Tony O’Neill, gardener and author of the popular “Composting Masterclass” and “Your First Vegetable Garden,” combines lifelong passion and expert knowledge to simplify the art of gardening. His mission? Helping you cultivate a thriving garden. More on Tony O’Neill
Whether compost bins attract pests is a concern for many gardeners. After researching, I found a lot of helpful information, so I condensed it 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, and 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 that cause compost bins to attract unwanted pests
Due to the variety of potential pests, it is essential to understand which variables are related to the specific bug, insect, or animal in the compost bin. This information will hopefully help you to avoid creating these conditions by following particular 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 create a strong odor that will invite pests.
Scientifically, the perfect ratio for making compost bins less attractive to pests is 20:1 carbon to nitrogen materials.
We can minimize the odors produced by compost by ensuring 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 straws. 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 attracts the pests
The temperature of compost bins can also invite pests.
If the mixture is maintained between 140 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit, firstly, this will aid the decomposition process, and secondly, it will deter unwanted guests.
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 the compost bin may also attract pests
Another cause of pests’ attraction to compost is how and where 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 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 bin’s base 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.||A layer of dry leaves should be placed on the bin’s base for effective draining.|
|Compost should be harvested when finished to avoid pests nesting in it.||Also, look into covering 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 methods above 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 in pest-proofing to aid in this problem.
Pest-proofing a compost bin reinforces the structure, making 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 underneath.
Placing a durable hardware cloth or mesh wire underneath the bin makes it much harder for these pests to find a way in. The wire or cloth must have small holes so 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 bin corners are secured, or your efforts will be in vain.
If you are particularly concerned about rats, 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 equipment but produces excellent compost material, high in nutrient value and takes only ten days.
Bokashi means “fermented organic matter” in Japanese.
Process of the bokashi composting method
It is the process of layering kitchen waste, including meat and dairy, in a bucket with Bokashi inoculants which consist of germ, wheat bran, or sawdust combined with specific microorganisms.
In contrast to usual composting methods, Bokashi requires the materials to be kept 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 going near it, so it is a brilliant repellent while 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 very helpful to the composting process. Other bugs are not so helpful.
|Bug name||Characteristics and what they can do|
|Stable flies||They are quite similar to common house flies and love to lay their eggs in compost, mainly 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 houseflies||They also like damp and decaying materials, especially composted lawn cuttings.|
|Green June beetles||They are similar to common house flies and love to lay their eggs in compost, mainly 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.|
|Pull and sowbugs||These commonly make their way into compost. Green, metallic-looking insects will lay eggs if they get into a compost bin.|
The sowbugs don’t 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 essential to keep your compost moist but not excessively 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 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 beneficial to the composting process. Therefore, it is essential 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 compost bin conditions and contribute to composting.
The larvae of black soldier fly and tiny fruit flies love to eat green composting matter like kitchen waste and ground coffee. When you put them in your bin, these insects will feast on the rotting, healthy compost.
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 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 imperative to composting.
The fungi and bacteria also attract worms, 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 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, the correct carbon-to-nitrogen ratio at twenty to one will prevent odors from attracting them. More about keeping them at bay is covered in this article I wrote on compost bins and how they may attract rats, linked here.
If you suspect rats and an uncontrollable rat infestation in the garden, you should notify the local authority, who will send pest control to get rid of them. Also, wash your hands after gardening to avoid spreading infections or diseases.
FAQs on The Truth About Compost Bins and Pests What You Need to Know
How often should I water my compost bin?
When your compost looks dry, shower it with water until moist. If the composting process has slowed, you likely need to add water. Adding carbon-rich material that has some moisture is another excellent way to prevent the compost from drying out.
Should a compost bin be in the sun or shade?
The composting process will be sped up if the bin is in direct sunlight. The temperature increase allows fungi and bacteria to do their jobs quicker. If the bin is positioned in a mainly sunny area, you will need to water it more often, or it will adversely affect the overall process.
How long does the composting process take?
Composting is a relatively slow process. It can take three months to years. This depends on the size of your compost bin or pile, the variety of materials, and the conditions within. Turning the pile regularly, high heat within, and introducing worms to the compost will speed up the process.
Why is my compost full of bugs?
Compost bins have perfect conditions for bugs to thrive; they are warm, moist, and contain various organic matter. Isopod bugs help speed up the composting process. Bugs generally don’t harm the compost, but the presence of sow and pillbugs may mean that your compost is going slowly.
Are maggots good in compost?
Maggots are advantageous to have in a compost bin. They eat and break down the food and organic material in the bin, which causes faster decomposition. However, if you would like not to foster them, you can add more dry materials to your compost, as maggots thrive in more moist environments.
Conclusion on doing compost bins attract pests.
The leading 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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