins previous summers but last time I checked my worm bins I didn't find many. Probably because I haven't been giving the worms much extra feed this year. With the chickens and ducks eating most of the kitchen scraps before we can get back to the worm bins with them, they have just been kinda neglected.

Perhaps with the fancy new BioPod I will manage to get some more grubs going and feed the stuff I don't want to give to the birds or worms to the BioPod.

I'm in Zone 9 so it is plenty warm enough for BSF here.
Hey TCLynx,

Thanks for the order! I just saw your question on the blog and sent a message over the the ProtaCulture guys to find out. Interesting info about the fat content. I agree that they shouldn't be the only food for tilapia and catfish...but since both are omnivores it seems to me that variety in their diet is an important factor and they are probably healthiest with a range of feed (including duckweed, the occassional worm, commercial feed and BSFL).

I've also heard that the new design is great, and sounds like it goes though a ton of food scraps. I'll be very interested if you end up hitting the amazing amounts of BSFL that this thing is suppose to produce - up to 2 lbs a day! Your chickens will be doing the happy dance. I want to see videos of that!
Well a chicken happy dance is really more like squabbling children grabbing things from each other or grabbing the good treat and running away with it as the others take chase. (By the way, and over abundance of tilapia fry about the size of pumpkin seeds also make great chicken treats, they do so love food that moves and food that moves and can't run away when thrown to them they think is really great.) But enough of the gory details....

Wait, we are talking about BSF bins so it really is about the gory details. Like putting fish heads into the BSF bin since fish heads just thrown to the chickens will simply breed fly maggots (which the chickens still like but if they don't manage to eat them all, we get pest flies.) So the BSF bin could take care of that kind of thing. And the chickens will happily pick the fish bones clean but then we have fish bones laying around the place and I think the BSF bin might be able to slowly take care of them. As well as composting the onion scraps (which we don't give to the chickens or worm bin.) The BSF bin will also allow us a way to deal with meat scraps that we don't feel comfortable giving to the birds (I don't like feeding chicken to chickens.) It will also give us a place to toss moldy stuff that shouldn't be fed to animals though the worm bins like moldy stuff too. Oh and the citrus! During citrus season, we have lots of peals from juicing.

Yep, I do hope the BioPod will grow lots of larva for us at least through summer when they feed and grow fast.
Upon reading the Manual for the new Bio-Pond, I an now reminded that citrus peals are not appropriate for the bio-pod.

It looks like the real bonus for those using the bio-pod is the self harvesting nature of the BSF larva which makes them really useful for supplemental feeding of pets that require live feed or ones that just like live feed.

If you can find a source for starter larva/eggs I think they could work for the summer for those in somewhat cooler climates but you would need the makings for the starter colony since you are not likely to get the bin going without and you would need to re-order starter critters each spring once the weather warms up enough for them.

Here in the warmer parts, we can get them naturally to colonize bins. I have found that they will happily colonize an overfed worm bin but I've not had luck getting them to colonize any bin I have so far set up for the purpose of BSF (I have made a couple home made attempts but I didn't put much effort into it.) I am hoping that Sylvia will get back to us with some sources for buying starter larva. (By the way, I've heard of them being called Phoenix worms before for the lizard keeping crowd.)

I would probably want to order some starters since upon searching my worm bins yesterday, I didn't find any (my worm bins have been neglected this past few months and this might be fine for worms, it won't attract BSF to lay their eggs.)

My experience with any worm bins or BSF bins, I have to put the feet of the bins or the stands the bins sit on in containers of mineral oil to keep the ants out. Sticky barriers don't work well if you don't keep them sticky and I always wind up brushing up against them and that is not fun. The feet in containers of water works but mosquitoes will lay eggs in containers of water and the water will evaporate and need to be topped up. At least with the mineral oil, the mosquitoes won't lay eggs in it and it also won't evaporate nearly so quickly. Ya still need to refresh the containers occasionally or clean out debris when it builds up to a point where the ants would have a bridge but it seems to work better than water or sticky barriers for me to keep ants out. Ya do need to make sure that growing plants near by don't grow up to the bins and provide an alternate path for the ants cause they will use a blade of grass if it provides a bridge. Also remember not to lean tools or other objects against the bins as that would also provide a path for ants.

Anyway, looking forward to setting up the bin and seeing if I can grow free feed from scraps. I'm gonna need to collect scraps from neighbors I think to keep all my bins going with the chickens also begging for scraps.
A couple of months ago I cobbled a BSF composting bucket together with an escape hatch to the great outdoors (no AP system yet, nor chickens). Our kitchen vegetable scraps are placed on top and they simply disappear into the muck. Now, the bucket is almost full of compost (a gooey mess) and larvae. I haven't thought of a way to harvest the compost except for starting a new bucket and stop feeding the old one. Any ideas?

Is this an easier process with the bio-pod?

For a while, I couldn't see anything happening in the bucket but one night I shined a light into the bucket and saw larvae feeding on the surface. At this point the bucket was just full of fruit flies. Now, there are no other flies present and the entire mass of muck seems to be full of larvae. I occasionally see a BSF in or around the bucket but it's somewhat rare to one.

I used larvae for fishing bait once and they worked very well.
No, I don't know that there is a good easy way to harvest the muck from a BSF bin. The cook has found that if he puts a few hand fulls of the muck over a piece of 1/4" hardware cloth over a bucket, the larva will crawl down and he can feed them to the chickens and I suppose that would be a good way to clear larva out of the muck so one could then place the muck into a regular worm bin for further processing. I have not had the urge to use the BSF muck directly in the garden. I have also found it challenging to keep the BSF bin from getting mucky. The drain keeps clogging up. I never had such problems with worm bins but then again the worms are so much more sedate in their feeding.
Re: drain clogging. You might want to try some landscape cloth on top of your drain. I've found it makes a great filter.

Thanks for the hardware cloth idea. It's not so much that I want to use the compost, although I will, I just need to make some room in my bucket. My bucket is only 2 1/2 gallons but the next one will definitely be larger - once my chickens move in and my AP is up, I plan to use a 15 gallon bucket. It will be easy enough to let a few vegetables get extra large for larvae food.
The larva will eat a lot fast when a bin is going well. However, keeping the smell down can be a challenge since they don't recommend a lot of paper or cardboard as cover material in a BSF bin.

We have one BIO pod running and we also have a larger 1/2 water tank that was a worm bin but we have BSF going in that as well. The chickens and ducks spend a lot of time digging around under the bins searching for the larva that have self harvested and dropped to the ground. I probably need to put some in a safe place again so they can hatch into adults without becoming chicken food.
Now I must admit that the Cook (my other half) has been the one who really got excited about the BSF bin. He wasn't all that interested when I first got the Bio-Pod and thought it too much money to spend to grow maggots. But now he is all into feeding up the BSF bins. I say Bins because as soon as the bio-pod attracted a good colony of bsf, He suddenly had to turn one of our worm bins into a BSF bin.

Now I'm not entirely sold on the whole self harvesting thing. We get some crawling up into the collection chamber but in our humid climate, a plastic bin with moist contents is going to get condensation all over the inside and the BSF larva will just crawl right up any side and fall out. I'm not minding this too much as the chickens think it great to go digging about near the bottom of the bins searching for larva or pupa of the BSF.

However, this does pose a challenge with the containers I have the legs of the bins or tables sitting in (this is to keep ants out of the bins.) Constant scratching by the chickens tends to fill them up with dirt and debris. It also seems that my ducks will happily swill down some mouth fulls of the mineral oil I usually fill the containers with (mineral oil doesn't evaporate as fast as water and it also won't grow mosquitoes) I guess I don't need to worry about constipated ducks!!!!!!! So, in an effort to avoid needing to clean out the containers all the time, I've tried putting the one table with the bio-pod up on the concrete of the back porch. Well, that reduced the amount of debris getting into the containers but didn't stop the ducks drinking out of them. Next, under the other bin I tried switching to taller containers, The big red plastic coffee containers, that has been an improvement as the ducks can't get their heads far enough down in them to drink the mineral oil and sine they are higher up, less debris gets scratched into them. Next step I think will be a combination of placing the containers on top of concrete blocks and then placing the bin/table legs in the raised up containers. I think the extra 6-8 inches in elevation will help keep more debris out and along with the taller containers should definitely help.

and I still don't have any better ideas about glop harvesting. I expect the hardware cloth screen to let the grubs migrate down into a container or back into their bin/bed and then transfer the glop to a regular worm bin for further processing. Just gotta avoid letting it dry onto the hardware cloth screen or it will be impossible to clean off.

In regular worm bins, I've found the easiest way to harvest castings is to prep a bin or bed with nice fresh moist bedding and food then lay some sturdy shade cloth or window screen over it and then place the contents of a mature worm bin on the screen or cloth. The worms will migrate down away from the light into the moist inviting bed leaving the castings on top of the screen to dry out a bit. Then I sometimes sift the castings to get perfect stuff for dressing seed beds or filling seed starting pots. I usually sift through 1/4" hardware cloth. This method might require some time and planning but is definitely less labor intensive than trying to sift mounds of worm castings to separate worms from the castings. Of course if you are trying to collect the worms to feed to the fish or chickens, then I guess you gotta do it the labor intensive way.

Now if some one comes up with an easy elegant way to separate BSF larva from the muck, please share. I've not had as much luck with that one but then again, I've been raising worms for their castings for several years while I've only just started with the BSF this year.
Re: smell - not a problem at our place since we feed the BSFL vegetable scraps only. I understand they will eat many things but thus far we've not fed them anything other than vegetables.

I like the coffee container idea to put the legs in for ant-proofing and what I may try is leaving the lids on with holes cut just large enough for the legs to go down into. That should reduce evaporation, and, in your case, may keep the debris, chickens and ducks out of the containers.
You just need to make sure the holes the legs go through are enough larger than the legs that an ant can't simply step across. Remember if the lid touches the leg, you have just defeated the purpose of the moat. Even a blade of grass touching the bin, table or leg above the moat will provide a path for ants. remember not to leave any tools, like a shovel or rake leaning up against the bin or it will become an ant highway.

I've found that even with just veggie matter, it is possible for the bin to get a bit of a stink if it gets too wet and there is too much in it. I've had to scold the cook not to feed the BSF bins too much because they can really take on a stink if overloaded and not draining well.

I went and drilled some extra holes in the big bin today and I dumped the bio-pod into the big bin so I could rinse it out and clear the drain. Then when re-loading it with some of the contents, I put some rags down in the bottom over the grate before adding the feed back in. Hopefully this will help for a while.

We have found that tough overripe Okra pods make a pretty good slow release feed for the BSF larva since they are tough and don't break down to ooze right away but they do eat them as they can.

George J. Thurmon said:
Re: smell - not a problem at our place since we feed the BSFL vegetable scraps only. I understand they will eat many things but thus far we've not fed them anything other than vegetables.

I like the coffee container idea to put the legs in for ant-proofing and what I may try is leaving the lids on with holes cut just large enough for the legs to go down into. That should reduce evaporation, and, in your case, may keep the debris, chickens and ducks out of the containers.
Never mind what I said about no smell in my compost bucket. I cleaned it today and the contents, once disturbed, had a very powerful odor, fermented and sour. It attracted hordes of blowflies immediately. I sifted a lot of larvae with hardware cloth, saved some in my garage fridge for bait and used the rest to reseed the bucket. Most of the bucket contents went into my regular compost bin, immediately covered with compost and fresh grass clippings. I repacked the bottom of my bucket with landscape cloth to improve the drainage, although I think the flies by nature will liquefy most things that you feed them. I look forward to ramping up production of the larvae someday. It has proven to be surprisingly easy.
cheers

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