First of all I have to say that there are many kinds Flake Soil and that everyone can make it if he finds the right receipt. I will also explain to you my way of making it as it is absolutely no secret. I often wrote about it in the German beetle forum and in the Bugs Magazine No. 7.
Flake Soil is English and describes it pretty good. First time I heard of it was in 2009 when I read about it in the Beetle-Breeding-Bible “For The love of rhinoceros and stag beetles II”. There was a nice little description how Flake Soil is made and for which species it is good to use. This was the birthday of Flake Soil in Germany and Europe. By the time in Asia (especially Japan) it was the standard substrate for beetle-breeding which was available in many kinds in different shops. It is certain that the big success with bigger sizes also came along with Flake Soil.
There is a lot more life in the dead wood of the forests compared to the living trees. That means that thousands of small insects and fungi can live in a rotting piece of wood. That’s why! It still seems to be usual that beetle breeders run into the forests and destroy many small biotopes by taking rotten wood and chipping it at home. Another good opportunity and alternative lies in making Flake Soil out of co-products from sawmills and wood production.
Process and Production
My Flake Soil is made out of the co-products sawdust and wood shavings. Sometimes I also add chipped wood shavings which are white rotten which are a co-product in firewood production. It often comes from trunks which lay in the forest for a longer period of time. The producer doesn’t need it and uses it as fertilizer in agriculture. The basis wood is mainly mixed out of 90% of oak and beech. Sometimes I get smaller amounts of sawdust and wood shavings out of maple and birch. I don’t use softwood like pine and spruce as it is not suitable due to its high amount of resin.
The sawdust I get from a sawmill nearby. The wood shavings are a co-product in the firewood production in a town close to mine. For the oiling of the chainsaw they use bio-oil which gets decomposed very fast in fermentation.
These basic substrates are mixed with flour and fermented and stored in the furnace room at least for 6 weeks. In between this time it is mixed regularly due to the fact that the middle of the container can dry very fast as it heats in the middle.
The flour is responsible for the rising reproduction of bacteria. The bacteria cuts the polymers by depolymerization to shorter monomers and polyphenols inside of the wood pieces. The larvae -essential cellulose is preserved. Afterwards poyphenols are broken enzymatically by polyphenol enzymes to chinons. In combination with nitrogen the substrate becomes brownish. Cellulose is being broken in the gut of the larvae by bacteria and gives energy to the larvae. During this process it also looses energy in form of heat during the fermentation process in the furnace room.
What’s the difference of Flake Soil and white rotten wood? A fungi is responsible for making white rotten wood by reducing the lignin. Destroying lignin is the key for every beetle breeder to have the perfect substrate. Lignin is not digestible by beetles larvae and can only be taken up if is fragmented in its shorter chains or fermented in the gut in smaller amounts.
A fungi can be very voracious organism. Even more that bacteria as you can control them. A fungi needs the wooden energy for producing its fruit. This energy can be missing for perfect feed of the larvae.
At the moment I’m also doing a little research on alternative energy sources which can fasten up and stabilize the fermentation.
After at least six weeks when flake soil is ready I usually freeze it for about 48 hours to make sure that every pest which felt comfortable in the substrate is killed. Finally Flake Soil is ready to feed.
I am not responsible for additional feeding with additives. High energy additives can in some cases can lead to another start of the fermentation. Flake Soil is a natural product. Means: Also other insects and mites might feel well in the substrate as it a good source of energy. Especially if you keep other beetle and larvae on natural substrates like leafs and white rotten wood in the same room I cannot guarantee that pests might walk over. Moreover you shouldn’t mix Flake Soil with other substrates out of nature. You take the responsibility for mixing it and adding additional stuff.
Flake Soil is good for nearly all species of giant and stag beetles. As an exception you can take species which are only breedable on Kinshi like Allotopus sp. Moreover some flower beetles like Mecynorrhina sp. and similarly sized species like Goliathus sp. grow perfectly in Flake Soil
Attached now a video of a user unboxing my soil. Enjoy watching!