They are incredible composters, excellent sources of protein, extremely polite by self harvesting themselves and might just be the alternate meat source that world wide dinner circles need to embrace. Say hello to the Black Soldier Fly.
Now the title of this post doesn’t even particularly make sense but hey, it was that or March of the Soldier Fly…actually, on reflection the later was probably a better choice.
The long story of how I came to have a compost bin with a seething wriggling mass of maggots, requires a pot of tea, shoes left at the front door and no place to be for an hour or more, (or something like that.)
The short version was, what started as a small maggot problem with questionable outcomes, turns out is an excellent compost larvae friend of which I have inadvertently created a home for and is now looked upon as some prime utopian real estate for soldier fly larvae.
Seriously, it really is the promised land for wriggly segmented critters.
Now before I disgust some of you any further, and you click off for good let’s quickly recap on why these (quite incredible) critters are good for your compost, (and also why you should just skip to the acceptance and embracing stage of having them in your garden/compost/table and simply bypass the revulsion and dry gagging bit that I had to go through first. I mean really, just skip that bit, these guys are awesome.
- Black Soldier Fly are about half the size of a regular house fly, they also naturally keep away house flies- and that dear people is a good thing.
- They don’t mind it hot, actually the hotter the better. Anything upwards of 27C is going to show activity and humidity is apparently a big factor. Being in a black compost bin with the weather we’ve been having lately (rain++ and hot++) I’d say has had a big impact on their numbers.
- They are excellent composters due to playing a big part in contributing with decomposition and nutrient cycles. They are also rather excellent at aiding the bioconversion of organic waste material.
- They are a great form of protein. I’m not ready to get in there for that dinner plate just yet, but for animal feed, herptiles and tropical fish I say buon appetito.
- If you were keen on cooking up a little spagetti alle larvae, have a peek at this site, Farm 432. It’s a table top incubator essentially where you grow your own sustainable protein filled dinner.
- Protein wise they are filled with in terms of % and in comparison with their other insect counterparts, they are definitely front runners.
- They clean themselves just before they self harvest, plopping right over the side, ready to be scooped up.
- They are only dark in colour at the very end of their pupation, I had previously seen them like that so had discounted mine as something else, as they were cream coloured, (rookie mistake.)
“…reduce the volume and weight of would-be waste: The larval colony breaks apart its food, churns it, and creates heat, increasing compost evaporation. Significant amounts are also converted to carbon dioxide respired by the grubs and symbiotic/mutualistic microorganisms.” (Wikipedia.)
Really, they are hoovering through the compost, considering mine is only weeks old and not as balanced as I would like it, the quality is pretty darn good. I’d say a good proportion of that is due to my wiggly segmented (creamy coloured) friends. (They can apparently reduce composts or manure down by 50-70%.)
Now I’m absolutely fascinated by these critters, having watched their behaviour over the last couple of weeks, not understanding what was happening, seeing them explode in population, and reading up a lot. I’ve gone from dry gagging to grinning excitedly and holding them in my hands.
And really, how exciting is learning something completely new eh.
More fascinating reads found here.
And a huge thank you to my mate Sarah who introduced me to these critters in the first place.
Hahahaaaa… oh, the end of this post had me quite relieved. A friend of mine was talking to me about edible larvae the other day and I thought the worst when I saw your header photo in my WordPress reader! But COMPOST, on the other hand, that’s wonderful! What spectacularly useful little creatures! I love bugs, particularly things that creep like inch-worms and caterpillars. Aaron and I found a tiny caterpillar in a lettuce a couple of years ago and decided to adopt it. We named it ‘Mawson’ (as it escaped from its lettuce home a few times and crawled across the living room) and enjoyed its company for a few days until it disappeared altogether when we were out for the afternoon. I still wonder whether he escaped to faraway lands…
Anyway, I digress. Great post lovely. Sustainable living kicks ass! x
For compost they are quite, quite incredible Laura. I’ve really just watched my whole compost decrease in volume, just leaving the good stuff. I’m impressed! And no, eating them isn’t going to happen any time soon. I did suggest to the kids though that they could sell them for some extra pocket money to fish and retile owners. $$ in eyes is an incentive 🙂
Was your friend just talking about some larvae lasagne or was really keen to give it a crack??
I’m sure he would do it, he has eaten crickets without flinching. There’s been a lot of publicity surrounding the nutritional content of bugs and larvae recently, somewhat driven by Matt Stone (head chef at Joost Bakker’s Silo/Brothl, now Oakridge estate). I guess it really is the next stage in responsible protein… or it seems to make sense, when reading about sustainability, food production and less waste. It makes me squirm a little bit though. I’m not a big meat eater at the best of times and I even hate seeing crickets in cans at the pet supply store! 😦
What’s nope Ms Narf?
Nope to the black soldier larvae here in Tasmania.
ah…Probably not warm enough for them? Or humid? I tried to find out where they are found in the world but alas, still a mystery. If they were legal and you could keep them warm with a hot compost or incubator I’d send you down some- I think you’d be impressed!
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I did a bit of research and I could only find one incidence of someone talking about them in conjunction with “Tasmania” and he was failing as aside from it not being warm enough for most of the year, there just aren’t any here and we can’t order them in as the quarantine on them is ridiculous.
yeah, no I thought quarantine might be tricky. Apparently they like upwards of 27C with a comfort and party level at 35-40C. With the weather we’ve been having lately and combined with the enclosed compost bin, it really is a larvae fiesta. Grab your sombrero sometime and come on up!
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“OLE!” We are getting 28C today but hopefully that settles down soon as we Taswegians are not up to that kind of heat on a regular basis, unlike our black soldier fly larvae mates 😉
Brydie, you surpass yourself! I always try not to look too hard when I am sorting through my worm farm. (What ARE all those eggs that come out with the worm wee?) But I figure all the extra little critters just help to speed up the decomposition. I haven’t sighted a black soldier fly larvae, but I must really tell you the story about the maggot I incubated in my head from the Bolivian Amazon to Rio de Janeiro; it’s my best story. I wrote it down for a friends’ magazine a few years back. I’m going to dig it up and hit post! xx
Oh my Alison, yes! Yes please I mean! Amazon…maggot…head….it doesn’t get much better in terms of stories right there.
Not sure about your worm farm eggs, but if you see some segmented critters like the ones above then that’s a good start, they look similar to normal fly maggots beforehand which is what threw me initially.
Now…looking forward to your story!
I didn’t know they kept away house flies. I did know they’re very good composters. But as for how they taste, that’s something I’d prefer remained a mystery! xx
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Looking at the pictures Brydie, these are the things we used to get in great numbers in our pit toilet when I was a kid – so definitely not wanting to think about them as food! Sounds good for the compost though, but I think in Canberra we wouldn’t keep them alive over winter…
I was concerned when i found them in my worm farm. But now you have eased my fears.Hopefully they all play well together. Wouldnt like my worms to be malnourished!
They won’t Mike. They pretty much just predigest the food for the worms. It’s a wonderful balance!
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Now I know what those maggots are that we get in the compost here…Greece having a very similar climate to you guys. I used to get the grand-boys to throw them quickly over the fence when we emptied the big can every October. Now I will put them back in for the next lot. I will definitely look at them with a kinder attitude now!!! Interesting post.
It was a swift learning curve for me Linda. I thought originally they were maggots as well and was mortified…alas no, good guys.
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