Identify worm?

Boxhead(QLD Aust)April 21, 2005

Hi, I recently (2 months) set up a worm farm and all the worms I added seemed to disappear probably because it was too hot. I hoped that I would get babies as the eggs hatched and very soon noticed a funny looking . I didn't worry I thought it must have been in the original worm mix and liked the conditions better then the other worms. The population of this worm seemed to explode initially, and has recently dropped, and I have now found 4 small red worms. I have not been able to find a pictures of it on the internet, and I now suspect they are not earthworms as they are slightly flat and appear to be breeding when none of them have a clitellum.

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Tcdutch(MI 5b)

Hi Box

Check this link out, in the right collumn you might find your answer.

Also check these out as well.
This will show you the shovelhead worm, nasty sort indeed.


    Bookmark   April 21, 2005 at 1:58AM
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Kelly_Slocum(sw WA state)

The creatures in the picture are not worms, but are larvae of the Black Soldier fly (Hermetia illucens), which is an introduced species now common in and around Queensland Australia. Congratulations! Black Soldeir fly (BSF) larvae are very beneficial in a system designed to process organic material!

In the larval stage these are voracious decomposers that break down organic matter very quickly. Despite what you might read on the internet, they are not competing with your worms, rather, their fecal matter is an excellent nutrition source for earthworms. The two species are often used together in coordinated manure management systems that allow the larvae to process the raw manure and the earthworms to convert the larvae manure into lovely, stable worm castings.

The churning acvity of the larvae as well as the nature of their manure can increase the moisture level in the bin, but the addition of dry bedding should the bin environment become overly wet easily addresses this challenge.

H. illucens cannot pupate in the bin environment, so after a couple of weeks as hungry larvae they will crawl out of the bin in search of soil or other protected area in which to move to their next life stage. Their mouth parts convert from chewing mandibles to a special digging tool with which they dig themselves a nice little "nest" in which to pupate. Pupation lasts a few weeks after which they emerge as flying adults.

BSF adults are completely benign, spreading no disease and in no way harming plants, people or animals.

The adult is a poor flyer, so is often found resting on walls or the leaves of plants. They have no functioning mouth parts, instead spending their adult lives in search of mates and reproducting (the reason the larvae are so beneficial to waste management is that they must obtain and store sufficient energy in the larval stage to carry them through their entire lifecycle). They are strictly outdoor flies that do not try to enter homes.

We sometimes see decline in worm activity when solder fly larvae populations explode, usually due to increase in moisture, resulting in a corresponding decline in oxygen levels. The worms typically rebound quickly, particularly when excess moisture conditions are corrected.

Kelly S

    Bookmark   April 21, 2005 at 9:45AM
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Gorfram(7b W Oregon)


I'd understood that BSF larva eat earthworms: am I wrong about that?


- Evelyn

    Bookmark   April 21, 2005 at 8:23PM
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Kelly_Slocum(sw WA state)

BSF larvae eating worms is, indeed, a myth. The two are routinely used together very effectively in manure management systems (I worked with a BSF system for three years).

Other BSF myths:
1) The larvae are drawn to anaerobic environments.

Soldier fly adults are repelled by anaerobic conditions
and will not intentionally deposit eggs near anaerobic
piles. Larvae can survive anaerobic conditions, but
their activity is decreased compared to the level of
BSF activity in aerobic environments.

2) BSF larvae drive worms from the bin.

No, but massive BSF populations do tend to create more
liquid conditions that can lead to decline in oxygen
levels. It is this drop in O2 that sometimes leads to
worm population decline.

3) Like houseflies, BSF larvae pose a human health risk.

Neither housefly larvae nor BSF larvae risk human
health. Both fly species, in fact, in the larval
stage, are shown to decrease the presence of human
pathogens in infected environments.

4) Environments favorable to BSF larvae will also support
housefly larvae.

BSF larvae communicate chemically with virtually all
other fly species, including fruit flies and
houseflies, letting them know that they will starve them
out if these other species attempt to take up residence.
As a result, a system that has significant numbers of
BSF larvae will support NO other fly species. It is one
of the many reasons we love this larvae for manure

Kelly S

    Bookmark   April 21, 2005 at 9:22PM
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Boxhead(QLD Aust)

Wow! Thanks Kelly for such an excellent reply.

I was worried I had a grub bin and I'd have to dump it and start again. I guess this also explains the scary black fly I found the other day.

My bin was a bit wet before, but I think it is back under control now. It was also rather hot when I first got my worms with a week of 40°C (over 100°F) and I suspect the BSF larvae like the heat. Hopefully wy worms will rebound soon.

Thanks again

    Bookmark   April 22, 2005 at 6:19AM
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Thanks so much for your expertise!

I am so relieved to ID this creature, which is rampant in my compost at the moment. In the upper layers there are small and medium-sized larvae, at the bottom are the big ones. I have been amazed at its ability to tolerate the heat of my compost pile.

I made a point of creating and sustaining a very hot pile with lots of coffee grounds, to kill any wild onion bulbs. The conditions seem to be ideal for BSF larvae - I've noticed them in my compost before, but not in such huge numbers.

The compost is almost ready for the garden so I am awfully glad the larvae will not harm the plants. I suppose the birds (and maybe some wasps?) will eat some of the larvae when I spread the compost.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2005 at 11:19PM
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DesertHills(z9 N Phx,AZ)

Kelly, thank you once again for sharing your expertise, I always learn something from them. The black thingies in first image above look a lot like those I found on my bin, I thought they were poop from critters and has been wondering how they can get in. :)

    Bookmark   August 17, 2005 at 6:49PM
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I have a large population of soldier fly larvae in my compost bin, but i have yet to figure out if and where they are able to pupate (the bin sits on gravel and rocks).
From what i've read about the studies done at the University of Georgia, its possible to lure the prepupae in through a PVC pipe system. But i am only concerned in this for keeping a viable population through the winter.
Does anyone know the intimacies of soldier fly pupation?

    Bookmark   September 25, 2005 at 7:31PM
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Damn! What amazes me to this day is that Kelly will answer the exact same question, ie BSF larva, with a whole different set of confirmation pictures to support the answer. The more educateder I get here, the less enlighteneder I consider myself to be.


    Bookmark   September 25, 2005 at 8:02PM
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margaran(Jacksonville, F)

I'm feeling deprived. How can I get some BSF larvae in my bin?


    Bookmark   September 26, 2005 at 6:47AM
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LeRoyhoward(z9 CA)

I would like to include jpg images of invader worms with my message, but can't seem to find out how. Kelly, how did you include images with your posts?

Thanks, LeRoy
RE: "Invaders in my worm bin" post

    Bookmark   September 26, 2005 at 7:27PM
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LeRoy--upload your photos to a place like They copy the "tag" line under the picture and paste it into your post. If it worked, you will see the picture in the preview of your message. That's the way I do it. There are other methods I'm sure.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2005 at 7:56PM
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Is it possible to mail soldier fly pupae with any hope that they will survive? If so, I'd be happy to send a few to you, Maggie.

The larvae in my bin have been pupating right in the bin, and I've been picking them out and placing them in dry areas so that there's a chance they will reach the adult stage and start the process over again. I hope the fact that they're pupating in the bin is not a sign that the bin is too dry. I've just assumed that they can't find their way out.


    Bookmark   September 27, 2005 at 11:42AM
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margaran(Jacksonville, F)

Thanks Peter. I looked online- couldn't find any info. Perhaps Kelly can help us. I checked with the grower who sold my worms to me but he pointed out most people try to get rid of them. Given what I found on the net, I might have better luck if I opened up a waste treatment operation :-) I'll post a separate thread.

Thanks for sharing,


    Bookmark   September 28, 2005 at 4:34AM
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This is Leska's housemate Lynn - Just want to register profuse thanks for the information in this post! We've been wondering what those grubs were for a long time and hoping they weren't a danger to our garden. Our compost bin is quite rife with them and we were in the process of pulling out castings to spread about and sure didn't want to spread something harmful along with it. Thank you thank you thank you!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2008 at 7:43PM
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Black soldier flies only feed on dead stuff, so I wouldn't worry about them feeding on your plants.

The way I attract black soldier fly larvae is by putting a layer of coffee grounds on top of my compost pile and then covering it up for a few days. It provides a moist, dark, protected environment. Once you lift the cover off of it, there will be a layer of swarming larvae. I like to scoop them out into a bucket and dump them in my worm bin if I find there's too much food for the worms to process

    Bookmark   September 22, 2008 at 12:40AM
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Hi Kelly, I too just started vermicomposting and have been invaded by the BSF. I now have very few worms left (out of 5 lbs), but millions of the larvae. I have them in a worm tower with three trays. How can I rebuild my worm population so the two can work together? I don't want to buy more worms only for them to overheat or run away. Do I need more trays so the worms can live farther down in the trays? Also, how should I get the larvae to leave the bin when they are ready to pupate? Right now, I have a lot of them in the very bottom of my bin. Any ideas or advice would be much appreciated. Tracy

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 7:57PM
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The original post and many of the replies are now older than dirt. Kelly will most likely not be replying because she moved on to other adventures years ago. She did however leave us valuable facts. Most of what she wrote should maybe be gold plated. The posters at would love to hear of your sucess with BSFL. How to get worms and BSFL to work together is what some of us (hobbiests?) are working on following in the very big footsteps of those before us leading the way. Some of us here want to help you and learn what you know that we don't.

Here is a link that might be useful: This Link Will Answer Your Questions

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 1:50AM
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Hi Equinoxequinox. The link you posted doesn't work. Do you have any other information? I just started a new thread with almost the same question as the other Tracy (tlynchard).

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 11:24AM
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The site seems to of been down for the last few days. Originally the link worked. It may again.

A search for BSFL should turn up more information than can be read in a few days. By then I am hopeful the original link will work again.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 6:36PM
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Hi Tracy,

I've been working with black soldier fly larvae for a few years but I don't know much about worms. It's true that BSF and worms can coexist, but in a small container the larvae are likely to create too much heat for the worms to thrive.

A ramp system is one way to help mature BSF larvae migrate out of the bin, but that might not be practical with your unit. The mature (dark colored) larvae don't eat and will make every attempt to exit the unit. The larvae can't climb a dry vertical surface but when condensation is present they can. If you mist the walls of the unit in the evening it should stay moist enough that the larvae will be able to escape; assuming there is a large enough space for them to fit through. If you wish to collect the larvae simply place a container with an inch of dry sawdust underneath the unit and since they'll be dry they won't be able to exit the container. To separate the larvae from the sawdust you can sift them using a strainer. The larvae make an excellent addition to the diet of chickens, fish and many other animals.

I'm afraid there is no simple answer for excluding BSF from your worm tower except to keep it in an area protected from the outdoors so female BSF can't lay eggs on it. A garage or screened area should work, but you'll have to watch the door because the BSF girls will do their best to get to it.


    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 11:16AM
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Curiously, I may have discovered an ideal BSF habitat but accident. Previously I had an open compost pile. The local home owners association banned it (even though the county distributed free bins). I still wanted to compost but didn't want to pay $60 for a new one so I built an enclosed on. Weeks later is was filled with BSF.

Here is what I did.
-Medium size black trash can and a top
-hardware cloth
-nut and bolt (about 16) that will fit through the slots in the hardware cloth
-one bungie cord

Building it:
I turned over the trash can and using a bowie knife I slowly cut out a hole in the bottom or the trash can (about half the diameter of the bottom of the can. Using wire cutters I then cut a circular hardware cloth piece out slightly larger. I drilled holes in the bottom slightly smaller then the bolts around the hole I had just cut. I then placed the hardware cloth over the hole and bolted it in place. I used the bungie cord to secure the top in place so no critters could get in.

The ideas was that water could drain out of the bottom, no large critters could get in the top or bottom and earth worms could get in.

What has happened is the enough air (it's on the mulch) has entered the bottom and escaped through the gas in the tops to aerate it a bit. Kitchen scraps have kept it most enough. And about a billion BSF larve live there and come and go as they please through the hardware cloth.

I plan to add the materials to the garden at Thanksgiving. After that most scraps I add freeze for the winter and they will have a no batch in the spring. It's essentially an out door disposal. No smell and not much space needed.

Everything was purchased at home depot and the total was less than $30 and fit in the back of my subaru forester.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 2:12PM
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There is a BSF composting system called Bio Pod sold for home use that is supposed to be able to handle all the garbage from 4 families.
The makers recommend that you get the initial eggs to start it going by souring corn kernels in water with a dry place such as a block of wood or square of styrofoam floating on it for egg laying. Sour corn is supposed to be the primo attractant for them. It sounds like the way we used to make bait and chum for carp fishing.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2010 at 2:54PM
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I just want to clarify a few things you posted. To my knowledge, I'm the only person that has recommended using fermented corn as an attractant, however I am not associated with the maker of the BioPod. I've been mistaken as the BioPod manufacturer before and I want to be clear that I'm not.

Rotten cabbage is another attractant I've had good luck with. While a distinct sour odor is best for attracting BSF it is not necessary to have a strong odor once the colony is established. In fact, if you get bad odors from a BSF unit it is a warning sign that the colony is out of balance.

It isn't mandatory to provide an egg laying substrate for BSF but if you do the key is to provide small voids where the females can deposit their eggs. BSF eggs take four days to hatch so the females prefer a protected nook above or next to the waste for egg laying. Without some type of egg laying device the BSF will find a corner in the bin or simply scatter eggs randomly on the walls or lid of the container.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 2:19PM
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I was taking some compost out of one of my bins and ran across some things that looked alot like BSFL but were NOT. They were smaller and in crevices around the top of the bin. Not sure what they were but hey were not moving and came off with a little washing.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2010 at 4:05PM
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wow this whole time I've been killing those little worms thinking that they might be harmful for my garden/compost, I'm a 1st time gardener & with no previous gardening experience I automatically jumped to the most obvious conclusion,"that they were pests," thank you for the much needed information :)

    Bookmark   June 30, 2011 at 3:42AM
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That may be what I found in one of my indoor bins in the dead of winter , dont know how it got there. I have read that it is a good thing to have in a worm bin not sure if that is true or not but I removed this one.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 12:55PM
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