Larva in compost?

sean_carolan(z8 Texas)June 5, 2008

I have one of these: It was here when we moved in so I am using it for my compost pile. I put lawn clippings in every 3-4 weeks and lots of kitchen scraps (no fats + oils of course).

I opened the top the other day and the entire top surface of compost was moving. A closer inspection revealed hundreds of larva munching away. They are whitish and about 3/4" long each.

Is this ok?

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Not familiar with the bugs in your zone, but could they be maggots?
You mention lawn clippings and kitchen waste, those are both 'greens', what are you adding for browns?

    Bookmark   June 5, 2008 at 10:53PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Most likey soldier fly larvae. Common in overly wet compost. Add some browns to the mix.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 1:53AM
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Post a picture if you can. I am curious to having so many. What ever they are you are going to be swarmed in a short while. They are doing their job composting your pile but my oh my when they grow up look out. If they are maggots something is decomposing in there. Good luck and aloha.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 1:58AM
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Most likely the larva of flies, maggots, things that should not be part of your composting operation. The only reason those maggots can be there digesting your material is because it is too wet to be properly composting, they need a very moist environment to hatch, live, and then grow into the adult flies that will lay more eggs.
Keep in mind that in many areas of the world flies are how many diseases are spread.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 7:18AM
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Kitchen scraps + grass clippings is nothing but greens (and very green greens, too). You need to add some browns.

There are, incidentally, experimental systems that use black soldier fly larvae to compost manure. So I wouldn't say that your system isn't properly composting. I would say, however, that your system probably isn't composting in the way that you want it to. Writhing wads of maggots, bleh! :-)

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 8:55AM
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sean_carolan(z8 Texas)

Thanks for helping me identify these, they are in fact soldier flies. A few of them fly out of the bin each time it is opened.

They generally seem to feed on the new stuff that is thrown on the top of the pile (eg, fresh kitchen waste).

The first time I looked in there I thought of this movie Squirm that I saw once with the babysitter - I must have been 5 years old at the time.

You mentioned adding some "browns". This is ambiguous to me. Is extremely dry grass still a "green"?

The good news is I'm getting some nice black compost out the bottom of the Earth Machine, I will probably try and make a batch of compost tea from it.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 9:58AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

It makes sense that BSF(black soldier fly)larvae are eating the stuff on top of the pile, because they like the raw stuff.
BSF larvae poop makes good compost. Unfortunately the swarming mass is the stuff of nightmares.

Yup, extremely dry grass is still a green.

Browns are things like paper (shredded junk mail works for me), straw, sawdust, chopped up sticks...

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 12:20PM
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Hi Sean!
I'm glad your having fun composting w/your newly inherited compost "machine!"

For browns, other than dry fallen leaves (I'm in NW NJ - lots and lots of leaves, everywhere), here's some of the things in my household that I use as browns all the time:

(I find the easiest way is to collect them in a small trash can - you know the rectangle kind that we all have under our office desks - and then shred/tear them by hand when I'm doing something mindless - watch a tv show, talking on hands-free cell phone, web surf, etc.)

- paper towel inner tube
- toilet paper inner tube - for both of these I use scissors to cut them into thing ringlets :)
- all used papertowels (except those used w/cleansers) - which we use alot/continuously for countertop spills, etc.
- (almost) all used napkins
- boxes (y'know, pressed board sort) for food items, eg cereal boxes, pasta boxes, hot cereal containers, brownie mix boxes, cardboard that holds the yogurt 12 packs, cardboard (not styrofoam) egg cartons, baking soda boxes, frozen food boxes, etc.(well, I use these boxes even tho I know there's the printing ink issue, that's being discussed in this forum elsewhere)
- junk mail, and actually, all the inserts that come w/bills, all mail envelopes, etc
- scrap paper (if you have kids this is great b/c school work comes home every day, most of which makes it into this pile eventually)
- used post-it notes

Hope this helps you get started. I use a 33 gal rubbermaid for my compost bin & one thing I've experienced is that my compost works/smells/decomposes better if my additions to it are small - the smaller the better (but not pureed :).

I have more ideas for browns (& greens) at my list that I made - I put the link below.

Welcome & All the Best, Tree

Here is a link that might be useful: 201+ Compost ingredients

    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 10:05PM
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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

If you have any chickens, call them over and shovel out some of the maggots for them. Mmmmmmmmmm! Fresh yummy maggots! A chicken's favorite food.


    Bookmark   June 6, 2008 at 10:15PM
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Below is a link to an article from North Carolina State University about the BSFl. Note care fully where this article states they grow in poorly managed compost piles.

Here is a link that might be useful: Black Soldier Fly Larva

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 7:51AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

I've posted that link before. I think the choice of the word "poor" in that link an indication of the authors lack of understanding of the various alternative styles of compost. Some compost piles are highly managed, others are low maintenance. BSF larvae are fairly common in a low maintenance cool pile.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 9:44AM
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sean_carolan(z8 Texas)

Yes, it's a low-maintenance pile. I am not expecting compost in 2 weeks like some of the systems I've seen advertised. After reading up a bit on these flies I don't mind having them in there. I am adding more browns to the pile now though, thanks for the advice.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 9:48AM
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