“What is it?” asks this reader in June Lake, California about the organism in the photograph below. This black and brown creature sports a segmented body with seemingly no legs attached, and has no discernible face.
To cut straight to the chase, this is clearly a black soldier fly larva (otherwise referred to as BSFL). The larvae of the black soldier fly are completely harmless, being neither parasitic nor venomous, so our reader need not worry about that. In actual fact, they are environmentally beneficial and are widely considered one of the environment’s most important contributors. This is not only due to the fact that, like earthworms, black soldier fly larvae transform decomposing organic matter into nurtient-rich fertilizer via the ingestion and digestion of said organic materials, but also because they control the release of pungent odors in natural environments and curb housefly populations. Additionally, BSFL can also be eaten and are high in protein. A blog post about BSFL being the “future of food” from EatCrickster.com details how BSFL may in fact be the future of food, once we over-cultivate our current sources of protein to the point where the human population can no longer be sustained by beef, chicken and other meats.
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Not only are BSFL completely harmless, but they are also not considered pests, unlike house fly larvae, whose populations can get out of hand and who can carry pathogens (BSFL can also carry pathogens, but are far less likely to, partly because the adult fly does not have a mouth!). Even the old earthworm, the Uncle Sam of the worm world, is considered a pest if populations grow to unmanageable numbers. This is also because the nutrient-rich excrement of many species of earthworms can actually change soil structures because of their solid, pellet shape and can do more harm than good if too many earthworms are densely populated in a given area. Meanwhile, the excrement of BSFL is far more ‘liquidy’, making it easy for the soil to absorb and not affecting the structure of the soil. All of this is to say that these creatures really are worth keeping around, so we advise that any of our readers who find one of these just put them outside where they can continue to benefit the ecosystem.
To conclude, the creature our reader found in her house in June Lake is merely the larva of a black soldier fly. We thank her for these excellent photos and this amazing video which demonstrates how these larvae move. It will definitely make an excellent addition to our library!
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