Sunday, January 25, 2009

Vermin Composting

Generally, that post-heading is a typo, “vermicomposting” as rendered by software or Freudian fingers. Not today. I think it’s a great name for my particular use of Black Soldier Fly Larvae as cheap quickie leaf-degraders. Though not for the recommended practice of simply feeding your kitchen waste to the things.

Readers of this blog will have noticed that I seem to have reversed myself almost entirely as regards BSFL. Almost. When I first saw a BioPod listed in a gardening catalogue, my response was a mix of disgust and indignation. The disgust has faded to some degree, though I still think they look like some mad fashion designer’s take on the common maggot, and I’ve grown quite fond of their usefulness if not of them per se. But indignation remains--I growl every time I see them referred to as composters.

A composter, by definition, produces compost. Stable, planting-appropriate, soil-amending humus-y compost. BSFL are waste digesters. Like the retail units sold under the same name, BSFL make waste disappear. If you’re looking for a quick source of fertilizer or ready-to-use soil amendments, look elsewhere; if the point is to make your kitchen waste vanish, grubs will do that quite efficiently.

And if you don’t want to see them, a cover layer of dried leaves works well*. Scrape the leaves back to add food, smooth the leafy layer back in a hurry, and watch it heave as the larvae come to feed. Yikes! Or if, like me, you have a ton of dried leaves you’d like to speed along the path to composting, mix leaves and soft food together and let the BSFL work for their meal. The end result still isn’t compost (despite my post-heading) but will break down very quickly once mixed into soil, added to a compost bin, or however you deal with such things.

Once you get it out of the grub habitat, that is; the most efficient way seems to be to move the vermin: [Excuse me, the grubs, I mean. -G-] Place something yummy in the bucket in some sort of removable net or holey container, wait for them to swarm it, remove food and wriggling mass together. Have a new bucket prepped and waiting, or a temporary holding unit. Two or three bait-settings may be necessary, and there will likely still be the odd recalcitrant larva in the proto-compost. If that bothers you, just set the compost-to-be out in the sun to dry; between light and lack of moisture, any remaining BSFL will wriggle away.

So you might want to do that drying someplace out of doors, out of sight, and out of the way.


*the rate of self-harvesting may be a bit lower, not sure as I haven’t done a side-by-side. Nor do I really plan to. The less I have to see of the things, the happier I shall be. Repulsive lives up to his name, if you ask me.

[image from Court Miniatures]

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