Thursday, June 13, 2013

Eek!!! There are Insects in My Compost Bin!

Help! It’s attack of the giant, mutant macro organisms!

Wait, what are they attacking? Your food scraps? In your compost pile?

And that’s bad, because….?

Let’s face it- most of our multi-legged, exo-skeletal neighbors have a bad reputation but they are actually great for your compost pile. Here’s some help in how to sort the good, the bad, and the ugly so you encourage the friendly creatures and discourage the annoying ones.

The Good

Many of the creatures squirming and crawling through your pile actually help break down material. You’ve probably seen the mini armadillos, a.k.a. pill bugs and sow bugs, and may also see the occasional millipede,
earthworm, nematode, mite, or springtail. All of these “bugs” shred plant material creating more surface area for bacteria and fungi to do their work.

The Bad
More annoying than bad, sometimes composters encounter fruit flies  or ants in the pile. Simply burying your food scraps under leaves or shredded paper will deter fruit flies- they will not burrow down into the pile to find a meal or lay their eggs.

I’ve heard of ants colonizing in the occasional bin as well. While these won’t hurt the composting process they
are a sign that your pile is not getting very hot. Turning your pile  will add oxygen and heat things up sending the ants packing and giving you finished compost sooner.

The Ugly

I confess, the thought of roaches in my compost bin gives me the heebee jeebees so I am grateful to never have had this problem. But I have heard a few times of this occurring. Roaches will not bother your compost bin, in fact they will help in the decomposition. Try heating up your pile  if you find it impossible to ignore them.

Another shiver-inducing creepy crawly are the always lovable baby bugs- squirmy white maggots.
If these cuties are a consistent problem you may need to bury your food scraps better since they may be house or fruit fly larvae. Maggot-like larvae can be any number of baby bugs though, so don’t automatically assume they are bad. They are part of the circle of life, the mini ecosystem you have created in your bin.

Most of the organisms you find in your bin are helpful so don’t get too worked up. Try not to pay them too much attention and they will return the favor.


  1. Food scraps are a problem because of our dog and because of racoons, possums, etc. Simply burying the scraps won't keep these beasts away. The dog is the big problem. What to do?

    1. If your compost is not contained, you are bound to have furry friends visit. Refer to Michelle's post dated Monday, July 12, 2010, titled: How to Stop Critters from Raiding Your Compost Bin for more information on how to keep animals out.

    2. Anonymous - You could also try the Bokashi method since it helps with smells that attract critters...

  2. Very timely as I am having bug problems right now. I'll be sure to turn and cover.