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Blatticomposting - Composting with cockroaches.  RSS feed

 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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Location: Medellin, Colombia
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Using cockroaches to eat kitchen leftovers is beginning to emerge as an alternative to worm, larvae and regular composting. Some info can be found in the following links:

http://theunconventionalfarmer.com/cockroach-composting/

http://umdearborn.edu/eic/research/roaches.html

It looks like a good efficient way to get rid of all food scraps.

Living in an appartment I've struggled to find a composting method that really works for me. I've tried worm composting and bokashi and although not really difficult I always felt like both methods were still prone to problems like smells (I don't mind the smell of bokashi but other members of my household do), excess moisture, fruit flies, things you shouldn't put in depending on the system, and still not ideal. Of course these are all manageable issues and if the system is well cared for they should not happen, but sometimes the compost system is not our top priority and things can go wrong. It seems like the roach system has the potential to minimize these drawbacks based on the experiences of people who are trying it.

I have not tried roach composting but I'm thinking of trying it, however there is still one aspect that bothers me and that is the single species approach. Like I said above, there are certain things you shouldn't put in a worm bin because the worms won't eat them or because it might be harmful to them, certain others that might resist fermentation in a bokashi bin, and any specific species of roaches will probably also have preferences regarding what they like to eat or not (the article and video from University of Michigan mentions that they like certain fruits better). But, in nature nothing is left un-composted! thanks to the multitude of organisms that come to enjoy the feast. Even though a compost heap relies mostly on microorganisms, various insects find their way in and help with the process, as might worms and other creatures. Or if you just bury the scraps lots of different organisms will arrive to do the decomposition.

This is why I think a better approach would be to "harvest" a multitude of different local insects and other critters by maybe setting an outdoor trap with some food scraps (protected from mammals and the like) then enclosing and using whichever show up to keep doing the composting. It would eliminate the need to buy roaches from a pet store, hopefully the bugs that will come are the ones who like to eat exactly what we discard (reducing the number of "uncompostable" items), and a greater diversity might do a better job of eating and pooping everything faster.

Has anyone tried something like this?

What are your thoughts? potential drawbacks and problems?
 
Thekla McDaniels
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Location: Grand Valley of Colorado's Western Slope
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I am totally uneducated in this, but I like the idea of crickets a lot better than nurturing a population of cockroaches in my living space. I've always had crickets anyway, and never had cockroaches, so maybe I just have an ick factor associated to the cockroaches. Some species of cockroaches smell bad, and some trigger asthma attacks. I don't know if crickets do the same, but I think if you have a decomposition bin of any kind in your living room you are going to smell it sometimes, regardless of what organisms are supposed to be doing the clean up in there.

The idea of capturing local insects might work out, but you may end up with insects that have part of their life cycle flying around your house. I get that in the winter from something in the soil in my big planters. Innocuous little things that don't bother me, but might bother others.

Then again, these big pots live outdoors all summer and fall and I bring them inside for the winter. I do pour the tea leaves onto the surface, watering and providing mulch and food for the resident earth worms at the same time. Maybe this is something like what you are considering? There is a mixed community of organisms in the soil, which has soil and potting mix (with the whole soil food web I hope). I have red wrigglers as well as the native earthworms in there too.

I think this winter I will make a point of putting more worms from the worm farm and from the soil into these huge planters. I think as long as I don't put onions and garlic in there, which I don't want the smell of in the living room, and if I don't overload any of them at any one time, the community in the soil will utilize my contributions as food.

I never would have thought of it without your post!

Thanks,
Thekla
 
steve bossie
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Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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i currently have 4 species of woodland roaches 3 for pets/feeders, one for blatticomposting. the eurblaberus or ivoryhead roach is the one recommended for this type of composting as they tolerate crowding , breed like crazy and eat even cardboard if nothing else is available! these are amazing insects! you only need to clean their tote maybe once or twice a year. if you have darkling beetles and sowbugs as cleaning crews, they eat even the cockroach frass so you never need to clean! i have a large tote behind my couch w about 500 ivory head roaches and you smell nothing. i can put a pound of veg. fruit scraps in there and its gone in 6hrs.! can't do that with crickets . crickets stink jump out, and are noisy! these guys have no odor whatsoever. i heard that you can feed meat scraps to them but i dont. when they don't get scraps i feed them cat food. some people think roaches are gross but they are as clean as what you put in their cage. if you put coconut coir in the bottom there isn't a smell or mold issue. they prefer dry conditions as long as there is a water bowl they're happy! some people don't put a substrate at all. they are the easiest feeders I've ever raised. i even forget about them for a week sometimes and i haven't noticed mortalities. my hissing roaches are so tame now , they eat while sitting in my hand! they don't even hiss when i pick them up as long as I'm gentle. my nieces and nephew love them! also these are all tropical species and will not survive in a house. its just too cold and dry for them. 3 of my 4 species can't climb or fly so you don't have to even put a cover on if you don't want to. i do to keep the temps up. if you want them to breed just put a heat mat under their tote. got to be over 75f for them to breed. try them out.
 
Zach Muller
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The article mentions a nutrient rich compost resulting from the roaches, I wonder how it would compare to the diversity of microbes found in vermicompost or bsf compost. I've heard that bsf compost is not like VC and the actual bsf are the desired output from the bin, not their compost.

Anyone have additional comments about the content of roach compost? Anyone looked with a microscope to see about critter content?
 
steve bossie
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Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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I've only had my blatticomposting colony now for a little over a year so i haven't had enough frass to try in my garden yet. the buggers are too efficient! I'm not sure of the quality of their castings either as the science is to new. i just know that they are a lot faster and more efficient recycling waste than worms are. maybe someone else might have more info.
 
Zach Muller
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Hey Steve what do you take from the bins if there isn't enough compost after the feeding? Do you remove roaches and use them for something?

When I had a bsf bin a similar thing happened to me, I got not compost because nearly everything was converted into fresh larvae.
 
steve bossie
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ill probably sell off my extra roaches as they start to overpopulate. i got the cleaning crews in there so i didn't have to clean out the roach frass but now i wish i didn't as they're eating my rich nitrogen source! bet I'm going to have to sell some darkling beetles and larvae in the near future too.
 
William Bronson
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The first time I heard of using roaches for composting the researchers blended the roaches and frass into juice and applied that to the plants.
I think I would rather feed them to poultry.
For large scale production, how about a scrap freezer or a fridge on its back?
Gravel over a filtered drain at the bottom, a layer of screen, then bedding and bugs. Add food, occasionally rinse the whole thing down and drain the resulting fluid into a garden bed.
Maybe a tube for self harvesting, strait into the chicken enclosure.

The if the ivory head can thrive on paper, that is pretty much what I would feed them, cause paper into rchi ken feed is a neat trick!

Btw do the sow bugs reproduce well in captivity?
Are the sow bugs and mealworms in the same bedding as the roaches?
 
steve bossie
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Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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William Bronson wrote:The first time I heard of using roaches for composting the researchers blended the roaches and frass into juice and applied that to the plants.
I think I would rather feed them to poultry.
For large scale production, how about a scrap freezer or a fridge on its back?
Gravel over a filtered drain at the bottom, a layer of screen, then bedding and bugs. Add food, occasionally rinse the whole thing down and drain the resulting fluid into a garden bed.
Maybe a tube for self harvesting, strait into the chicken enclosure.

The if the ivory head can thrive on paper, that is pretty much what I would feed them, cause paper into rchi ken feed is a neat trick!

Btw do the sow bugs reproduce well in captivity?
Are the sow bugs and mealworms in the same bedding as the roaches?
i use totes w/ coconut coir as bedding and just change the bedding every 6 mo. i don't have place to use a old freezer and they have to be kept above 75f to breed. but I'm going to get multiple totes going. they eat paper if theres nothing else but for them to flourish , like us they need variety. sowbugs and mealworms reproduce well in their enclosure. they feed off the fray and anything that the roach misses as well as molds and fungi so its like a mini ecosystem in there. very efficient! you would be surprised at how squeaky clean their totes are! keep a eye out in the future. when i have a overstock of these bugs, ill sell them at a cheap price to anyone interested in blatticomposting on here.
 
William Bronson
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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Thanks for your reply!
The freezer idea was to allow them to live outside year round. My wife has already drawn the line at worms, roaches and mealy worm are not welcome in the house!

I wonder if blatticomposting could be used to to process feces in a similar way to how vermicomposting toilet systems work.
 
steve bossie
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Location: Northern Maine (zone 3b-4a)
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yeah keeping them outside isn't a option here in n. maine but maybe in warmer places. they die below 65f as they're tropical species from s. america. these guys will eat anything you give them. i know a guy that feeds them nothing but cardboard. probably not ideal nutrition for them but they're still breeding! have to keep them above 75f if you want them to breed. thats why i keep them in the house. a heated garage with a large heat mat under the tote would work well. the old freezer w a heat mat on the inside wall would hold temp. well in warmer areas or inside a garage. would need to poke a few holes in it for air supply. that could work for you. roach crossing and bugs in cyberspace are 2 breeders you can get these roaches from. the more you buy the cheaper they get. good luck!
 
Juan Sebastian Estrada
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Location: Medellin, Colombia
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Zach Muller wrote:The article mentions a nutrient rich compost resulting from the roaches, I wonder how it would compare to the diversity of microbes found in vermicompost or bsf compost. I've heard that bsf compost is not like VC and the actual bsf are the desired output from the bin, not their compost.

Anyone have additional comments about the content of roach compost? Anyone looked with a microscope to see about critter content?


I couldn't find a seller of cockroaches here in Colombia, but I did find a seller of scarabs that exports live and preserved specimens. They collect food scraps and fed them to the larvae and apparently produce 10 tons of compost per month (it looks like a fairly large operation).

Here is their webpage: Tierra Viva Escarabajos (Live Earth Scarabs)


(video is in Spanish, use the automatic translator)

In addition it looks like these exotic insects can be sold at high prices. They charge between US$30 and US$100 per scarab!

I guess it takes some time and experimenting to get the population to generate castings to use as compost. Even with worms you can have an expanding population and still get a good amount of castings so I don't see why roaches would be that different, they still have to poop! Or maybe the key is to use larvae instead of mature insects just like with BSF. Scarabs and beetles also seem to be less culturally rejected than cockroaches, so that is an advantage to use them too.

Looking at those larvae I now remember that I've seen similar ones when digging holes for trees in my property, I'll try to find some again and start experimentign with them!
 
steve bossie
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hi juan. very interesting! I've heard of those beetles. i think they sell them in the u.s. also. people use them to clean flesh of of skulls used in taxidermy. ill look into it for sure! roaches are very clean if you give them unspoiled scraps and have demisted beetles and sow bugs to eat any bacteria and mold in there. also i put a small bowl of water and keep their bedding dry. there is no smell whatsoever. much cleaner than the crickets i used to raise.
 
Hester Hessel
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I know this thread had been dormant for a while, but I have just purchased 15 Ivory head cockroaches from Roach Crossing to begin my blatticomposting adventure.

It will take some time for 15 roaches to procreate enough to eat my kitchen scraps in a timely and efficient manner, but I wanted to start small, just in case I was terrible with them and killed them all by accident.

At first, I was repulsed. Then, I was intrigued. Now, I'm looking forward to my little composters! Somehow, they have grown on me.
 
steve bossie
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i have  about 1000 ivory heads and they are very ravenous but make sure you keep them warm or they won't eat as much as you like . keep them in a big enough tote so you can keep the food in one spot away from where the roaches  hang otherwise they will get fungal infections that will kill them. they eat a lot of food compared to red worms. good luck!
 
Hester Hessel
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Keeping them warm shouldn't be a problem down here in South Texas. Keeping them cool enough might pose a slight problem though if it gets too hot, I'll just bring them inside the house instead of keeping them in the garage.

How many did you start with, and how long did it take for them to multiply?

Also, would you mind sharing a picture of your setup? I'm trying to glean as much info as I can before they get here. Thanks in advance!
 
steve bossie
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i started with 6 about 2 years ago.  probably have close to a 1000 in there now! they reproduce fast! I'm terrible with posting pics but i have them in a 50 gal tote with coir on the bottom and about 10 egg flats in there on one side . on the other is a shallow water dish and a piece of 1/4in hardware cloth i put the food on.  i only put fruit , bread and veggie scraps in there at 1st.. they will eat meat but it gets stinky fast unless there are a lot of roaches. once you get about 50 in there they start to eat a lot more and some meat scraps. took about 6 mo. for that to happen for me. they breed very fast if you keep them between 75 to 85f. over that the food gets spoiled before they eat it and starts to reek. cool to watch them rush over to devor the food! i also have lesser mealworms and darkling beetles in there as a cleaning crew to eat the roach frass. i use a heat mat to keep them warm. can use other roach species too like the turkistan roach. they live well together. a maintenance free set up. mines right in the house with no smell. id say they eat 3xs more than my redworms do. good luck!
 
steve bossie
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Hester Hessel wrote:I know this thread had been dormant for a while, but I have just purchased 15 Ivory head cockroaches from Roach Crossing to begin my blatticomposting adventure.

It will take some time for 15 roaches to procreate enough to eat my kitchen scraps in a timely and efficient manner, but I wanted to start small, just in case I was terrible with them and killed them all by accident.

At first, I was repulsed. Then, I was intrigued. Now, I'm looking forward to my little composters! Somehow, they have grown on me.
i used t6o think the same way. you won't kill them as long as you keep them over 70f and give some water. i know people that feed their colonies only cardboard and they do fine. the better
you feed them tho. the more they reproduce! toughest bug I've ever raised! i have 6 species and all are tough as nails!
 
steve bossie
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Zach Muller wrote:Hey Steve what do you take from the bins if there isn't enough compost after the feeding? Do you remove roaches and use them for something?

When I had a bsf bin a similar thing happened to me, I got not compost because nearly everything was converted into fresh larvae.
i feed the extra to my chickens. the coir is full of nutrients after awhile even if you have beetles and large in there. i just haven't harvested it yet.
 
steve bossie
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William Bronson wrote:The first time I heard of using roaches for composting the researchers blended the roaches and frass into juice and applied that to the plants.
I think I would rather feed them to  poultry.
For large scale production, how about a scrap freezer or a fridge on its back?
Gravel over a filtered drain at the bottom, a layer of screen, then bedding and bugs. Add food, occasionally rinse the whole thing down and drain the resulting fluid into a garden bed.
Maybe a tube for self harvesting, strait into the chicken enclosure.

The if the ivory head can thrive on paper, that is pretty much what I would feed them, cause paper into rchi ken feed is a neat trick!

Btw do the sow bugs reproduce well in captivity?
Are the sow bugs and mealworms in the same bedding as the roaches?
yes i have mealworms and beetles as a cleaning crew.  they live in the coir .  sow bugs and springtails need a moister environment and haven't done as well. the beetles and mealworm bodies make a rich compost when they die.
 
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