toaster

By that I mean you can’t simply buy one, add food waste to it without further involvement and expect it to perform properly. Successful operation of a BioPod requires regular observation of the black soldier fly (BSF) colony and small adjustments designed to keep it balanced. There are only a few simple adjustments involved, but to know which to use you will need to learn about BSF. It’s similar in scope to learning how to ride a bicycle and about as easy.

Your involvement

Often the adjustments are as simple as withholding food scraps for a few days and in other cases you may need to add something dry like stale bread, cereals, or shredded paper to soak up excess liquid (BSF won’t eat the paper). Sometimes you may need to remove the lid for an afternoon, or treat the BioPod legs to repel ants. On average your BioPod won’t require more than a few minutes a day and you can even ignore it for a several days at a time if you manage it properly. The key to making it simple is to study the black soldier fly larvae and to understand how various factors effect them. If you don’t learn the basic behaviors and needs of these fascinating animals then you will probably have difficulty keeping them. If you learn to avoid overfeeding and overheating the colony you’ll be most of the way there.

Please do some research before you buy

Your geographic location and even the altitude at which you live will effect how easy or difficult it is to culture black soldier flies (Hermetia illucens). Culturing BSF is possible anywhere, but if you live along the west coast or in the southeastern U.S. there’s a very good chance BSF are already around you and starting a colony will be relatively easy. If you live in a cold and/or dry climate the difficulty level increases. If you’re not sure about your specific area please contact us and we’ll do our best to inform you.

The main factor is temperature

In general the warmer and wetter your climate, the more likely it is that you already have black soldier flies in your area. Colder and/or drier climates represent less likely places to find BSF and they are the most challenging places to establish a colony. This is also true of elevations over 5000 feet (1500m). The native range of BSF is the southeastern U.S. but over time they have been transported around the world. They are not an invasive species.

usa_hardiness_zone

(click map to enlarge)

BSF are most commonly found in the USDA plant hardiness zones 7 – 10, but there are often exceptions. The hardiness zones relate to temperature only and while this is the most important factor with BSF it isn’t the only one. I’ve gotten reports of robust BSF populations in zone 6 and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of them in cooler zones in the future.

Don’t let me discourage you

I just want everyone to understand that when you purchase a BioPod you’re entering into a new hobby that may be somewhat challenging at first and also very rewarding. If you like gardening, traditional composting, or vermiculture then you’re a likely candidate for black soldier fly culturing. Likewise, if you watch nature and science shows you will probably find BSF as fascinating as I do.

Update: Since we now have a discussion forum we will be disabling comments here on the blog. Anyone can read the forum, but to join in on the conversation you will need to register. This is an easy and painless process, and it’s necessary to keep spammers from, well, spamming up the place. :)

The forum can be accessed here (forum) and you will see a link for registration in the upper left corner of the forum. The legal language on the registration form is very basic and is what came with the forum software. In short, we won’t share your information, and please don’t be vulgar or break the law. 😉

solider

 

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20 thoughts on “The BioPod™ is not a toaster – a disclaimer

  • August 2, 2009 at 5:30 pm
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    My BSF eat paper. I put my kitchen scraps on a paper plate (which can be a considerable amount each day) and every morning I take the previous days plate and dump the food in my homemade bin. Usually I cover up the larvae with the paper plate, or a piece of cardboard, since they dont like light. After a while the plate will be really grungy and the larvae will start to eat it too! Its full of holes with larvae wriggling in and out of it.

    You’re right, it’s fascinating to raise these guys. I think its funny how attached to them I feel!

  • August 2, 2009 at 11:14 pm
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    Hi Garbly,

    It’s easy to appreciate BSF after you work with them for a while. I never expected to enjoy fly larvae so much. I guess life is like a box of chocolates… :)

    I have also seen my BSF grubs shred paper, cardboard, and even the styrofoam that I used to insulate them last winter. If what I’ve read is correct the BSF aren’t ingesting the paper, they’re simply shredding it. I suppose that if paper gets saturated with food the BSF might even swallow it, but the point is that they don’t eat high cellulose items intentionally. Like humans, BSF can’t digest cellulose.

    The main reason I tell people that BSF don’t eat paper is because I don’t want there to be confusion. Raising worms is fairly popular and they do eat paper.

  • August 14, 2009 at 12:45 pm
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    That makes sense that they could just be shredding the paper. They are certainly enthusiastic in all that they do!

  • August 14, 2009 at 1:53 pm
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    “They are certainly enthusiastic in all that they do!”

    Very true Garbly, and all they do is eat! :)

  • August 17, 2009 at 10:14 pm
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    If you only knew…they’re an exciting bunch

  • August 18, 2009 at 7:05 am
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    Hi Toaster,

    I in no way meant to downplay the importance of toast or the wonderful appliances that produce it. I myself am the proud owner of a Cuisinart Convection Oven Toaster Broiler.

    So there. :)

  • August 20, 2009 at 9:56 am
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    I am thoroughly enjoying this blog. For the DYI BSF composter what size bucket was used? Maybe a 2 gal?

    This morning I put a paper plate on top of the garbage can compost with fresh scraps in it. Am anxious to see how it turns out.

    I use shredded paper to help take up the moisture in the can as we live in the FL panhandle (DeFuniak Springs) & it gets humid here plus the can is black so absorbs heat.

    Thanks everyone for all your great tips/ideas.

    Salli

  • August 20, 2009 at 10:23 am
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    Thanks Salli.

    I used a 5 gallon bucket for the DIY composter.

    If you brew coffee at home you might want to use the grounds to help attract the BSF. They’re very common in the Florida panhandle so I wouldn’t be surprised if BSF are already on your property.

  • September 19, 2009 at 6:29 pm
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    Thanks so much for this blog! I live in Louisiana and found these guys in my compost bin and had no idea what they were. Now I feel lucky they’ve chosen to take up residence there!

    • September 21, 2009 at 10:43 am
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      You’re very welcome yodel!

  • September 22, 2009 at 12:35 pm
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    I live in San Francisco. Seems like the ideal location, but SF is a climate bubble all its own. Its very cool. I havent seen any BSF in my bin although I’ve only had a worm bin for a few months. Will BSF eventually show up or is it worth it to purchase a starter colony?

    • September 22, 2009 at 7:21 pm
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      Hi Steve,

      I found a site that confirms BSF are native to San Francisco: http://research.calacademy.org/research/library/biodiv/biblio/sfspinventory/insects.htm

      With BSF in your area already you don’t require a starter kit. In your case a kit would probably speed up the process of establishing a colony, but I think it’s too late in the season for this year. Our kits average about 5000 BSF including the eggs and that’s a very small colony, too small for normal operation. You could get a kit anyway if you just want to nurse them along until spring, but in winter a small number of BSF will require more attention than a large colony. The best way to understand what I’m referring to is to read this thread at the BioPod forum: http://thebiopod.com/forum/index.php?topic=145.msg606#new

  • October 28, 2009 at 1:12 pm
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    I have a vermicomposting set-up that started with red wrigglers. Now I have a pretty dense population of bsf larvae.

    My question is this: do the red wrigglers and bsf larvae compete with each other in a way that reduces the effectiveness of either/both populations, or are they ok working together?

    Thanks.

    • October 28, 2009 at 3:46 pm
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      Hi klew,

      The short answer is; yes, they are fine working together.

      In terms of competition for food; I don’t think that’s an issue because red worms thrive in the residue of black soldier fly larvae. Of course with BSF present you will need to provide much more food to support their rapid growth.

      I think the main issue with combining the two species in one container is that each has a different set of conditions for optimal performance. Worms;cool/BSF;hot, etc. It’s extremely efficient when worms and BSF are both used in stages to process waste so combining them into a single system is being attempted by some people.

      In the following article Dr. Olivier, the man who invented the BioPod™ touches on the relationship between worms and BSF and how we might utilize them for waste processing: http://blacksoldierflyblog.com/bioconversion-dr_paul_olivier/

  • December 2, 2009 at 10:34 am
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    I live in Kuala Lumpur city, Malaysia. But not at the sky scraper area. I did not see BSF at my area. How do I attract the larvae and the fly?
    I have start a 2 feetX2 feetX1 feet compost pile (not bin). I hope there will BSF larvae soon. Pray to GOD.

  • December 2, 2009 at 11:31 am
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    Are housefly (or other fly) pupae safe to be feed to fish?

  • December 2, 2009 at 5:42 pm
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    Can we attract BSF come to our area with spreading/putting honey at outside?

  • December 3, 2009 at 9:55 am
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    I think spreading honey do nothing.

  • August 3, 2012 at 10:00 am
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    I live in the Texas Panhandle…hot and dry with a typical temperature range of 5 degrees – 105 degrees F.
    I do have a greenhouse and other insulated storage buildings. Do you feel there are BSF in my area?
    If not, where can I order at a reasonable price? I have laying hens and am starting an aquaponics system using Talapia…Sounds like BSF would be ideal for my situation.

    Greg

Comments are closed.