About this time last year, shortly after I started my first compost bin, I opened the bin and noticed that its contents seemed to be moving. Upon closer examination, I found hundreds of creepy crawly things munching on my food remains. I don’t really do bugs. I panicked, slammed the lid closed, and worried that there was something wrong with the way I had created the bin. After a lot of internet research, I had a name for the bugs: black soldier fly larvae. Not only are they common in compost bins, some people even want them to come.
The black soldier fly larvae are in my bin again now. Here’s what one looks like up close (I don’t get closer to them than this):
And here they are munching on food scraps (check in the center of the photo — again, sorry they’re not too clear. There’s a limit to how far I’m willing to lean into my bin in order to take their photo):
Based on my experience last year, I know that my biggest fear about the larvae is unfounded – I imagined that they would all, at the same moment, turn into black soldier flies and not be able to escape from my bin until the moment I pulled the lid off, releasing them to swarm my face. I’m pleased to report that they become flies at different rates, easily leave the bin through the holes, and don’t stick around. In fact, I’ve only seen one black solider fly and it wasn’t too scary, although I did scream when it landed on my leg but I’m a jumpy person.
I tolerated the black soldier fly larvae last year, but this year when they appeared I wanted to know if I should be embracing the larvae rather than merely tolerating them. Certainly, they eat a lot of my food remains, and they do it fast. Without fail, within two days of putting my food scraps in the bin there will be no evidence of the food. Pretty incredible. I sent an email to the woman who conducted the compost demonstration I attended several months ago to ask for her take on the larvae. Her response: “Rejoice in the larvae! They eat, and poop, and do a great job.” Well, the same could be said about me, but no one seems to be rejoicing in the fact. Regardless, should you notice a horde of black soldier fly larvae in your bin, you have reason to throw a party.