Ants are not invited guests in the compost; that’s why people get worried about seeing them inside and think of ways to remove them.
Do Ants Ruin Compost? Ants can ruin compost by killing the beneficial worms, removing food from bins, and promoting the growth of plant-damaging aphids. You can get rid of ants from compost by adding sticky traps on bins, regular management, covering the bins, adding parasitic nematodes, using aromatic herbs or boric acid, add diatomaceous earth, coffee ground, and water to bins.
Ant species determine their role in composting as aggressive species can harm the population of worms and insects, while others come inside bins to get food from scraps.
Why do ants ruin compost?
Ants get attracted to compost bins because they contain food material for these tiny insects: rotting fruits, vegetable leftovers, leaves, yard waste, hair or fur, and egg shells.
Most commonly, it contains kitchen and yard waste that can draw ants to the bins as they detect the odor of the decomposing waste material and reach there in a short time.
The warmth of bins favors their survival and attracts them to get inside the containers and multiply. These insects usually have a negative impact on the decomposing process in different ways.
The carnivorous ant species can kill the worms or other insects thriving inside, while the herbivorous species can consume the plant food material.
They have to break complex carbohydrates using their teeth and saliva, but the decomposing food material requires lesser effort. So they can decrease the amount of food material within containers.
Furthermore, they are known to create pest problems as they promote aphid growth on the plant, which is known to cause damage to leaves and stems.
Accordingly, removing these damaging insects from the waste material heaps and getting rid of their nests in the garden or surrounding areas is better.
Will ants kill my compost worms?
Ants eat plants and animals for nutrition depending on their dietary habits, as some herbivorous insects choose plant-based food to get energy.
The carnivorous ant species can attack the insects, worms, and other smaller creatures in the compost bin to eat them for nutritional purposes.
Accordingly, the worms in the bins are not a primary choice for most ants’ species, as they prefer to eat fruits and vegetables loaded with natural sugars.
They are not responsible for directly killing the worms but can make them devoid of nutrients as the competition for food resources increases when both are interested in the same food type.
Moreover, the carnivorous species of these ants are known to kill small and young worms and restrict their growth at juvenile stages, as it is challenging to get control over bigger ones.
The aggressive or hungry insects can also kill or take their eggs when they need a protein-rich diet, affecting their population within a bin. So, these can kill worms and affect the process.
How to clear ants from compost heap?
It is essential to get rid of ants from the garden, cover compost bins, and uncover heaps of waste material because they affect the decomposition process.
One of the preventive measures is to check the ant infestation before adding waste material to the bin, as there is a possibility of insects in the twigs, trash, wooden flakes, and kitchen waste.
Use protected or covered bins
You can avoid undesired entries of ants in the compost by choosing a bin with a lid. Covering the bin can help reduce their population to a maximum extent.
It can help keep the smell of decomposing waste material within the container, attracting insects to it.
I always use a trash can with a lid as it keeps the odor of rotting fruits and vegetables restricted to a bin that seems pleasant to ant receptors.
A loose lid can provide entryways for these tiny creatures to sneak into the trash cans through the gaps, so a tight lid can solve the infestation problem.
Regular management of heap
Regular management of compost heaps includes turning over because these insects can build nests within the pile of trash and begin to lay eggs in undisturbed habitats.
You can mix the material properly with a shovel or any other rod. It leads to disturbance in their colonies when these insects begin to run by perceiving it as a threat.
In addition, keep adding more waste material and mix the material thoroughly using any suitable object.
Their eggs cannot develop properly without adult insects, as they need attention and care. Mixing the material can spread the scent of compost and reduce the possibility of attraction.
Moreover, you have to check the temperature regularly as these insects keep looking for a warm spot but cannot tolerate high temperatures like 130 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
Add aromatic herbs or boric acid
You can put aromatic herbs within the compost bin that can repel ants away due to their strong scent. These insects do not find the odor of peppermint, rosemary, and lavender pleasant.
Add some of these herbs into the container and let them do their work. I added peppermint in the heaps, which effectively deterred these ants.
In addition, you can also add boric acid to the mixture as it can kill growing colonies permanently. Boric acid interferes with their digestive system and makes them die.
It is quite an effective solution against these nuisance pests, which can disturb the population of healthy insects within the container.
Use parasitic nematodes
You can use parasitic nematodes that can help kill ants and aid in the decomposition process. These parasitic insects eat or kill various insects for their own nutrition.
They do not ruin worms or other beneficial insects, so parasitic nematodes are a safe and cost-effective option to get rid of the nuisance pests from the container.
Therefore, get a pack of nematodes and leave them in a container to do their work of killing the ants that can help maintain the size of the compost and worm population.
Drench with water
You can add water to the container to keep the material moist, which makes the internal conditions not suitable for ants to live and reproduce.
These insects need slightly humid or dry conditions but avoid highly moist places. One of my friends has found a suitable solution for drenching the material to get rid of these insects.
Keep checking the moisture level and add water using a garden hose to make the environment unpleasant for them.
Are ants good for compost?
Some ants are harmful to compost, like fire, carpenters, and little black ants that can eat worms and promote aphid growth.
However, harvester ants, odorous house ants, and argentine ants are beneficial. They are suitable for composting process and improve the processing speed many times by aerating the mixture.
In the same way, these insects can help create air spaces by tunneling or crawling within the bin.
They can also help keep damaging pests away from the bin that can affect the quality and size of material at the end of the process.
In addition, they can increase the nutritional value of compost by increasing the potassium and phosphorus content. They promote fungal growth, which can help break scraps or waste.
The number of insects matters in being beneficial or harmful, as they cannot harm worms when present in smaller numbers but need to be removed if there is a high infestation.