My first BioPod

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 bait

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. :)

JULY 10

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.

JULY 15

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.

JULY 20

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.

JULY 24

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.

frog on the BioPod lid

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. :)

JULY 27

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!

Black soldier fly eggs on egg disc

(egg disc removed from BioPod for photo)

AUGUST 1

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:

possible soldier fly - not bsf

(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. :/

AUGUST 2

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.

AUGUST 10

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.

prepupal black soldier fly 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. : /

bsf colony on August 10, 2008

SEPTEMBER 24

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

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13 thoughts on “My new BIOPOD™ by ProtaCulture™

  • July 17, 2008 at 1:52 am
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    I think keeping a journal of your experiment is a great idea, especially for those that want information about starting their own first colony. Please keep us posted with very detailed information!

  • July 24, 2008 at 5:29 pm
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    Haha! I love entry July 24! 😀

  • July 24, 2008 at 7:10 pm
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    Hey Mosey! Nice to hear from you. I’m going to start checking each day for frogs until I get this unit going. After that a frog or two will be okay. :)

  • July 27, 2008 at 3:22 pm
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    They’re heeeere.

  • July 27, 2008 at 9:19 pm
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    Congratulations on your new colony! :) I guess one has to commend the frog for being smart about where to find good food quickly!

    p/s: A really stupid question, but the egg disc is where they lay their eggs?

  • July 27, 2008 at 9:33 pm
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    Thanks!

    Yes the egg discs hang just inside the BioPod under the lid so that they’re the first thing a BSF will see when entering the unit. The holes from the corrugated plastic make attractive places for them to lay eggs. It’s a handy design because if you want to transfer eggs to someone you can remove a disc or two.

    In a few days when the larvae hatch they will crawl down to the moldy dog food that’s been waiting for them and begin consuming it. They’re the ultimate iron guts!

  • December 6, 2008 at 8:55 pm
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    Hi Jerry,

    We are the distributors of the BioPod in Australia. Your story is a good analolgy of how the units self seed themselves.

    We have found the units start producing exacting on the time frame you oulined in your blog. About 17 days for larvae/eggs to be detected and another week for first harvest. The presence of a native population of BSF (Black soldier fly) speeds things up. In my case I just stuck the unit out and it was up and going in the 30 day period.

    In most of Australia we enjoy frost free nights, so the BSF will self seed year round.

    David

  • December 30, 2008 at 12:56 pm
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    Hello Sir Mr David Watson,

    Actually in Malaysia, im intrigued to hear the possibilities with BSF larvae. Im interested to know if the biopod cant actually be shipped to Malaysia ?

    Many Thanks

    Kind regards,
    Izhizm

  • December 30, 2008 at 11:34 pm
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    Izhizm, click on David’s name above his comment and you will be taken to the website where he sells BioPods. :)

  • April 7, 2009 at 9:09 am
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    Hello

    I am trying to find documentation conserning Zoonotic Parasites and whether BSFs can prevent transmission. I own a pet service and associate with vetranaries and hard data on whether BSFs can eleminate common zonotic parasites like roundworm is of deep consern to vetranary and pet owners. Roundworm is one of the most common parasites Humans get from pet waste and soils contaminated with their scat. Can BSFs help stop this cycle?

  • April 8, 2009 at 7:28 am
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    Pego, I don’t think BSF can prevent transmission of or eliminate parasites. It’s just not possible to make such a claim. There is however evidence that they reduce pathogens like salmonella and e. coli, but not eliminate them. My guess is that BSF would also reduce zoonotic parasites.

    Waste processed by BSF still needs to be handled as a contaminated material.

  • May 15, 2009 at 5:10 pm
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    You might want to investigate EcoSystem Corp. (ESYM – Dow Jones). I’m sure they may be able to inform you and help you perfect your process. They have been doing this for years.

  • May 20, 2009 at 8:06 am
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    Thanks Carlos, I’ll check them out. I’m sure that EcoSystem Corp must have some years of BSF experience to be at the stage they’re at, but their website seems to reference the future more than the present. Of course I’m a big believer in BSF technology so I wish them the best of luck and I’ll be watching their progress.

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