Do you suddenly see tiny flies and worms all over your compost?
Yes, those are maggots, but don’t freak out! Typically these wiggly creatures usually cause us to shriek or turn away in disgust. But here’s why it can be a good thing to find maggots in compost — and how to get rid of them if you decide they’re not.
Put simply, maggots are able to break down food waste in a compost pile, making it decompose even faster. Despite the fact that you are dealing with garbage and creepy crawlers, there’s still a certain beauty to composting.
Let’s explore why legless larvae tend to show up in your compost bin, and why you might want to overcome your fears and keep them around.
What Happened When I Found Maggots In My Compost
I started composting six years ago because I found it is one of the easiest things you can do to reduce waste. The results are beneficial to my gardening hobby, making it a win-win.
I picked a tumbler-style compost bin that was elevated above the ground and could be spun manually to aerate it. I enjoyed the process of tossing in my fruit and vegetable scraps and yard clippings, watching as, over time, it turned into a nutrient-rich, dense soil that I could use for gardening and growing more produce.
One day, during a particularly busy season, I took some scraps out to feed the compost. A large fly was hovering over the compost pile, buzzing in my face. I swatted it away and opened the bin to find little beige and white worms crawling all over my precious compost. I immediately panicked and slammed the little door to the bin shut.
Maggots are notorious for being disgusting little creatures, showing up in the most unsanitary conditions and feeding on rotting food and flesh, and now my beautiful compost pile was suddenly ruined with the ugliness of these critters.
I asked myself, how did they get here, and how do I get rid of them? I had a fear they would climb out of the compost bin and start chewing on me. The thought made my skin crawl.
What Are Maggots Anyway?
Maggots are fly larvae, usually from the Black Soldier Fly. At first the soldier fly larvae are grayish-white in color and measure out to about one-inch long. With a tiny head and elongated conical body, these larvae slowly take on a brown color as they mature.
During adulthood, these soldier flies are about 5/8-inch long and sport clear streaks on the abdominal segment. The adults typically emerge, mate with one another, and ultimately perish all in the span of two days.
The female Black Soldier Fly typically seeks out nitrogen-rich materials, such as a compost pile, to feed and lay their eggs. There’s no need to fear these adult flies, even though they are often mistaken for wasps, because they do not bite or carry disease.
Essentially, maggots are born from eggs directly into food waste, especially in moist environments, and live their lives by feeding upon food scraps and manure in that waste. Additionally, you shouldn’t have any concerns about getting bit, as they only feed on things that are already dead.
These little guys eat and eat and eat, creating compost faster than you could imagine. There has been a video on YouTube for several years of a horde of maggots consuming an entire pizza in just a couple of hours. It turns out that maggots can play an important role in decomposition and recycling those nutrients back into the soil.
If you use a compost bin that is outdoors and away from the house, you shouldn’t really worry about having to get rid of them.
What To Do If You Find Maggots In Your Compost
If you happen to find maggots in your compost, first of all, don’t panic. Remember, they are harmless and actually quite helpful.
But if you’d like to eliminate maggots from your compost bins, here are some tips:
- Add more browns: Your compost should be a balance of wet and dry materials. Dry materials, also called browns, are things like dried leaves, grass, shredded paper and cardboard. Maggots need a moist environment to survive. Adding more browns would create a dryer environment.
- Cover holes with a screen to keep out flies: If flies cannot enter your compost to lay larvae eggs, you will never get maggots. To make sure you keep them out for good, try covering air holes with a mesh screen.
- Bury your food scraps: If you’re using a worm bin, which is a method that uses redworms to recycle food scraps and organic material to create vermicompost, bury the scraps six inches beneath the surface to preserve the waste for your worms.
Eventually, the maggots in your compost will die, and their bodies then decompose as well. Nonetheless, we should be thankful for all the work they do, and the thick, rich soil they leave behind.
Public Goods and Composting: Our Mission to Reduce Waste
At Public Goods we are on a mission to reduce waste. In an effort to learn more about how to incorporate compostable materials in our products and packaging, we took a tour of a composting facility. Here’s what we learned, and here’s everything you need to know about how to recycle, compost and dispose of Public Goods products and packaging.
Just getting started? Here are some ABC’s of composting to help you begin your journey in reducing waste.
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