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By Susan Patterson, Master Gardener
A composting program is a fantastic way to put kitchen scraps and yard waste to work in your garden. Compost is rich in nutrients and provides valuable organic material to plants. While composting is relatively easy, controlling pests in compost piles requires some forethought and proper compost pile management.
Should My Compost Bin Have Bugs?
Many people ask, “Should my compost bin have bugs?” If you have a compost pile, you are likely to have some bugs. If your compost pile is not constructed properly, or you only turn it infrequently, it can become a breeding ground for insects. The following are common bugs in compost:
- Stable flies – These are similar to house flies except that they have a needle-type beak that protrudes from the front of their head. Stable flies love to lay their eggs in wet straw, piles of grass clippings and manure mixed with straw.
- Green June beetles – These insects are metallic green beetles that are about 1-inch long. These beetles lay eggs in decaying organic matter.
- Houseflies – Common houseflies also enjoy wet decaying matter. Their preference is manure and rotting garbage, but you will also find them in composted lawn clippings and other organic matter.
Although having some bugs in compost is not necessarily a terrible thing, they can get out of hand. Try increasing your brown content and add some bone meal to help dry the pile out. Spraying the area around your compost pile with an orange spray also seems to keep the fly population down.
Compost Bin Animal Pests
Depending on where you live, you may have a problem with raccoons, rodents and even domestic animals getting into your compost pile. Compost is both an attractive food source and habitat for many animals. Knowing how to keep animals out of the compost pile is something that all compost owners should understand.
If you manage your pile well by turning it frequently and keeping a good brown to green ratio, animals will not be as attracted to your compost.
Be sure to keep any meat or meat by-products out of the pile. Also, do not put any leftovers with oil, cheese or seasonings into the pile; all of these things are rodent magnets. Be sure not to add any feces from any non-vegetarian pets or cat litter to your compost either.
Another method of prevention is to keep your bin located away from anything that might be a natural food source for an animal. This includes trees with berries, bird feeders and pet food bowls.
Lining your compost bin with wire mesh is another tactic that may discourage animal pests.
Consider Using a Closed Compost Bin System
Learning how to keep animals out of the compost pile may be as simple as knowing the type of compost system you have. While some people have considerable success with open compost bin systems, they are often more difficult to manage than an enclosed system. A closed bin system with ventilation will help to keep animal pests at bay. Although some pests will dig under a bin, a closed system is too much work for many animals and it also keeps the smell down.