Phoenix Worms in the Toilet

By Evan Sandsmark - May 2, 2013 427 recent views

We recently received a seemingly straightforward question from a reader: “How did a Phoenix Worm end up in my toilet?” This question about Phoenix Worms, although refreshing in its brevity, is actually a little bit tricky to answer, as it gives rise to other questions: what is a Phoenix Worm exactly (hint: it’s not a worm), and could this creature possibly end up in a toilet? If not, then what is our reader finding in his toilet? Then again, if our reader did find a Phoenix Worm in his toilet, we only have one question to answer: how did it end up there?

This is by no means our first question about Phoenix Worms, which, as we said above, are not worms. They are actually larvae, black soldier fly larvae (commonly abbreviated “BSFL”), more precisely. The name “Phoenix Worm” comes from Dr. Craig Sheppard, who, after recognizing the commercial value of these creatures, began selling them as feeder insects (for animals like reptiles, for instance). Phoenix Worms are primarily found in compost heaps or comparable environments in nature (i.e., accumulations of decaying organic matter). They feed on this type of waste, and in fact they are essentially born into it (as the adult flies lay their eggs right by manure and similar such things).

But none of this really drives at the heart of our reader’s question. How could a Phoenix Worm end up in a toilet, if indeed it even could? Interestingly, we have actually addressed this exact question before when a reader speculated that he found BSFL in his toilet in an email to us. (For the record, we have been asked stranger questions about these creatures – see our response to a reader who wanted to eat some of the Phoenix Worms from his compost heap.) As we said in our last article about this topic, it would certainly be unusual to find a Phoenix Worm in a toilet, but it’s not unthinkable simply because of what a toilet is: a waste receptacle, to not mince words. We’re not going to speculate on the condition of our reader’s toilet, but if it hasn’t been cleaned in a while, it seems possible that a wayward larvae searching for sustenance might find its way there.

In any case, this is the story we would tell to explain how a Phoenix Worm ended up in our reader’s toilet. Of course, we can’t be entirely sure if our reader even found a Phoenix Worm (he didn’t submit a picture or physical description of the creature he found), but technically this matter was never up for discussion, as the reader took it for granted that he had in fact found a Phoenix Worm, and he was simply curious about how it ended up there. We’ve answered that question to the best of our ability, but our reader should consider the possibility that he found something else, just for the sake of thoroughness.

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