The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Black soldier fly 101

Black soldier fly larvae and adultsI became intrigued by black soldier flies a year ago, but quickly realized that we didn't have enough food scraps to grow these hungry larvae.  Now that we've tapped into the community's waste, it's time to revisit black soldier flies.  In the rest of this lunchtime series, I'll explain why we think black soldier flies are worth adding to our farm and how we plan to go about it, so today I just want to talk a bit about the flies themselves.

What are black soldier flies?
Hermetia ilucens
is a small, black fly that spends most of its life in the larval stage.  Black soldier fly larvae eat any kind of decaying organic matter, including food scraps, human and livestock waste, and more.

Black soldier fly range mapWhere do they live?
Black soldier flies (Hermetia illucens) are tiny and they don't bother anyone, so until people started harnessing them as composters, we didn't pay much attention to them.  This map, from, is "based on images submitted and identified by contributors. Range and date information may be incomplete, overinclusive, or just plain wrong."  Experts on the internet report that black soldier flies live in zone 7 and warmer, but we have them here in zone 6 and the map suggests they might even dip into zone 5.  You can see adults from April to December in the Deep South, and from about June to September further north.

Why do we care about black soldier flies?
Black soldier flies have the potential to quickly compost all kinds of organic waste, from swine excrement in huge factory farms to food scraps from apartment-dwellers with no room for a compost pile.  As you'll see tomorrow, the larvae are high quality livestock feed.

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This post is part of our Black Soldier Fly lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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That's great! We learned about BSF last year as well when they invaded our compost. At first we freaked, thinking they were a bad thing. Just a little research, though, told us quite the opposite.

We're hoping to harvest some this year, though I haven't quite figured out what method. I just know my chickens will be thrilled, as well as my plants! Nathan

Comment by Nathan Strange Mon Feb 28 17:13:22 2011
You'll have to record your adventures on your blog! As you can tell, I'm still in the learning stages with black soldier flies and can use all of the real life information I can get.
Comment by anna Mon Feb 28 18:27:40 2011
so where do we get these flying worms?
Comment by krist Fri Feb 24 15:13:39 2012
Out of the air if you live in the right area. In other words, they're wild and can be attracted to your garden with a little care.
Comment by anna Fri Feb 24 15:27:00 2012

I got freaked out when i saw this on my room, and even more when i saw a larvae, then i had to look on the web to know what species where they, and then i found your site. I was just curious in knowing how they got in my room and suddenly more of those started to appear, that's when i saw larvaes in some old wet socks that i had in my room, apparently the BSF laid their eggs in there. So i guess that's how they "spontaneously generated" in my room. Now the only question i have is how they got in my room on the first place hehe, i have a patio outside but no idea how they got in here since there is a wall between the patio and my room.

I just wanted to share my experience in an urban area and if i may ask if you know a site where i can learn more about these?? Thanks!

Comment by Adrian Fri Sep 28 05:43:17 2012
Adrian --- That's hilarious! :-) You don't need to worry --- black soldier flies are extremely harmless. If you clean up your socks, chances are they'll go away.
Comment by anna Fri Sep 28 08:04:26 2012
I have a great crop growing in my worm bin. They appeared spontaneously last summer. I live in Albuquerque, NM. They are continuing to reproduce in my bin this winter; I have it indoors.
Comment by rebecca lovesee Wed Jan 23 21:10:18 2013
Can anyone tell me how to control ants in a bsfl bin or I guess how to eliminate them completely with out harming the larvae?
Comment by cybpmp2 Wed Jul 30 16:21:40 2014
The best way naturally way to discourage ants is to surround the area with DE Diatomaceous earth and dry molasses. Reapply as needed.
Comment by Vikki Drennan Thu Aug 14 00:26:55 2014

I've seen in a few places to use DE AROUND the bin to keep ants out.

I've been using a moat but I left town for a week and it dried up and now my bin is infested.

Can I use DE in the bin to kill the ants or will it also harm the larvae?

Comment by AlCarl Thu Aug 11 15:15:52 2016
I am curious to know this too: Can you put DE in the bin to kill ants already in the bin or will it harm the larvae too? I just started my first bin with purchased larvae a few weeks ago and the larvae are growing like mad. Saw my first adult yesterday, and I think it was a wild one attracted to my bin since my grubs are still young. But I have a big ant infestation and I don't know: 1) if the ants will harm the grubs or just compete for food. And 2) if you can use DE in the bin to kill the grubs. Any advice would be appreciated.
Comment by Jessica Wed Oct 19 14:00:49 2016

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