Friday, August 28, 2009

When life hands you maggots...

Soldier fly, Hermetia illucens, adult. Photo by Mike MerchantOne of the odder occasional invader pests PMPs can encounter is the soldier fly, Hermetia illucens. The adult soldier fly is relatively obscure and unlikely to attract much attention. The mature larva, however, is a creature from a bad sci-fi movie. Unlike most fly larvae, the soldier fly is leathery and grey or brownish in color--well adapted to crawling longer distances away from its moist larval habitat. It's just odd enough that a customer who sees one is sure to save it in a jar for you, the pest control guy, to identify.

Soldier flies in homes are most likely to be associated with decomposing animals, especially those in later stages of decomposition. But soldier fly larvae are also associated with compost bins or any wet accumulations of vegetable debris.
Soldier fly larvae from ProtoCulture LLC at
A new phenomenon worth being aware of, especially among your green customers (you know, the ones who drive Priuses, install solar panels on the roof and want your "organic" program) is vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is a faster and safer way of disposing of kitchen scraps. Vermicomposting bins may consist of wooden or plastic bins (plastic sweater boxes are commonly used) layered with newspaper and kitchen scraps. It uses certain types of worms, especially red wrigglers, to help compost the food quickly with minimal odors. Occasionally soldier flies find their ways into these bins and can partly take over composting from the worms.

A new, entreprenurial twist on vermicomposting is "soldier fly composting". One enterprising young company is trying to sell America on the concept. The BioPod™ is a specially designed plastic container that makes soldier fly larvae (or, to use the company lingo, BioGrubs)easy to rear. If this vermi- biogrub- movement catches on, PMPs may see a lot more of these critters escaping from their compost bins and crawling through homes and apartments.

See a quick video about "Biogrubs"

My entomology colleague and fellow blogger, Kim Schofield, entertains and instructs hundreds of school children each year with, of all things, maggot art! She simply takes a few soldier fly larvae, some non-toxic paint, and a piece of paper. Dip the maggots in the paint, have the kids drop them on the paper, let them crawl for awhile, and viola! Art! Don't believe me? Well of course there's a website for everything, so check out

All this new interest in soldier flies is great proof of the human ability to make the best of an otherwise yucky deal. One could say if your customer hands you maggots, make maggot art! Or at least know what they're handing you.

1 comment:

James said...

You have nice and interesting articles. Keep posting my friend and god bless you...