Although millions of microorganisms in your compost perform the bulk of decomposition, a variety of insects also play a role in producing the nutrient-rich finished compost. Being familiar with the range of insects that can be found in compost bins will help you gain a better understanding of the part each species plays in preparing the compost for enriching your garden soil.
Your compost bin typically draws a diverse population of ants looking for food and shelter. Ants in your compost bin consume fungi, seeds, old food and even other insects, including ants. As they move busily around in your bin, the ants increase phosphorus and potassium levels in your compost by bringing minerals into the bin, ultimately creating higher nutrient levels in your finished compost.
A flat, oval insect with 10 legs and distinctly-marked segments, the sow bug is related to the crayfish, according to Texas A & M University Cooperative Extension. These prolific insects consume rotting vegetation and old wood-based materials in your compost bin.
In addition to consuming organic matter, flies also unknowingly carry the decomposing bacteria around as they flit from place to place in your compost bin. This typically helps increase the decomposition rate of your compost. If you find that your compost bin fly population is getting excessive, consider covering your compost with a layer of carbon-rich material, such as sawdust or old grass clippings.
Your compost bin often contains various different beetle species, including the feather-winged beetle, the ground beetle and the rove beetle. Before reaching adulthood, beetles go through a grub stage, so you’ll often see grubs in your compost bin, as well; adult beetles are distinguished by their characteristic set of double wings. According to Texas A & M University Cooperative Extension, beetles consume rotting vegetables, snails, slugs and other insects.
Springtails are small, elongated insects that are typically less than ¼ inch in length. Coming in a variety of colors, including white, blue and black, springtails jump around when disturbed, according to the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension. This type of insect consumes mold, fungi and decomposing plants in your compost bin.
Mites are six-legged insects in your compost bin that range in size from microscopic to approximately ½ inch long, depending upon the species. Many mite species in your compost directly consume various types of plant matter, working with the bacteria to break down the organic matter. Other mites are second-level consumers, consuming other insects in your compost bin, such as fly larvae and springtails.