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madonnaswimmer
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Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Biting ants in compost pile

We have a compost heap we inherited when we moved into our home a few years ago. It is at the far aspect of our yard, partly shaded by a nearby pine tree.

We have yet to get the compost into the garden because every time we dug into it, we were getting lots of roots from the nearby pine.

This past summer I spent a day clearing all of those roots and other debris out of the pile to get the actual compost. Piled the compost into tupperware tubs and got the pile down to the ground. We decided to split our heap in half, adding to the back half and turning the front.

When I was weeding through our compost, I noted it was full of ants. Little brown ants. And the ants were biting me! They were crawling up my shoes and biting my bare legs so hard I had to go inside and put pants on. They were crawling up my shovel, up my hands and biting my arms, even biting me through my gardening gloves! Ouch!

If, in the spring, I find that the compost heap is still full of biting ants, what do I do? I don't want to accidentally start a colony of biting ants in our garden by moving the compost there. I already have one spot in our garden that we cannot use because of the same kind of ant.

Hoping you can help.

imafan26
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Re: Biting ants in compost pile

If they are sweet ants you can use terro bait. If they are grease ants you have to use a peanut butter bait. It is pointless to kill the workers, you have to kill the queen.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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applestar
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Re: Biting ants in compost pile

Ants tend to take up residence when the pile is dry and not turned often enough. When the ground is wet (like during spring thaw) it's a good idea to turn your pile often (wetting it if necessary -- I like to put in unsalted pasta cooking water in the compost pile after rinsing the empty sauce jar in it. You can also bring up the wetter stuff from the bottom of the pile and distribute more evenly.) and evict them so they don't think it's a good place to move their waterlogged colony.

If you haven't already, it's a good idea to move your compost pile away from the pine tree -- it's stealing all the good stuff/nutrients from the compost. :x
Learning never ends because we can share what we've learned. And in sharing our collective experiences, we gain deeper understanding of what we learned.

toxcrusadr
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Re: Biting ants in compost pile

Boiling water is a great nontoxic way to kill ants.

Since it's winter, they are hibernating, so it is a good time to turn the pile and disturb any nests they may have in it. If it's frozen solid, you'll have to wait until it thaws. If you find ants then, you can always hit them with the boiling water.

If you turn the pile a couple times during the growing season and use the compost soon after it's ready, you should have fewer ant problems.

I sometimes get ants in the compost but they don't set up shop in the garden just because I moved the compost there.
Tox

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madonnaswimmer
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Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Re: Biting ants in compost pile

Thanks everyone!

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