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April 24, 2017

Black soldier fly composting (an introduction)

Photo courtesy Shawn Marie Hardy- adult soldier fly

I’ve discussed composting with black soldier fly larvae a lot on Facebook, I’ve even written a book about it. I have neglected (until now) to write a little about them here. Hermetia illucens is the Latin name used for the species we are interested in for composting and waste management. The larvae  of black soldier flies are voracious eaters, eating even stuff that worms won’t/shouldn’t. A bin of larvae can go through meat, fish, dairy, and fresh manure as well as the fruit and veggie waste often given to worms.

Black soldier fly larvae as pests in a worm bin

This is the most common way for worm composters to be introduced to BSFL. In spring it’s common to see pictures of the larvae posted in the Facebook worm composting groups. Usually the pictures are accompanied by the questions: What are these? and Will they harm my worms?

They won’t eat your living worms but they can outcompete the worms for food and they’re extreme activity can produce heat from friction above where the worms are comfortable. I usually suggest people get as many worms as possible into a new bin and feed them a more carbon based diet during the warmer weather when black soldier flies are active. or secure some type of screen over the new bin to prevent the female soldier flies from laying eggs in the new worm bin. I like to suggest using the original bin then as a summertime BSFL composter.

Setting up a summertime black soldier fly composter

Summer brings with it gatherings, picnics, barbecues where there tends to be more food waste created. What better time to employ a critter that can handle all of it? From the fatty gristle on the T-bone to the lemon rinds from homemade lemonade, BSFL will lick their tiny lips (not sure they actually have lips) and look for more. If the larvae have already invaded your bin likely all you’ll need to do is keep adding lots of food. If you want to have something a little fancier the Biopod Plus™ or the Protapod™ are both available in our shop. If you want to try a DIY setup my friend Quoc-Huy Nguyen Dinh created a low cost EBook with instructions on a few bins he’s created and some helpful info.

Just How Fast do Black Soldier Flies eat?

Watch this 24 hour time lapse of BSFL feasting on a couple of rainbow trout:

EBook by Quoc-Huy Nguyen Dinh

Get More info by clicking on the book covers and stay tuned for part 2

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Larry Shier


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  • Not to be redundant, but are the flies indigenous to a specific geographic region? For example, are they southern hemisphere, warm weather exclusives? I live in Boston, MA but don’t think I’ve seen them here. I would like to have a go at raising them however.

    • Hi Stephanie: I’ll get into that a little more in future posts, but maps of where BSF are found do include Massachusetts. Their preferred temperature range is around 80F though so I suspect the active period for them would be rather short. They CAN be grown indoors with specific conditions met but not a lot of people seem to try it.

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