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Ants in my Compost  RSS feed

 
Tom Pavlo
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So I went out to add some kitchen scraps to my compost bin last night and noticed that there are many, many ants in there. With the recent lack of rain, it has been a bit dry in there, but it has seemed to be retaining more moisture recently as I have been filling it up with wet kitchen scraps. It seems almost like I have a nest in there.

While I would prefer to have the ants in the compost rather than my house, I was wondering whether anybody could see any benefits or harm by having ants in there. I have been composting for a couple of years now and haven't noticed ants in there. I would imagine that they would turn the compost a bit.

If anybody thinks that ants are a problem, any idea of how to encourage the ants to move somewhere else would be appreciated.

Thanks!
 
Marianne Cicala
gardener
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Location: south central VA 7B
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I'm not a fan of ants as they will take over an area. My solution is a vinegar wash - really no different than pitching some pickles in your compost, but I use 1 vinegar 3 parts water. Don't go crazy drowing it as the best weed killer is a salt/vinegar spray and you don't want to neutralize the composting goodness. Spritz it, they'll move. I also put a barrier of straight vinegar around my house and they surely won't cross it and take up residence inside. I use whatever is cheap, usually apple or white.
hope this helps.
M
 
Ernie DeVore
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Ants in your compost would indicate that the pile is no longer heating up. It has ceased to be an "active" pile. I subscribe to the multi-stage philosophy of composting though and do not believe the pile needs to be hot for its entire life.

If the ants are in your compost it means that there is some food in there for them. The ants will eat that food and then turn it into ant manure (and small dead ant bodies) over time, which is simply part of the composting process. You would see this on a forest floor if you dropped a dead possum or squirrel and covered it up with leaves. The ants would move in and consume it too.

Almost anything you do to get rid of the ants would disrupt the balance of your pile (at least in the short term). If you get out there with a shovel and keep turning it then it'll annoy the ants enough so that they'll leave. You could also add a lot of water to it frequently until it is saturated and becomes thermophillic again. An internal temperature of 140 degrees would make the ants leave as well.

Because I live in Texas, I have fire ants in my newer piles. I consider that to be the only use of fire ants ... protecting the pile from raccoons and other nuisance critters. We compost humanure here on the farm and it seems to attract the ants pretty frequently. Before we had ants though we had problems with flies. Now the ants eat the fly larva and there's no problem. The compost bins are not located up against my house and we don't dig around in there. By the time we crack open the piles to move the compost to the garden, the ants are gone.

My advice is to learn to love ants. They are helping you.
 
Ken Peavey
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Ants are farmers and avid composters.
Ants do their thing running about gathering material to add to their underground heap. In the heap they grow fungus which is one of their food sources. Ants in your compost heap tells you there is lots of good stuff in the heap. Their presence promotes aeration of the heap with the ant corridors. They will do their share of work in process the heap, eating and pooping and contributing carcasses. They will extend beyond the heap to bring in more good stuff-high protein bug bodies for example. If you toss the heap, they will reconstruct their little ant palace. Keep on tossing it, they'll move next door.

 
Tom Pavlo
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As an update, I dumped a bunch of old straw into the heap, threw in some fresh grass clippings, and a bag of used coffee grounds from Starbucks. The core of the pile is so hot that I think that the ants have found a new home.
 
chrissy bauman
Posts: 132
Location: Sunset Zone 27, Florida
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you can also dump boiling water on them if they really annoy you, but i was just turn the compost and forget about them
 
John Alabarr
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Tom Pavlo wrote:So I went out to add some kitchen scraps to my compost bin last night and noticed that there are many, many ants in there. With the recent lack of rain, it has been a bit dry in there, but it has seemed to be retaining more moisture recently as I have been filling it up with wet kitchen scraps. It seems almost like I have a nest in there.

While I would prefer to have the ants in the compost rather than my house, I was wondering whether anybody could see any benefits or harm by having ants in there. I have been composting for a couple of years now and haven't noticed ants in there. I would imagine that they would turn the compost a bit.

If anybody thinks that ants are a problem, any idea of how to encourage the ants to move somewhere else would be appreciated.

Thanks!



Unless they try to sting you, why not let them be?
 
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