After working with and blogging about black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia illucens) for over a year I finally have one of the first BioPods. For the past year I’ve been getting by with my homemade unit and I’m looking forward to testing this product. With that previous experience I’m pretty familiar with the shortcomings of my unit and from what I can tell by looking, the BioPod addresses those problems.
I’m starting this colony from scratch
I already have a colony of BSF larvae established, but I want to take this opportunity to start a BioPod from scratch. On one hand it seems like I’ll have an advantage starting this new colony because I have an established BSF population on my property, but that may not be an advantage. My existing colony which is 200 feet (60 meters) from my new BioPod is a powerful attraction to any female BSF looking to lay their eggs. BSF larvae do not have a strong or unpleasant odor, but their scent is easily picked up by the adult females.
The BioPod user’s guide recommends starting your colony with normal household food scraps except for meat or fish. It’s not a problem to feed meats or fish to an established colony, but before that stage those items will attract too many unwanted critters. I started my first colony using assorted scraps, but for this unit I’m using only dry dog food. I added 2 cups (.5 liters) of it, slightly moistened. The humidity where I live is usually 50% or higher so I don’t think I’ll need to wet it further. The purpose of wetting it in the first place is to enhance the smell and it may not even be necessary. The reason I’m testing with the dog food is because some types of food scraps start to look nasty after a few weeks and the dog food is fairly stable. In the end it probably doesn’t make much difference, but it’s hard for me to follow instructions sometimes.
This is the day my BioPod arrived. I set it up in about 20 minutes, added the bait, and so far that’s all I’ve done. It’s important to deter ants from entering the BioPod so I’m going to treat the legs of the stand with a small amount of Bug Stop.
It’s been raining a lot lately and that seems to slow down the BSF adults. I haven’t observed any BSF or seen any eggs on the new BioPod yet. This morning when I checked it there were a few house flies on the lid and I could smell the dog food from outside. Inside there were a few fruit flies and nothing else.
Still no sign of black soldier flies in the BioPod, even though they’re active only a few hundred feet away. I guess this reinforces the idea that if you maintain a BSF colony that you won’t have them all over your property. I’ve seen a few house flies on the BioPod lid but none inside. This may be because they aren’t willing to enter the small opening in the BioPod. My homemade unit had a fair amount of house flies entering it at this stage.
The dog food I used as an attractant is beginning to mold and I don’t think it was necessary to moisten it. Still not bad for 10 days in the summer though.
It can be frustrating waiting for the BSF to show up at your BioPod. I think the key is getting that first female to lay her eggs in your BioPod. Once that happens I think the others will quickly follow.
Still no luck in the new BioPod and I may have a clue why it’s taking this long, even with the healthy BSF population on my property.
I’m sure this one frog isn’t the only reason it’s taking a while and it may be the other colony I have on the property is getting all of the attention. Still, that is one well fed frog.
Okay, first of all, the frog was back! The frog from the photo has some unique markings and I believe the one I saw today was the same frog. The first time I moved it about 50 feet, this time I tried 100.
Other than that I want to say UEREKA! I now have BSF eggs in my new BioPod. I’m surprised how long it took, but as I mentioned earlier I believe my other colony was attracting most of the females.
It won’t be long now!
(egg disc removed from BioPod for photo)
I have a few different types of larvae feeding in the BioPod now which are too large to have come from the eggs in the photo above. I think I’ve seen one of these species in the past when starting a BSF colony, and I think it may be one of the other soldier fly variaties. Here’s a photo of that fly:
(unidentified fly – not bsf)
There are over 200 members of the soldier fly family (Stratiomyidae) in North American, but I assume the other soldier flies won’t work well for bio-composting.
I’m fairly certain some of the larger larvae feeding in the BioPod are black soldier fly larvae, so it shouldn’t be long before they become the dominant species.
Frog removal is becoming a daily chore. :/
I may have been too conservative with the food scraps added to the Pod so far. I’ve limited the food source to the original few cups of dry dog food put in at the beginning. Since there are larvae now present I decided to add more food today. When I removed the BioPod lid I was happily surprised to see 4 female BSF laying eggs. If they all survive that could be a few thousand larvae. Two of them kept laying will I poured the sloppy scraps in.
Today there were prepupae in the collection bucket. Prepupal larvae (prepupae) are simply the mature, dark colored larvae that are in the final stage before they pupate and change into adult black soldier flies. Although the light colored immature larvae sometimes migrate out of the BioPod the majority are these prepupal larvae.
Above: The BioPod collection bucket
The number of larvae actively feeding in my new pod is steadily increasing as is to be expected. I’m short on food scraps so I’ve been feeding this colony a type of hog feed that is made from cornmeal. Ideally I’ll find a source of food waste to use but for now I don’t have the time to find it or fetch it. : /
I haven’t had much to report since the past several weeks have been business (BSF composting) as usual. I add scraps every 2 or 3 days and I occasionally empty the collection bucket and liquid jar. I’m spending about 5 minutes per day with this unit on average. Most of the grubs have been fed to my pond fish, and some of them have been sent to my BioPod customers in seeding kits.
As the weather gets cooler I’ll monitor the activity of the female black soldier flies that visit the unit to lay eggs. I’ll probably start a new post to record the end of season information.
composter, compost, larvae, fly, flies, biopod