cmist
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Discussion on eliminating pests from Compost

So I have a few questions on eliminating pests from the compost pile.
I started this topic with the intention of starting a discussion on what - if any - steps people are taking to prevent pest problems in your compost.

I live in the Southern United States and am kind of worried about propigating various pests in my compost pile.
is this a Real problem i should address? or not so much?

are there any basic means of preventing infestations?

if you can answer any of these questions -- OR -- If you take any other steps to eliminate pests or prevent them from taking residence in your compost pile --- please share.

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I Added Crab shell meal and Neem Seed Meal to my Compost pile.
Both obviously for the nutrional content as well as for their preventative properties.

For those that are unfamiliar with these products:

Crab shell Meal (as well as various other crustacean shells) contains Chitin. Certain Fungus's, neatode eggs, the jaws of certain pests, etc are Chitin based. By add chitin in varying amounts to your soil/compost you are also feeding the biological life that feeds on chitin. Thus promoting the the Numbers of these chitin feeding organisms - and ridding yourself of these chitin based pests.

Neem Seed Meal is know to have anitbacterial, antiparasitic, antiviral, antifungal, antieczemic, and nematicdal properties to name a few.

Both of these can make a good addition to Compost/soil for their nutritional analysis and for these added pest preventative properties.

Does any one else use the products? at wut rates do you apply them?
do you employ other preventative methods?

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It should be noted that i had some trepidation on using Neem Seed meal

b/c of the supposed antibacterial / antifungal properties ... But with wut I've read of people who use this product It does not affect the benifitials that a healthy living soil needs.

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Are you sure? That was my first thought -- that putting fungicide or antiseptic material in compost pile would surely kill off the beneficial microbes along with the inimical pests. Why about beneficial nematodes and other beneficial members of the soil food web?

Do these others add this to the compost pile or do they use the product independently of compost application?

I've always added crab, shrimp, and lobster remains in my compost piles for your stated reason. I need you to be a bit more clear with regard to your definition of "pests" to answer your OP.

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Well the people i was reading about were also using beneficial nematodes in their soil / compost --- why the supposed properties do not affect said benficial bacteria / nematodes i am not sure.

But Combined with the information i was able to read about people using this product along with the fact that Neem Oil soil Drenches don't seem to wipe out our microherds from our soil -- puts me at ease.

Though i Wish i had more information on the biological specifics with regards to this topic.
Last edited by cmist on Thu Jan 03, 2013 11:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

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"Do these others add this to the compost pile or do they use the product independently of compost application?"

Both , but ultimately even the ones that weren't directly adding to their compost piles -- had to allow the product to decompose b4 the nutrients from the meal were made available.

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"I need you to be a bit more clear with regard to your definition of "pests" to answer your OP."

Originally i was posting in regards to general pests
nematodes / maybe unwanted bacteria/ virus's / root aphids / fungus gnats / etc / etc -- as a means for starting a discussion on the matter and pick peoples' brains for information if its somthing they even consider when composting.


specifically , im kinda worried about thrips being that most of the green material added to my original compost had very visable signs of major thrip infestation.

and im not sure -- havnt gotten around to taking a real good look but I think i got some root aphids in there and def. some fungus gnats
Last edited by cmist on Thu Jan 03, 2013 3:29 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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rainbowgardener
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I don't worry about pests in my compost pile. I know that various critters live in there, not only the microherd [nice term!], but earthworms, the occasional cockroach, some pillbugs, some black soldier fly larvae, and who knows what all. They are mostly in there because they are detritovores and part of the process of breaking things down. In the case of things like aphids and thrips, [I haven't noticed them in my compost pile], they would be there because there are green plants in there that still have juices available for sucking.

In all of those cases, once the compost is finished, there is no longer any food for the critters and they go elsewhere. My finished compost never has any visible critters in it; nothing in it to feed them or keep them there.

What you do need, to be sure the finished compost is cleared out of the critters, is some time when it is sitting there without any new stuff being added. I use a two bin system, many people do three. My two bin system, every two or three months in the growing season, I take all the stuff off the top of the pile (down to the level where the earthworms are) and make it the bottom of a new pile. What's left is finished or nearly finished compost. Being exposed to the air and stirred up, it finishes up quickly and then sits there until it is used up.

If you kept adding fresh "stuff" to the finishing pile, you would keep feeding the critters.

PS fungus gnats are in there because you are keeping the pile very moist. If you want to reduce them, just let your pile dry out more. But the same thing as above applies. Once the finished compost pile dries out, they will go away.

You are working too hard at this, with all those additives! :)
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A story I have told here before: One time I was turning my compost pile over like that, started a new pile with all the fresh/ unfinished stuff. As soon as I put the new pile on the ground, a cockroach popped out of the pile of finished/almost finished stuff and walked over to the new pile and dived in.

I found it oddly reassuring, the cockroach knew its place.
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Remember too that there are also predatory organisms living in the compost pile and surrounding areas. If there is an explosion of flying insects, the area surrounding the piles are quickly set with spiderwebs by resident spiders ready to trap them. When I turn the compost pile, cooler hospitable areas host centipedes and ground spiders and ground beetles among other critters. I came across a tiny little snake not directly in the compost piles but in a nearby bed.

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I don't have a big problem with pest in the compost bin. Most do their thing then leave. Since I use no meat by products or cooked foods I don't have a problem with maggots - that would gross me out. Living in south Louisiana there is always a problem with fire ants. I don't care how hot my bin is they manage to establish themselves. Even with a hot pile and frequent turning they still show up. I some times have to add a little Ortho to the pile just to get rid of them. I do not like to do that because it kills my worms.
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I don't use poisons and wouldn't put any in my compost pile.

I live too far north for fire ants (thankfully!), so I can't suggest anything based on personal experience, but here are some of the organic methods that have been suggested for getting fire ants out of compost piles:

pour scalding hot water in to the center of the pile (needs to be a pretty good quantity of water) and/or into the nest if it is elsewhere.

flood them out; they don't like moisture

sprinkle your pile liberally with cinnamon

put a lot of used coffee grounds in your pile

or if you want to move up to heavier artillery

spinosad and diatomaceous earth are organic insect killers, harmless to honeybees, earthworms and the environment generally.
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Little Ortho what? The entire compost pile is a living organism -- it's killing a lot more than your earthworms. Do you use the finished compost on edibles? :shock:

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Rainbow - right on the diatomaceous earth. Fire ants really are a killer. I can not tell you how many times my hands and lower legs have been covered with pustules from fire ant bites. They are the bane of southern gardeners. Very difficult to get rid of.
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Thanks for the reply's everyone

Rainbow i found your post very helpful thankyou.

ya i didn't buy the Meals i stated just for the compost.

I had bought all Organic Neem seed meal , alfalfa meal , kelp meal, and crab shell meal @ a good price as a means for conditioning my soil quickly for the garden, was starting out in a baren area of Sand with nothing growing in it, and no Organic matter in it. Tilled in , added lots of leaves etc, compost .

I'm glad to see that my tensions about the critters don't warrant much reason. As far as the thrips -- your saying as long as there is no fresh greens the thrips will not stick around in the compost?



"Living in south Louisiana there is always a problem with fire ants."

Btw Crabshell meal or ne crustacean meal you can source localy in LA.
should help you with your ant problems. We got em thick here in Florida too , my neighbor swears by it - not only for the reasons i stated in above post but for dissuading ants to take up residence where they don't belong.

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So - the crab/crustation meal as a preventative for fire ants is new to me. Where should I look for it and how should I use it? Fire ants are a MAJOR pest. Every time it rains a 1/2 dozen mounds appear in the yard. The worst are the ones that take up residence in my garden and compost - which they do. The bites are painful, the resulting pustules are subject to infection and the beast can destroy the root system of my veggies with their mounds. The trick is trying to kill the queen. The visable mound may be several feet even yards from the queen's chamber. I have done the boiling water even clorox water thing. It may kill the mound but not the queen because new mounds sprout up like weeds. I REALLY hate fire ants. As much as I hate them I do have to admire them. Talk about survivors! There social structure is amazing. I still want to kill them all!
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Check in with gumbo, who is also in La. If I'm remembering (don't have time to search now), he had a post awhile ago, about getting rid of fire ants from his compost pile with boiling water, but it was in 80 gallon quantitities.
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"So - the crab/crustation meal as a preventative for fire ants is new to me. Where should I look for it and how should I use it? Fire ants are a MAJOR pest."

Ya neighbor said its been keeping those suckers out of his garden -- hasn't had em back since. And Iv'e read that from different Crab meal distributors as well that it will detur ant infestations.

I'd check your local Garden/Feed/farming centers in the area, should be some kind of shrimp/crab meals produced in your area... a biproduct of the shrimping/crab fisheries there in LA.

Even if they Don't Carry ne crustacean meal products you should be able to have them order the product for you.

If you strike out you could probably contact a shrimp/crab processing center directly and see if you can aquire from them and crush em up ur self.

Other than that you'd be left with ordering online
Neptune's harvest would be an option.


As far as application rate --

Garden- 3lbs. per 100 sq ft
field- 100 - 200 lbs per acre
row 1- 2 lbs per 100ft
orchards- 1/2 lbs per inch of tree diameter
Compost- 3-6 oz per Cubic foot
Turf- 10 lbs per 1000sq feet
potting mixes - 2% of total volume
Seedbed- 1/2 - 1lbs per 100 sq feet

this is recomended rates from Neptune's Harvest

Depending on your existing soil
I'd Go on the heavy side of things.
Goodluck.

remeber that this is a fertilizer as well
typical analysis is somthing like this:

Total Nitrogen-------------------2.63% (source dependent- can b near 5%)
Total Phosphate ----------------3.23%
Potash -------------------------- 0.28%
Sulfur --------------------------- 0.20%
Magnesium --------------------- 1.33%
Calcium ------------------------22.95%
iron -----------------------------3239 ppm
manganese --------------------56 ppm
copper --------------------------23 ppm
Zinc -----------------------------45 ppm
moisture ------------------------10.29%
ph --------------------------------- 6.0

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Tanks so much for the info. 3 lbs per 100 square ft for the garden? That sounds huge. Is that a topical application or worked in to the soil?
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When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

cmist
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tilled in top 4 " or so would probably be better.

Also i checked

you got 2 stores in your area that are listed as a supplier of at least 1 brand of crab shell meal

Marshalls Lafeyette Nursery
&
Chastant Brothers

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ElizabethB
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Thanks cmist - Marshal is not on my good friend list but Chastant
Bros. is a fave of mine. Thanks for doing my homework :oops: Really should have done it myself. So till in 4". Have you really done this? Has it really worked for you? Thanks.
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@cmist

All your alfalfa meal, kelp, etc is great stuff for the garden. It is a waste to put it in your compost pile, way more effective just added to the soil.
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You know, I read this and immediately thought "the only pests I want to keep out of my compost are rats and possums, and a lid goes a long way to doing that."

I hadn't considered even worrying about any other pests, because, basically, they're in there for a reason (detritivores) and they're gone by the time my compost has composted.

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Yup, we are on the same page. I do always keep my compost pile well caged and lidded against raccoons, possums, mice, etc. and don't worry about any of the mini-critters.
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"Thanks cmist - Marshal is not on my good friend list but Chastant
Bros. is a fave of mine. Thanks for doing my homework Really should have done it myself. So till in 4". Have you really done this? Has it really worked for you? Thanks."

np. I have not been an avid gardener but for a few years-- so my actuall hands on experience is admitedly limited.

I will say though that i have not had any problems with fireants in my garden -- as well as my nieghbor that advised me on the uses of crabmeals had ant prolems on and off for years and apparently since he started with the use of this product he hasn't had any fire ants taking up residence within his garden.

Aside from that i noticed 2 different crab meal company's usage listings include reducing ant populations within treated areas.
So i confidently hold my neighbor's opinion in high regards.

Also it should be noted that the crab meal itself is not a pesticide.
So before you see a deminishment of the ant populations to be treated, you must allow for a buildup of the chitin eating bacteria that are attracted to the free food source within you soil. It's this hostile enviroment that drives the ants out.

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rainbowgardener wrote:Yup, we are on the same page. I do always keep my compost pile well caged and lidded against raccoons, possums, mice, etc. and don't worry about any of the mini-critters.
Fire ants are not like regular ants. Regular ants I allow to live unmolested in my compost. (When they invade my house, though, that's something else altogether. :evil: ) Fire ants--not found (yet?) in the Bay Area--are terrible, evil creatures. They bite people; those bits can swell up enormously and hurt just as much, and they have multiple queens per colony. :shock:

If I were to find fire ants in my compost or anywhere else around here, I'd be horrified. I'd be using boiling water, grits, chitin-containing products, cinnamon, the whole nine yards. Oh yes, most definitely.

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Check out this video. A mother is teaching her twins how to deal with problems in a compost pile. She is very good at tool making and has mastered her skills. The end of the video deals with ants.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EaEDeRJKN0s


Eric

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lorax
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cynthia_h wrote:
rainbowgardener wrote:Yup, we are on the same page. I do always keep my compost pile well caged and lidded against raccoons, possums, mice, etc. and don't worry about any of the mini-critters.
Fire ants are not like regular ants. Regular ants I allow to live unmolested in my compost. (When they invade my house, though, that's something else altogether. :evil: ) Fire ants--not found (yet?) in the Bay Area--are terrible, evil creatures. They bite people; those bits can swell up enormously and hurt just as much, and they have multiple queens per colony. :shock:

If I were to find fire ants in my compost or anywhere else around here, I'd be horrified. I'd be using boiling water, grits, chitin-containing products, cinnamon, the whole nine yards. Oh yes, most definitely.

Cynthia H.
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Cynthia, I understand the issue with fire ants, I really do. But until you've fought with army ants and congas (bullet ants) you haven't really had to deal with ants. I just let them do their thing, and wear gloves to turn the pile.

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New to Composting

I'm so glad I finally found a forum where ppl are actually discussing topics!

I'm new to composting, trying very hard to have my first organic garden this year. I have a black tumbler and add dried brown leaves, coffee grounds, and the vegetable pulp expelled from my juicer. The first few days everything was great, but yesterday I went to add more carrot pulp and was assailed by a swarm of something that looks like large fruit flies or gnats when I opened the door. Is this something I need to worry about? Is there a way to prevent them? With these little flying insects in my composter (getting in through the air holes apparently) am I going to have little maggots/larva in my compost? :shock:
"Let food by thy medicine..." --Hippocrates

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Probably fruit flies or fungus gnats.

Tumblers can be difficult, we've heard this story a lot.

Probably too much moisture, not enough drainage and air circulation (people usually have to add extra drainage/air holes), not enough browns. Your brown leaves should be more by volume than everything else put together.
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Thank you, Rainbow Gardener. With all the juicing we do, we probably do have more veggie pulp than dried leaves in there. When I was researching how to get started there was so much info out there--and much of it conflicting, of course. :wink:

I had read to use equal parts of brown of green, or slighly more green...but that's not correct? I'm embarassed to have to ask such basic questions. :oops:
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I'm perplexed about the whole 'theory' of "pests" in a compost heap.

fire ants - oh yeah, had my go with them in South Carolina.
possums, raccoons, etc - these omnivores are typically attracted to "compost" for any meat/dairy/fat contents in the pile. those are cheap, easy, high calorie things to ingest.

I've been composting - but insisting on no meat/dairy/fats - in the pile for pushing 40 years. in "open" areas plentifully populated by raccoons, skunks, possums, squirrels, etc. - and have never had an issue with "pests"

ants are ants - the ones that bite and sting - worse if they're into the swarming thing - are a definite issue - but things that don't attack me have never been any kind of issue.

compose is a heap of rotting stuff - all kinds of creatures move in to capitalize on the situation. if they don't bother me, I don't bother them - no problem. or??

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The fire ants sound like a real problem. Other than that, I don't worry about insects in the compost pile, they are part of the process.

But your raccoons must be different than mine. My compost pile also has no meat/ animal products in it (I'm a life long vegetarian), but if there is any way the raccoons can get to it (and they are quite ingenious!), they will not only eat all the kitchen scraps out of it, they will dig everything else up and throw it around the yard, in the process. When they are finished, it looks like they were having a party! Raccoons are omnivores, they will eat ANYTHING.
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8Paws wrote: I had read to use equal parts of brown of green, or slighly more green...but that's not correct? I'm embarassed to have to ask such basic questions. :oops:
Some people say twice as much brown to green by volume:

https://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/m ... arden.html

It isn't rocket science. Through the winter, when fall leaves are abundant and green stuff isn't, my pile tends to be more brown than green. In summer, when the fall leaves are gone and weeds are abundant, it reverses. It all composts.

But your pile will tell you if it is getting too out of balance. If it is sitting there doing nothing, it is probably too brown (and/or not enough water).

If it is wet, stinky, attracting flies, it is probably too green, (and/or too much water, not enough air circulation). Tumblers tend to be that way. A pile on the ground, the ground soaks up all the excess water and provides a lot of microbial life. When you add more browns to yours, I would toss in a handful of good garden dirt, to help inoculate it with soil microbes.

Don't be embarrassed! We all had to learn somehow!
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I guess living in the north has it's advantages. No fire ants. I don't layer, I rarely turn, I don't cover or water. I put on what I have when I have it. The chickens from next door and one solitary crow pick through it. This year's pile is next year's compost. No worry, no fuss, no bother.

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