People often fret about having maggots in compost. They think their composting went wrong, that pouring it over their garden soil will kill their plants or that it will eventually attract pests and other animals.
The reality? Maggots in compost are a good sign.
These larvae play a positive role in your compost, decomposing everything quicker and adding extra nutrients to the mix.
Below, we want to explain everything maggots in your compost mean, how you can benefit from them, and more. So keep reading!
What are Maggots in Compost?
There are actually many types of maggots that could appear in your compost.
However, the usual one is called the European fly soldier (Hermetia ilucens). This fly, as the name says, is native to Europe. Nowadays, you can find it anywhere from the US to the rest of America and even Asia.
When the fly is ready to give birth, it drops the larvae in the decomposing matter. This could be anything from garbage to diapers. Whatever is decomposing (soft and easy to consume) is a perfect food for their grubs.
Sometimes, they decide to drop their maggots in compost. This is where your bin starts to move around and you get scared (or disgusted).
How Do Maggots in Compost Look Like?
The most common one is the soldier fly larvae, boasting a gray-white color. This maggot often has segmentation across its body. And as for length, they can reach up to an inch.
Like most maggots, their shape is cylindrical. But these fly larvae are a bit flattened, especially at the head. As for the rest of the body, you may find tiny hairs, spines, and sometimes even pores (they use for breathing). The skin looks rough and feels almost like leather.
You’ll know these are larvae from soldier fly because you may spot the black half-an-inch adult flies roaming around. Their wings are smoky black and often boast large legs. These flies also make a lot of noise when flying around (an annoying buzzing).
What Causes Maggots in Compost?
Now, why would the larvae appear in your compost? Especially if you’ve composted your residues for a long time and you haven’t experienced this before, this may leave you confused.
But don’t fret. It’s normal.
Flies love composting material. Anything that’s decomposing will feel like the perfect place for the flies to leave their larvae.
Why? Because their larvae can’t decompose food by themselves. Unless it is fruit or something easy to consume, they will struggle.
But not with decomposing food. It is easier for them to consume, making for the ideal area to grow and become flies later on.
On top of that, the decomposing material in compost is almost perfect for them. Given you only store organic vegetation like clippings, veggie cuts, and residues from grains or fruits, they become the ideal environment.
This also happens a lot when there’s no humidity around. Compost bins become the most humid place, so flies immediately find it the only area to leave their larvae in. Thanks to the high-water composition of organic materials, they are easier to break down.
In short, you can say compost is the perfect place for maggots to eat and grow. That’s why flies love leaving them in your bin or tumbler.
Are Maggots in Compost Good or Bad?
You are aware of how normal it is for maggots to appear in your compost. Now, is it good or is it bad?
Well, it mostly depends. But generally, maggots in compost are a good sign.
Why would they be good? There are many reasons. For example, maggots break down organic material. By eating it, they leave traces of processed food that eventually decomposes faster.
Another reason is that maggots don’t cause any disease to plants or animals. Even though the flies are often linked to diseases, their larvae are not necessarily disease-giving. Especially if they’re growing in relatively healthy organic material, they are likely safe.
And lately, maggots can help you increase the compost amount. Yes, maggots themselves can make for excellent organic material if you kill them inside before they become flies.
It’s really a win-win situation most of the time.
Now, is there any drawback to letting maggots grow in your compost?
There are a few. But they aren’t significant.
For example, maggots in the compost mean more flies around. When that happens, especially in a kitchen or in an enclosed area, it can be annoying. Flies are not the most pleasant of insects to have around.
Apart from that, larvae eat away the organic material. If you aren’t careful, too many maggots may empty out your compost bin. Luckily, if you spot maggots soon, this will rarely happen. In fact, it is almost impossible unless you leave the compost alone for several months.
What to Do About Maggots in Compost?
What are your options then? Should you leave those maggots be?
It’s a great idea to leave the larvae alone for a few days or weeks before they come flies. If you live in a cold environment, the larvae will take anywhere from 1 week to 8 weeks to hatch and become flies. But in warm climates, they may hatch in as little as 3 days.
Be careful then. You don’t want to get swarmed by flies later on. This could also mean more maggots that eat away your compost (and you probably don’t want that).
There’s not much to worry about. Give the maggots a bit of time to help the decomposing happen faster and then kill them off.
How to Prevent Maggots in Compost Bin?
Let’s say you hate maggots. They disgust you and sometimes make you gag. You don’t want any on your compost.
How can you avoid them in that case? Easy, here are a few tips to follow:
Install a Screen
For open compost bins and tumblers, nothing will help you more than installing a screen. Something with holes small enough that flies can’t get through.
You don’t have to install a permanent screen, though. Adapt it to be removable whenever you need to add more residues or get the compost out. This could also be a piece of fabric or plastic.
Keep the Bin/Tumbler Closed
Sounds obvious, right? Well, you’d be surprised at how many people forget about this. Keeping the compost bin or tumbler open is a sure-fire way to let flies go in. And when that happens, the obvious consequence is a party of maggots inside. Keep everything closed, and you can prevent that.
Add More Dry Material
Flies love decomposing material that’s also humid. To keep them from even trying to fly around, you can always add more dry material into the bin or tumbler. This includes dry clippings, leaves, and general residues. Any organic that’s brown and dry will make for an excellent addition.
Bury the Scraps
Let’s say you added some dry material, but it wasn’t enough. In that case, you will be better off by buying the rest of the scraps, the organic ones. Cover them entirely with dry residues and keep the humidity below. This will reduce the smell that goes out and keep the flies from even trying to drop in.
Pour Some Lime
Lastly, you can prevent flies from leaving the maggots behind by pouring lime juice over the residues. Not only does lime break down alongside the rest of the materials, but it also disgusts the flies. The acidity of the lime works as a natural pesticide.
Pouring too much lime may increase the compost’s pH and make it too alkaline. This could affect how well it works. To prevent that, only pour 1 cup of lime juice per gallon of compost.
How to Reduce Maggots in Compost Bin?
What if you want the larvae, but you don’t want that many? How to control maggots in compost in that case?
Once again, there are many ways. Here are the most common:
Get Them Out by Hand
For those brave people who are willing to get their hand into the compost and grab the maggots one by one, this could be an excellent solution.
You can get them out of the compost and thrash them out, give them to farm animals to eat, or simply kill and put back. Either way, you’d be reducing how many alive maggots there are in the bin or tumbler.
Kill the Maggots Every Few Days
If you aren’t afraid of killing the maggots, you can always do so. This is easy. As simple as just crushing the compost with a mortar or scraper. Do this for a few minutes, and you should kill part of the larvae inside. It is not the cleanest or the easiest of ways, but it gets the job done without getting anything out.
Let Other Animals Eat Them
And if you don’t want any contact with the compost or the worms themselves, don’t forget that many animals love eating them. This includes wild birds and chickens. Some dogs and cats may also find maggots tasty. And lastly, mouses and rats may also feast on them. The benefit? Maggots are protein-rich.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
You should be well aware of all the advantages, disadvantages, and ins-and-outs of having maggots in compost. But you may still have some doubts. We may answer some of them in this section.
How to eliminate maggots in compost bins?
To get rid of maggots in compost, you should kill them. Nothing works better for that than using pesticides. Something mild that can slay larvae in compost but doesn’t damage the compost will be your best choice.
Can maggots affect your garden?
No, the opposite, actually. These worms can increase nutrients in the compost, making it even better for your garden. And they’re not harmful or poisonous in any way.
Are maggots in compost bad?
No. They’re actually good. By decomposing the organic material, they help your compost become usable faster. You will enjoy more nutritious compost as well.
Is it safe to have maggots in kitchen compost bin?
The larvae in the compost are often from the soldier fly species. This is a generally safe and disease-free type of fly that doesn’t cause any harm. There shouldn’t be any problem with having maggots in your kitchen compost bin.
Having maggots in compost may feel like a gross thing to happen at first. But once you understand how helpful they can be and how safe they really are, you’re attitude against maggots will change.
Sure, they won’t immediately become not-gross. But you won’t feel the immediate itch to get rid of them. There’s a high chance you’ll actually leave them be from now on.
Regardless of how you proceed, follow our advice above. That will make it easier and more pleasant in the long run.