Ants in my pile!

joanie_pomseed(8)June 5, 2010

My compost pile is infested with ants!

It looks like one of the wild animals (probably the raccoon) dug some of the fruit peels out, and they attracted ants, which I now find everywhere I stick the shovel.

What should I do?

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kentstar(5b, NE Ohio)

I am a newbie composter, so bear that in mind, but what I would do is just make sure you have a "hot" pile to get rid of them. Is your pile a hot one or do you cold compost? If you get it up high enough I would think that it would drive out any ants. Also, make sure to bury any food scraps very well, like in the middle of the pile if possible to at least make it harder for the animals to get to. Do you use a cover? What kind of composter do you have?
Others with more experience will probably chime in soon.

I have one of those wire bins (well two and one I will order later on), and they have a wire cover so no animals can get to the pile. Of course that won't stop ants, but I haven't YET lol experienced that one! :)

Cathy

    Bookmark   June 5, 2010 at 11:15AM
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lcpw_gw(z6 St Louis)

If you're seeing ants everywhere in the pile, it's not just because the fruit peels attracted them. If they're everywhere you stick your shovel, they're living in there, not just coming to nab some food to take home.

The solution is to wet your pile a bit more. Ants don't like to live where it is too damp, so moistening the pile more will make them decide to move on.

(I'm assuming these aren't those fire ants I see folks talk about! Around here I only see the little black ones we call "sugar ants" and the big ones we call "carpenter ants". It's possible your ants are different from mine, but here, for me, wetting the pile works!)

Lisa

    Bookmark   June 5, 2010 at 11:39AM
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lisascenic

I just ignore the ants. If they're in my compost pile, it means that they're not in my kitchen.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 1:39AM
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tiffy_z5_6_can(5/6)

I do nothing when the ants decide to make my pile their home. They actually break things down further...

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 7:42AM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

What ants in a compost pile indicate is that it probably is not being actively digested. The why can be difficult to determine although mostly what I have seen over the years is the mixture is a bit too wet, or there is not quite enough Nitrogen, or a combination of both.
If the bacteria that digest your compost are at all active I've not seen ants, or much of any other critters, in the compost.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 7:42AM
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joanie_pomseed(8)

Thanks, guys. I'm not sure what kind of ants they are. Last time I checked, they looked redder than my local black ants, but that may have been because of the position of the sun. The reason I assumed they came for the fruit is that I saw some black chunks that looked like rotten fruit peels, but when I tried to scoop them up, the ants came out in swarms (I see them elsewhere in the pile, but not like that). Also, someone reported having seen flies around the pile the day before, while I was indoors, but I always try to bury deep anything that would attract flies. I'm thinking of pinning a bird net over the pile (if I have enough mesh left) to keep the raccoons and rabbits out.

As for the ants themselves, I suppose I'll keep wetting the pile down, like Lisa says (it seemed to work when they tried to build a nest under my garden gate), and just put off feeding it until I see fewer ants.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 11:15AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Are you in fire ant country?

    Bookmark   June 7, 2010 at 12:29PM
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Demeter(z6 NJ)

Turn the pile over a couple of times, several days apart. If you keep disrupting their nest, eventually they will leave.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2010 at 5:55PM
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2ajsmama

Yikes! We've only had the bin 2 months (DH transferred stuff from the open pile), we figured enclosed would get hotter. Lots of worms, but also some cockroaches (I haven't seen those since college!) and LOTS of ants carrying what looked like eggs! What to do??? I just doused it with 2-week old pee, but left the cover off. Not enough greens (though we do throw at least 1 coffee filter and grounds per day in, we don't tend to generate much for kitchen scraps)? LOTS (too many?) whole oak and maple leaves?

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 4:00PM
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wertach zone 7-B SC

Zone 8 and red? It is probably fire ants! Do they bite? I'm not sure if it would be safe in a compost pile, but I use fire ant bait to get rid of them around my yard. They haven't invaded my compost pile, but I have a 55 gallon drum, cut in half, that I grow chives in, they love to get in there.

Put some potato chips near the pile before putting the bait down. If they are swarming the chips put the bait out beside the pile.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 1:58PM
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