Having maggots in your compost may sound like a really bad thing, especially if you’re squeamish and you don’t like bugs. If you’ve ever pulled the lid off your compost bin and found its contents wriggling, you’ve probably felt horrified – but are maggots all that bad?
Maggots are not usually an issue in a compost heap. They may prove problematic in some circumstances, but they can also be beneficial to a properly balanced heap. Don’t automatically get rid of maggots just because of their reputation!
Can Maggots Be Good For Compost?
Maggots can be good for your compost because they will help to break it down. When you put food waste and garden waste into your compost bin, all kinds of different creatures will come together to eat it, and this turns it back into earth. In general, composting is done by worms and microbes, but maggots can be a part of this too.
That means that maggots will make your compost heap operate more efficiently, because they will be breaking the food down alongside all the other creatures, and speeding up the overall process. Indeed, they are highly efficient at breaking down food and can do so with amazing speed.
They may also help to aerate the compost, because they will wriggle around, making tunnels and disturbing the heap. This prevents compaction and introduces oxygen, which will help to further activate the microbes that do a lot of the decomposition work.
Overall, therefore, maggots can be beneficial, as long as their numbers are controlled. That means there’s no particular reason to remove them from your compost heap. Some gardeners encourage them, instead, because they speed things along and ensure that the compost bin produces rich compost in record time!
Are There Downsides To Having Maggots In Your Compost?
The biggest disadvantage that many people will find when dealing with maggots in a compost heap is that maggots make most people uncomfortable. They are associated with dirt and rot, and they aren’t generally something that anyone wants to find. The idea that they could be valuable may seem jarring.
This can be a problem for anyone who really has a strong reaction, especially if you need to regularly visit the compost bin to discard food waste and stir it. If the maggots make you uncomfortable, you may find it difficult to do this.
The other possible downside is that the maggots will eventually hatch into flies, which can be a nuisance if the compost bin is close to your home. Nobody wants flies getting into the house, so you may wish to relocate maggots before they develop further if this is likely to be a problem.
Can Maggots Bite?
Maggots won’t bite you, even if you pick one up. They do not eat live food; they only feed on matter that has died. You don’t need to worry about being injured by one, and they are not aggressive.
However, it is important to wash your hands well after dealing with maggots, even if you haven’t directly touched them, as they tend to dwell in environments with decomposing food and dampness. Make sure you thoroughly clean your hands whenever you come into close proximity with your compost heap.
What Causes Maggots In Compost?
In general, maggots will only appear in your compost bin when it is quite damp. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is overly damp – it might be well-balanced, but on the damper side of that line. Maggots need moisture to survive, so flies will only lay their eggs in places that they think are suitably wet.
They are also much more attracted to food waste than garden waste, and you are highly unlikely to find maggots in your compost heap unless you put food waste in there. The adult flies will lay the eggs in almost any kind of food waste, but will ignore sticks, leaves, and lawn clippings.
A compost bin that is rarely disturbed will also attract flies. They don’t want to lay their eggs somewhere that is constantly being disrupted and moved around, because the babies are unlikely to survive. However, if you rarely turn your compost, it offers an attractive breeding ground to the adults.
How Can You Get Rid Of Maggots In Your Compost?
If you still don’t want maggots in your compost, you are probably seeking methods for getting rid of them. There are a few different options. You can scoop out the compost that the maggots are living in and relocate it, but this will only work if they are in a concentrated area, rather than dispersed throughout the compost heap.
Another option involves making the compost heap drier. Maggots need dampness to thrive and they will quickly relocate or die if their environment becomes too dry.
You can make your compost drier by adding lots of shredded cardboard or paper, or dry ingredients like straw, nutshells, dead leaves, etc. Don’t add greenery or wet food waste for a few days. The compost should then get drier, and the maggots will leave.
If that doesn’t work for you, try covering your compost bin up. If you have an enclosed bin, adding a lid should be sufficient. You could try covering an open heap with a tarpaulin or sheets of cardboard, although this may not work as well.
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The idea is to keep the flies out, ensuring that they cannot get in and lay their eggs, which should keep your compost maggot-free.
Another trick involves regularly disturbing the compost heap, as this will encourage the maggots to move on. You don’t have to hurt them; consistently moving and stirring up their home should be sufficient to relocate them, and will also discourage flies from laying more eggs in the bin.
Maggots aren’t harmful to compost, and can actually be an asset in your compost bin, especially if their numbers are kept under control. However, if you choose, you can get rid of them by drying the bin out and regularly stirring up the contents.