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Isopod Composting: From Beginning to Harvest

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Isopod Composting: From Beginning to Harvest

Post by dermy on Wed Apr 29, 2015 8:23 pm

Isopod Composting: From Beginning To Harvest
Introduction
    Isopod Composting is a relatively new idea, it involves the use of Isopods to Compost Food Wastes. Isopods are found almost World-Wide. They can be obtained either from Nature or you can buy them from the web. I prefer the first choice as it is cheaper and just easy to do around here. Isopods come in a variety of Colours and Sizes. But for the sake of this Guide I will be using the common grey woodlouse Porcellio scaber. They are found most commonly in Wooded Areas but can also be found in the typical back-yard. They are usually less then an Inch in Size. Porcellio scaber is my choice for a Starter Species since they live almost anywhere and can really tolerate captivity well. In this Guide I will give you a run down on the Basics of their Life-Cycle and the Basics on Isopod Composting in general.
Porcellio scaber Life-Cycle
     Porcellio scaber goes through a Gradual Metamorphosis, which means there is not too much differences between a Nymph and an Adult. Something that makes Isopods different from most Inverts is the fact that adults will carry their babies inside pouches under them. They will develop in the pouches and pop out when they are ready to "Hatch". There is no real Parental guidance after that though and they have to fend for themselves. They go through a variety of Life-Stages called Instars. At the end of each one they Moult, but unlike most Inverts they do not moult all their exoskeleton at once. Instead they moult half of it at a time [sometimes you will see some that are lighter on the back half and darker on the front half, this is why that happens]. They will then wait till that part hardens and moult the other half. It usually takes a Nymph a few months to become a reproductive adult. But they will still continue to grow and moult for awhile before they reach their maximum size. It is unknown the exact amount of babies a gravid female can have but the main guess is around 20+ or so.
Isopod Composting Brief Over-View
  Isopod Composting is a relatively new concept. Because of this there is always changes being made, better setups being produced and of course many different ways of doing it that will probably be explored a bit later  on. Since it is in it's infancy there is not too much Information out there regarding it, so here is what I know from Isopod Composting, since I am probably one of the main people who do it:
What Is Isopod Composting?
Isopod Composting [As we've already discussed] is the process of using Isopods to Compost Kitchen and Food Wastes. It uses much the same principals as Vermicomposting does and actually gets it's origin from People who used to get Isopods inside their bins. They found that the Isopods help break down food wastes so that worms can eat it faster. But Isopod Composting uses only Isopods. Since it uses only Isopods as the Main Component there are various things that Isopod Composting Systems can Handle and what they can't handle but Vermicomposting Systems can. This will probably be discussed at a later date though.
At Home Isopod Composting

Before you start Isopod Composting at home there are a few different things that must be discussed. These include:
1- Setups/Systems- What are you going to keep your Colony in and what are you going to Compost In. There are a few Systems out there but at this moment there isn't any "Big System that Solves All Problems and Produces the Best Product" out there, so you have to know what you are after, are you after large quantities of Compost or are you more about Food Waste Reduction? Both require different Systems. Which Will be discussed in a later portion of this Guide.
2- Isopods- How many are you going to start out with? What Species are you locally around?
3-Food Waste and what you should do before you toss it in
(This includes something called "Food Waste Optimization)
4-Other Helpful Tips- These are just random tips that don't really fit anywhere else in the Guide.

1-Setups and Systems


Before you start Isopod Composting you are going to need to know a few things about What Containers and Setups to use and which ones to avoid. There are many different Systems (*Both Systems and Setups seem to be used as the same thing so just a heads up*)
that work for Isopod Composting but some are only good for other types of Composting or that just don't work at all for Isopod Composting.

The type of Setup you'll want depends on a few things:
1-The size of your colony/operation, how much compostable food do you have for them.
2- How long you plan to keep the System running. Longer run times usually need bigger Setups.

Food Wastes
Food Waste is a very Loose Term, so here is a list of Good Foods, Foods that need to Monitored and Foods that are plain bad For Isopod Composting!

Good Foods
Fruit Waste
Veggie Waste
Cardboard [that's not really a good food but it has cellulose in it and they like that]
Small amounts of wood shavings, just make sure it's not Ceder, because It can probably kill them
Egg Shells


In Moderation
Bread and Wheat
Lemons
Large bulky foods
Sloppy Messy Foods
Onions, Hot Peppers, stuff that has anything Irritating in it

Bad Food
Animal Manure
Paper towels used to blow your nose
Common sense pretty much if it isn't in the above categories then I wouldn't add it!


Bedding Materials
A simple and effective Bedding Material is something like dirt from the garden or something along those lines. Just remember not to fill the whole container up or your Harvest won't be as pure as it could be. Other great things are stuff like coco-fiber and I've even heard of Sphagnum Mosses being used. Just remember it must be moist at all times!
I usually recommend you use at least a 1/4" of bedding at the bottom of your System, this will be your "Life-Line" in case you or someone else over-waters them. It will usually be gone by the time you go to harvest your System, but if it isn't it makes great "Living Material" for the next Setup! Eventually your bedding will be Pure Isopod Compost, this is the Time that you need to Harvest your Bin!

Harvesting your Isopod Compost!
Harvesting is a very difficult task at the moment, because not many people have ever done it and it can't be done like worm Composting [Called Vermicomposting] since Isopods aren't like worms and can't be concentrated at the bottom, they like to be near the top of the bin.

The only way I've ever done a Harvest is by Using Wood Bark to catch all the Isopods and put them into another Holding Container. Then if you want all of them [which I'm sure you do!] you might have to hand pick them out, it can take awhile but here is a few tips:

1- Make sure there isn't any or many babies, they are a pain to get out!

2- Drying out the bin a bit makes adults more likely to hide in bark and thus easier to get out. They run faster too though.

Sorry There isn't much Information out there about Harvesting a bin, but in the future I'm sure someone will figure something out!

Conclusion!
Well there you have it there is a beginners guide to Isopod Composting, If you have any Questions feel free to post them below, I'm sure I've missed something Razz


Last edited by dermy on Tue Sep 15, 2015 1:44 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: Isopod Composting: From Beginning to Harvest

Post by Guest on Wed Apr 29, 2015 11:28 pm

This is a vary interesting and helpful post. Good work Dermy. Smile

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Re: Isopod Composting: From Beginning to Harvest

Post by dermy on Thu Apr 30, 2015 9:28 am

Thanks Myrm.
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Re: Isopod Composting: From Beginning to Harvest

Post by Luke on Thu Apr 30, 2015 11:53 am

Great post Dermy

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Re: Isopod Composting: From Beginning to Harvest

Post by dermy on Thu Apr 30, 2015 11:57 am

Thanks Luke. Still working on the whole Isopod Composting thing though Razz
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Re: Isopod Composting: From Beginning to Harvest

Post by Luke on Thu Apr 30, 2015 1:21 pm

Keep us updated on how it works out.

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Re: Isopod Composting: From Beginning to Harvest

Post by dermy on Fri May 01, 2015 8:00 pm

I will Very Happy
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