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.


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

Here is a direct link to the 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

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

 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... :)


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.  :)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Black Soldier Fly Larvae

As promised, here's an article on Black Soldier Fly Larvae, (BSFL).  Rather than go into a long and drawn out "how to", I will refer you to what I consider the best online source for learning all about BSFL, Jerry's Black Soldier Fly Blog.  I met Jerry online a few years ago on a fishing forum when he was just getting started with BSFL.  Glad to see he stuck with it.

My experiences with BSFL started about thirteen years ago at my work place.  Some bags of dog food at the city kennels had gotten wet when a trash can lid blew off during a storm and a few weeks later while cleaning up flood debris I discovered one of the bags crawling with BSFL but did not know at the time what they were.  My only thought was "the biggest maggots I ever saw"!

Since that time with online vermiculture, meeting Jerry with his BSFL projects and other composting and gardening activities I have come to learn quite alot about them and the Black Soldier Fly, parent to the BSFL.

Now I have raised fly larvae and I have raised BSFL and can assure anyone they are two totally different creatures entirely. The pest fly larvae or maggots are some nasty creatures but have their place in nature.  BSFL on the other hand are larvae of a fly but it is not a pest fly to humans and does not feed during its life as a fly, nor does it even have any mouth parts like a pest fly.  Its only purpose during its seven or eight day life as a fly is to mate and lay eggs.  It poses no threat to humans in any way and does not transmit any disease as do pest flies.

Some things I particularly like about BSFL versus pest fly larvae is the fact that they can be raised on a variety of feed sources, like fruit and vegetable wastes or grain products.  They will eat just about anything that once lived except cellulose and bone.  They do not stink like pest fly larvae, depending of course on what they are fed and a well maintained rearing system. They purge their gut and secrete a self disinfecting enzyme when leaving the food pile in search of a place to pupate which lends to various devices of clean "self harvesting".  These traits, as well as their high protein, calcium, fat content and mass reproduction make them a perfect candidate for the fishbait & reptile feed trade as well as Entomophagy in my opinion.

Today I needed a break from building mealworm enclosures so I decided to play with a coroplast design of a BSFL bin.  Here's the base, built entirely from one 4' x 4' coroplast sheet, 4mm thick.  All geometric cuts and folds from one piece so it's not patchwork from smaller pieces which helps with the sturdiness, except the center brace that's heat welded to the inside walls as well as all seams where flaps overlap being heat welded...

Kind of looks like a really short boat haha!  Will construct a lid and add a few more vent holes that also serve as adult fly entry points to lay eggs and we'll be ready for BSFL season. 

That's the drawback to raising BSFL.  To my knowledge the adult fly does not do well in captivity situations so if one has winter time there is a BSFL season and that being summer of course.  Still, a plus to this is that BSFL will delay pupating during cold weather and survive as larvae, continuing to process foodstuffs if in an insulated enclosure, even in very cold conditions.  This allows for continuing the colony from season to season once a colony is established and nature takes its course.

Starting a BSFL colony can be tough, especially if one has little or no native population.  In this case, one can purchase BSFL from a variety of online sources to start a bin.  The same chemical signals given off by an active BSFL that repel gnats and pest flies also serves as an attractant to adult Black Soldier Flies in the area.  If there are none in the area, one needs to then allow their purchased larvae to pupate and turn into adult flies near a wooded area where they will gather and mate among the trees and bushes.  Having your bin close by and ready with offerings of spent coffee grounds which they love will assure a good start to your colony and allowing some to escape will ensure there will always be adults around.

Having learned alot about BSFL over the years, I see no difference in raising them on leftover human foods to cook and eat as human food, just as if I were to raise, cook and eat a mealworm.  The BSFL might actually even be a cleaner bug on its own merit than any we could produce through all our efforts.

Updated pics of the almost finished coroplast BSFL bin...

Sliding removable access door on top and hanging larvae catch basin.  Just a few minor details to do but for all practical purposes it's complete. 

The plan for this is to set it up over a composting worm bin.  BSFL generate quite alot of liquid the worms can utilize, as well as the BSFL frass.  A simple layer of aluminum screen will separate the two.  Since worms and BSFL commonly inhabit the same compost pile, I don't have a problem if some mingle.  The BSFL likely will not be interested in the cardboard worm bedding and stay topside where their food pile is while some of the small worms may migrate upward and probably be eaten.  Liquid should soak into the worm bedding through the mesh and worms can pick away at the frass which pokes through.  Will just have to try it and see how it goes.

Here's a link to a DIY BSFL bin using an old 55 gallon plastic drum and some lumber...

Here's another BSFL bin I started put together yesterday, 3/14/12. Not sure about what to do with the bottom yet. Might try agricultural capillary mat for reverse capillary action as a way of controlling moisture in the bin.  I'm not sure but don't see why it wouldn't work.  A slit for the mat to protrude out from the sides should act like a wick, drawing moisture from the bottom of the bin to the outside air to evaporate.  Worth a try.


Sustainable Entomophagy, Solar Gourmet Bugs

Since we're preaching Entomophagy as a sustainable and environmentally friendly practice, I wonder how solar cooked or dried gourmet bugs will fare?  If anything like ordinary foods prepared by solar cooking, they should be great!

It's nearly impossible to burn foods in a reflective solar cooker other than the parabolics with extremely high temperature focal points.  I have an old parabolic dish covered with solar reflective sheet material that will flame a stick in winter time in the evening sun!  That's more a death ray than a solar cooker but it's fun to play with and fries bacon pretty well.

Here's my idea of an inexpensive, durable, functional and sustainable reflective solar cooker that I built last year with coroplast, covered with solar reflective film and left out on the patio all fall and winter on purpose just to see how it would hold up under severe neglect.  It's been tossed about, piled under junk at times and covered with failed shiitake mushroom substrate, had ants nesting among the plastic fluting and crawled on by masses of crane fly larvae.  Sun, wind, rain and freezing cold.  How did it hold up?

A quick rinse & wipe and other than the wrinkled bottom panel resulting of heat from cooking last year there is no sign of peeling or anything I would consider negative to the appearance of the cooker!

I bought the adhesive backing reflective film at Solar Cookers at Cantina West and I guarantee you it's the best you can get for the right price.

One can make this any size they need and can even use mirror tiles from the hardware store for 1' square panels or glue them to a wood frame for a larger cooker but it would be heavy.  This uses four 18" coroplast panels joined with zip ties as hinges and folds up to an 18" x 1" thick flat stack that's lightweight and easy to carry.  Three are covered in the reflective vinyl film and one is left bare which folds under the bottom reflective piece and the weight of the cooking pot holds it steady.  I've had it cooking in 35 mph wind with no tip-overs, that of course is depending on the weight of the pot.

It's directional, which means it must be turned to face the sun for optimum, all day long cooking.  I found just by pointing it to the West just after noon and leaving it alone during late Spring, it will boil and cook four dry cups of beans in 5-6 hours in a half gallon canning jar that's been painted flat black on the outside, no stirring and no burning.

You can bet I will be solar cooking or dehydrating some bugs this year with this truly sustainable method, as long as the sun shines.

ALWAYS remember when using any reflective solar cookers to ALWAYS WEAR SUNGLASSES!  Can't stress that enough and though reflective cookers like the one shown aren't so bad at the hot spot if one should happen to stick their hand in by mistake but never stick your hand in a parabolic dish focal point. Pots in a reflective cooker get very hot and should be handled like any hot pot or pan.  :)

This is how to form a Tri-Flector Panel Cooker from cardboard that could be covered with foil or recycled mylar from potato chip bags.


Gourmet Bugs ~ A New Direction

We're staying on track but just a bit of change for the better.  Now working with World Entomophagy!  In doing so, we're not so much going to be posting every idea we have out in the public domain.  Some we will and some we won't.  Those we have already will stay as they are.  Those that may possibly fit and work towards the visions and goals of World Entomophagy and our interests together may be treated as proprietary. 

We both have the same sort of standards of how we think insects should be raised for human consumption which I like alot.  We both have the same desire to see this world a better place where nobody goes hungry and sustainable environmental practices are promoted. I like that alot also. 

Thanks for your past, present and future with Gourmet Bugs!  We're still learning, thinking and building toward a better future for ourselves and whoever we are brought together with in life.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Vertical Clean Bug Mealworm Tower

Busy day and getting close to completing a vertical mealworm tower that will have fifteen screen bottom trays and a beetle breeder enclosure on top...

Yes, there is alot of wasted space but I'm learning as I go and making the best of what's available.  The next one will be much better and this one should get me started in the mealworm farming.  There will be a flat coroplast lid for every tray that will serve as the frass catcher from the tray above.  Going to try and line the bottom of each screen tray with aluminum foil for newly hatched mealworms until they're large enough to not fall through the screen.

Mealworm larvae are pupating in high numbers and there are already a few dozen or so new beetles.  I think we're going to have alot of mealworms soon. Will update with some more pictures when the tower is completed.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Improved Darkling Beetle Breeder Box ~ Mealworms

From where we left off at the last article, the screen frame has been modified with a groove on the underside so that it nestles into as it sits on top of the lower enclosure where beetle eggs with fall through.  This is pretty much what I'm settling on for several weeks of testing starting very soon.

The improved design makes the most use of the available space provided by the recycled wood pieces and there is no moving around of the upper portion with the nestling groove cut in. Remains to be seen how many beetles we can have topside.  Going to try to max it out for efficiency.

Mealworms from starting stock are pupating quickly and soon we will have one-thousand, plus or minus a few darkling beetles breeding and laying eggs.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle ~ Gourmet Bugs

I would like to take a minute to write a special thanks to my reader who wanted to donate to this cause and suggest a donate button.  Thank you for your help and to others who also see what I see and wish to contribute!  It means alot and adds to my "want" to do more, especially since I know others are liking what I'm doing.  So now others are involved and it has gone beyond just an idea.

Yes I want to form a business of Gourmet Bugs to better myself and family but it goes deeper.  I want to help people.  If one design should help somebody gather or produce another meal then all is worth it to me. 

Seems like this was meant to be. I say that because ever since I began this journey a few short weeks ago, everything has fallen into place and I always get what I need to complete a desired task or project right when it's needed.

Case in point, the title for this article, "Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle".  I spent an entire day cleaning out junk and straightening up my garage to better be able to work.  Hauled a trailer load of junk to the city recycle yard while thinking of picking up some 2' x 4' lumber to rip and make mealworm beetle boxes. Guess what?  I got what I needed, again, and most of them are already angled on the ends...

Eh!!! This whole pile of already ripped and angled lumber just sitting there waiting for me to come by!  Many good pieces of 2" x 4' lumber also.  This will keep me busy for awhile and thanks to whoever didn't need them!

Most of the things I've built over the years have been made by using parts from the city recycle yard.  It's amazing sometimes what people toss out and is free for the taking! 

So I'm going to try something different in beetle box construction today.  Instead of installing screen by sandwiching between two pieces, I'm going to build frames of this gift wood, rip a groove all the way around on the table saw I now have clean garage access to haha, and install the screen into the groove with a screen tool just like as if one were using regulation screen frame material.  If successful, it will save from needing two layers of wood on the beetle box screen and I can use coroplast to make custom fitting boxes.  I think it will work and will update on it later.

Update!  Didn't take to long to see this is going to work great!  Each piece of wood is ripped to make two so two of these salvaged pieces make one screen frame, 11.5" x 11.5" ID.  After cutting, the corners are glued and screwed with a short screw so to not interfere with our screen spline cut shown below...

The screen spline groove shown above is cut 1/4" deep, 1/2" from the inner edge all the way around and the inside top edge of the groove is rounded slightly with one pass of a Dremel grinder where the screen is pulled so to not cause it to tear on a sharp corner.  Below we see the screen installed by pressing the rubber spline into the groove and the excess screen trimmed off.  I'm really kind of surprised it worked so well.  Much easier to install than on aluminum screen frame and the screen is very tight and flat.

I'm sure happy somebody decided to throw these pieces away.  Have enough for 34 more frames and the 11.5" ID of the frames is the perfect size for forming the upper mealworm corral from a 4' wide strip of coroplast that will have at least 2" flap leftover for wrapping around and sealing the wall.

Could not have asked for better trash haha!

Darkling Beetle Breeder Box

Saturday, March 3, 2012

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

A couple of years ago I had a different Blogger Blog titled "Maggots/Spikes Fish Bait".  The thought of eating maggots never crossed my mind personally but I have read on certain survival websites about people eating them for food.  People in the UK and the Northern United States where ice fishing is popular call these fly larvae "Spikes", a popular fish bait.

What I was doing those 24 months ago then was an experiment, trying to raise Spikes for fish bait differently than "normal" if there is such a thing.  Will get to that in a minute.

It's rather easy to raise them quickly by the thousands as I have done quite often in past years, the only problem is what they are raised on.  I would commonly bring home a mess of fish, filet them and toss the remains into a plastic pail which was set out in the very back of the yard for a day or two with the lid off to allow flies access to lay eggs.  It was then covered with a piece of old cloth to keep other flies out.  All the larvae that hatched would then stay pretty much the same size and are killer panfish and catfish bait.

Well I say the same size but there were what I would call big ones and small ones.  It was clear that there must be different flies laying eggs during the time there was access.  A bit of research determined that the big ones I was after were the larvae of the Blue Bottle Fly,  Calliphora vomitoria.

There is a United States supplier of Blue Bottle Fly products, Forked Tree Ranch, Inc. in Idaho.  They sell live spikes for bait and flies as pollinators as well as feeder mealworms.  Since I could not figure how to isolate my gut bucket to only allow the one species of fly in, I decided to order some and try my experiments.

The Blue Bottle Fly is also called the blow fly, meat fly and probably a few other names I'm not aware of.  They are great pollinators for some types of garden plants which is a great thing but they reproduce on dead meat, the stinkier the better for them, to the disgust of most of the rest of us.  I wanted to see if they could be raised on something a little less stinky and I actually did succeed to a point or I would not be writing this article.

I built a cage type enclosure of wood and vinyl window screen with a double screen door of sorts.  My spikes arrived and were placed into an open bowl in the cage where they pupated and eventually hatched out as flies.

What does one "feed" a fly?  I figured they must need some water source so I supplied a dish of wet sawdust with some sugar added which they seemed to be utilizing.  How to get them to breed and lay eggs?  Well, they seemed to not have trouble in breeding which started almost immediately.  How to get them to lay eggs?  That's the problem.

Not so much a problem as described earlier if one uses rotting meat or fish parts.  My only other thought at the time was moistened dry dog food which I had witnessed maggots in at previous times when a container had carelessly been left uncovered at work and gotten wet where I care for the stray city dogs.  At least it doesn't smell as bad as dead meat.  The maggots raised on rotten meat or fish smell horrible, no matter how much sawdust one puts them into after feeding them up big and fat. I just can't imagine people eating them.

So I moistened some dog food and put a dish in with the flies.  They did what flies do and laid eggs in the dog food which hatched out quickly into maggots. 

My experiment was short lived.  I did not know how many eggs had been laid in the short amount of time I gave them for a small number of flies.  There were maggots and they grew to a good size, about 3/4" long and fat, just not very many, perhaps a couple of hundred into a large mass of dog food I had transferred them into and finding them was a big mess. I had imagined a huge wriggling mass such as a fish gut bucket where there is nothing but solid maggots rolling around each other and having to give them more food.  The other problem I had was gnats that had also gotten into the mixture and also laid eggs and pretty much messing up the whole purpose of my trials.

Let's wrap this up.  I suppose what I'm getting at is that Blue Bottle Fly larvae can be raised on other things than rotting meat or fish.  What those things may be remains to be seen but it will have to be in an enclosed, controlled environment to keep the species isolated.  Perhaps something can be discovered such as will be more acceptable to our senses as a food source. 

If I'm not mistaken, fly larvae have among the highest amount of protien of any insect or larvae and they have no hard exoskeleton.  Some people eat them already.  I think the Blue Bottle Fly deserves more experimenting with.  To my current knowledge they produce the largest larvae of any common fly and in large numbers quickly if left to their own devices in nature.  Can we domesticate them as a palatable human food?

Another fly larvae that deserves our attention as Entomophagists is the Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL).  These fly larvae will eat any non-cellulosic food such as fruit pulp and vegetable wastes and are currently being utilized in restaurant refuse and waste treatments.  Its larvae is large, even larger than the Blue Bottle Fly.  It is not a pest fly to humans and does not invade, infest homes or transmit any known diseases to humans that I'm aware of and will even "self harvest" by crawling away from the food source to pupate, such behavior has been successfully utilized in the commercially manufactured and sold "Bio-Pod".  If  personally given a choice to raise and eat fly larvae, it would probably be the BSFL.

There will surely be more to come from this writer concerning fly larvae in future articles.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Ant Egg & Pupae Harvester

No, I didn't forget about the ant egg harvester from the Article on Escamoles.  There is a link over on the right to a survival article on collecting these ant eggs and pupae.  Looks like something I don't want to do so maybe this will prove easier, better and less to no ant bites. Here is the art of my concept...

Showing the whole unit above and magnified view beneath of the end at the flap section.  Basically as the link article describes and there are a few YouTube videos of people doing this sort of thing, we're taking advantage of the ant's natural instinct to protect its young.

We pile anthill dirt onto the cloth/tarp with a folded over edge flap and sticks leading into the flap on a sunny day. Ants immediately start to save their brood from the sunlight/heat by taking them into the nearest shady spot which happens to be our flap, using the sticks as pathways.  They do this over and over again, separating the eggs from the dirt out on the tarp.  We let them do their thing and then collect the eggs, free of dirt and debris.

Now I'm not one to go thrusting my hands down into an ant hill!  The ants that have taken up residence here in Arkansas over the past several years do not take kindly to intruders.  Their eggs and pupae are big and fat so I have to at least try this.

My design I think will help solve a few problems.  There is a half round length of PVC pipe glued into the bottom of the flap, the sticks and flap are set firm and there are handles as well as a brace between where the handles connect.

I vision this taking place.  Set the unit up several feet away from the target anthill.  Use a shovel, a long handled one, to transfer the anthill contents onto the tarp and let the ants do their thing.  After a time we lift the unit by the handles.  It is made so that when lifted, the tarp folds a the point of the brace.  This will make the anthill debris fall away on that side while all the ant eggs and pupae gathered under the flap fall into the half round pipe.  We then tilt it over a container so all we have collected falls or rolls out into the container, hopefully free of many ants to have to mess with separating.  I'm sure there will be a few but I imagine most of the ones left on the tarp or cloth will be clinging to it.

These are mean ants I'm dealing with and have to do everything to keep from getting attacked.  One little bit of disturbance sends thousands of them going out in every direction very quickly, looking for something to bite and sting.  I hope this works!  Recent inspection of a local hill shows the eggs to be growing and a nice size to try a harvest soon.

My prototype ant egg harvester is a piece of heavy camoflauge fabric, 4' wide x 5' long.  The half round PVC pipe, cut from 1' schedule 40 PVC is glued into the bottom of the flap and the 3/4" x 1' wood sticks cut from plywood are spaced at 1' intervals and glued to the fabric.

A strip of 1/4" thick x 2" wide plywood is glued and screwed to the wood pieces, glue is applied to the top of the strip and wood pieces and the cloth is folded over, pressed and glued.  After glue has dried another plywood strip is screwed on the opposite side of the fabric, edge aligned with the ends of the wood pieces.  This edge is where the harvester will fold and dirt will fall away when lifting to harvest the eggs.

Pipe clamps are formed from aluminum flashing and a length of 3/4" PVC pipe attached with screws onto the wood pieces, elbows glued on. Handles of 4' long 3/4" PVC pipe are left unglued for removal. 

Handles removed, it all folds up neatly for storage and transport.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Darkling Beetle Breeder Box For Mealworms

Building a breeder box with egg filter for Darkling Beetles.

Things needed:
Plywood, at least 1/2 inch thick.
Two cheap plastic containers with a level rim. I got these for $1 each, dollar store.
Pen or pencil.
Drill with drill bit to fit what size of screws you have & screwdriver.
Two clamps.
Box knife.
Aluminum window screen.
Silicone sealant.

Hope I didn't leave anything out but will discuss options as we go.  Some people raise mealworms all in one container for all cycles of life.  This is convenient for some and alright if that's what one wants to do.  We're in this for maximum production and so we're making a screen bottom container for the Darkling Beetles to breed.  If in the same container, they will eat their own eggs.

When we have a good number of breeding beetles, we will set them over a solid bottom container for a certain period of time and then replace the container below.  This will ensure our growing mealworms stay pretty much the same size.

This will work for any size of level top container one wants to use.  Using small containers will not require screen bracing whereas larger opening containers may to prevent screen sagging.  Since we're just starting out and dealing with what will be very small hatchling mealworms and beetles breed best in large numbers in close proximity, a small, 6 quart container will suffice for now.  Some experimenting will have to be done to figure the maximum amount of beetles we can allow for one container. 

Here we go.  Lay a container top down onto the plywood.  Trace a line around it, leaving enough space to have 1" of wood frame outside the container.

Drill screw holes around the perimeter about 2" - 3" apart.  Countersinking with a countersink bit or tool or a larger drillbit is nice and will give a better finish. 

The piece is cut out with a jigsaw and laid onto another piece of plywwod and clamped. You can of course double up the wood from the beginning if you like but I only drilled completely through the top layer to give screws a good bite into the lower layer when assembling later.  A pilot hole for the jigsaw blade is drilled through both layers of wood.  The inside is cut out while remaining clamped to assure exact cuts on both pieces.  The clamps need to be moved to make room for the saw.

Next we see the centers cut out.  After this the lower piece of wood is cut out, using the top piece for a blade guide.

Both pieces cut out and edges sanded.

Ok you have to imagine with me installing the screen and it's good to have a pair of leather gloves. Cut a piece of window screen that will stick out at least 3 inches on three sides to have something to pull with one hand, sandwich it between the wood layers. Start all screws into holes with fingers so they are ready.  We start along a side making sure our wood pieces are aligned flush, screen flush with the outside wood edge on the side we are beginning with, tighten the center screw tight.  Then along that same side, pull the screen away from the center screw toward the ends as you tighten each next screw.

Now go to the opposite side, again with the center screw and tighten it tight while pulling the screen with your free hand.  Best way to describe this is fingers next to the wood for bracing while pinching and pulling the screen.  Work toward each end, pulling the screen opposite the screw on the other side and away from the center screw on that side you're on. 

When two opposite sides are complete, do the ends the same way, always pulling and tightening.  When you get done, if you did a good job the screen will be very flat and tight.  Now you can trim off the excess screen along the seam with a box blade or Dremel rotary tool cut-off wheel. Leave no wire ends poking out that will stab you when handling.  If your screws are poking out the other side, grind them off flat & flush to the wood.  Best to start with the right length of screw. :)

I've tried with no success with simply attaching screen to plastic container bottoms by various methods.  It always ends up loose and sagging so I came up with this and it works well. I personally don't like sagging in my screen bottoms. If it doesn't bother you then do whatever works.  Regulation aluminum screen frame material and accessories are expensive, hard to install for beginners and will not give a custom full-fit to the container as will this method. 

If we made a good cut in the beginning, the top of a container will fit right into the wood frame and flat onto the screen.  The bottom is cut off one container which now becomes the top of the beetle box with screen bottom.  Some dabs of silicone around the outside is all that's needed to secure the container to the wood unless you plan on getting rough with it. In that case put alot of silicone haha!  All we really need is for it to stay secure enough the beetles can't get out under the edge.  I have observed them rooting around and several of them in unison might just lift the unfastened container and escape!

The finished product set on a solid bottom container we can change out ever so often when we have lots of breeding beetles.  As they breed and lay eggs, with all their running about through the bedding, their body action will keep the bedding moving and eggs falling through the screen, into oats, bran or whatever we want to use for the baby mealworms to eat when they hatch.  After the mealworms get big enough to not fall through the screen, they can be put into a Clean Bug System.