Animals And Bugs In Compost – Preventing Compost Bin Animal Pests

Animals And Bugs In Compost – Preventing Compost Bin Animal Pests

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 an inch (2.5 cm.) 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 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.

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Associate Professor Cheryl Desha is the Engagement Director (Industry) for the School of Engineering and Built Environment, Griffith University (Brisbane, Australia). She is also Theme Leader for the "Digital Earth and Resilient Infrastructure" research agenda, Cities Research Institute (CRI).

Cheryl’s career goal is to help empower society with the language, knowledge and skills needed to thrive in the face of 21st Century challenges and opportunities. She has been focusing her efforts over the last several years to work with industry partner Q1 Design and colleagues in Australia and overseas, creating novel spaces for remote and immersive collaboration that enable high-trust collaboration anywhere, any time. This complements and draws on her research efforts into building capacity for resilient and liveable cities, spanning research and PhD supervision in scenario planning, resilient infrastructure, biomimicry (innovation inspired by nature), biophilic urbanism (nature-loving cities), lean and green thinking, decoupling and sustainable business practice.

Cheryl’s engagement role within the School Executive builds on fifteen years of academic practice and most recently two years of industry-led curriculum development, establishing the Civil Engineering program on Griffith University's Brisbane (Nathan) campus. It has also enabled her University contribution as the User Coordinator - Academic for Griffith’s newest AUD$70 million building ‘N79: Engineering Technology and Aviation’.

Over the last two decades and including with the team from The Natural Edge Project, she has co-authored more than 100 publications including 7 books, 2 of which have been listed in the top 40 publications by the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership. With Associate Professor Sacha Reid, Cheryl most recently co-led the "Trackless Trams" Townsville Case Study with the Sustainable Built Environment National Research Centre (led by Professor Peter Newman, Curtin University) having previously co-led three core ‘Greening the Built Environment’ projects. In 2013 she led a 6-university $460,000 consortium to develop innovative energy efficiency capacity building resources for engineering.

I am a Lecturer within the School of Engineering and Built Environment, Griffith University. My teaching focus includes urban and environmental planning. I am the Lead Researcher on the "Local food resilience and contingency" project within the Cities Research Institute, Griffith University:

Dr Savindi Caldera is a Research Fellow in the Cities Research institute, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. Savindi’s research serves to transform manufacturing practices, creating innovative lean and green strategies that enable businesses to operate in ways that are good for both the planet and people. As a sustainability researcher she investigates the techniques of cleaner production that position sustainability in organisational processes to drive innovation, engagement and resilience. She completed her PhD in Environmental Engineering (Lean and green thinking) at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and received the 2019 QUT Siganto Foundation Medal for demonstrating excellence in engineering-related doctoral research.

Over the last decade, Savindi has been collaborating nationally and internationally to build capacity for lean and green thinking, resource efficiency and cleaner production. She has led several research projects on business sustainability, circular economy and waste management and collaborated with industry partners such as Rocky Point, City of Gold Coast and Sustainable Built Environment National Research Centre (SBEnrc). She is a member of the Griffith University Sustainability Committee (Aviation Emissions Reduction Working Group) and Australasian Association of Engineering Education (AAEE).

Council compost collection

Local councils are increasingly offering food waste collection programs, sometimes along with garden green waste. In such cases, these materials are processed at large scale composting sites

In Victoria, a four-bin waste and recycling system will be rolled out in partnership with councils. Most households will be using this system by 2030.

Gold Coast City Council City recently diverted 553 tonnes of food waste from landfill during a one-year trial. The program helps address home composting space challenges for the region’s many apartment and high-rise dwellers.

If your council offers food waste collection, make sure you follow their particular “dos and don’ts” advice. Depending where you live, it may differ slightly to ours.

To bag, or not to bag?

Working out how to bag up your food scraps – whether for your home bin or council collection – can be confusing. Check your local instructions for kerbside collection to make sure your food waste is bagged in the right way.

You can try putting "home compostable" bags in your own compost bin, experimenting with your bin temperature to achieve the best outcome. Compostable plastic" is designed to break down back into nutrients, but most still need managed, high-heat conditions to activate this process.

Don't be tricked by "degradable" bags - these are likely to be made of plastic and just break into millions of tiny pieces. Also, as others have written, some "biodegradable" plastics made of plant-based materials might not be better for the environment, and they can take just as long to degrade as traditional plastics.


Plant Mint Nearby

This is one of those tips that seems to work for some people and not for others, but it's worth a try. Mice and rats are reputed to hate the scent of mint, so if you plant a few mint plants close to your compost pile, it may be enough to deter the little pests. However, if you have a very large or very hungry rat population in your area, it's unlikely that a little mint will deter them. By putting these tips to work in your compost bin or pile, you can ensure that it is a rodent-free zone.

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