Compost Critters,
Pests and Pest Control


Pest Management

Method One

This particular method is designed as a way to reduce an unwanted population rather than eliminate it totally (which may in fact be impossible in regards to the pests in question.) I can't take credit for it, but I can testify to its effectiveness, and also to its inherent danger. As a result, the first comment I need to make is directed at my younger readers (though I suspect most of them abandoned me somewhere around the middle of this admittedly long article, the reason I included no breaks), and the message is this:

Do not try this on your own. Adult supervision is required, and I don't want to hear any excuses or explanations! Got it? Good.

With that said, the following method is the most effective way I have come across to reduce the population of mites, springtails, and pot worms, should you decide that they simply must go.

As an alternative to this solution, many of the older "worm" books recommend setting "traps" in the form of bread slices, or potato peels, around the surface of the bed, and then removing them when the offending "pests" have congregated (and they certainly will) on them, thus removing large quantities of the critters at once. My concern is that by using a food source that so readily attracts the little animals, you are probably supplying them with exactly what they need to actually increase their rate of reproduction, and it may be the case that you are simply aggrevating the problem. Of course, I don't have this particular problem, since I don't regard any of these critters as a potential problem, and I'm almost certain that their populations just regulate themselves naturally.

There is one thing I will recommend in regard to these particular "pests", however, and I do so because the thing I am recommending is of great benefit to the red worm population. Very simply, watch your pH levels. The pH level most suitable to the red worms we use for composting is right around the neutral range of seven. The mites and their friends prefer conditions which are slightly more acidic in the areas they choose to breed in. Therefore, test your pH regularly (you can buy inexpensive kits at any garden shop), and if the bedding is too acidic, sprinkle a little dolomite lime onto the surface, or even add more crushed egg-shells to the food scraps you are feeding the worms. CAUTION: Make sure you use dolomitic lime, or another lime that is not going to heat up and kill your worms!

Method 2

In regard to our industrious little friend the ant, I have learned by experience that "prevention" really is the answer. I personally, use a three-pronged defensive strategy, and though it has worked fine for me, you may decide to enhance it in any number of inventive and imaginative ways. (As always, should any of you come up with a system that either works more effectively, or is easier to implement, I would love to hear from you.) My method consists of the following:

Should you decide to make use of the various ant-traps which are available at any number of stores, keep in mind that they should not be placed directly in the worm bed, since the ant will first have to drag all the dead worms out of his way before he can discover what all the excitement's about!

Method 3

Now we come to the undisputed "King of the Pests", the fly, and the first thing we have to do, is clear up another common misunderstanding. It seems when people first start to suspect that they have a problem with flies (if the whole bin is drifting around from room to room, it may be too late to deal with it), the attempted solution is to start burying the food that is being placed in the bin, or in the event that it was already being buried, then to bury it even deeper. The reasoning goes something like, "If the flies can't smell the food, they'll leave." WRONG! Once you have enough flies kicking around that it becomes obvious something is wrong, there is only one solution that has any real chance of working. A complete change of bedding material combined with follow-up measures designed to prevent a reoccurrance of the same problem. You see, it's like this. While it may have been the food which attracted the original flies to the bin (a very good possibility), the current reason they are so thick that you can notice them is because you are standing in the nursery. Many types of flies, such as "minute flies, house flies, and most insidious of all, the dreaded fungus gnat, spend the earliest parts of their lives living in compost as maggots. Add to these numbers, their cousin the fruit fly (found wherever fermenting fruit is available), and then work in one more fact. The average housefly, paired with a suitable mate, and in the absence of its natural predators, working in conjunction with its own off-spring, can breed enough of a family that their dead carcasses could cover the entire earth 47 feet deep, in one year. Oh boy, have we got a problem?! Not really, and once again, prevention is the key.

First and foremost, I'm going to assume that you are taking my word for it about the only possible solution being the change of bedding. There are less drastic methods which will even work, if (and this is a great big if ) the bedding is caught before it is saturated with potential off-spring, but do you really want to take the chance? In that case, we will assume that the bedding has been changed (dispose of the old bedding outdoors, or use the "baking" method we discussed earlier to eliminate the future flies it contains), and now we just don't want this sort of thing happening again. In that case, there are a few things we should try to keep in mind: