Monday, November 12, 2012

Fall

Fall is here with frosty nights and cool days.  A few grasshoppers survive and warm in the sun to their soon demise.  We look forward to Spring, a new year and new life.

The past few months have been setting up and building business ventures to raise funds, sufficient enough to take on projects toward Entomophagy and other sustainability projects, without having to scrounge through junk piles to get parts and materials.

Although I do somewhat pride myself in being able to create functioning systems and items out of leftovers, I believe some things to be done correctly, needs better materials and especially where Entomophagy is concerned and our dream of creating practical Clean Bug Systems in climate controlled enclosures.  This requires funds and so we move on to acquire them.

Gourmet Bugs has not disappeared, far from it.  We are just beginning.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Strange Looking Grasshopper

Never saw a grasshopper like this in my life. Maybe somebody knows the species...


Haven't posted to this blog in awhile.  My mealworms are growing, that's about all I have been doing bug wise.  Things happen. 

Other than this strange grasshopper in the picture, there are plentiful numbers of hoppers about locally.  My local bug eating buddy Al says you aren't supposed to get them until season, after they mate.  Supposedly they are bitter and nasty tasting until then.  Well, yes I can relate to being bitter and nasty without mating but I have to say I have eaten a few young ones and they tasted great Al haha!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Belize Has Bugs!

Too many to count actually and I'm certain there must be people's there who eat some of them but I did not have time in a short week to learn all the ways of Belize.  For certain, the people I met there are friendly and open to new ideas as we were able to share some reflective solar cooker ideas and left a working unit with a couple of the local Kekchi Maya who served as our guides and companions where we stayed at  Roaring Creek.  I can fully imagine they will love this and spread the word among the population who for the most part, cook in open stone fire pits either inside their dwellings or just outside the door that must be constantly tended.

I'm fascinated by the sea, always have been, always will be.  If you like to read awesome adventures, I found this blog by a fella who is currently making his way down the Carribean Coast in a small homemade outrigger boat.

http://grillabongquixotic.wordpress.com/2012/06/04/the-towers-of-tigo/#comment-550

Cudo's Chris!  Man you are either way crazy or very brave...or both.  I'm totally captivated by your adventures and will be sad to see it end.

Now back to Belize.  It is very humid there.  So much so that termites build crawl tubes up the sides of trees and make huge nests among the branches.  Talk about an abundant source of protein and easy to get!  I would venture to say there are enough termites alone in Belize to feed the entire population if they so chose to take advantage of it.

Having said that, I saw quite alot of poverty while there, yet never saw one person who seemed to be starving.  The people look quite healthy and seem to be well fed.  Not too difficult I imagine seeing that nearly every tree seems to have some sort of fruit or nut and the waters there are full of fish.

I can't wait to return.  Belize just seems to do something to me I can't explain.  It was like I had been there before and belong.  See ya later Belize. :) 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Bugs


Sodium Selenate

The FDA and European Union currently classify sodium selenate as a toxic chemical, primarily if ingested or inhaled. Testing on rats showed a dose of 1.6 mg/kg to be deadly. Chronic exposure to sodium selenate can cause severe lung, kidney, and liver damage.

In studies investigating the antigen properties and dosage of sodium selenate, patients demonstrated a good tolerance to doses upward to 45 mg per day with a maximum tolerated dose of 60 mg per day. Side effects include nail disorder, alopecia, muscle spasms, and nausea. Increased side effects, notably nausea and fatigue, were experienced at higher doses but were attributed to the buildup of selenite.

Cobalt Carbonate

The compound is harmful if swallowed, and irritating to eyes and skin.

Copper Sulfate

Copper sulfate is an irritant. The usual routes by which humans can receive toxic exposure to copper sulfate are through eye or skin contact, as well as by inhaling powders and dusts. Skin contact may result in itching or eczema.  Eye contact with copper sulfate can cause conjunctivitis, inflammation of the eyelid lining, ulceration, and clouding of the cornea.

Upon acute oral exposure, copper sulfate is only moderately toxic. According to studies, the lowest dose of copper sulfate that had a toxic impact on humans is 11 mg/kg. Because of its irritating effect on the gastrointestinal tract, vomiting is automatically triggered in case of the ingestion of copper sulfate. However, if copper sulfate is retained in the stomach, the symptoms can be severe. After 1–12 grams of copper sulfate are swallowed, such poisoning signs may occur as a metallic taste in the mouth, burning pain in the chest, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, discontinued urination, which leads to yellowing of the skin. In case of copper sulfate poisoning, injury to the brain, stomach, liver, or kidneys may also occur.

BHA

The International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the World Health Organization, consider BHA to be possibly carcinogenic to humans, and the State of California has listed it as a carcinogen. Some studies show the same cancer causing possibilities for BHT.


Ok, I don't even want my dog eating this stuff, much less eat any insects that have been reared on it.  Too little is known about bio-accumulation of substances relating to insects meant for human consumption for me to feel confident in even a purging or flushing-out time.  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Worm Reproduction Thoughts; E fetida vs E hortensis

Some thoughts on various earthworm reproduction.  This is not so much based on pure scientific trials and findings, rather from experiences and common sense deductions.

All earthworm species, to my current knowledge and including mostly for the purpose of discussion, the most popular bait and/or composting species, E fetida and E hortensis,  contain both male and female reproductive organs.  They do not fertilize themselves though, more like cross pollination of some plants.  At least two individual worms need to come together and exchange sperm which is stored in each respective worm for the use in reproduction.  If you raise worms you will undoubtedly see at one point or another, two worms all entertwined together so that they look much like a pretzel.  They are mating and sometimes three or more will all pile up into a big worm orgy!



Not to get into a big debate on which worm species reproduces the most and fastest, but to offer up an observance of particular worm habit and how it may be more of a factor in population density than just saying E fetida reproduces the fastest compared to E hortensis, which may be a deciding factor when considering what species of worm to acquire when desiring to raise worms for whatever purpose.

For the sake of fact, it is a fact that E fetida produces more offspring per cocoon and at a faster frequency than E hortensis, thus lending to the notion that they must be the worm of choice for the perspective worm farmer or home vermicomposter. But, I believe we need to consider natural habits and what is the desired end goal of the respective individual.

E fetida, AKA red wiggler, manure worm.  The natural habit of this particular worm in itself adds to the frequency and speed of its reproductive cycle.  They will naturally gather together in and under a food source such as a manure pile out in a pasture, said more to be "surface feeders".  They didn't gather together for the purpose of mating, rather their being together for the purpose of feeding makes it convenient that they should also easily find a mate with which to copulate as they cross paths in the food source.

On the other side of the coin we have E hortensis, AKA European Nightcrawler, a worm who's natural habit is to tunnel and burrow or come topside to crawl at night, finding food as it goes about and is in a much less favorable situation to happen across a mate.

When we desire to raise worms for whatever purpose, E fetida may seem like the natural choice versus E hortensis since we are providing an artificial environment that takes advantage of the natural habit but I believe when we also provide an artificial environment for other worm species which provides them with their requirements of food, moisture and air, by stocking in densities sufficient to provide a more commonplace "meeting" of two individuals, we may end up with more worm mass overall and greater composting efficiency since the size is greater of adult worms that are processing more foodstuffs by weight per individuals.

However, we can only have so many worms of either species in a given square ft of bedding right?  Well, E fetida will naturally inhabit mostly the top few inches of bedding versus E hortensis which will not only inhabit the top layers of bedding where their food supply is being concentrated but will also just as easily tunnel and burrow throughout the bedding and so I believe we can expect more worm mass overall per sq ft of bedding with E hortensis.  Both species will somewhat regulate their own population densities depending on available area and food supply and so I believe E hortensis is a superior worm all around for vermicomposting and bait raising applications, given that it also will excel in a wider range of temperature extremes than E fetida and is a much larger and robust bait worm.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Crunchewy Savory Crickets In Minutes!

This is quickly becoming a favorite quick bug prep of mine.  A cloudy day when there is no solar oven activity is perfect for some microwave action & crunchy yet chewy, savory crickets!  A couple of bonus beetles just makes them that much more better!


Gourmet Bugs Blog comment contributor Dave Gracer suggested a good way to de-appendage crickets and it works very well!  Freeze the crickets, I used a glass jar that was used to hold them refrigerated while collecting for a few days from my outdoor trap.

After they are frozen, shake the bag or jar they're in violently, I pounded the bottom edge of the jar against my free hand several times.  Every leg or otherwise appendage breaks off nicely.  Still, I pulled the hard wing sections from the beetles, much easier when frozen as they break right off.  A quick rinse in the collander and they're ready for nuking!


A dash of soy, tiny bit of butter and sprinkle of Cavenders Greek Seasoning, then microwave in three separate 30 second intervals, stirring in-between.  That's for my oven, times may vary.  I find for whatever reason, bugs heat up quickly in a microwave oven and it's easy to burn them if not careful.  This method makes them crunchy on the outside yet chewy like tender meat when eaten. Very yummy!





Saturday, April 14, 2012

Making The Best Of It; Insect Rearing Naturally

Email reply to a friend...

I agree.  Many insects would benefit to be reared easily where it is much work to raise livestock.  Such would be example of say Texas, where it is drought conditions much of the time.  Money is wasted trying to grow crops and/or mammal livestock where grasshoppers flourish due to the climatic conditions, so they should rear grasshoppers instead. 

You said it yourself.  We can learn from the nature!  Look at all the open desert area where little or nothing is done by humans but insects would flourish with little resources added.  Being as I know little about insect rearing yet, like you say, horse sense prevails haha!  It just makes sense to match species specific insect rearing ventures to climatic conditions in which nature already provides, so little cost as possible is added into the facility design, be it vertical or horizontal.  We must work with nature to the best of our efforts.

Insects seem to do well on their own where natural conditions are to their benefit.  It is those conditions I believe we should study, where a particular insect multiplies and grows well and take advantage of it to produce more of that same insect, without much addition as possible.

When nature provides an abundance of insects such as would be considered a plague to man upon croplands for example as the locust.  Instead of chemical sprays or granular poisons or other eradication methods we should have teams of harvesters which go out and collect them for processing into usable proteins.

The large insect rearing facility for whatever species would be applicable, in my opinion, if it works with nature.  There may be a few places where this can be of benefit without invading on or using agricultural space for crops but I have no way to know if it could be done on a scale for worldwide benefit. 

It may be that individuals will have to come to the realization that some of their own living space is needed to provide for themselves.  We humans have more usable space I think on the whole then we like to admit.  It does not take much space in a dwelling for a small insect rearing design of vertical stacked trays such as I have done with mealworms and probably others have as well.  We have yards, balconies, rooftops, places to hang cages from, etc. 

I can ramble on with ideas without specifics forever.  I'm not a scientist but more like a poor common sense problem solver, using what materials I can find locally at the least amount of cost possible to fill a desired goal.   If I see a particular situation and learn of the factors involved needed to make it possible, then I would get a distinct vision of what to do. Sometimes it takes awhile for the pieces to come together.

I do not know much of what is in the world.  Have lived in a small town all of my life.  I do not know what is available everywhere but it all comes down I think to a basic principal I am forced to live by daily from necessity.  Make the best of what you have been given, wherever you are.  I see rearing insects as no different.  Some insects will do well where I am and with what I have to work with, with little addition required, some will not.  It is up to me to discover what will work is it not?  Then I may be able to say to others in my particular area of the world that they can do this or that. 

You are on a good path I think.  Keep thinking and keep looking at nature for answers.

Good day my friend.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Thank You!

As of this very moment since February 15, 2012, Gourmet Bugs Blog has received 2,000 page views, not counting my own!  Stats list more countries than I care to mention or rather type haha!  I just wanted to say thank you to all who have stopped by and hope something here has helped you in some way. 

Soon, this blog will be moving and I'm not quite sure yet what it will be like but since partnering up with World Entomophagy things have only been getting better.  So I can only forsee better things in store for this blog as well.

Also soon and still in the works, yours truly is going to be taking a trip to Georgia or wherever it ends up being, to meet up with the World Entomophagy Team for some consulting and hands-on helping in setting up the vision of Harman Singh Johar, owner of World Entomophagy, who has been so kind, helpful and seen fit to add me to that vision, for which I will be forever thankful.

Nobody and I mean nobody in my entire life who was a complete and total stranger one day has ever so quickly and completely shown myself such a level of faith and trust as has Harman, and we have even yet to actually meet in person.  If this is what I can expect in the future then perhaps my confidence in mankind has been somewhat elevated.  Why I have had somewhat of a negative outlook is another story or stories I should say, but stories better left untold and focus on what is positive, good and beneficial for my family and all of mankind as I now see it.

These past weeks have been so interesting in so many ways.  My blogging is just a portion of it all.  Perhaps someday I will write a book.  To do that I think there needs to be a good ending so I will wait for that to share it all.  I just hate a story with a bad ending or one that leaves one hanging haha!

Oh have I done that?  Yes I have a few times in some of these blog articles.  Some I will see to completion to perhaps update and some I have completed but opt to not share the ending, not for the failure but for the possible success.  I personally will not succeed at the expense of others losing something they worked so hard for in such a narrow field and that's all I'm going to say about that for now.  I gave enough for it to be figured out by some if they so desire.  I'm heading in a different direction.

This is what I really like alot about Entomophagy.  It is so new and so much room for designing new and exciting things. Thousands of edible insects and we have only researched and proposed clean rearing designs for less than a few.  Room for discovery and a big enough market so that really, there is room for many new businesses and products.  Let us not get greedy right out of the gate eh!  Billions of potential customers, not very many suppliers.  Seems like a good situation to be in.  We really can make a difference in the world with education and working to supply a steady stream of clean, delicious, sustainable nutrition.  World Entomophagy and Gourmet Bugs, who would of ever thought?  Not this country boy.   :)

Fly Larvae / Spikes/ Fish Bait Update

Wanted to let you readers in on an update, who have shown interest in the article... 

Blue Bottle Fly Larvae / Spikes/ BSFL - Fish Bait - Human Food?

I conducted an experiment and the results positive, being that it is possible to raise fly larvae for fish bait on something that doesn't smell so bad.  I almost even cooked and tried them for food but the mess of beetles and grasshoppers won that day haha!  They actually didn't smell bad at all and probably would have tasted like they did smell, just like coffee.  Also, eating them would have been contrary to previous posts of mine which say I do not want to eat insects raised on dog or cat food but this method would probably work with any souring grains in place of the dog food, which is mostly grains anyway but there are other things in there I don't like the idea of.  Besides that I do not nor have I ever liked coffee.

All I did was mix old coffee grinds about 50/50 with dog food, moistened it, kept it moist and let it set out uncovered.  The flies did their thing and within a week I had thousands of fly larvae going at it.  The mixture never did stink as I would define it but smelled like coffee the whole time.  So did the larvae smell of coffee and tossing them in the lake was no different than any larvae reared on fish guts.  The fish went nuts and gobbled down every one in short order.

Harvesting was fairly simple and came quickly as fly larvae do not take long at all to develop.  A sample cup of the material containing larvae was dumped onto a piece of window screen and sprayed with a water hose.  All the food residue went through the screen and all the larvae were there, clean and ready to go into a cup of dry sawdust.  Though I picked them off the screen by hand, a daunting task, it would be easy with hindsight to tilt the screen and pour them into a trough of sorts, perhaps a lengthwise cut piece of PVC pipe with sawdust to then pour into a container or fold the screen, making an easy to pour shape but my screen was on a rigid frame.

Have at it spikers!  Grow all the good smelling fly larvae you want and good fishing.  You hardcore Entomophagists might find these a tasty addition to your snacking but I'm sticking with what I know is good for now haha!

 

Monday, April 9, 2012

Eating Insects May Not Be A Choice

I'm from a small Southern town where people generally live all their lives and for the most part "could be" self-sustaining if they had to.  Sometimes it's hard to imagine going to the grocery store and not being able to buy a package of meat or as some I can think of would likely say something like "I'd hunt and fish if it came down to it."  Fine and good but likely in reality if it came down to it, there would be alot of other people hunting and fishing for necessity and soon, what game and fish there are would be gone or so scarce it would take more resources and energy to find any than would be gained from a small and short term successful outing.

Small town folk sometimes have a hard time seeing and realizing just how big the world is and how many people there are.  Honestly it is for me while sitting here writing this.  I've been reading alot lately on projections of populations versus food supplies and it's not a very pretty picture.  The climate is not helping much either by helping us with crops and we have so polluted the lakes and oceans as well as overfished...well it just doesn't look good at all.  If it's not a flood it's a drought or late freeze.  The world is changing and we have to adjust or starve.

I see England is saying for their population to get ready to be eating insects full scale by 2020.  Folks, that's only eight years away and if the video I saw today of one irate English lady is any indication of the populace overall acceptance, they have a long way to go in winning people over to the thought of eating bugs!

Just in the last few months of my entering into the practice of Entomophagy I have witnessed many newcomers just like myself.  They are all saying basically the same things and have pretty much the same convictions.  We see insects as they are, sustainable nutrition that turns out to actually taste delicious when prepared properly and not too bad when just cooked plain! 

I like to keep things real.  Gathering as much information as possible about something when an interest takes up residence in my head is not always a pleasant learning experience.  Learning, I mean really learning of the actual state of the world protein supply is not something I counted on.  One kind of hears through various media about this or that food shortage but again, in a small town where there is ample land for gardening, open spaces, ponds and lakes with fish and woods with deer, turkey and other wildlife, not to mention driving by pastures full of cattle, one might not really get a grasp on the gravity of the situation.

We are running out of food.  "We" being the entire human race. We have to do something.

When one looks at insects as food and then figures in some of the factors which are only adding to our current state of being, we only will see that mass production of insects is the answer.  It takes much less space and resources versus conventional livestock to gain equal amounts of nutrition with much less environmental impact.

Here's the scenario I see it coming down to.  Meat from mammals is going to become a luxury and a thing one will need to be situated in the wealthy class to enjoy on a regular basis.  It already is for many.  Everyone else, well, we are going to either have to get used to alternative protein sources, do without, become a cattle rustler or win a lottery!  I'm glad I already have gotten over the fear and found out I like insects as much as if not more than the finest meat I ever have eaten. I'm glad I know where my family needs can and will come from.

I would not lie to anyone for the sake of selling a single bug.  Hey, I've given away enough info here for practically anyone in the world reading could find or rear their own supply of Gourmet Bugs.  If it actually comes down to it I'm probably going to be rearing them to support and supply my family with food before even considering selling any and I have a very large family with my better half' side figured in haha!

Insects are delicious, no kidding.  You might want to try to get over it and get ready now and be used to the idea. It might not be a choice for much longer. You may be like me and find yourself choosing insects over whatever else if given a choice. Right now I could just as easily have a bucket of beetles and grasshoppers as any other kind of meat. :)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Improved Cricket Trap

My first cricket trap caught a few crickets but nothing to get excited about. The adhesive backed sandpaper ramps did not fare very well outside in rainy weather and came undone.   Still a bit cold out at night but I see alot of crickets while mowing.  It should be possible to trap them!  Well, it's not only possible now with an improved cricket trap but reality...



A dozen caught the first night out with this new trap design. It's not just a cricket trap but also catches other nocturnal insects without the need for electric lighting that go into a separate container from the crickets.

The same bait was used in the first trap but didn't produce this many crickets the entire several weeks it was being used so it must be something about the trap they prefer to the other. 

These are mostly female crickets. Soon to begin trials of a frass-free Clean Bug System cricket enclosure that will in theory go straight from rearing and propagating more crickets to freezing without ever having to open the enclosure except for vacuuming out any mortality or until ready to prepare the whole lot.



Saturday, April 7, 2012

Frass Thoughts

Lots of insects = lots of Frass (Wikipedia). "Frass is the fine powdery material phytophagous (plant-eating) insects pass as waste after digesting plant parts.[1] It causes plants to excrete chitinase due to high chitin levels, it is a natural bloom stimulant, and has high nutrient levels. Frass is known to have abundant amoeba, beneficial bacteria, and fungi content. Frass is a microbial inoculant, also known as a soil inoculant, that promotes plant health using beneficial microbes. It is a large nutrient contributor to the rainforest, and it can often be seen in leaf mines.

Bug poop.  We're going to be having lots of it to deal with.  Purpose of this article is to point out the beneficial properties of it as applicable to soil ammendments, not just something to gather and toss away.

I just left a steaming hot compost pile after having added a five gallon pail of fish parts donated by a relative.  It's only just a little over a week old but countless beneficial aerobic bacteria are already doing their thing.  Although it contains much of what most people wouldn't dare touch, much less think about composting, I know that thermophilic heat caused by these bacteria is going to render this pile as pasteurized and completely harmless in a very short time.

"How did I do it?", one might ask if they are interested in making compost and have searched the web for the perfect formula to get a compost pile up and working.  There is alot of info out there, some free and some supposedly magical things that one pays for, only to discover that one fell for yet more hype designed to prompt one into entering their credit card info for the latest and greatest secret formula.

The secret to making great compost is simply a correct ratio of carbons to nitrogens, or browns and greens, commonly seen as C:N (2:1 for thermophilic composting) and lots of beneficial microbes to start the process, ample moisture and keeping the material aerated or aerobic. The more microbes we start with, the faster we start making compost.  So what can we use for a quick start?...

First paragraph... "Frass is a microbial inoculant".  In fact, any aerobic manure that has not dried out, from any creature, may be considered as a microbial inoculant as far as I know and that being commonly known farm animals and/or earthworms.  "Already made" compost that has not been allowed to dry out is also a great microbial inoculant.  That is what I use and have used for years in maintaining ongoing compost piles at my work place.  I simply run the finished compost through a sifter to get what I want and recycle the larger particles as the carbon source added to fresh material and as a cover after adding the fresh carbon/nitrogen mixture to help keep pest flies to a minimum.

There is some debate on traditional composting concerning practices of aerating or turning the pile and how often it should be done.  My thoughts and practice on that, it depends on the contents of the pile and the duration of the activity of the microbes or heating cycle.  If a pile has alot of bulky material that provides air to the pile, it needs less turning frequency than a compact pile made of small particles.  Mostly experience and practice will tell one when it's time.  If foul odors develop such as septic, sewer and/or strong ammonia, it is certainly time since that would be an indication of anaerobic activity.

Insect frass, while considered by some to be waste and is a common problem to deal with in insect rearing operations as an allergen to workers and possible disease vector and definitely an odorous substance is a valuable commodity and should be considered as part of the whole when setting up and maintaining an insect rearing operation.

My initial thoughts at the beginning of this blog have proven to be correct via research though not so much yet through experience simply because we have not generated large quantities of frass yet.  However, the first test run of the Clean Bug System with a screen bottom mealworm enclosure over composting worms did indeed run the course through one-thousand mealworms pupating, with no offensive odors and no mold issues of the mealworm bedding in close proximity to moist worm bedding below.  The worms happily made all frass and bedding residue falling through the screen disappear as it was generated.  They in turn will only add to the beneficial microbial content of the insect frass as they generate rich worm castings that can be sold or used as one desires.

The only possible negative issue I see in the initial Clean Bug System trial is the propagation of mites in/on the moist worm bin material possibly affecting the contents of the mealworm population directly above it.  We expected possible contamination of mites being brought in with the initial worm purchase and we dealt with it via diatomaceous earth as a natural mite remedy which appears to have been successful, but I personally would rather to not need to even have to deal with controlling mites in insect bedding and opt for a better design which is simply a complete physical separation of the insect population above from the composting worm bedding below.

No problem.  When one looks at a commercial composting earthworm operation with rows upon rows of earthworms, just imagine suspended rows of screen or larger mesh bottom enclosures, depending on the insect frass size above or a simple vacuum system to collect insect frass from dedicated insect rearing rooms and be deposited in nearby dedicated composting worm facilities.  My original concept of an outdoor grasshopper enclosure suspended over a grass bed containing earthworms would be a good example of the former I think.  It could be the same indoors having cages suspended from the ceiling with worm beds on the floor and artificial lighting or greenhouse construction to meet the lumination needs of the grasshoppers.

Whatever we finally end up doing, be assured it will deal with insect frass in a positive way for all factors involved in the rearing of whatever insect.  When life gives you poop, make compost!  The alternative is what man has devised over the years which has turned out to be, at least in my mind, two of the worst inventions ever in the history of modern times, the practice of heaping waste into holes dug into the earth that contaminates our ground water supplies and the use of clean water to transport waste water to treatment facilities.  The choice to me is a no-brainer.  :)

 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Gathering Native Nightcrawlers

This is a flood generated pile of debris on a local creek bank.  It's in a shady spot and perfect this time of year for gathering native nightcrawlers just under the debris...


In about an hour I gathered approximately a thousand worms just by raking back the debris and picking them up by the handfull at times.  Here they are added to my home worm bin in the ground with sifted compost and a bit of sand ready for them to process further into castings...


If I didn't know better, some of these worms look more like Eisenia hortensis than the natives but the coloring is off.  They have the flattened tail like E hortensis but a blue-reddish coloring like the young natives but no yellowish striping in the tail.  I always heard that worm species would habitat together but not propagate a hybrid. Who knows?  Close to if not a million E hortensis were dispersed years ago in this particular area by a flood and I have found some that are definitely E hortensis without a doubt and natives likewise.  Maybe this is a new worm?

Any case, they are now residents of the dug-in yard worm bin.  Going back for more until I get tired of gathering! :)

Nature's Balance In Insect Rearing?

Having read some of the so far excellent book, Principles and Procedures for Rearing High Quality Insects , I wonder about something that didn't quite set well with me awhile back when experimenting with raising mushrooms indoors, (Mycology, the science of fungi).

They said it could not be done, that is the online hobby mycologists.  There are certain "rules" that are accepted among groups of people who do certain things and sterile procedure in hobby mycology as well as professional mycology is a must.  If one deviates from the norm, they are usually scoffed at and outcast or called a liar or very lucky if they succeed in doing anything without following protocol.

If one has been following my blog, one surely must have figured out by now that I sometimes do not follow the politically correct path in doing things.  Where's the fun in that?  The sense of adventure and discovery?  I hope to never be accused of fitting in a mass production mold but I will admit at times and depending on one's goals, the proven method is usually the best and fastest way to reach success with any venture.

What did they say could not be done?  Well, it was simply an experiment with bringing nature indoors instead of trying to battle the enemy by creating the perfect conditions in which it thrives.  Contamination in the form of various molds is the enemy of the mycologist.  What I could not get them to realize and believe is that they create the very thing which they fight in providing the perfect environment for such.  How is it that mushrooms grow in nature without any help from we who think we have figured out the perfect scenarios?  There is balance where the good naturally wins if conditions are to the good's detriment or we would all cease to exist on this planet.

It's all about anaerobic(bad) versus aerobic (good) bacteria or otherwise known as beneficial microbes that thrive in the presence of ample food, moisture and oxygen, as far as mycology is concerned anyway and I'm wondering if it applies to Entomology as well in rearing insects in captivity and in large numbers...in sterile conditions.

I just a few minutes ago witnessed something that fits perfectly with this as I walked along in search of a place to gather native worms to stock my newly dug worm bed at home.  The area at my workplace where there are old sludge drying pits that are big squared off brick border sand pits that adult grasshoppers find the perfect place to deposit their eggs.  There are at least many thousands of newly hatched grasshoppers all over the place in the pits and outside the brick borders as the baby hoppers are scaling the short walls to find their home for the next several weeks in the ample grasses.  Here's one in my worm bucket next to a penny...


Tiny and cute little fella eh?  Hard to imagine in a few weeks I'm probably going to be catching and eating this little dude or selling him/her as fish bait haha!  These many baby hoppers hatched without any help from me or anyone else on this earth but they had help.

The point I'm getting at is in nature there is a balance that begins at the basic of levels with microbes that are continually in a war.  When the conditions are so that the beneficial microbes can flourish and outnumber the bad microbes then all is good with the world we have created to do whatever it is we want to do such as growing mushrooms from spores in a flower pot of aerobic worm castings inside a house full of mold spores without any sterile procedure at all.

How is rearing insects any different than growing mushrooms?  I don't ask that in a smart-assed sort of way, I really don't know but plan to learn if there is a difference.   We create these enclosures to rear insects indoors in sterile conditions or as close to sterile as we can get with hepa filtration and the whole nine yards just like mycology.  Watch out!  When we alter the environment for keeping out the badness we also are removing that in which the good can thrive and if badness comes in, what is there to do battle with it?  Chemicals?  Radiation? Hmmm.  In my experience, badness will find a way in and often by then it's too late to win and one must then start over.

I don't want to close nature out, rather, I want to learn to work with it.  It has gotten it right for countless generations and so who am I to argue with success on that level?  The strong has survived and evolved but they did it not alone.  A whole host of tiny things we often take for granted made it possible.  At least that's what I think.  To apply it to my desires may be opening a whole new big can of worms. :) 


  

Solar Gourmet Bug Thoughts

Would like to first welcome a new blog member, William Ray Yeager. Hi William!  William as you can see by the link is COO at InFoods.com, from what I can tell is a startup business in the Entomophagy field.  I'm honored you feel my blog worthy of following. :)

More and more, people in what may be considered as non-entomophagy countries such as North America and Europe are slowly accepting the practice.  Why not, I mean it just makes perfect sense when you figure in all the variables such as sustainability, nutrition, earth friendly, etc.  There's many more benefits to list about raising and eating insects but I want to talk about other stuff too.

I'm a designer of useful things.  That's what my mind does all the time, vision things of a particular nature in relation to something I've taken an interest in and like my new blog member William, I tend to try and solve problems as they are presented as an obstacle.  Today and the past several days it's solar related.

When we consider sustainability and how insects can and already do play a big part in helping to feed hungry people all over the world, solar devices just seem to make sense as being a key addition and partner in building an Entomophagy related business. 

In those very parts of the world where eating insects is more of a necessity than a growing trend like here in America, there are also considerations I think we need to take into account when saying we want to help curb world hunger.  Many or most of the people who eat insects out of necessity could probably make use of some inexpensive technology that allows them to harness the power of the sun in preparing their meals, versus having to walk-about to gather wood to make a fire or purchase charcoal made in earthen vessels because all the fire fuel is used up, which leads to cutting more trees, if there are trees to cut.

I became very interested in reflective solar cookers last year.  They simply amaze me!  How one can take some aluminum foil or mylar potato chip bags and turn them into something that can cook a meal is way cool...or hot, however one wants to look at it.  It's clean, sustainable, smart and practically free energy.  Solar Cookers at Cantina West is my choice for all things solar cooking.  Lot's of pictures and pages of homemade DIY projects.  There may even be a picture or two of my solar projects there from last year if you look hard enough! :)

Reflective solar ovens can be effectively built, as expensive or inexpensive and one desires and have great results once the basic concepts are realized.  Having spent the last few days fiddling around with one of my reflective cookers as a bug collector/dehydrator I have stumble upon yet another revelation in solar oven design that has seemingly escaped every reflective design I have seen, so I'm being busy in building this new solar oven I think will be a great addition to my future business.

Part of my future business will be building these fold-up, compact, inexpensive reflective solar ovens and supplying them to people who have a real need for them in places where they are a necessity such as where my daughter and her family are currently serving/working as missionaries in Belize, Central America and other underdeveloped countries, as well as right here in America. I would like to make it so that people can purchase one or more cookers to be made and sent to wherever it is they desire to help folks out who have a need and we can do that through current missions in progress.

What if one could fill a pot with some food items needing cooked in the morning and just set it out in the sun, without having the need to turn or otherwise align the reflector as the sun travels across the sky from morning to evening and then bring a hot, steaming meal in for the family without ever having to gather wood or build a fire?  Think that might come in handy to some?  I sure do and it's this purpose that drives me, to help somebody help themselves.  That my friends is the purpose we all should live for, helping our fellows, be in here or anywhere in the world.

What if that same device could be made so with various accessories to not only cook whatever one desires but also to use the power of the sun to auto-collect insects during the night and cook them the following day, to be separated and eaten or fed to fish or other livestock, without ever having to put in a battery or wire a switch? :)

   

Monday, April 2, 2012

Delicious Beetles!



The beetles pictured above were cooked/dehydrated for several hours in a 200+F solar cooker with no flavorings of any kind added.  They tasted exactly like unpopped popcorn kernels!  Although the legs and hard wing parts were also brittle, I find they taste better with those parts removed and it's easy when they are this crunchy-dry...


Although it's sort of hard to remove the hard wing parts without also removing the head with them.  Don't worry, they didn't go to waste haha!

So now I have had these beetles cooked three ways. Boiled with seasoning, dehydrated without seasoning and today I found the clear winner.  Marinated in soy with Cavenders Greek Seasoning in the fridge for a few hours and then microwaved with a small bit of butter in thirty second increments, stirring in between cook times until crunchy. I love the seared part of a good steak along the edges where the fat is.  That to me is the ultimate in steak flavor and a great steak needs no sauce!  Well, I have to honestly say these beetles cooked as described have that very same exact flavor and I also had some crickets to go with them but prefer the beetles!

People who have never eaten insects absolutely do not know what they are missing! Finger lickin good I say!  I'm thinking wow, why did I wait so long to get brave enough?  I'm also thinking now that it might not be so good an idea if alot of people discover how good these really are haha! :)  



Friday, March 30, 2012

Nocturnal Bug Harvesting

Local residents may start to talk about you walking around in the dark, under the street lights and along building walls shining a flashlight but this can be the best time to collect edible bugs from the wild.  In just a few minutes this morning at 5am I gathered enough bugs to have a great tasting and nutritious snack after work!

Phyllophaga fusca beetles and crickets seem to be most abundant locally this time of year and are easy pickins during the dark hours.  The beetles are attracted to lights and somehow, I suppose through being clumsy, they end up on their back under street or other bright lights with legs hopelessly up in the air trying to right themselves.  Crickets like to or just naturally navigate walls and can be easily picked up by hand with a bright flashlight shining on them.  So I carry an open, empty milk jug that will hold them without chance of escape and don't have to fiddle with a lid and put it in the freezer or fridge to kill or slow them down until ready to cook.

So far I have tried these particular bugs cooked two ways.  Fried crispy in a little butter with soy and Cavender's Greek Seasoning and boiled with the same ingredients then added to ramen noodles.  Now if you have never tried Cavender's, you don't know what you're missing!  It's great on all kinds of meat and bugs are meat, just in a different package than what most are used to.  Fried crispy is so far and by far my favorite method of cooking and eating bugs.  Boiled gives a good flavor but leaves the exoskeleton and legs chewy for lack of a better term, not my favored texture.  I would rather be able to crunch the whole bug up and not have to deal with thinking about that indestructable wing or leg getting caught in my mouth or throat somewhere haha!  Some will remove these parts while I don't particularly want to go into all the preparation time.

Another method of nocturnal bug harvesting is with a funnel set into a jar with light as an attractant. 
Nothing new really as entomologists and entomophagists alike have been doing similar for many years with lights and panels in various configurations.  In some countries they have pools of soapy water set below to catch and drown the bugs for harvesting and selling in the street markets.  You just never know for sure though what kind of bugs will end up in the jar or pool. 

So get up at dark-thirty, grab a light and cleaned plastic jug and go get yourself some tasty bugs!  It's a great time just to get out and walk about but don't be wandering into or on private property without permission.  There are plenty of places to harvest bugs at night without getting in trouble or being mistaken for a prowler or worse.  It's also a good idea to keep an eye out for other nocturnal critters out hoping to make a meal of some bugs such as skunks!  If you see one just calmly run like mad haha! 

On a seriously cautionary note, harvesting any insects from the wild is really not 100% safe.  I'm "fairly" certain the insects I've collected and eaten have not been exposed to pesticides or whatever else but again I can't be positive.  Harvesting outside of controlled, farm reared conditions is at one's own risk.  Personally I will be really glad when my own rearing efforts show some gain enough for me to partake of my own labor, knowing where my Gourmet Bugs came from and what they ate!   
    

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Grasshoppers For Dinner!

Before I get into the meat of this article I would like to share a new Entomophagy Blog by Joshua Allen, a newcomer as am I to this interesting way of life.  Welcome Joshua!

Today I ate grasshoppers, eight of them which were caught by hand and one bonus small brown beetle.  Wasn't quite sure how to prepare them so I just pulled off the wings after a short boil and fried them crispy along with a tiny bit of unsalted butter, dash of soy sauce and a sprinkling of Cavenders Greek Seasoning.  So far and by far, the most delicious insects I have eaten to date.  I just had a feeling I was going to love grasshoppers and that little brown beetle wasn't bad at all either!  Think it was a young Junebug by pictures I've seen.

The weather has been very warm for March and the locusts are numerous already but small.  Won't be long and we'll be testing the trap, using the sweep net and filling the grasshopper cage over the wheat grass & oats patch.

Having finally tasted some hopper, I'm definitely going to find a way to raise them with success!

Principles and Procedures for Rearing High Quality Insects, John C. Schneider

Times such as this I wish I had paid better attention in school and gotten some further education.  At 49 years of age, tech challenged and short term memory impaired, it seems a daunting challenge to now try and get some formal education in Entomology, distance online or otherwise.  The distance online courses require quite alot of pre-education and seeming to me to be useless courses such as English and two in different foreign languages!  Do bugs care what language one speaks?  It might be helpful though when meeting up with like minded folks from other countries, especially since Entomophagy is currently practiced and studied moreso by those outside of the USA.

Always seem to get what I need though and right on time!  A fella liked my Facebook page, Gourmet Bugs & Bait a few weeks ago.  I thought his name, Alfredo Llecha, seemed familiar and in just a few minutes research I realized who he was as I had just the day before read an online article about him working with BSFL at Mississippi State University.  A native of Spain, Alfredo has come to the USA to share his expertise in insect rearing while specializing in various aspects of the Black Soldier Fly.

Alfredo and I exchanged a few messages and emails concerning BSFL habits and rearing methods and he ultimately recommended a book, Principles and Procedures for Rearing High Quality Insects, John C. Schneider.

MSU offers a yearly workshop based on this book at a fee of $1,050.  I'm going to try to get in on the 2013 schedule being as 2012 is all booked up.  Until then, the $75 total for the book does not seem overly expensive for the amount of knowledge one will gain from it, especially one such as myself who knows actually little to nothing about insect rearing and is having to learn as I go.  It will likely save me alot of time, money and frustration by not having to trial & error experiment so much!

I'm thankful for new friends who seem to be brought into my path just when I need them.  I had no idea when beginning this journey into Entomophagy of all the interesting and talented people I would meet and certainly had no idea that some of the top people in this field in the country and around the world would take interest into my projects. 

Small town, big world, lots of bugs.  On we go! :)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Trial Grasshopper Cage

If you've been keeping up with my randomness, I posted some drawings awhile back of a concept outdoor setup for raising grasshoppers.  Here's the cage I finally was able to salvage enough parts to build.  Not as long as I hoped for but well enough for a trial...


Just a bit over four feet long.  All side dimensions are close to two feet.  Nothing hardly is exact in anything I do since I try to get the most space out of available materials. 

One thing I did that doesn't make perhaps the very best use of available space is that the side screen panels are on the inside rather than out of the frame.  They are flush with the mesh bottom edges so that there is no chance of frass buildup anywhere in the cage bottom.  All frass will exit as it's produced and fertilize the wheat grass and alfalfa patch I'm planting tomorrow to grow up into the mesh bottom to feed the hoppers I will catch soon.

Not sure how many it will hold and/or support.  Will just load it until it looks like it won't support any more, either by noting feed consumption or otherwise conditions that will say to stop.  Planning on a larger grass plot than the cage so if it's a lack of feed issue I can simply cut some extra and put in the cage as required. 

This will go under a clear plastic tent-type structure to keep the rain off  the cage as much as possible.  The slope of my yard will ensure any rain will naturally water the grass. No shortage of that so far this year! 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Gathering & Raising Woodlice, AKA Roly Poly, Pillbug

One hundred woodlice added to a five gallon plastic pail with shredded leaf mulch...


Yes they are edible and have a delicious flavor and aroma when cooked, like seafood but they live on land in and feed on damp rotting wood, leaves and commonly inhabit compost piles. My best flavor comparison is that they taste very similar to boiled crawfish.  The name "Pillbug" is said to have been given to them by old timers who used to eat them raw for stomach problems or acid indigestion and that due to the calcium content woodlice contain.

The bucket has a heat melted/fused on stainless steel #40 mesh bottom.  More of an experiment than anything in trying to raise these outside.  I'll keep it in the shade under the roof eve so any rain can freely drip into it and any excess drains out through the bottom.  They like it wet but not flooded or so I read.

Today I looked under the plastic bag which the original leaves were mulched from, it sitting in the back lot of my work office, still about half full of leaves.  There were many woodlice there among the bits of leaf and gravel and so I easily gathered up a hundred to add and will gather another hundred tomorrow and could probably gather another hundred the day after.  Found it rather easy to scoop them up with a plastic spoon and dump them into a glass baby food jar they can't climb out of.

So getting these bugs to gather for harvest is easy. Just lay something out they can get under that is in a damp, shady area with some shredded leaves or grass clippings under for a food source.  One could easily maintain several square feet of boards laying out in the yard somewhere to continually harvest these if they wished.  I just want to see how they will do in the mesh bottom bucket that will hopefully keep out other things that commonly inhabit the same areas like centipedes, black widow spiders and those creepy looking things you don't know what they are unless you happen to be an entomologist haha! 

My hopes are they will reproduce and convert the entire bucket of leaf mulch into whatever it is they do.  I plan to get around one thousand in the bucket and just keep it moist and shaded, see what happens.  After a time I'll dump it into a bin and see how many happen to be there.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Arkansas Jumper Worms

Brought some worms from work home a few years ago in some compost.  My home was built on some very poor, acidic soil type land that used to be a pine tree thicket and there was not a worm to be found. Now they are all over my yard and have changed the entire composition of the soil here for the better.

I'm not sure of the correct taxonomy for this jumper worm we have here locally so I'm not going to say it's a particular one. It resembles photo's I've seen of those called the Alabama and Georgia Jumpers but its habits do not exactly match up with what I've read, like they say...

"Jumpers are very similar to African Night Crawlers. Both are warm climate species with similar temperature tolerances and breeding rates. Both are very muscular with a snake-like motion; very quick to burrow back into the ground.
What differentiates the Jumpers is that they are an endogeic species. They build extensive lateral burrows. They also prefer compacted soil (including clay) and can burrow deep to avoid cold temps. For this reason they are claimed to be great for aerating hard garden soil."

I was disturbing these monsters in the surface soil just under the grass back in Winter while transplanting garlic.  Though we were having mild days, the nights were still freezing or below and the ground was very cold as I was pulling weed roots and such while these worms went nuts.  They are very muscular like the quote describes and thus the nickname "jumper" is given because that's what they do when distrubed, jump around wildly and they're hard to get a hold on haha!  Here's a photo I took today of one on the driveway after a big rain event...



That's a common sized one.  My boot is exactly a foot long so there ya go, a foot long worm, big round as a pencil.  Wouldn't take too many of these bad boys to make a meal eh?  I've been looking at some worm recipes but give me a break, I just recently ate my first insects. Maybe someday. :)

I don't believe these are burrowing worms.  They are commonly found locally in yard debris piles and they really like rotting wood and leaves.  Rake the leaves back on a shady creekbank in some places I know and these will make the ground seem alive with all their thrashing about!  And talk about composting...these worms put every other worm I have ever personally raised to shame and they reproduce just as well as any. 

Trick is though, they do not seem to like plastic containers at all.  They will do well in an outdoor pile in all climates if kept moist but just try to keep them in a tub or bucket and good luck haha!  I put a bunch in a five gallon bucket once and a weighted window screen over the top.  The next day there wasn't a single worm left in the bucket!  I thought somebody came along and stole them until I saw another batch make the escape right through the openings in a standard window screen.  When doing so, they can make themselves fit through. Don't ask me how but they can also squeeze under a door seal and come right in the house or into the garage if they are fleeing alot of rain which they don't seem to like much.  One would think it would cause all their insides to exit their posterior!

I was at one time going to send some of these worms to an online friend who knew somebody that could positively identify them.  We sort of lost touch somehow and it never happened.  Perhaps someday I'll learn exactly what species they are.  Until then, they will be Arkansas Jumpers.



Monday, March 19, 2012

Regulated Insects USDA/APHIS

Ask and ye shall receive. So I asked USDA/APHIS a question several weeks ago and had given up on getting any response...

Recently you requested personal assistance from our on-line support center. Below is a summary of your request and our response.
If this issue is not resolved to your satisfaction, you may reopen it within the next 7 days.
Thank you for allowing us to be of service to you.

 Subject

Where can I find regulations about raising and selling insects meant for human consumption, entomophagy?

 Discussion Thread

 Response Via Email (USDA/APHIS)
03/19/2012 03:12 PM

Regulations of interest to entomophagists depend on the species and the actions of the insect producer/seller.
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) requires plant pest transport permits for movement of regulated pests. These are pests identified by APHIS or stakeholders as having the potential to cause serious economic or environmental damage in the United States.

You can find a link to regulated insects at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/plants/plant_imports/regulated_pest_list.shtml

Here is a direct link to the pdf... http://www.aphis.usda.gov/import_export/plants/plant_imports/downloads/RegulatedPestList.pdf

APHIS’ Veterinary Services requires permits for the movement of insects that affectanimals or vector animal diseases.   For more information on APHIS permits, we suggest that you contact the APHIS Technical Assistance Center at 1-866-794-2827 or via e-mail at ePermitsHelp@aphis.usda.gov.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would have oversight of insects prepared as processed food.  The address is FDA, Health HHS, 10903 New Hampshire Ave, Silver Spring, Maryland 20993-0002, and the telephone number is 1-888-INFO-FDA (1-888-463-6332).

The Centers for Disease Control requires permits for the movement of insects that affect man or vector human diseases. For more information: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
1600 Clifton Rd., Atlanta,Georgia 30333, and the phone number is 1-800-CDC-INFO
(800-232-4636).

 Customer By Web Form
02/16/2012 06:57 PM

Where can I find regulations about raising and selling insects meant for human consumption, entomophagy?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

BSFL Bin Of Hypertufa & Plastic Tub

There's going to be many pictures in this post over a few days so if you happen upon it uncompleted, check back in a day or two. 

For this BSFL bin project we're using a free plastic livestock mineral tub, 17.5" tall x 21" diameter, from the city recycle yard and a hypertufa cement mix to make the ramps for grub migration. Comments for each photo below.

First to mark the ramp lines...



Top of the ramp to be at 16 inches.


A protracter would be nice but none on hand so I cut a piece of coroplast on the chop saw at 37 degrees for the ramp incline.  Construction paper is used for the pattern, two pieces joined with tape and the top mark is made at 16 inches from the bottom of the paper with the seam being the centerline.  My fancy angle tool is laid out and starting incline lines marked.


A straight edge is used to complete the triangle used for the ramp pattern and carefully cut out.


Hard for me to apply the pattern to the tapered inside so it's taped to the outside.  The tub taper decreases the incline a bit but that's ok. A straight sided container would not present this issue. A tape measure is used along the bottom to assure it's even on both sides ...


And a piece of masking tape aligned with the pattern edge carries it on to the tub bottom.


A steady hand could now mark the inside edge but I'm not that good haha! ...


Masking tape is applied following the see-through edge and marked with a magic marker, then tape and pattern removed from outside.

We now have perfect lines marking where to apply the hypertufa mix up to for the ramps.


Using 3/4 inch PVC pipe for the grub fall tube, 17.5 inches tall, same as the tub height.  A hole is cut in the tub bottom to fit the pipe through so 1.5 inches sticks out below since I'm planning on having a stand for this bin.  The top is held in place with zip tie.

Probably not necessary, especially if one uses reinforced portland cement that contains fibers, but I went ahead with a hardware cloth reinforcement grid, cut about one inch shorter than where the top edges of the ramps will be, also held with a couple of zip ties. 


A line is marked one inch from the tub bottom wall all the way around to the ramp ends.  This will help guage hypertufa thickness as applied.



Not sure this will work but was a thought.  Mini trowel made of wood and sanded smooth before applying paste wax.  The groove is exactly one inch from either edge and 3/16' wide, 1/4" deep. I'm hoping it will help smooth the ramp surfaces flat and apply a ridge along the side to keep grubs from falling off while migrating.

That's about it for tub preparation.  All we need to do now is apply the hypertufa mix when I can get to the hardware store for some portland cement.

Random thoughts.  Was thinking of having braided nylon rope through the sides as a wicking experiment but now I think it might be better to have the ends sticking out of holes in the tub bottom.  If it wicks & drips like I imagine it's going to then another mineral tub bottom can easily be used as a catch basin and even install a spigot if we want.  I thought I remembered reading awhile back that Black Soldier Flies would lay eggs around underneath a bin if the liquid was not contained and so we don't want that.    



To be continued...







Saturday, March 17, 2012

Round Coroplast BSFL Bin

Coroplast is not designed to be formed into a round tank but not impossible! Here's the result of the last three days head scratching, alot of thinking, plus a few finger burns from heat welding coroplast in positions not meant for the human body...






Wished about halfway into this project I had not ever started but once started one can't quit!  It was hard, I'm tired and I never want to make another round coroplast bin of any type haha!  Think if I were to make any more large BSFL bins I would just make a mold and use a hypertufa mix. Probably will just for the fun of making stuff. :)

Ended up 22" tall, 31" diameter.  Big enough for many thousands of BSFL.  That ramp looks steep but I checked and re-checked, it's 37 degree incline and they say BSFL can go up a 40 degree so it should be good, plus the fact the ramps are a silicone rubber surface instead of slick plastic.  My only concern is the 1" wide ramps may not be wide enough if alot of larvae try to migrate at once.  Guess we'll see how it goes. Pretty confident in the seam weld strength but just in case I installed a couple of hardware cloth wire mesh wall retainers on the outside.

Going to get some polyester felt, normally used as capillary mat in starting plant seedlings by sucking up water from a reservoir, cut two slits in the bottom for the ends of the felt to stick through.  I'm betting it will reverse the normal use capillary action and draw moisture away from the bin contents to the outside air to evaporate.

It's going to take lots of food to feed a BSFL population for a bin this size if it's maxed out.  Ladies at the local quicky mart are saving coffee grinds for me so there's a start. 

Not bad for less than $10 in materials so far.  Now for a lid... :)

Edit...

This drawing looks pretty dull and basic but it's exactly what one would see if they cut my bin open and laid the side out flat.  Ramps are nothing more than a triangle or in my construction, two triangles butted up on the edges.

Now about forming curves, there should not be anything really difficult given the material if one has a plan.  I'm trying to form an easy plan so people can duplicate this style if they choose.

So I think if one were to start out with flat material like shown it would be alot less difficult than my trial and error round bin. 

Some sort of flexible foam or sheet plastic might work for a bin.  We need to keep in mind when working with flat material that is to be curved to form a cylinder, we can't permanently attach the whole area of the ramps to the sides, just the centerline. This is because as we curve the material, the inside ( ends of the ramps) will need to slide as the inner diameter adjusts versus the outer wall material. If it were attached completely there would be severe wrinkling.

I would lay the wall out flat.  Attach the ramp material at the centerline.  Bend the wall material to form the cylinder, using a piece on the outside to overlap both edges to attach the seam so the inside would be smooth.  Attach the bottom and then form & attach the ramp material to the curved walls.

Another method one might use is the sand mold technique with concrete.  Ever made a sand castle?  Pile up wet sand and form a mold negative of what one wants the inside of the bin to look like. Surround it with a rigid plastic retainer wall like a big tapered tub with the bottom removed and oiled on the inside.  The bottom edge of the tub should be an inch or two taller than the "top" of your sand form, which will be the bottom of your bin.  When filled with cement completely to the top edge of your retainer and cured, the tapered plastic retainer should slip off easily, leaving you with an upside-down BSFL bin.  A big cement bin should have wire reinforcement.

Hypertufa is a lightweight material made of various aggregates other than gravel.  The standard hypertufa mix is 1 part portland cement, 2 parts peat moss and 2 parts perlite.  Fiber reinforced portland would be excellent for this type of project.  After a 28 day cure it is a fairly strong and very lightweight material compared to standard cement and also has excellent insulation qualities.  It is mixed "dry" as compared to standard cement and applied by hand to a tapered mold for easy removal and when dried could be sealed with a non-toxic epoxy coating.  Sounds like a fun project!

 
 






Friday, March 16, 2012

Update On Worms & Mealworms In Clean Bug System

Updating from this blog article on 2/25/12 when the worms and mealworms first arrived.  The first prototype Clean Bug System seems to be successful so far, almost three weeks into it.  The only odor in the room is that of a healthy worm bin, kind of earthy.  Here's a few pics and some comments underneath each...


Probably a few hundred pupae.  I'm removing twenty to thirty every day from the mealworm enclosure and have about fifty beetles already in the Clean Mealworm Tower.


A couple of observations here.  That original enclosure was taped with black electrical tape in the inside corners since I didn't know what I was doing with coroplast yet and I did not know the worms would chew on it.  Have tossed out probably close to fifty dead worms as I find them. Perhaps the tape killed them?  There is no tape in any of the new enclosures.

The powdery stuff outside the enclosure on the screen is diatomaceous earth.  Had seen two mites crawling on the screen frame that day, I figured came from the worm bin below so I dusted the entire worm bin, the screen around the edge outside the mealworm enclosure and the entire box bottom both are sitting in.  This did not affect the earthworms in any way and I have not seen any more mites.


Clean Mealworm Tower setup in the spare room.  Beetle breeder box on top.  Can change out trays below as needed and each oversize tray lid will catch the frass from the tray above.  Only the tray under the breeder box has no lid so eggs or newly hatched mealworms from the breeder box can fall into it.  Trays are lined with foil so eggs and small mealworms stay in until big enough to remove the foil.  Only did two as a test. If it works will do the rest as needed.

Spraying the composting worm bin surface with water every three days.  No problems to report humidity-wise as far as it affecting the mealworm bedding negatively.  Noticed some of the worms mating and have not really dug around looking for cocoons but there will be some soon if not already.  No escape attempts since there are no trails in the DE dust on the sides of the bin.  Worms are happily eating any food scraps and frass that falls through the mealwom enclosure.  All is well or they would try to escape.

 


 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bugs In Your Yard

As mentioned in previous articles, I have worked the past fifteen years in city public works, some call public utilities.  Several of those years were spent reading water meters every month.  Let me tell you something...water meter boxes are prime bug hide-outs!  This is a water meter box lid for you uncultured folks...


Don't get mad at me for calling people uncultured haha!  I bet at least 50% of people who have water service don't know where or what that thing in their yard even is, much less want or need to open the lid.

So some meter boxes are black plastic like the one shown, some are concrete and some old ones are cast iron, some round and some square.  There is hardly a time I can remember opening a meter box lid and not finding some sort of bug inside and sometimes many of them.  These boxes are usually at least eighteen inches deep in the South and I'm not even sure what they do in the colder regions where the ground freezes really deep.

Depending on the time of year, one can expect to find different insects or other creatures as well as flooded boxes with dead things in them during high water events.  Camel crickets seem to love concrete boxes all year long in certain places and scorpions like any meter box where they may be found in nature such as rocky terrain.  Some months I never thought I would open a box that did not have a black widow spider nesting inside and often wondered if there was a market for them. Have even found bee hives in a couple of the deep, round styles of meter box.  Oh and wasps also love meter boxes.

Then there's the common lizard or frog and sometimes a small snake.  It pays to be careful when inspecting meter boxes but you just might find a never ending supply of bugs for whatever purpose you desire. There is usually a small access door with a key hole but they are not locked unless it's an old style round lid and the whole cover will pop off by using a lid tool in the rectangular hole on the end. If you have a friendly public works operator who would not mind, they might even take you on the route one month so you can see where all the meter boxes are and even let you have a tool unless there is a city ordinance prohibiting people from opening meter box lids.  I'm pretty sure they would if you volunteer to open the lids and yell out the numbers for them to record!  I know for a fact they wouldn't mind having to deal with less creatures every month haha!

The enterprising bug collector might just find themselves digging holes in their yard and putting covers with small holes in them.  I know at least one person who knows where there are going to be lots and lots of camel crickets.  :)