HOW THE BIOPOD™ WORKS

The residential BioPod™ is a self-contained unit that houses the living colony of Soldier Grubs, which are the primary decomposer that inhabits the pod. It is related in size and scale to a home compost bin or vermiculture system, and like worm bins, must be placed in full shade. It is critical that the sun is not able to heat the pile to temperatures that exceed the functioning range of this species (approx. 60-100˚F). Excessively high temps may cause premature crawl-off, while low temps could result in dormancy.

Made from durable polyethylene and powder-coated steel, the BioPod™ can be exposed to the elements year-round and will not fade, crack, or peel with age. The unit comes with everything you need to start your active pile, except for the Soldier Grubs and food scraps. Assembly takes approx. 30-45 minutes, and an empty unit and base stand can be easily moved by one person to its final location.

Black Soldier Fly Adult - Hermetia illucens

Start up is a simple process that can be approached in one of two ways. The first method is to begin a colony naturally, using a 2-3 day supply of mixed kitchen scraps and the native population of black soldier flies (BSF) in your locale, which serve as the progenitors. Gravid females can detect and are attracted to very low levels of food scrap odors - they lay their eggs in close proximity to the food, and babies hatch out in about 100 hours. Juvenile grubs grow quickly and are quite visible within a few days time. The average time it takes to start a colony by this approach is roughly 2 weeks, depending on the native concentration of BSF in your region. A functionally mature colony that begins to show signs of grub crawl off and intense digestion of food scraps, takes about 30 days to establish.

If using the natural method, please wait until weather conditions in the spring are favorable enough to support a wild population of BSF. Moreover, the first two weeks of start up may attract additional species of arthropods such as fruit flies - this is natural and will dissipate once the colony is fully functioning. Active BSF systems actually give off a non-offensive trademark odor which helps the user to not only identify the correct species, but helps at inhibiting the presence of nuisance pests, like the common house fly or raccoons.

The second method is recommended for those regions that may not have a significant wild population of BSF. Like with vermiculture and redworms, A BSF starter colony can be purchased online, and is made up of various ages of grubs. Colonies are normally available as either 1 or 2 pound batches, and ship directly from the growers via USPS Priority Air. Unlike redworms which require beneficial microbes to break down their food before it can be consumed, BioGrubs™ begin devouring foods almost immediately, assuming scraps are available. So once the grubs are received, they can be added to your system immediately.

Before your BSF colony becomes established, mitigation of other fly species can be accomplished by a technique referred to as the 'lasagna method'. With the initial BioPod™ startup, it is recommended that a 1/2 to 1" topper of moistened, shredded office paper (no gloss or newsprint) or cardboard be added along with the kitchen offerings, so that fruit and house flies have a more difficult time laying eggs. Unlike those flies which lay eggs directly on food, BSF tend to lay eggs off to the side, so the paper helps encourage BSF egg laying, while simultaneously inhibiting the breeding of other species of flies.


THE BIOPOD™ AS A PET WASTE DIGESTER

Many folks wish to use there pod as a means of managing and recycling pet stools. If you are going to be processing feces from animals, please keep in mind a few important points. It is not uncommon for animal droppings to be contaminated with pathogens, some of which may be harmful to humans. So, please take adequate precautions when handling fresh stools or the contents of your colony. Utilize heavy duty latex gloves or reusable rubber gloves which can be washed repeatedly to avoid the creation of additional waste. Do not use the tea or compost directly in your vegetable garden; instead apply the finished products to your flowers or other ornamentals. We have not heard, read about, or encountered mature grubs infected with harmful pathogens. But as a safety measure, you should forgo feeding manure based grubs to any animal intended for human consumption, especially if the animal is the one that produced the feces. If the quantity of pet poop is insufficient to satisfy the voracious appetite of your pod, food scraps may be added to offset any nutrient shortfalls. With regard to litter, only use those that are biodegradable. Stay clear of heavily processed, synthetic or clay based brands as these may be harmful to your colony.


DOWNLOADABLE MANUAL / USER'S GUIDE

BIOPOD™ USER'S GUIDEpdf_logo



FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

This section is by no mean exhaustive. If you have a question not addressed here, please drop our customer service department a quick email. Allow a reasonable amount of time (1-3 days) for our team of experts to analyze your situation.

Are these creatures dangerous in any way?

BSF adults have no mouth parts – therefore they do not feed or bite in any way. They fly slower than other insects, and resemble dark-colored wasps but do not have stingers. Basically, they are nothing more than a breeder with a very short lifespan. As the mature BioGrubs™ self-harvest out of the active chamber, they auto-cleanse by emptying their digestive track before entry into the collection bucket.

Do these colonies spread germs that can harm my family?

The flying adults have a very short lifespan; they do not even possess functioning mouth parts necessary to feed.   Consequently, they do not harbor germs that may cause and spread disease in humans.  They are not like flies or yellow jackets - they will not cause a nuisance at your next picnic.  Because they are so efficient at composting wastes, having an active colonies of juveniles actually inhibits the growth of insects that do carry germs, like the common housefly.  However, as with all garden tools that are outside in the yard, dirt and bacteria collects naturally, so wash your hands with soap and water after handling your pod or any Soldier Grubs.

Is my system going to stink up a storm?

Established colonies that are actively processing food wastes will not produce noxious odors, so long as they remain aerobic, and the liquid tea is allowed to drain away.  Units that are given too many scraps could overwhelm the colony - do not overfeed.  This is doubly true with newly setup systems.  Do not add an abundance of liquid wastes like soups or sauces; this may result in pockets of oxygen deficiency, which can lead to stinky smells.  Drain off all liquids in your kitchen waste before adding them to the system.  If your pod gets too 'soupy' add in some dry shredded paper or cardboard to sop up the excess moisture.  This will be digested along with the kitchen waste.  Dried soap-free sponges will also successfully absorb any pooling tea, and not add permanent bulk to your system.  Just remember to wear gloves when removing the saturated sponges.  As a preventative measure, check the filter and drain for clogging once or twice per month.  Please understand that a functioning pod will emit a unique, trademark odor indicative of BSF (harmless to humans and pets) - this scent smells a little like ripe fruit compost and is created naturally by the juveniles.  This odor also helps to deter unwanted arthropods like house and fruit flies from taking up residence in your pod.

I can’t find any BSF in my new setup, only flies – what am I doing wrong?

Most new start-ups that allow BSF to find the pod naturally will invariably attract house flies faster than BSF – they are much more common, and normally more closely associated with humanity. Except on certain farms, BSF adults tend to be less common in nature, so it might take time for them to detect the scent of food scraps and lay eggs in your system. Additionally, the hatching time and life cycle for BSF is a little longer than house and fruit flies, so they can take time to establish and populate your unit. If you see babies after only a few days, chances are they are house or fruit flies, and not BSF. They may be left there, as the BSF babies will soon dominate the pod.

Most localities in the US will have native BSF adults present; however coverage is only assumed, not guaranteed. Should you not wish to wait for your colony to develop naturally (2-3 weeks), we have growers that will ship you BSF year round.

Common house flies tend to lay their eggs directly on food wastes, unlike BSF which lay them some distance away (such as on the underside of the protective cap).  A great way to mitigate the presence of regular house and fruit flies and their babies is to take a piece of dampened cardboard and cover the pile of food waste - this will prevent many of the unwanted flies from accessing the scrap and reproducing via eggs laying- just make certain the cardboard layer is not air tight, or you can cause the system to go anaerobic.  You may also use a ½" to 1" topper of shredded moistened, long-cut office paper - this will accomplish the same goal as the cardboard, but without the need for a peripheral gap.  Since paper and cardboard is not normally eaten by BSF grubs, use in moderation.

Will my BioPod™ attract unwanted guests?

The scent of food has the potential for attracting a multitude of hungry creatures; always keep the lid on (especially at night) and do not place in areas where the unit is susceptible to access or damage by pets, wildlife or curious children. Raccoons are notorious for raiding compost bins – consider fastening the lid with some bungee cords, as these seem to confuse them.

Why does it appear that some foods are being ignored?

Some foods will not be completely broken down by the active juveniles but will be decomposed in the lower compost levels by beneficial bacteria and fungi.  Animal bones, like those from pigs or cows, are too hard to be digested by either the BSF juveniles or the biologically rich compost; it is best to refrain from placing these inside the units, unless you don't mind having them mixed in with your casting residue. 


Avoid adding the following foods: thick chitin exoskeletons (ex. lobster), bivalve shells (ex. clams), mammalian bones (ex. T-bones), and coconut husks.


Can I use my system indoors?

These units are not currently designed for indoor use. BSF adults do not have access to the inside of buildings, and it will be difficult to maintain a prolonged colony without fresh eggs or babies. Near the end of the fall when the weather start to get cold, you can move un-insulated units into a sheltered area like a garage, greenhouse or shed for extended harvesting.

Why can’t I use my BioPod™ year round?

You can do this in the southern states and along the western coast, as long as the temperature inside the unit remains well above freezing.  To do this, provide an insulation cover directly on top of the inside contents of the active pile, making certain to leave a loose gap around the perimeter, so that the system receives enough oxygen, and does not retain (or lose) too much heat.  Additionally, a wool blanket could be used to cover the entire unit on exceptionally cold nights. The warmth to maintain a hospitable climate inside is generated internally by the active juveniles - do not stop feeding them or the temperature could plummet and the whole colony may collapse and go dormant.  The major issue with winter operation:  providing the system with a consistent supply of ample food.  Keep in mind that little to no crawl-off will occur during the colder periods.

I don’t have any shade, what can I do?

Full shade is required for the system to operate correctly. Units placed in direct sunlight will heat up too much, resulting in early crawl-off of premature adults (lighter in color) and may even cause the entire colony to collapse. Even in full-shade conditions, temperatures over 100°F degrees will cause premature crawl-off. The best solution is to purchase an inexpensive shade canopy or trellis which protects the entire colony from the heat of the sun. During extended heat waves, do whatever is possible to keep the temperature below triple digits (ice in sealed bags, etc.).

I am going on vacation, will my pod be ok?

As long as your pod is free from predation, curious children, and extreme weather, you system should operate smoothly while you are away.  In nature, there is rarely a steady stream of food for any species, so the intermittency of scraps will not be an issue. As long as you have been feeding your colony on a regular basis, the grubs can survive for several weeks without being fed (provided it is not too cold).  To allay your concerns, feel free to add in some additional scraps the day before your departure, or if you have a friend checking in on your place, have them throw in some scraps for good measure.  If it is exceedingly cold outside, we do not recommend withholding food for more than a day or two - the continual digestion is what keeps the inside hospitable - if you stop feeding them the temperature in the pod could plummet.

Ants are hauling off my BSF eggs and babies, how do I control them?

Ants are notorious invaders of compost and worm bins. In a BioPod™, ants don’t seem to bother the older pupae in an active pile - only the food scraps, eggs, collection bucket grubs, and newly hatched BSF babies. Nonetheless, there are several means of control that will not involve poison sprays or toxic pellets. The first is a barrier paste called
Tac-Gel that the ants simply will not cross. We have found it to be an effective means at preventing ants from entering the units. Make certain that the application completely circles the legs of the base stand. It is recommended that the user wear latex gloves while handling Tac-Gel. Please realize that if you have any shrubbery touching the unit, ants will use that as a bridge and invade the pod. So keep debris free and clear of the pod at all times. A second, more natural means of control would be a circle of diatomaceous earth (DE) on the ground surrounding the legs of the system. This powder is the skeletal remains of microscopic phytoplankton, and is composed primarily of silica. The DE causes openings at the seams of the ant’s chitin exoskeletons, resulting in desiccation. Repeat applications are necessary to maintain effectiveness. The third means of control would be some form of a moat-like water barrier, that could take the form of a shallow receptacle of water in which each leg of the stand is placed. Keep in mind that mosquitoes may become an issue in any stagnant or pooling water bodies.

I am getting immature larvae in my collection bucket. What do I do?

When the BioPod™ system heats up to much, larvae that are not yet ready to pupate will vacate the unit, in an effort to find a cooler location. On very hot days, you might see an accumulation of cream colored grubs in your bucket, instead of the normal charcoal grey-black ones. As soon as the temperature drops, simply dump the entire contents of the bucket back into the pod. If it is not too much trouble, feel free to separate out the black pupae, but it is perfect fine to add them all back into the pile – they will crawl out again.

Grubs are crawling all over the interior of the collection bucket, what do I do?

If they are crawling up the sides, chances are there is too much moisture inside the collection bucket. Add a handful of dried peat or coir and that will absorb the excess condensation so that the pupae will be too dry to climb the sides. This bedding will also settle them down considerably, and provide perceived refuge.

Can the BioPod™ be used for pet waste disposal?

Soldier Grubs love feces and will devour them almost as fast as food scraps. However, the residential BioPod™ was designed to digest kitchen leftovers, not pet waste, nor a combination of the two. The main reason we do not recommend adding pet waste into a functioning system is the pathogen issue. The germs that are associated with feces are a mixture of good and bad bacteria & viruses – we do not want our users to introduce those into a biological system that produces a finished product that may be used in a vegetable garden (the compost or tea) or fed to domesticated animals (the grubs). This is doubly important for animals whose body or eggs may be used for human consumption. Though cross-contamination and transmission between species is unlikely, it is best to recycle all pet poop is a system designed exclusively for that purpose.

I don’t have a yard, can I still used the BioPod™?

Yes. As long as you have a shaded area of your property, you can still use a BioPod™ without the need for an actual yard. The residential pod has already been tested in multi-story buildings in US cities, and will work with a little extra monitoring and care. It will still be necessary to situate the unit in an area that is completely or partially outdoors, such as a patio, porch, balcony or lanai.  Indoor locations are not feasible, unless the flying adults have full access through a window or door, since the wild population of females still need to find the unit and lay eggs. Like with yard-based systems, you must insure that the unit is placed in full shade so that the inside is not allowed to heat up above tolerable limits (around 100º F).  Radiant heat from concrete and building materials may indirectly increase the temperature of your balcony - be vigilant about extreme fluctuations in temperature.   Keep in mind that the liquid effluent (the compost tea) is continually produced as a byproduct of digested food scraps and must be collected by the integrated drainage system.  This tea is a powerful attractant for the females, and we don't want it pooling anywhere inappropriate because that might confuse the gravid females on where to lay eggs.

I don't see any grub in my unit, how do I attract females to my pod?

Along with fresh food scraps, the liquid effluent or tea from an existing pod may be used attract gravid females to your system.  Simply 'paint' the liquid on the underside of the protective cap and lid, and nature will do the rest.

I don’t have use for so many Soldier Grubs – what the heck do I do with them?

Many people set up the pod for the specific purpose of end product usage. Some feed the grubs to their chickens, bullfrogs, koi ponds, or pet iguanas. Individuals can save an average of $40 bucks a month by not having to buy live food at the pet store. Anglers use them as free bait instead of purchasing expensive earthworms. A growing number of users are becoming familiar with the benefits the grubs bring to the migratory song bird habitats that are springing up in people’s backyards. Along with supplying birdbaths and breeding shelters, it is recommended that carnivorous and omnivorous birds are fed a balanced diet including calcium-rich Soldier Grubs. Any feeder unit intended for mealworms will suffice as a suitable dispenser of grubs. Your birds will thank you in song! As a last resort, you can always give them away as gifts (we are not kidding) or simply allow the grubs to hatch into adults, thus repopulating the native stock in your area.  If you are interested is helping to re-establish the local population of BSF, take the bedding and grubs out of the collection bucket and place in a shallow bin. Protect the bin from rain, sun, and predation.  In a few weeks, you will have newly emerged adults ready and willing to process wastes in your area.


I am a really busy person. How much time do pods require?

Well, the initial setup up is really the most time-intensive part of the whole process.  To get this unit up in running, you will need to put aside at around 1.5 to 2 daylight hours, preferably when distractions can be minimized so that you can focus. Surprisingly, once the pod is setup, there is not much additional work, other that feeding, harvesting, liquid collection and cleaning of the filter.  Since the tea and filter media are replete with beneficial bacteria, always wear latex gloves when handling. Since the grubs will auto-separate using the patented migration ramps, there is no additional time or effort spent on collecting the grubs from the active pile.  If you live is an area that doesn't allow year-round operations, you will have to spend some time (approx. 1-2 hours) cleaning and dismantling the unit, so that it can be put away into storage during the coldest months.


How do I keep my unit from overheating?

Depending on your climate zone, you make experience summer temperatures that exceed the tolerable limits of a functioning BioPod™. In order to prevent premature crawl of immature larvae, you must decrease the internal temperature of the pod.  Freezing food scraps before adding them will help bring the thermal levels down, as will the addition of frozen, reusable ice packs.  We do not recommend using liquid gel packs as these could fail, and depending on contents, may poison the inhabitants of your colony. Find ice packs that have a tough, thick shell and resist abrasion. Use several, and switch them out after they have thawed.  Raw ice can introduce too much moisture to a system, so we don't suggest adding it to your colony directly.   Use raw ice only if you can keep it in a separate container that will not leak, puncture or spill.  As long as there is no chance of rain, temporary removal of the lid will also help to lower the internal temperature.


RECOMMENDED LINKS

ESR International
CompostMania.com

Interesting Websites

Maggot Art - developed by Rebecca O'Flaherty at UC Davis
Urban Aquaponics - Integrated Backyard Food Production

Forums & Blogs

Black Solider Fly Blog
Gardenweb: All About Black Soldier Fly
Pond Boss: Black Soldier Fly Project

Videos & Picture Galleries

Using BSF Larvae to Create Art
Dance of the Black Soldier Fly Larvae
5 Day Harvest: Sept 9-14
LarvaLover's Video Collection