Flake soil for millipedes - help please

charlie3t8

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Oct 24, 2017
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So, I’ve ordered 3 x 9kg bags of traeger oak pellets to make my own millipede substrate (as I don’t have anywhere near me that I can collect from I would consider safe from pesticides). And ordering 70+ litres of substrate gets expensive and honestly can’t be sure what’s in it anyway.

After researching a lot it does seem a fairly simple process and I was going to follow this method:
Soak pellets in water until broken up and damp (not dripping) - should expand to 3 x volume of dry
Add wheat bran and active yeast
Mix thoroughly
Leave and stir every few days, keep warm

There’s a particular site with a good guide (not sure if I’m allowed to post a link) but it suggests that beginners should start with flour, not wheat bran, as even though it's faster it's less likely to go wrong. It also states that the additives should not be more than 8% of the total mix, which sounds sensible to me as millipedes I assume can’t eat that... but most other recipes have a ratio of 5:1 which would mean around 20% of the total mix.

So my questions are (apologies there are a lot)
What should the ratio of additives to pellets be?
Flour vs wheat bran - is it really too easy to mess it up using wheat bran? I’d prefer bran as it’s supposed to make the process faster
Is it better or faster to store in bags rather than tubs? Or use smaller tubs rather than massive ones? I was going to use 2 x 50 litres RUBs
Should I add ventilation holes in the tubs?
Will it go faster if I keep it warmer, and is it possible to over-warm?

And finally - is there a better method for millipede-specific substrate? As all the recipes I found were beetle-specific
 

NopusNatus

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Jul 20, 2018
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As long as you wait for the flake soil to finish fermentation before adding the animals the ratio of additives shouldn’t matter that much. 8% to 20% should be fine as most will be consumed by the bacteria/fungus/enzymes before ever getting to your animals. Flour or bran shouldn’t be much different to work with, if I had to choose one I would go with bran. 50 liter tubs work well and are what I use. As long as the lid doesn’t seal shut and you’re turning the soil every few days air holes are not needed. It will definitely ferment faster if kept warm and you could technically get it too hot but as long as it remains wet I doubt you’ll be able to. As far as millipede specific substrate I’m sure it would come down to the species of millipede but it’s never a bad idea to add leaf and wood mulch to the mix and I would highly recommend doing so.

If you plan on using Traeger brand pellets I would stay away from the hickory and mesquite pellets. Both are a mix of oak and alder with flavor additive. Both woods are completely safe for millipedes but the flavor additives might be a problem.

What species are you planning on using the flake soil with?
 

charlie3t8

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Oct 24, 2017
Messages
4
I only have the oak pellets to start with as I knew they didn’t have any additives. I bought the tubs today - got 2 x 60l boxes as that was the closest size available. Think it will work well as I can do 50l at a time without filling to the brim so will be easier to stir up every few days. The lids clip shut, I guess not air tight though so should get away without air holes

The recipe I was going to follow would work out to the following:
50 litres oak pellets (once expanded, so approx 17l of dry pellets), 2.5kg wheat bran, 50g yeast, 500g sugar

Does that sound about right? I wasn’t quite sure about the yeast and different kinds (dry, active and brewers), the only one I found was Allinson’s and it’s a fast action one - it says always add to dry ingredients before adding any liquid.
Also unsure on the sugar, there were a couple of recipes that had it in but they didn’t specify what it did

Don’t worry I wasn’t planning on using just flake soil as a substrate, my mix will consist of:
40% flake soil
32% broken/decayed leaves (oak and maple)
12% white fungus wood
10% coir
5% sphagnum peat moss
1% calcium carbonate
Then more leaf litter, rotten wood at different stages and lichens all on the surface

I’ve got a communal tank of an african olive (Spirostreptus Gregorius), black head fire (centrobolus sp), giant pink leg (Dendrostreptus Macracanthus), a gigas, 2 x pink footed, 2 x Madagascar ringed (Aphistogoniulus Polleni), Ghana speckled leg (Telodeinopus aoutii), fire head (Spirostreptus Servatius)

Most are juveniles still as I only buy captive bred

Also got some pink thai dragon’s (Desmoxytes planata) on the way - waiting for the weather to warm up enough for them to be posted (it's cold in the UK atm) which I will be keeping separately and hopefully breeding
 

NopusNatus

Arachnopeon
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Jul 20, 2018
Messages
27
Larger tubs will achieve faster fermentation than smaller tubs under the same conditions. 60 liters tubs with 50 liters of soil will ferment faster than 50 liter tubs with 40 liters of soil, though the difference will be minimal.

Yeast is absolutely not needed in any form and will have very little effect on the quality or overall production time. Adding a small amount of millipede poop will do what the yeast does and more. Adding poop to the mix will add the microorganisms your millipedes have eaten and are familiar with, these microorganisms will grow in size and number if given the appropriate food and oxygen. This should make transitioning the millipedes easier. If you have an air pump, bucket, millipede poop, chlorine free water and a sugar source you can make a sort of millipede poop tea and achieve even faster results. With that said any of the forms of yeast you mentioned shouldn’t have a negative effect on the final product if added at the start of fermentation. Sugar is used to feed the microorganisms the same way the bran or flour is used, though possibly targeting different microorganism. You will see slightly faster fermentation when using a sugar source. If given enough time your recipe will absolutely make flake soil.
 
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MillipedeTrain

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Oct 19, 2019
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51
If you’re concerned about the brand you’re using having unwanted additives there’s a brand I found at Walmart that is strictly organic apple wood, oak wood etc and has no additives what-so-ever. The brand is called Pit boss and it is totally all natural with no glues, fillers or brans or chemicals added! I was meaning to get some myself for some added variety although I readily have access to decaying oak and maple wood and leaves so I haven’t bothered to pick any up I think it might be good to introduce another type of wood. Apple wood is totally safe for millipedes.

All you have to do is put the pellets in a large bin and add water and mix them all up until they’re all turned into a dirt like consistently. Don’t add anything else except your substrate mix which I recommend using organic black earth, add your maple and oak leaves and any other Maple or oak decaying wood you can find as well a bunch of sphagnum moss (I also use Asian forest moss too!) and I add grated cuttlefish bone to mix into the soil and put a few chunks on the top layer too and after you mix everything all up you’re good to go!
I don’t recommend cocofibre because in my personal experience it kills millipedes. I have witnessed this myself and as have others. It can pull the moisture from millipedes as well as impact the young so I don’t use it ever.


The Pit Boss brand also other types of wood pellets available at Walmart Too! There’s cherry, oak and mesquite wood too!


Here’s the link to it at Walmart for those that are interested: https://www.walmart.com/ip/Pit-Boss-BBQ-Hardwood-Pellets-Apple-20-lb/548873972

Enjoy!
 

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NopusNatus

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I’ve used pit boss brand in the past and was happy with the quality. The bags I bought had a larger sawdust particle size than the normal Traeger brand particle size. It took a little longer to ferment because of this but the final product was of equal quality. I have also run into larger sawdust particle sizes in Traeger brand so it might have just been that batch of pit boss.

Traegar brand also has an assortment of woods to choose from including oak, maple, alder, cherry, pecan, and apple. These should also be free from glues, fillers, and chemicals. The apple, cherry, and pecan are only 30% apple/cherry/or pecan though, with the other 70% being oak or alder. The mesquite and hickory pellets are actually a mix of oak and alder wood with flavor oils added. I believe they can still be labeled free from glues, fillers, and chemicals with the oils but I wouldn’t be comfortable recommending them to anyone. I’ve read of pecan having an enzyme that inhibits the growth of certain beetle larvae and while I’ve heard many people say it’s safe I’ve never been comfortable trying it myself. The oak and alder are not always just oak or alder though. Depending on where the pellets are manufactured depends on the wood used. If oak is manufactured on the west coast it will be a mix of 70% alder and only 30% actual oak, if manufactured on the east coast it will be 100% oak. Alder is 100% alder on the west coast and only 30% (remaining 70% is oak) on the east coast. Maple is always 100% maple. I am getting this info from a thread in a BBQ forum from 2012 so any of this information may have since changed.
 
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Madnesssr

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Dec 2, 2019
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I am so glad you started this thread. I started adding wood into my tub last week. But I haven’t added anything but rotting oak, hickory, poplar, and beech along with some pit boss oak. I need to finish my prep work and add the balance of the ingredients. EF79A765-9A1C-4C57-A3FF-0D5A88582EA5.jpeg
 

charlie3t8

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Oct 24, 2017
Messages
4
I made up two tubs at the weekend with varying amounts of wheat bran:
Both had a bag of Traeger oak pellets (9kg) which made approx 45 litres once expanded with water. Plus 30 grams yeast, 500 grams sugar, 1 tsp millipede poop
Box 1 - 9 litres (2.25kg) wheat bran
Box 2 - 4 litres (1kg) wheat bran
Once thoroughly mixed I patted down and have left in my warm invert room. Will stir in 10-20 days and then every few days after that.

Hoping that with the smaller amount of bran it will still work, even if it takes longer. Then the final product will have a higher oak content.

To each tub I added lots of water until the mix made balls when squeezed but no water dripped out. I'm hoping it's wet enough to start fermentation, I err'd on the side of caution as I didn't want to risk rot.

My yeast was dry fast action so didn't need as much as other recipes specify, and it goes in dry (no need to soak in warm water first). I got as much millipede poop as possible (as recommended above) crushed into a powder and dropped half in each tub. I've only recently changed out the substrate in my communal tank and have a healthy springtail population so there wasn't as much waste as I was hoping they'd be.

Thanks for the recommendations of other pellets, I'm in the UK so don't have Walmart though. Traeger was easy for me to get and is used by many, perhaps if this works I'll experiment in the future.

I'll keep this thread updated on whether it works and how long it takes. Thanks for all the help
 

NopusNatus

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Jul 20, 2018
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Everything looks good but with the tubs you are using I honestly think waiting even 10 days to first turn it is too long. At about the 3 day mark you should see a decent amount of white hyphae forming on the surface. You can add a small amount of bran on top to encourage the growth even further. At about the 5 or 6 day mark this hyphae will start to darken at the top. I’m not sure if this is another fungus attaching itself to the hyphae or possibly primordia/fruiting bodies forming from the white hyphae but either way I like to turn it just before it reaches this point. When using tubs with very little air circulation anaerobic activity can happen quickly and I like to err on the side of caution. Being in the UK you will have different funguses and bacteria available than someone like me in the US so your mix might elicit a different response. I would just recommend keeping an eye and nose on it. If you notice a trash/feet like smell as opposed to wine like smell it has started to go anaerobic and will need to be turned.

Different species of beetles thrive on different levels of fermentation. I assume this is true for certain species of millipedes but in my experience the species I keep always seem to eat the softer more broken down wood first. I usually use very dark brown flake soil as my base because of this. For my millipede mix I like to add wild collected wood and leaves to the fermenting sawdust at one month and again at 2 months into the process. It usually takes me about 3 months total to complete the process Indoors.
 

Madnesssr

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Everything looks good but with the tubs you are using I honestly think waiting even 10 days to first turn it is too long. At about the 3 day mark you should see a decent amount of white hyphae forming on the surface. You can add a small amount of bran on top to encourage the growth even further. At about the 5 or 6 day mark this hyphae will start to darken at the top. I’m not sure if this is another fungus attaching itself to the hyphae or possibly primordia/fruiting bodies forming from the white hyphae but either way I like to turn it just before it reaches this point. When using tubs with very little air circulation anaerobic activity can happen quickly and I like to err on the side of caution. Being in the UK you will have different funguses and bacteria available than someone like me in the US so your mix might elicit a different response. I would just recommend keeping an eye and nose on it. If you notice a trash/feet like smell as opposed to wine like smell it has started to go anaerobic and will need to be turned.

Different species of beetles thrive on different levels of fermentation. I assume this is true for certain species of millipedes but in my experience the species I keep always seem to eat the softer more broken down wood first. I usually use very dark brown flake soil as my base because of this. For my millipede mix I like to add wild collected wood and leaves to the fermenting sawdust at one month and again at 2 months into the process. It usually takes me about 3 months total to complete the process Indoors.
Do you use a heat mat at all in the winter time to help the process along?
 

NopusNatus

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Do you use a heat mat at all in the winter time to help the process along?
I have and it can definitely help. I’ve even used them in the summer. I don’t anymore because I have a consistent system going. I start at least one new batch of flake soil at the beginning of every month and always have about 100 liters available to use. One thing you will want to look out for when using a heat mat are dry spots in the soil at the location of the heat mat. If the soil is dry it’s not fermenting so you might end up having to turn the soil more with a heat mat. If you are looking to speed up the process one of the easiest things to do is keep the soil extra wet during fermentation. Adding millipede poop at any point will not only speed up fermentation but make for a better (for millipedes at least) final product. Making millipede poop tea can take that step even further. It would be ideal to only add the poop from the species/actual animals you plan on using the soil with but is not overly realistic if you keep a lot of species.
 

Madnesssr

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I have and it can definitely help. I’ve even used them in the summer. I don’t anymore because I have a consistent system going. I start at least one new batch of flake soil at the beginning of every month and always have about 100 liters available to use. One thing you will want to look out for when using a heat mat are dry spots in the soil at the location of the heat mat. If the soil is dry it’s not fermenting so you might end up having to turn the soil more with a heat mat. If you are looking to speed up the process one of the easiest things to do is keep the soil extra wet during fermentation. Adding millipede poop at any point will not only speed up fermentation but make for a better (for millipedes at least) final product. Making millipede poop tea can take that step even further. It would be ideal to only add the poop from the species/actual animals you plan on using the soil with but is not overly realistic if you keep a lot of species.
One week in on the soil. It’s getting hairy. LOL 0F8D9E7E-3263-4FA0-A31B-A599E1C32564.jpeg
 
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charlie3t8

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Oct 24, 2017
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I've turned mine a couple of times now but not had any fungus development or white hyphae etc. It doesn't really smell like wine it's more like whisky. Not sure if that means it's too dry or cold and not working
 

NopusNatus

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I suppose the smell is subjective and can differ depending on the supplements and even types of wood used. You don’t necessarily need to see hyphae to have it properly ferment. Hyphae just shows you are getting fungal activity. Bacteria will still be present and doing a lot of the fermentation. Unless viewed under a microscope bacterial activity most likely won’t be visible. If you sprinkle a thin layer of wheat bran, oat bran, wheat germ, etc over the top and let it sit for a few days you will likely see fungal activity again. Visible fungal activity usually stops after a few weeks of consistent turning. The smell usually doesn’t last much longer than a few weeks and ends up smelling more like soil. Even after the wine/whiskey smell fades into an earthy smell the soil will continue to ferment and will still need to be turned.
 
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