Combating Compost Pests and Rodents
Solutions for problem critters in your compost
Yikes, is that a mouse making away with your food scraps? Though not uncommon, no one likes to deal with pests in their compost system, and with proper preventative measures, you can fend them off. Getting rid of pests once they appear on the scene can be a challenge, so cultivating a healthy, balanced compost system by following all of our guidelines is important if you want to avoid this hassle. Here are some general rules for preventing pests:
- Always bury your food scraps beneath at least several inches of brown material in the center of your pile (for outdoor bins).
- Be sure to never put meat, dairy, fish, poultry, or greasy food scraps in your pile. If yours is an outdoor bin, you should also avoid adding cooked food.
- Never leave organic material on the counter or sitting in a pail on the back porch. When composting indoors, always refrigerate or freeze food scraps until you’re ready to put them in your bin (let them thaw completely before adding them to a worm bin). If yours is an outdoor bin, be sure to incorporate organic material as soon as it is generated. Don’t wait.
- Use lids and/or a rodent-proof bin to keep critters out of your compost.
- Line the bottom, sides, and top of your compost pile or bin with brown, high-carbon materials to control odor and improve air movement.
- Harvest compost as soon as it is mature to prevent pests from nesting in it.
Nevertheless, when you are faced with pest problems—be they of the rodent or insect variety—we’ve got you covered.
- Flies and larvae (fruit flies included): If you’re suffering from these, check your food-burying habits and ensure you’re covering scraps thoroughly. Then increase the temperature of your compost pile (to kill insect eggs) and make sure your moisture levels aren’t too high.
- Fire ants: These pesky insects can be a challenge to obliterate, but they’re often a sign that your compost is too dry. Add water to your compost to correct the problem and then check back after a couple of days.
- Rodents (rats, raccoons, etc): These critters are attracted to meats, fatty foods, and cooked foods, so make sure you’re excluding these from your bin or pile. If you’ve been adding egg shells, be sure you’re rinsing and crushing them beforehand to eliminate odors they may cause. Then check to see whether there are spaces through which a rodent could get into your bin—underneath, through bin doors, or through the. If so, consider adding a secure-fitting lid and wire mesh to open sides and the floor of your compost bin (if it’s just resting on the ground). You can also line the sides of your bin with rocks or bricks to prevent rodents from borrowing in. Alternatively, consider purchasing rodent-proof bins that are already fitted with such deterrents.