Icky. Ewww! Yuck. Ok, got that out. Did you even know this could happen?! Have you been afraid to ask about, admit to it, because it’s so ugly? Ok, gardener therapy time…. Maggots are really nothing weird, they are the larvae of black soldier flies (Hermetia illucens), often referred to as BSF, a native-to-the-Americas fly whose amazing environmental usefulness is just now being explored (2008 article – link below). In fact, you may already know BSF as Phoenix Worms, sold in Pet stores as food for fish, birds and reptiles. They became the first feeder insect to be granted a U.S. registered trademark in 2006!
They don’t look like I expected, and, instead, rather interesting looking. BSF & larvae images at Biopod.com Note the BSF black and white banded back legs. The grubs can be anywhere from white to a dark brown.
Answer ONE! Maggots are not going to hurt your compost, but they may be a sign that your balance of green materials/brown materials is off. Make sure you are adding enough (but not too much) brown stuff like straw. Also it may be too moist; it should feel like a wrung out sponge. If it is too wet or has too much green material (food waste, grass, fresh leaves) in relation to brown, it can become slimy and rotten smelling and attract lots of maggots. If you really can’t stand them you can get some lime (this is organic) and dust your compost with it. It will deal with the maggots and you will still have good compost, but it will increase the pH of the compost.
A word about LIME – Liming
It is normally not necessary to add lime to your compost pile to improve the breakdown of most yard wastes. Finished compost is usually slightly alkaline. If you add lime during the decomposition process, it will probably be too alkaline when completed. If your pile contains large amounts of acidic materials such as pine needles or fruit wastes, you might add lime, but no more than one cup per 25 cubic feet of material. Excessive lime application can lead to loss of nitrogen from the compost pile.
Answer TWO! OR, decide to HAVE maggots!!!! They make compost in record time! Here is a fab San Francisco Chronicle link all about them: Yucky but useful: Maggots make compost by Maria Gaura, Special to The Chronicle Saturday, July 26, 2008. It’s a read for the brave, but believe it or not, it will make you laugh! And change your ways of thinking about your compost! Did you ever think you would see these words? ‘While we’re waiting for our first shipment of BSF larvae to arrive, I thought I would take a few …‘
Would you believe there is a blog called Black Soldier Fly Blog?!?! Sure! This page features a sophisticated DIY specialized composter, with how-to image after image and videos! The page has no less than 188 comments!
Here is an iVillage GardenWeb page with a LOT of great information, and it explains and debunks the myths about BSF!
Next week, a tasty Summer’s End Recipe and a Surprising Place to Buy Seeds!