Soldier Fly Larvea Hibbie Jibbies: Get Over It!

I know what you are thinking. Same as I was.  Big ole nasty flies in my compost? Aw naw, that gives me the hibbie jibbies!  But Oh Yes my friend! Because they are actually not nasty, and once you know what a black soldier fly is, and it's benefits to good gardening you will surely change your mind.  When I noticed these weird segmented worm-like things moving around in my compost my first thought was to ditch the entire compost bin contents and start over! I sort of shuddered. The last thing I want is to spend my time feeding gross looking "THINGS" in my compost bins instead of building clean, healthy amendment for my organic gardens. And my next thought was, "How did those get there?".  So off I went to dive into some organic gardening forums, Google and YouTube for the next several hours. And boy, am I glad I did! Turns out, I am one lucky compost maker!    

"So what is a black soldier fly" you ask.
Formally called Hermetial illucens, and is scientifically known to be in the family Stratiomyedaes. But I really like the name Black Soldier Fly better. Sounds sort of mean and tough, but don't run because he's not mean at all.  This fly family contains about 1,500 species but the one like pictured above is what I have been seeing in my neck of the woods. Adult BSF are found mostly in damp, sloppy places, sod, under bark, in animal excrement and in decaying organic matter.  That last part of where they are found is what you want to hear (decaying organic matter, aka: compost). They love a well fed and watered compost.  

Here are a few reasons why you should want the black soldier fly close to your composts and garden:

Completely Harmless to Humans
BSF are completely harmless and unlike the common house fly are actually quite clean and do not carry human pathogens in any way.  Nor will they bite you because they can't bite you, they have nothing to bite you with.  Poor little fellers don't even have a mouth. Man, I know a few folks I could wish this fate on, but now wouldn't that be mean?  

Vicious Eaters
On the other hand, the BSF larvae which squirm around in your compost and grow to be about ½' long are monstrous little eating machines for about 2-4 weeks. The entire time BSF are larvae they are consuming any type of decaying matter they can find. These grubs basically just live to eat while their adult flying parents only live to reproduce.  Once these winged adults mate, they kick over and go kaput as their mission in life is complete.  I know, sad, but it all works out in the end.  The circle of life for the soldier fly continues and  your compost becomes much richer for your garden because of them.  OH! And as a bonus, they also munch on the common green fly larvae that may be deposited about, thus holding down that gross bio hazard! Ew, I hate, hate, hate, green houseflies!  Thank you for that added attribute, Mr. Soldier Fly! 

Speedy Waste Management  
Of course, just like anything else that eats, what goes in must come out!  Hence, compost nitrates (the greens in your bin such as kitchen scraps and coffee grounds) will be turned to a beautifully healthy soil amendment in record time. This can speed up your composting time considerably as the larvae work the compost which cooks hotter due to all the activity going on in there.  Just like the earthworm, the BSF grub produce castings. If you have enough grubs (some people do, I don't) the castings alone can be used as a stand alone soil amendment.  The larvae themselves are actually an excellent source of food for fish, birds, and reptiles.  Some farmers feed them to their chickens as a high source of protein.   I hear they are also a great fishing bait, but I'm not sure I would want to give any up for that unless the fisherman is willing to trade his fish bones for my BSF grubs. 

So, the actual adult guerrilla composting warrior is pictured above. I've seen a few flies around, but it was before I realized what they are and had no clue to grab my camera as I would eventually need a picture for this post. So I grabbed that image from Google. 

If you think you may have the black soldier fly in your compost look for the larvae, that's what actually lives in your compost. The flies will find their way out to go do their thing with each other, but the larvae will be busy bellying up to the bar!  Below is a pic of what you will see if you are lucky enough to have them find your compost. I know, they sort of gross me out too, but you will get over it!  If you do not have BSF larvae in your bins, you can get them by attracting their parents to your compost bin. I should have moved that little piece of stick that's right at the top of the larvae. Yeah, that's just a piece of stick. Ignore that. 

When I say these larvae are vicious and speedy eaters I am not joking!  Not long ago I unexpectantly found a bag of craw fish in my fridge.  Well, let's just say, after I finished breaking down from that hibbie- jibbie out of body experience from discovering what I thought was red peppers was in fact a pile of bug eyed craw fish glaring back at me! Be glad you weren't there to see that! Once I had time to recapture my spirit and work up the nerve to touch that plastic bag full of googly eyes, I remembered how good fish bone is for the garden.  BINGO- to the bin ya go, you nasty fellers! Oh, and how many times did I turn that bin after that addition? For once I looked like Superwoman!  PEE-EEEW!  Well, that was about ten days ago.  I opened my bin today for a picture of those craw fish (about two pounds worth) and this is what I found. Pinchers. That's it. Pinchers. Yep, that's some guerrilla war going on in there! Go BSF!
So, as you have probably noticed, there is a lot to know about this wonderfully beneficial fly larvae that is actually one of our best garden and composting helpers.  Not to mention what a great source of food for our coops, wild birds, and amphibians.  I chuckled when I found that they actually have their own blog on the webbie! Really? Now that's funny!  But once you realize how awesome these little critters and their squiggly babies are, you will throw off your chuckles, boot up, and head out to the bins just to double check. Right? *wink
Flip More Dirt Y'all!

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