Composting is an excellent way to improve your garden soil while reducing waste. If you are new to composting, you may be shocked to discover that large colonies of insects have taken up residence inside your pile or bin. Finding bugs in your compost is not a cause for concern, however. The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery states that insects are vital to the composting process and should be left alone whenever possible. Bugs speed up the composting process and enrich composting material with important minerals and other nutrients.
Earthworms are the most important visitor to compost piles, according to the University of Illinois Extension Service. They ingest and digest organic matter through the use of hormones, enzymes and other substances inside their bodies. The matter then passes through the earthworms, where it returns to the compost pile richer in nitrogen, magnesium, calcium and phosphorus. These minerals are essential to optimum plant health. The constant tunneling of earthworms also aids in composting by aerating the compost and allowing water, oxygen, and nutrients to filter down to lower layers of the pile, according to Cornell University.
Ants are commonly found in compost bins, where they feed on other insects, fungi, seeds, and rotting plant materials. According to the University of Illinois, they aid in composting by moving minerals, such as potassium and phosphorus, around while they work.
Centipedes and Millipedes
Centipedes and millipedes assist in breaking down plant material by chewing on decaying vegetation. These creatures generally reside in the top layers of compost piles, where they help keep less desirable insects away.
Sow Bugs and Pill Bugs
Sow and pill bugs feed on decaying vegetation and rotting wood. These bugs prefer to feed at night, which means you might not even be aware of their presence in your compost pile.
Springtails, which are small, jumping insects, assist in composting by eating mold and chewing on decomposing plant material. According to Cornell University, springtails also eat nematodes and the droppings of other insects, which prevents this waste from accumulating in your compost pile.
Flies feed on nearly any type of organic material. They deposit bacteria useful to the composting process every time they land on materials inside the composting bin. The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery recommends reducing the number of nuisance flies, such as fruit flies, by keeping your compost pile free of meat and dairy products and covering decaying plant materials with a layer of dry leaves or soil.
Rove beetles and ground beetles are frequent visitors to compost piles, where they feed on decaying vegetables, fungal spores, and other insects. Larger beetles can help prevent snails and slugs from infesting your compost pile. Snails and slugs feed on living plant matter, and it is important to carefully check your compost for these visitors before adding the compost to your garden.