Life as a bug in our garden must be pretty good. there would be no shortage of friends and parties to attend, and no nasty chemicals to make you feel unwell. Life would be darned good, in fact, so long as you were the kind of bug that was willing to pull your weight in the garden and do your bit!
Not so, however, for the slugs and snails whom we introduce frequently to our chookens, nor the uncouth stink beetles that N and G sucked off our citrus trees with the vacuum cleaner (simply the most enjoyable way to get rid of them), nor the white cabbage moth that we use for practicing our backhand, but there are many bugs that we do appreciate in the patch. Worms, bees and lady beetles are always welcome in our garden, doing their bit to pollinate, cultivate and eradicate pests, but we have recently become acquainted with a new creepy crawly of the good kind, known as the Black soldier fly (BSF).
black soldier fly (pleased to meet you)
Black soldierfly have a rather short and desperate adult life, with the sole purpose of finding a mate, a pile of rotting compost, and a good pick up line before dropping dead. Somehow they seem to manage. But before this fatally frantic paced lifestyle as an adult fly, they leisurely spend their childhood and teens as ravenous compost devouring larve!
BSF larvae eat just about any kitchen scraps including meat and dairy, as well as the usual fruit and vegetable leftovers, and can be cultivated in much the same way as composting worms, to break down food waste. A BSF composting unit can be easily built from materials found at your local hardware, and once a colony has been established they can consume food waste at an incredible rate (much faster than worms), but best of all, they make a fantastic feed for chickens and even fish. BSF larvae are high in both protein and calcium, which is perfect for chooks. they are non invasive and do not enter houses or spread disease like other flies.
Once we got acquainted to this new bug on the block, we realised it was time for us to try our hand at making our very own BSF Composting unit!
Our black soldierfly composter
|TA DA!!!! Our Black Soldier fly composter|
Here is how it works. Food scraps go inside and the female BSF are attracted by the scraps. They fly in through the pipe at the top and down into the bin where they lay their eggs (in the hundreds). They like to lay their eggs in crevasses, so some sheets of corrugated cardboard attached to the inside make great maternity wards. the eggs hatch and the larvae fall on the food scraps, and get to work munching it up.
|the larvae crawl up the pipes and into Jo's Tupperware container... thanks darling...sorry|
|the larvae hard at work on one of our defiant choko's and watermelon rind|
In a nut shell, yes. but getting started can call for some weeks of patience. Its best to start a colony in warmer weather when the adult fly is most active. Every few days we have been checking the tub, and after many weeks, we finally discovered some young soldierfly larvae munching away under the scraps. As the weeks progressed and the temperature rose, so too has our colony and the rate at which they are breaking down our food scraps is quite impressive.
Make your own
there are a number of DIY designs on the net. we made ours using a clip lock tub, some PVC pipe parts, , some hessian and fly screen, a saw and a drill. The key is to angle the pipes at 35 degrees so that it is not too steep for them to climb.include some ventilation holes and cover with fly screen, and some drainage holes in the bottom, which you can cover with hessian. It takes less than half a leisurely hour to put together and cost us about $40 or you could buy one of the fancy ones online for about $200.
the main benefits are:
1. a very efficient method of waste disposal
2. meat and dairy waste can be added to established colonies, unlike regular composting methods, reducing your waste output.
3. the larvae make an excellent source of food for poultry and fish, and can be frozen for later use.
4. they don't spread disease like other flies, and rarely enter the home.
5. they emit a natural repellent to other flies once the colony has been established.
The smell can be an issue if you add more waste than they can consume. Sawdust or coffee can help here too. This said, ours does not smell.
Initially, we had a problem with fruit fly gate crashing the party. but as the weeks have gone on, there numbers have decreased dramatically as the BSF colony has increased. AHa, dear potential BSF composters, do not be dismayed by these minor downsides. we have an organic, effective and easy solution to manage fruit flies in the patch... read on!
|got ya succers!|
So if you're concerned about fruit fly this spring, relax, have a shandy, and make yourself a beer trap or two.
Our New chook pen
Talking about grubs and chooks, we decided recently that it was time to make a proper enclosure for our lovely ladies. Up until recently, their pen has been a makeshift tangle of old chicken wire and odd posts. It was a shabby-chic chook pen (but with more shabby and less chic), and so it was time for an upgrade.
We decided to build their enclosure around the fruit trees, to give them shade and also to fertilise the trees. The trees have since gone mad with a flush of blossoms, which have smelled divine this spring. the combination makes a lot of sense. The trees are robust enough to handle the chooks digging around, and the poop makes a much appreciated fertilizer for the trees. Meanwhile the hens can rest in the shade and help keep pests under control, such as fruit fly.
the whole enclosure cost under $250 (about $10 per square metre) . First we dug and cemented in the posts, making sure they were level...most of the time, then connected the cross beams. the wire was fastened into place, and last of all, added the gate.
Next blog, its time to go foraging, dabble in some heirloom guerrilla gardening, as well as try our hand at some simple home made wines from our foraging finds.