Monday, 30 January 2017

Vermicomposting: Can Compost Worms and Black Soldier Flies Live In The Same Bin? Yes!


A while back I bought a Reln 3-tier worm farm from Bunnings, also sold as Tumbleweed Worm Cafe. The info provided was scant, but it seemed pretty straight forward.

Living in a hot climate (Brisbane, Australia), I began an ongoing battle with Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSF or BSFL) almost the moment I bought my worm farm. I made the mistake of ignoring the advice not to overfeed the bin, and soon the whole thing was overrun. The worms of course hated the heat and acidic conditions, and began digging down and committing suicide into the water at the bottom of the bin. A grim death, but perhaps not as grim as being cooked and eaten by BSF larvae.

Searching the internet it seems most people's experiences are the same - once the BSF's move in, your worms move out, die off, or are never seen again. A lot of people say they just can't live together - and they're pretty well right, the conditions that BSF create are completely different to those required by the worms to thrive or even survive. But they're both so good at what they do - why can't we have both? We need the BSF for processing large amounts of food waste, and we need the worms to turn the mess the BSF leave behind into vermicastings, and we don't have room to run multiple bins!

Problems & Solutions:

P1: Worms don't eat enough. The reason I kept getting Black Soldier Fly in my worm bin was because there was too much uneaten scraps - this was a problem that wasn't going away.

S1: Black Soldier Fly eat everything you throw at them and they'll still want more.

P2: Worms don't eat the kind of scraps I have. I need something that will eat onions and citrus and scraps I can't feed my chickens or dog - worms don't fill this niche 100% of the time. 

S2: Black Soldier Fly eat basically every type of scrap besides paper & grass clippings.

P3: Black Soldier Fly keep infesting my worm bin and killing my worms. At first I fought back - fed them to my chickens, tried to add more soil and wait for the worms to catch up with the backlog - it didn't work, the BSF just kept coming back.

S3: Instead make an environment that supports and benefits both - the best of both worlds!

Final Solution - converting the worm cafe into a co-habitation destination with no extra parts required:

In my frantic google searching to find a solution to this co-existence problem, I stumbled upon a post on a forum by a person aptly named "Sludge Feeder". He had drawn the following diagram as an idea of how a system might look, but there was no follow up or pictures to say whether it had been built or whether it was successful. Well, it does work, so props to you SludgeFeeder!

On the face of it, his diagram looks kinda confusing, but you might notice there's clearly 4 sections - just like the 3 tier bins - just like the worm cafes and worm cans! We don't need the mesh grill because the trays already have fairly small holes between sections. He has in essence drawn exactly what we already have! Great! No extra parts required!

So basically we're using the same bin, but tweaking it from this:

to this:

Let's break it down:

Level 1: normally this would fill with watery leachate, which you would drain out occasionally and use on the garden. However, we want a bit of airflow, and we really don't want water building up, as the worms will sometimes come down to this level when its hot - don't want them drowning!

I tend to put a little bit of shredded newspaper in the bottom of this tray, at least across the side opposite the tap, just to help the worms find something cool and wet when they're hot. There is a raised hump in these 3 tier systems that allow the worms to move from this lowest level back up to the upper levels, and no, I've never had any crawl out the open tap!

Level 2: I used a tray which had previously had BSF through it here, but you could use soil, blended compost, leaves, newspaper etc in here - make it nice for worms. No big chunks of rotting food needed at this level as that will draw BSF into this tray, which we don't want, we want to keep them slightly segregated by level 3.

Level 3: a mostly empty tray - provides an air gap between the heat and acidity of the BSF. I put a layer of shredded newspaper along the bottom of this tray so that the water falling from the BSF tray directly above drops onto the paper here and the worms can feast upon its slimy goodness.

Level 4: BSF home town - throw everything you've got into this top tray, they'll gorge themselves silly. The water and leachate they release will drip down through the holes in the tray and filter through the shredded paper in level3, and then through the substrate of level2, providing more food for worms.

Benefits of this system:

  1. In level 4, you can process large amounts of kitchen waste - with BSF you can process large amounts over days that would take worms weeks or months
  2. You can feed them just about anything, even the stuff worms won't eat. 
  3. Your BSF problem is contained and doesn't hurt your poor wormies. 
  4. You can process worm only foods - newspaper, leaves etc straight into level 2 worm bin (or along the bottom of level 3 if level 2 is full). 
  5. The best of both worlds - in the one bin!


Q. Can I feed the worms also?

A. Yes! My wife does a lot of juicing - so I first freeze the less acidic, non-citrus fine particle waste and then put them into level 2 as an occasional worm treat. The acidic stuff like orange peels etc go in level 4. Freezing helps to break the cell walls of the plant material, which allows worms to eat it sooner.

Q. Well, does it really work?

Yes! Worms are big, and much happier now. The heat of Queensland causes them a lot of stress, even in the shade. With this system there is a lot less rotting going on in their main tray (level 2), which means less heat and less harsh conditions. They now no longer try and crawl out of the trays or spend a lot of time in the lowest tray. There will always be some that want to hang out in level 1, but level 2 will be much more popular. 

Q. I really want BSF - how do I get them?

Basically just wait - if you're adding all your table scraps and waste to the top level like this, and there's nothing else to eat all that waste - they will come. As long as you're in a warm area it won't take long. The adults will lay their eggs on the lid, and in the Reln/Tumbleweed 3 tier system, the top lid has holes in it for air flow, the tiny larvae will hatch on the outside and crawl through those holes. You don't really have to do anything - don't need to leave the lid off or put cardboard for them to lay their eggs in as others suggest. I have gone to absolutely no effort to attract them and they just keep coming. Maybe check if people are selling BSFlarvae on gumtree - that would indicate there is a wild population.

Q. Ok so what do I do when the BSF tray becomes full?

If you're looking to retire the top tray because it's mostly eaten down sludge now, and you can't fit more scraps - great! Make it the new tray 2 - the worms will love 'finishing' it. To get your worms out of their current tray 2, just take the top trays off and expose it to the sunlight, they'll dig down deeper - keep taking a few CM's of compost off the top and wait for them to keep digging down. Eventually they'll wind up in level 1 and you can do the swap of level 2 and level 4 trays and start the process over. At the point level 4 becomes mostly full of composted sludge, you simply stop adding more food scraps for a bit and the current generations of BSF will finish their life cycle and there'll be no new ones.

Q. BSF are getting into my worm tray - nooo!

Make sure there's hardly any food scraps in there. Add more leaves or newspaper - the stuff BSF can't eat and aren't interested in. They'll eventually clear out. Also add your compost conditioner to this tray - this makes it more worm friendly and less BSF friendly.

Q. What about harvesting the BSF - my chickens need to eat too you know!

I've got the legs of my wormfarm sitting in medium sized potplant trays/water dishes or old ice cream tubs. This is so I can top them up with water to keep ants away if they flare up. They also catch falling BSF larvae that are doing their crawl off and attempting to escape the compost to pupate. The BSF will actually climb up the side of your top tray and push their way out of the lid, and then fall helplessly into the trays at the bottom. You could improve the efficiency by creating a ramp in the top level - but it would have to be temporary as you want to be able to swap level 2 and 4 over as you progress. I find that a fair amount fall into the trays down the bottom and then because there's no more moisture they can't climb out vertically anymore and they're simply stuck. My chickens appreciate it. You could also try a tarp pegged to each of the ice cream buckets around the legs, so that when the BSF abandon ship, if they miss the buckets, then they're trapped inside the tarp. This will have the added benefit of not attracting cane toads who like to feast at night on the exiting BSF. 

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Terrible Companions of Vatic

A mote of shadow torn asunder
bearing forth its loot as plunder
lugubrious it melts and fades
into a melancholy haze.
My kneecaps crack and tear a tendon
maƮtre d' and all attending
inspect observe and watch and see
the terror that lurks inside of me


Is my life meant to be so boring?
Vacant, void of all but snoring?
Unfulfilled and aching always?
Trapped in ever darkened hallways?


Glitter glitter,
Cold and bitter,
Sea of grey,
And streetlight flicker.
Ebbing out like lifeless breaths,
Consuming and consumed by stress
There goes one, and then another,
Replicas, as if twin brothers.
Swimming in a sea of suits,
Drowning in waves that sadness sluiced.

I see the glitter on the street,
And watch it shuffled under feet,
Ignored and trampled all it's life,
By lifeless husband and lifeless wife.
Noticed only by their stifled child,
Who still has a flicker of the wild,
Soon to be snuffed by education,
Law and order and arbitration.

And so the cycle begins again,
And if it ends, I know not when.
The winds of change will never blow,
As long as suits maintain their flow.


She was looking lovely in the elevator, I said "I'd love to see you later", and that I'd dearly love to date her. She said "Well this must be fate or, perhaps you're just a little late or something, 'cause, well, I've already got a date, he asked me out for drinks tonight at eight - just this morning, I think he's one of your mates," she stopped, dropped her eyes and waited, awkwardly she hesitated. "Plus, what would a girl like me want with a guy like you anyway?"

The doors opened and we alighted, and I was glad I'd kept so quiet, only picturing all that awkwardness inside my mind. I'm so lucky not to have a spine.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

"More Geese than Swans now live, more Fools than Wise."

You were the only one that was always on my side. When I was with you though I wasted all of our time. I let all your words leak out the sides of my mind. I can't think of a single thing you said, your voice is lost to time. I'm sure there was a lilting tone, but the memories are gone, like a whisper in a thronging crowd or the last song of a swan. If I could do it all again, I'd do so differently. I'd ask, I'd listen, I'd write it all down, I'd handle your voice so carefully.

The Tweetest Thing

He was supposed to be yelling "BAD LUCK BILL" for his classmates who fumbled, but he was instead muttering "clap clap for the handicap" and pacing to and fro in anticipation. Until it was his turn. When he took the ball he scrunched his face and streaked like Halley's Comet across the sky. He ran through them like hot chilli diarrhea. He barged them and pushed them down; made their eyes wide and their stomachs tied. All the othe kids were scared of him, but when he went home and went to bed at night, he would make a single wish, that this time he'd wake up in the morning not drenched in his own piss.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017


So you decide to burn down the family home with your parents still in it. Due to peer pressure or something of the like. It was time to be your own person, whatever that means. Whatever that looks like. You throw gang signs at the neighbours as they come out to the balcony to see what's going on. The fire jumps across the small gap between the houses and their screams soon join the throng. If I've learnt anything from this, anything at all in my life, it's that misery loves strife - or strife at least is distraction enough to the misery in my life.

Image result for house fire

She Didn't Know Me Long But I Thought Of Her Forever

One day it will occur to me that not every girl that speaks to me can actually mean the world to me.

One day it will occur to me that some people I think are right for me are actually completely wrong for me.

One day it will occur to me that nothing matters anyway.

Buried Treasure

I dream of your skeleton sometimes. It's always there playing on my mind. I see your skull attached to that long spine, your ribs cascading down to what was once your waistline. The femurs I once sat upon whilst you read me books, the humerus you wrapped around me when my body shook. I see your digits and your toes, what is left of your nose, the rags surrounding you that started as clothes. I watched that day, as the lid was closed. The coffin was carried and the platform dove. The day you became my trove.
                                 I miss you.
                                                        I'm so alone.

Image result for skeleton sad

Monday, 2 January 2017


The two of them were standing in line at the local fast food store, readying themselves to order. They would've been in their early twenties, casually chatting about gaming. They looked fairly similar, certainly not different enough to be memorable, though one was slightly taller than the other. Another guy about the same age, though twice as fat, walked in behind them, and the first two guys swung around and had a glance at him. "Hey!" said the shorter of the two in surprise "how you going Andrew, haven't seen you in ages!"

Andrew smiled and shook his hand. "Yeah, ages Pete, how've you been?"

"Good! Yourself? Oh hey, this is Tom by the way."

Tom, the taller of the two, extended his hand, "Andrew is it? Tom."

Andrew glanced at Tom's extended hand briefly before looking directly into his eyes. "I know who you are, you used to bully me."

Tom's fake smile grew genuine, he made a surprized "hah" noise, before dropping his hand and pulling a puzzled face.

"We went to the same highschool," said Andrew.

Tom shook his head and shrugged.

"We used to ride the same bus. Do you not remember any of this at all? You used to bully me everyday."

"Hey we were just talking about the new Call of Duty," said Pete, attempting to reinsert himself in the conversation and get them off the bullying topic. Andrew wasn't listening, he was staring at Tom. By now, Tom had slipped his phone from his pocket and was busy swiping something repeatedly in an attempt to appear busy.

"Next please," called the girl at the service counter, and with that Tom swiveled on his feet in order to face the counter once more, and all the while, his face stayed glued to his phone. He didn't say a word to Andrew as he began walking away.

All Aboard The LardTrain: Another Sojourn To Alleviate Your Lesbian Crush Pain

Anybody but me. That's who it could be. A non-intersecting Venn diagram of two circles showing everybody versus me. I alone askew, desperately, misjudging attempts to intersect our worlds non-separately. I could arrive to crash your life wholeheartedly, but I'll just sit here in my old age simperingly, and to my only friend in the world I'll cry whimperingly, whilst you enjoy the life that you could've had with me, and every genital out there that's not connected to me. I'll try and find a way to plod on alone, detached from the heaving well of my own misery. I figure that you'll be divorced again, eventually.

Image result for perth crown casino

Sunday, 1 January 2017

2016 - Celebrities: The New Mass Extinction Due To Climate Change

So I've seen off yet another year.
I cried when David Bowie died.
Hopeless, miserable, devoid of cheer.
I lost my shit when Prince took his last hit.
Going back to 2013 now seems a good idea.
I did my nana when George Michael ate his last banana
Everyone these days has a bad case of Facebook diarrhea
I sobbed when Carrie Fischer lost her chance at a sixth job
10, 9, 8....3, 2, 1, and everyone let's out a gigantic cheer
I drowned myself in a small metal pail when I found out that Honey G's single failed.
but I survived. So, 2017, better luck this year.

Image result for better luck next year