Friday, May 21, 2010

The Return of Repulsive

Soldier Fly

What I learned this year: don't let him freeze. If you're willing to have a grubbery, it may as well be a year-round one. Also, way too much work to get it started up again! Though I imagine part of the problem is my refusal to let the things roam free...

Six or seven weeks ago, the early-waking grubs wandered out of their winter beds and went wherever maturing grubs go to sprout wings. (Not toward the space I occupy, fortunately!) Putting together a starter-pack for someone around March 28, I discovered that I had only a couple of dozen dormant ones left, plus the last few just waking. Didn't seem worth the effort to set up a hatchery--obviously, they'd done just fine in the leaf-filled berry punnets I'd used for winter quarters--so I left the stragglers alone to do their thing.

And in the meantime, I cleaned out the frozen grubbery, to my relief much less disgusting than had it been active, and soaked it in a strong dilution of AEM as a sort of compromise between the impulse to scour and the desire to retain some happy-grub pheromone. While I was mucking about, I converted the grubbery full of finished proto-compost to a wormery [which sounds much more involved than it was: I dumped a cup of unfiltered half-finished vermicompost in there], then confirmed that all the dormant ones had crawled away and set up bait bags to await the egg-layers.

March 30 or so. First recorded sighting of an adult: April 24th. Checked the bait-bags that day, but nothing.

And more nothing. And still more. I used bait bags all last summer and fall, to replenish grubbery populations since my unit does not provide free access for egg-layers (any hole an adult can use to get in, a larva can use to get out, and I can't handle that). Simple design: mylar coffee bag about half-full of UCG, closed, with one or more holes above but near the level of the organics. Propped up next to or behind the grubbery to take advantage of that fabled happy-grub scent. It worked very, very well all last year. But this spring? Nope.

What if I left the bag open at the top? Well, then I got flies--just not the right sort. The only thing worse than a bait-bag full of BSFL is one full of ...things... that are not BSFL. Yecch! Tried different sorts of foods with pretty much the same results, though I did achieve small populations of BSFL with cured bokashi. No idea whether predation or selective egg-laying was the cause of that less-than-boom, but a quart of cured bokashi netted me only about an ounce of BSFL. And this early in the year, those new-hatched bits of Repulsive showed no inclination to hurry up and mature so they could breed more.

Not that they should need to. The adults were flying around, they just weren't laying in the bait-bags. Or in the proto-compost wormery, though I left it open for a few days to see if they would. Apparently, there's no happy-grub pheremone if they finish their meal. Call that lesson #2. And for #3: nor is their happy-grub pheromone if the grubs die in the grubbery!

But Repulsive is endemic in my area, which is how I ended up with him in the first place. Additional pheromone signatures shouldn't have been necessary. Why wasn't he (well, his female members)laying where I wanted him????

Lesson #4. Finally got the right conditions, but it had nothing to do with me: It rained. Rain got into the various baits, and all of them sprouted BSFL as if by magic. (Black magic, that'd be. -G-) Grubs in all their disgusting multitudes, so numerous and so voracious that they went through the baits in no time. Writhing, squirming, smelly mud, just what every gardener needs! But, hey, I set out food for them, guess I really did want the things. (Why, again?) No need to tolerate the muck, now they're hatched; they're getting dumped into the grubbery, along with a whole bunch of EM bokashi bran.

And I'm going back to spritzing AEM into bagged UCG. It hadn't occurred to me that lack of moisture might be the deterrent, as UCG tends to be fairly damp, but the last set of bait bags were all filled from the same batch of collected UCG, and it was much drier than I'm used to seeing. My other baits all seemed wet enough to start with, but Austin's doing its usual summer-preview thing, with strings of 90+ and sunny days. Enough to dry out anything!

Had I put the bait(s) in a standard-model grubbery, with the access holes for egg-layers, it'd have stayed damp enough to be inviting. But, all in all, I think I'm sticking with the no-escape grubbery. Other folks have good results with barriers, but I'm just too squeamish to try it again. Ramp into bird feeder bottle for the pre-adults; bait bags for the mamas to lay. And no grubs roaming free!

He's Repulsive enough when I know where he'll be.

Happy grubbing!


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