So, let’s talk about what’s going on right here! What is this all about, exactly?
It’s about black soldier flies, and their larvae (BSFL) specifically. They are bugs, insects. Not only are they insects, they have super powers! Among their many amazing abilities, like tolerance to freezing temperatures and ability to withstand foul odors, I am most enamored with and convenienced by their ability to eat damn near anything!
That’s right, these are the decomposers that race to the front of the line when it comes to nature’s rotten buffet. They are only second in line behind the anaerobic bacteria that immediately start to break down any living organism, just as soon as it stops living. In fact, black soldier flies are actually attracted to that oh-so-awful aroma that you may also hear referred to as “I think a raccoon died in your attic…two weeks ago”, or “Get a shovel and some bleach, that stray cat must have gotten trapped in the old freezer in your shed.” Whatever you say when you smell dead stuff and gag a little bit, these little wonders are on the job in most of North America, ready to lay eggs from which will spring an army of eating machines. Not only will their larvae eat their way through the rotten carcass or most other kitchen scraps, they will also aerate it in the process, eliminating the odor and making it more hospitable to the bacteria that make up healthy soil biomes. In addition to cleaning up the stink, the BSFL powerhouses turn all of that rotten organic matter into fat and protein as they grow juicy and spry. Once they’ve eaten their fill, they expel all of their waste, a substance high in Nitrogen, comparable to worm castings or other humic composts, and wiggle off in search of a cozy place to curl up and turn into an adult black soldier fly. But get this, the adult BSF doesn’t actually have mouth parts! They store up so much energy as larvae, they don’t feed as adults, that’s why most people have never noticed them.
They look more like small iridescent blue/black wasps than common house flies, but since they aren’t interested in human food unless it really smells rotten, they stay away from us. They don’t sting or bite as adults, either. You know what that means, they came here to do two things: pupate and make babies…and they’re all done pupating!!!
With all of these wonderfully useful abilities and the fact that they are simply available in the environment if you create the right conditions to attract them, BSFL are becoming the darlings of the food waste disposal industry as well as industries that require inexpensive but high quality fat and protein as feed stock like the fish food producers and poultry farms. Because of their tolerance for normal environmental conditions all over most of the United States, it is pretty easy to create some kind of BSFL operation on a very small scale with little or no investment in resources. Two common examples are feeding kitchen waste to BSFL, which in turn mature and are used for chicken feed, or simply feeding BSFL kitchen waste in a container in the garden to convert that waste into bio-available nutrients for your plants and other soil organisms.
In my next post, I will detail my own version of the back yard BSFL Biodigestor!