You just started composting and all has been going on fine. As required, your heap has the right amount of brown and green ingredients. But only recently, while turning your compost pile, you’ve noticed that there are a lot of ants in it. In fact, your pile is at the risk of being overrun by ants. What’s worse? It can be frustrating and a bit confusing, especially because your time and efforts have been dedicated to having a rich, crumbly finished compost, you ponder the question How to get rid of ants in my compost pile and you silently hope that your compost isn’t unsalvageable.
Relax. I know exactly how it feels. I’ve had a couple of ant infestations while making compost at home and have gotten rid of them with a few tricks. Firstly, turn the pile and aerate. Then, sprinkle with coffee grounds or cornmeal. Ants do not like coffee grounds so be sure to sprinkle a large amount in the pile.
There are other ways to get rid of ants in your compost heap. In this post, we will explore them and suggest ways to prevent a recurrence.
Why are ants in my compost pile?
Seeing ants in your compost bin is a strong indication that your pile is too dry. Ants hate cold places and thrive in places with low humidity. To moisten, turn your pile before sprinkling it with water.
Ants in your pile may also be an indication that your heap has more brown materials than greens. Normally, there has to be a balance of nitrogen-rich materials(like grass clippings, vegetable peels, etc.) and browns.
When the level of moisture is adequate, and there is a balance of green and brown materials, you won’t spot ants anymore.
Are ants beneficial to my compost pile?
The truth is, there’s not so much to get freaked out over. Ants are very beneficial to the process of composting. Are you still unconvinced? Well, read on and you may just change your mind.
Generally, ants are a great source of potassium and phosphorus and will enrich your compost heap. So you see, it’s not all gloom. Some of the benefits you can get from ants are:
Ants mix waste
While moving within the compost heap, ants carry both green and brown material from the outside to the inside, thereby mixing the pile. But that isn’t all. They also move bacteria and fungi to their nests while burrowing through content. That way, they help to spread potassium and phosphorus throughout the heap.
Ants add fertilizers to your compost pile
Ants enrich your compost pile by adding its own waste into it. While eating waste from your garden and kitchen, they create their own waste. This waste is then digested by bacteria, creating additional nutrients into your compost pile.
They facilitate the work of microbes by shredding ingredients
Ants eat materials such as plant scraps, fungi, sweets and weed seeds in your compost pile. While eating, they shred these brown and green materials into smaller pieces, ensuring that microbes are able to deal with the smaller pieces swiftly.
They create aeration
While breaking down brown and green material, ants move around the pile and clear passageways. By creating these passageways, they are also creating airways. This helps in the aeration of your compost and speeds up its decomposition process.
How to kill an ants nest: TOP TIPS
So you now know how beneficial ants are, but you still don’t want them anywhere around your heap because they freak you out. Well, not to worry. We’ve got you.
While ants can be essential, they shouldn’t be allowed to overrun the material in your compost bin. If they have already done that, then it’s time to pull the plug and get rid of these little menaces.
There are several ways to kill ants in your compost pile. One effective way is by dousing the nest with cold water. Do not douse with hot water as it will destroy other beneficial ingredients in your compost pile. Others ways are:
You can kill ant nests in your pile by attracting parasitic nematodes. Nematodes are natural predators that attack and kill ants and other insects by either entering the host, parasitizing and then feeding on it or by injecting deadly bacteria.
Spreading them on your pile will help you to get rid of these little buggers easily.
Sprinkle cornmeal or coffee grounds
Ants have a hard time digesting cornmeal. Sprinkle cornmeal around your compost pile and wait for ants to eat it. Eventually, the grains will kill them.
Also, ants do not like coffee grounds so be sure to sprinkle a large amount in the pile.
Kerosene and Oil
Spreading kerosene and oil over the top of the pile is an effective way of killing ants. Oil and kerosene will cause the ants’ dehydration and eventual death. Do not use orange oil as it discourages worms.
Diatomaceous earth contains sharp particles that will pierce through the surface of ants’ bodies, disrupt the internal water balance and lead to their dehydration and death.
How to keep bugs out of compost pile
To prevent a further recurrence, you will need to learn how to control ants in your compost pile. The last thing you will want to see is another ant nest in your pile, especially after working so hard to rid your pile of these buggers. To keep bugs out of your compost pile, you can:
Sprinkle crushed limestone over your pile
Fresh food increases the acidity of your pile and creates an environment for ants to thrive. Sprinkling limestone over the top of your pile will balance the PH levels of your compost, and keep ants away from it.
Always ensure your compost has a proper balance of brown and green material.
More often than not, ants in your compost pile are a strong indication that your pile is dry and has excess brown material (such as straw, twigs, sticks, and cardboard). Ants do not live in a well-balanced heap. To prevent an infestation and to fasten the decomposition process, add more nitrogen-rich materials (such as vegetable feelings, grass cuttings, etc.)
Check woody material for ants
Most times ants are accidentally introduced to the compost pile through wood and debris. Before adding any woody material and plant debris to the compost heap, be sure to check for ants.
Keep the pile warm
Ants really detest dry places. Therefore, an excellent way to keep them away from your compost pile is to keep the pile warm. To heat the material warm, cover your heap with plastic.
Bury your food
Ants are attracted to food and will come to your compost heap if you do not bury it. As you add kitchen waste to your heap, be sure to mix it up and bury it. If you use a compost tumbler, you can double-sided tapes or other sticky traps to catch them before they enter.
Will ANTS kill my compost worms?
Not all ants feed on worms. There are species that feed on meats and fats. They are other species that feed on leaves and seeds. These two species can be ignored as they cause no real havoc to your pile. However, there are other species that attack worms and will eventually devastate the worm population if allowed to thrive. Red army ants, Carpenter ants, and Army ants feed on worms so you will do well to be on the lookout for them. Also, be careful of their sting as it is very painful.
Can I spray insecticides directly on my heap?
Spraying insecticides directly in compost is generally unsafe and should be avoided. There are other ways to rid your compost heap of ants without resorting to spraying insecticides. While some insecticides may break down during the composting process, others may persist for a long time.
Are ant baits effective in killing ants in compost?
Yes, ant baits are very effective in killing social termites like ants. Ant baits work by attracting ants to this insecticide-laced food. The ants then transport it back to the colony where the food is shared with the Queen, brood and other ants. Once the queen dies, all others will eventually die.
Before applying the bait, ensure that it is the sole source of food for these ants. Having alternative sources may distract them from ingesting the bait. If they keep coming in their numbers, do not freak out. It may take as long as 2 weeks to see the disappearance of the ants
Always remember to keep baits out of the reach of children and pets.
Leave them alone
If you’ve tried these tips above and you still find ants in your pile, then it’s best you leave them alone. Except if they become a serious problem for you or are uncontrollable, they are better off alive.