Image from Steve Bowers

In appearance buildbugs most closely resemble the Terran wood louse although they are much larger. Internally, however they are much more advanced, with a fully developed set of lungs, an internal bracing structure to augment their external skeletal plating, and a complex digestive system that is essentially a biological nanoforge, able to take in or synthesize a wide range of organic materials.

Buildbugs possess several sets of small, extremely complex manipulators as well as various glands (including spinnerets) at both their anterior and posterior ends. Using these organs as well as their capable internal systems they can extrude virtually any type of organic/biological compound including silk, wax, paper, chitin, shell and bone, and enamel like structures. Beyond their base organic forms, buildbugs can also synthesize hybrid forms of these materials incorporating biological computronium, carbon nanofiber and diamondoid, and various other useful combinations as the situation requires. All of these materials may be shaped and formed into almost any desired configuration 'on the fly' as a buildbug is extruding them.

Working together, swarms of buildbugs can construct even large structures as well as many of the day to day necessities of life. They are most commonly used in those areas without access to full scale plasm systems, or in combination with plasm systems with a limited operational area.

With proper care a buildbug is effectively immortal (some well looked after units are several thousand years old) although they are unable to reproduce without technological assistance, usually a hormone mixture added to their diet. When operating in reproductive mode (also sometimes referred to as neuman mode), buildbugs lay eggs asexually, and can increase their numbers quite rapidly in an optimum environment with populations doubling in as little as a standard month. Their wide-ranging digestive system means that a newly hatched buildbug can consume and thrive on practically any organic matter, supporting growth and reproductive maturity in a very short time.

Buildbugs vary in size but average about 1/3 of a meter in length and about half that in width. They usually move on six or eight legs (although free-fall flying and aquatic versions are not uncommon) and stand about 6 cm in height at the tallest point on their shells. Their feet are usually equipped with gecko-like grasping systems and they are able to operate effectively without regard to concepts such as horizontal or vertical. Coloration varies depending on a units function and can be controlled by commands transmitted by the system user. Although some units employ color changing cells similar to those found in some cephalopods and reptiles, most buildbugs are designed to gradually change color over a period of several hours to reduce the load on the bugs energy systems.

Buildbugs incorporate an organic RF transmitter/receiver into their nervous systems and may be controlled wirelessly via standard DNI implant protocols. The majority of buildbug systems are operated at a municipal level although privately owned units are not uncommon in some polities.
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Development Notes
Text by Todd Drashner
Initially published on 28 December 2007.