Recently we received a question about Phoenix Worms, the trademarked name for black soldier fly larvae (BSFL) that are used for animal feed, that would be indecipherable to an average person. However, having answered hundreds of questions about larvae and worms over the past few years, we have amassed enough knowledge to intuitively grasp most questions, however lacking in relevant details they may be. In this instance, a reader wrote to us to say that she has some Phoenix Worms that smell like bleach, and she is wondering if they are “ok to use.” We were also informed that she had “taken the dead out.” If this seems like a series of incomplete, disjointed thoughts, it’s because it is, but we actually know exactly what the reader is talking about. She recently acquired Phoenix Worms to feed to her pets, but they smell strange, so she is wondering if they are safe to feed her pets, and all she has done so far is remove the dead worms from the container they were shipped in. So, the question before us is this: are phoenix worms that smell bad safe to feed to your animals?
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?
A few weeks back, we received a question from a reader about some small brown worms (or rather, worm-like creatures) he found in rotten organic matter. We’re not sure how he determined this, but the organic matter was 60 degrees Celsius (or 140 degrees Fahrenheit), and this surprised the reader. He contained the creatures and has since been using them to feed his chickens, who seem to enjoy them (the reader supposes they are like M&Ms to the chickens because the creatures he found are crunchy). Based on everything the reader said and the pictures he sent us, we are almost certain he found black soldier fly larvae (i.e., the larval form of black soldier flies), which are also known as “Phoenix Worms.” Phoenix Worms are often used for composting; in fact, they are so commonly used that they have their own acronym, BSFL (short for “black solider fly larva,” of course). These larvae actually thrive in hot compost bins and other organic matter, so it’s not surprising that our reader found them in this environment (although 60 degrees Celsius is really hot even for BSFL).
Phoenix Worms, despite their name, are not worms – rather, they are the larvae of the black soldier fly – and as far as we know they have no special connection to the city of Phoenix (other than that they thrive in compost bins even in extremely hot whether, something that can’t be said of another prolific creature of composting – the red worm). The name “Phoenix Worms” was given to the larvae by Dr. Craig Sheppard, who started selling BSFL (as black soldier fly larvae are frequently called) as feeder insects – for certain types of reptiles, for example. We recently received a question about Phoenix Worms, and it is one of the stranger ones we’ve been sent in awhile. (To be sure, it is a downright normal question compared to the one we received about selling worms in a milk jug that had been buried for six months.)
The black soldier fly, which goes by the scientific name Hermetia illucens, is a very common type of fly. It belongs to the family Stratiomyidae, which is composed of roughly 1,500 species that are often simply known as soldier flies. Because of their helpful role in composting, the larvae of black soldier flies (often called “BSFL” or “Phoenix Worms”) are perhaps better known than the adult flies. In this article, we’ll give some basic information about both black soldier flies and the larval form of this creature.