The soldiers have been here for 3 weeks today. And it's quite something how far we've come. Three weeks ago I caught two of the females who come every time we grind roasted cacao, and put them in a bucket along with some mango and banana peels and coffee grounds. Today I found two cascaras - the empty pupae skins. This I don't quite understand: according to my research it takes about 4 days for the eggs to hatch, two weeks for the larvae to grow - under ideal conditions, and then a further 3 weeks to a month for the fly to emerge from the pupae. I've been surprised even at how few of the pre-pupae I've seen 'crawl off' thinking that the environment wasn't ideal, too dry maybe. Obviously some decided to stay in the somewhat dry compost. This is the only thing I can think of as the whole situation was completely new and fresh 3 weeks ago.
I started with one bucket, which given how much mango and banana we've processed the last couple of weeks, quickly became 3. On Monday I went to the recycling center and came home with a nice cracked trash can which quickly became the home to the contents of all 3 buckets. There were so many grubs. So many. The bottoms of the buckets had became anaerobic - completely 'preserved' mango seeds and peels under a layer of black goo. Everything got shaken and stirred up going into the bin, so I think they'll be able to get to it. I'm so impressed by how quickly and how efficiently these soldiers polish everything off. The castings look great, almost ready for the garden.
The bin is full, and right now I'm not sure how much more I can feed. I've read that 100 pounds of scraps become 20 pounds of grubs and 5 pounds of compost/castings. I've certainly got a lot more than 5 lbs, and I'm quite sure I haven't put a full 100 pounds in there yet. So, what do I do? Wait for them to go through it again? It's true that I certainly overfed in the beginning - we just had so much fruit - so I'm thinking that the stuff in there can still be worked over.
I'm also wondering if I should make the bin wetter to ensure I don't have anyone pupating inside. Right now I'm not harvesting, but rather working on increasing the fly population (sounds odd doesn't it?), but it's something that will be happening fairly soon and I want everything operating smoothly.
So much fun. And I used to abhor maggots. Actually I still do somewhat, but now it's a morbid fascination. You can hear them eat, and watch the surface move with them. I sat fascinated on Saturday watching them devour a tomato. They had eaten everything but the very outermost skin - it was almost transparent and you could see their bodies through it. Yet it still looked like a tomato. Real horror show - one might say.