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Do compost bins attract pests?

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Whether compost bins attract pests is a topic of concern for many gardeners.  After doing some research, I found a lot of useful information, so I decided to condense it all into this post.

Unfortunately, the short answer is yes – compost bins can attract pests, mainly due to the compost’s odors. The temperature in the compost bin also invites pests to make the compost bin their home, as well as the positioning of the bin itself. Thankfully, there are measures that gardeners can take to prevent this from happening.

This article is written to outline what can cause the compost to attract pests and successfully stop this from happening through proven techniques, so please do read on.

Things which cause compost bins to attract unwanted pests

Due to the variety of potential pests, it is important to understand which variables are related to the specific bug, insect, or animal regarding the compost bin. This information will hopefully help you to avoid creating these conditions by following certain rules when composting.

The odor from the food scraps within the compost bin attracts the pests

We know from experience that, in general, rotting food attracts pests. One of the quickest ways to attract them to the bin is by putting meat, dairy, grease, or other animal waste products in. These materials can overheat the compost and also create a strong odor which is sure to invite pests.

Scientifically speaking, the perfect ratio for making compost bins less attractive to pests is 20:1 of carbon to nitrogen materials.

We can minimize the odors produced by compost by making sure we stick to this ratio when mixing the composting materials.

Components of the composting ratio

In gardener’s terms, carbon is found in dried organic materials. These include twigs, branches, dried leaves, and straw. Materials rich in nitrogen are usually greens, such as leftover vegetables from the kitchen or grass cuttings.

The ground’s generosity takes in our compost and grows beauty! Try to be more like the ground.

Rumi

Following this ratio when mixing your compost will reduce strong odors significantly, thus avoiding the attraction of unwanted pests.

The temperature within the compost bin attract the pests

The temperature of compost bins can also invite pests.

If the mixture is maintained somewhere between 140 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit, firstly, this will aid the decomposition process, and secondly, it will deter unwanted guests.

This is because the compost will be too hot for bugs to reproduce or build nests. The heat of the compost depends on where the bin is located and its dimensions.

Positioning of the compost bin may also attract pests

Another cause of pests being attracted to compost is how and where you choose to position the bin.

If it is not on a flat, even surface, there is a higher chance of vermin finding entrances into the compost. Vermin, in particular, are attracted by the strong smell and the warmth of a compost bin, so if they have a chance, they will find a way in.

They are opportunists and will surely find any holes or cracks to burrow their way into a compost bin.

How to compost without attracting pests

These basic rules are the easiest and simplest ways to defend your compost and minimize its attraction to pests.

Compost bins should be placed in an area that is well-drained and partially in the sunshine.A layer of dry leaves should be placed on the base of the bin for effective draining.
Never let the compost get too dry. It should be moist to prevent nesting.Ensure that the compost bin has good aeration.
Turn the compost pile at least once a week. Don’t put any animal products into the mix.
Compost should be harvested when finished to avoid pests nesting in it.Also, look into cover fresh materials with browns, such as leaves or dry grass, to absorb odors.

Although some may seem like common sense, it is good to remind ourselves to avoid unwanted situations further down the line.

How to pest-proof your compost

The aforementioned methods will minimize the risk of pests getting into your compost, but sometimes it is impossible to guarantee this despite our best efforts. If you have followed these tips and still end up with pests, it would be best to hire professionals on pest-proofing to aid in this problem.

Pest proofing a compost bin is basically reinforcing the structure to make it very difficult to penetrate, which is especially effective for stopping rodents from getting into your compost.

One thing to look into is the compost bin material itself.

Consider using plastic compost bins

You can purchase plastic bins, which are, to an extent, already pest-proofed. This is not guaranteed to stop rats and mice from burrowing their way in underneath. 

By placing a layer of durable hardware cloth or mesh wire underneath the bin, it becomes much harder for these pests to find a way in. The wire or cloth needs to have relatively small holes so that the rodents can’t squeeze through.

Also consider wood compost bins, but with extra reinforcements

If your compost bin is made of wood, this can be more difficult to pest-proof. You may need to dismantle the bin and line the interior with hardware cloth. Mesh can then be mounted onto the bin using nails or staples, but ensure that all of the bin corners are secured, or your efforts will be in vain.

Bokashi Composting

If you are concerned about rats, in particular, you may want to consider a method known as Bokashi composting. This method is unique and different from most other ways of composting.

Bokashi composting requires specific materials and pieces of equipment but produces exceptional compost material, high in nutrient value, and the whole process takes only 10 days.

Bokashi means “fermented organic matter” in Japanese.

Process of the bokashi composting method

It is basically the process of layering kitchen waste, including meat and dairy, in a bucket with Bokashi inoculants which consist of what germ, wheat bran, or sawdust combined with certain microorganisms.

In contrast to usual composting methods, Bokashi requires the materials to be kept away from oxygen as much as possible.

After 10-14 days, fermented food waste is ready to be put into the compost bin. Rats and other pests won’t even entertain the idea of going near it, so it acts as a brilliant repellent whilst also being very nutrient-dense and great for composting.

Pests that can be found in compost

In this section, we will look into the different pests that your compost bin can attract, what conditions they thrive in, and what to do to keep them at bay/

Bugs commonly found in compost

Some bugs and insects will likely find their way into your compost bin, and as I will discuss later in the post, some of them are actually very helpful to the composting process. Other bugs are not so helpful.

Bug nameCharacteristics and what they can do
Stable fliesQuite similar to common house flies and loves to lay their eggs in compost, especially if it contains wet straw or similar composting materials. These flies have a beak that looks like a needle and sticks out from the front of their head.
Common housefliesThey also like damp and decaying materials, especially composted lawn cuttings.
Green June beetlesThese commonly make their way into compost. They are green, metallic-looking insects that will lay eggs if they get into a compost bin.
Pull and sowbugsThey are small crustaceans that also enjoy the environment of decaying organic matter. These bugs are usually visible when you turn over the top layer of your compost pile. If you have come across their nest, you will see thousands of minute gray creatures with seven pairs of legs.

The sowbugs don’t actually cause any harm to the compost, but the danger is that if they are not removed from the mix before it goes into your garden, they will wreak havoc on the leaves and roots of plants and shrubs.

Prevent an infestation by keeping your compost moist but not overly so

It is important to keep your compost moist but not overly wet to prevent these bugs from being attracted to it. As I previously stated, the chances are you will not keep all pests from getting into the compost, so it is really a case of doing everything you can to prevent large numbers of them from getting in.

Compared to rats and mice, bugs in the compost bin are relatively harmless.

The last thing a gardener wants is to find a rat’s nest at the bottom of their compost bin, but insects and smaller pests should still be prevented from entering where possible to protect the materials inside.

Not all bugs and insects are bad for compost

Some insects and bugs are actually beneficial to the composting process. Therefore, it is important to be aware of these creatures and not remove them accidentally, mistaking them for pests.

These bugs enjoy the damp and dark spaces within the compost bins, where they have unlimited access to rotting plant materials.

Isopods in the compost bin

A group of insects called isopods is perfect for composting. These include woodlice, sowbugs, and pillbugs. However, the last two should again be removed before placing the compost in the garden.

Slugs are also very fond of the compost bin conditions and contribute to the composting process.

The larvae of black soldier flies and small fruit flies love to eat green composting matter like kitchen waste and ground coffee. These insects will feast on the rotting, nutritional compost as soon as you put them in your bin.

Their constant movement can also improve the aeration of the materials, and the bugs form pathways and tunnels throughout it. They can also increase the temperature of the compost with their constant activity.

Isopods benefits in the compost bin

The great thing about these creatures is that you don’t have to do anything to bring them to your compost except provide them with the good conditions they thrive in.

Over time, isopods will reproduce and multiply and, in turn, increase the populations of good bacteria and fungi within your compost, which are both absolutely imperative to the process of composting.

The fungi and bacteria also attract worms, which is another creature that helps the overall process.

Tips for keeping rats out of compost bins

For most gardeners, the worst-case scenario would be to find rats in their compost bin. Indeed, rats are always nearby, but we don’t want to encourage them to settle in our compost as gardeners. If you see droppings in your bin coupled with large tunnels or if the compost is moving, rats have likely made a home in there.

Rats generally don’t like to be disturbed, so visiting your compost bin regularly should deter them from settling there.

Be sure to move the bin around a bit to spook them further. As I mentioned before, the correct ratio of carbon to nitrogen at twenty to one will prevent odors from attracting them. More about keeping them at bay is covered in detail in this article that I wrote on compost bins and how it may attract rats, linked through here.

If you suspect rats and an actual uncontrollable rat infestation in the garden, you should notify the local authority, who will send pest control to get rid of them. Also, ensure to wash your hands after gardening to avoid infections or diseases spreading.

FAQs

Conclusion on do compost bins attract pests

The main cause of pests being attracted to a compost bin is gardeners adding incorrect ratios of materials when making their compost. It causes the compost to become a home to various creatures and creates an odor that is inviting to pests.

Factors such as the temperature and moisture levels of the compost can also play a prominent role in attracting pests. The type of container used to store the mixture can make it easier or harder for them to access the compost, but if all of these variables are correctly managed, the problem can be effectively controlled.

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