Fruit flies are a bothersome concern for people who keep compost bins on their kitchen counters or in kitchen cabinets. But there are also other pests (such as various types of rodents and insects) that sometimes pose problems in and around outdoor compost bins.
Individuals without compost bins may be completely unaware that rodents are active members of all ecosystems. As described in an article posted on eHow.com, “Rodents occupy ecosystems on every continent except Antarctica. They play a vital role in ecosystem health throughout their natural habitats. They are key factors in seed dispersal and germination… Rodents serve as a food source for predatory mammals. They also provide waste reduction in areas where humans dump refuse.”
Likewise, insects play a vital role in ecosystems. An article published on BackyardNature.com talks about insects as “…predators of pests that can destroy our gardens — pests that include other insects, molds, viruses, and other tiny elements in the green and blue environment. And many insects also play critical roles in recycling plant and animal materials, eliminating waste, and keeping our soils healthy.”
Even though most people view them as pests, rodents and insects are actually living and essential members of ecosystems. Rather than thinking negatively about rodents and insects, your focus should be making sure these creatures do not cause any damage, harm, or disarray to your compost bin, your property, and your life in general. Paying close attention to your compost bin will prevent pests from invading it.
Following are several tips on both preventing and eliminating rodents and unwanted insects from the vicinity of your compost bin:
Keep Meat Out of Your Compost: Most animal products draw intense interest from rodents and insects. They are attracted to the smell. It is best to keep all meat scraps (including chicken and fish), oils, bones, all dairy products, animal waste, and all other types of fatty foods out of your compost.
Make sure Exposed Food is Covered With a Layer of Dry Leaves, Soil, or Finished Compost: Covering the food that is in your compost bin helps reduce the smell associated with decaying food.
Place Your Compost in an Area with Adequate Drainage and Sunlight: One of the keys to success with a compost bin is its location. Making sure excess water can easily drain from the pile and allowing at least partial sunlight to hit it is important. The location of a compost bin helps ensure the compost will reach a desirable “hot” temperature, which ultimately discourages pests.
Surround Your Compost Bin With Rocks, Bricks or Chicken Wire: Placing a pile of rocks or bricks around your compost bin or surrounding your compost bin with chicken wire will discourage small rodents from entering the area.
Keep the Millipedes and Slugs: It is important to remember that some creatures, such as millipedes and slugs, are supposed to be present in your compost bin. They actually assist in the natural process of composting. But insects such as wasps and hornets can become problematic. Ensuring the compost is at a high enough temperature will discourage most insects from nesting and laying eggs inside the bin.
In general, if you are composting the correct materials you will not have a problem with rodent or insect infestations. But if you do find that a problem is developing, it’s important to take care of the situation as quickly as possible. If you don’t want to compost outdoors because of rodent and insect issues, you may want to consider indoor worm composting.
Our readers are always looking for composting tips and tricks. Please send us your ideas by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy Composting!