Friday, September 24, 2010

My favorite maggots

The adult soldier fly.  Photo credit: Rock Hill high School

Howdy neighbors!  How is your soil today!?

I need to tell you about my new favorite pet, the soldier fly larvae.  I'm being totally serious.  I worry about their health!  When I go to my compost tumbler to drop off a new gift, and see hundreds of them chewing on my food scraps, I get so relieved. Yay, they are still there!  Phew! Now that I have them, I don't know what I'll do without them.  Well, I do- I'll actually have to exert myself and turn my compost instead of just gawking at it lovingly.  Don't leave me, maggots!  I love how your efficiency enables my laziness!

 See them in their gross glory here (click play):

Look at the smiles on those happy Hermetia illucens.  That was once an avocado, by the way.
The best part about my maggots is that I pretty much do nothing to keep them around.  They are lower maintenance than chickens!!  My compost tumbler system is set up well to house them, because I can keep fresh kitchen scraps on the top of my pile, inside the tumbler, and attract the soldier flies without attracting rodents. 

Factoids about my new Friends
  • Heterotrophes*, and detritivores*, these baby solider flies eat rotting things (like my kitchen scraps) like it is their mission in life.  They'll take big uncut (read: lazy compost style) chunks of whatever and turn it into homogenous poo so it can further decompose into awesome humus Ergo, they help me make compost faster.  A lot faster.  For example, before these guys, we called my tumbler "the preserver" since we wouldn't get but one binful of humus a year. Now I'm depositing pretty-smelling bug poo on my soil that was food just a few weeks prior.
  • They are voracious and will likely  eat scraps before they have a chance to smell badly (even big compost no-nos like dairy, shhhh).
  • Their poo is a nice smelling soil amendment. Mmmmm bug poo smells like actinomycetes.
  • The adult soldier flies do not eat.  This means that unlike the maligned cockroach and house fly (yuk!), they don't come into your house looking for food! If they are in your house, they are lost; they don't want to be in there!  Unless you have rotting food in your house, but that is another discussion (you should clean your house *cough*).
  • The flies inoculate the compost with beneficial bacteria.
  • They are native.
  • They don't bite or carry disease (source)!
  • They outcompete houseflies for habitat, reducing your housefly population.  
Gratuitous macro lense house fly pic:  I am not a fan of this diptera (Diptera is the order that characterizes both flies).
Soldier flies have so many interesting positive attributes, that Dr. Watson and others are looking into utilizing them for large scale animal waste  management.  

Yay!!!  Tell me about the bugs in your soil that YOU are grateful for!

Autotroph: "The acquisition of metabolic energy from the fixation of inorganic carbon, for example, by photo- or chemosynthesis (source)."
Heterotroph: "An organism that depends on complex organic substances for nutrition (source)."
Detritivore: "An organism that feeds on dead organic debris (source)."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Friday in Pictures

Yesterday, I helped at American Youthworks' inaugural "drainage ditch" garden groundbreaking.  
An American Youthworks teacher gardens.

Since the gardens are in the drainage ditch, they are watered by rain and from upstream surface and ground water flow.  The plants are in raised beds, adding water drainage and preventing their flooding during periods of heavy rain.  

This garden is in an urban environment, which has  hydrological consequences.  As a  small scale watershed quality strategywe made sure to put  mulch (e.g. pine needles) on all bare areas.  

We weeded and sowed Fall appropriate seeds.  The shadow of yours truly is in the bottom left corner.
A look at their compost pile behind the basil.
This is one of my favorite pics from the day.  These little garden blessings were placed all around the garden.

I hope you are having a great weekend!  Tell me about it in the comments!