Mosquitoes and compost

laurac17July 29, 2007

After turning my compost, which is three levels up from our patio, I've noticed an awful lot of mosquitoes when we're sitting on the patio. I'm new to composting and this has happened the two times I have turned my compost. Is it possible that the mosquitoes could be coming from turning my compost?

Thank you!

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Demeter(z6 NJ)

Do you also get mosquitos when you *haven't* turned your compost? Do you sit there to rest after you've been exerting yourself? Might they be attracted by your scent/sweat? I don't know what you mean by "three levels up" but most mosquitos fly at very specific heights above the ground (there are species that never go above your knees) so odds are if your compost is high up it doesn't have anything to do with mosquitos.

Make sure you don't have any standing water that they can breed in, and use citronella or grow lemon balm to rub on yourself and keep them away.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2007 at 12:44AM
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laurac17

We get mosquitoes all the time, but we have been able to control them with citronella and a mosquito repelling plant. We cleaned the gutters and treated the lawn with mosquito spray. We haven't really had much of a problem since then.

By three levels up (I thought that might be confusing), I mean that we have our backyard patio level, steps going up to a second level, and then steps going up to where I keep all my composting.

My boyfriend thinks that when I turn my compost, the mosquitoes follow me down to the house as everyone gets bitten, not just me. I tend to get mosquito bites a lot, but usually not more than three or four in an entire night outside. After turning my compost today, I was left with about fifteen bites in about 30 minutes.

I don't think that the mosquitoes are coming from the compost, but based on what happened this evening and the the same thing the last time I turned my compost, I am starting to wonder...

    Bookmark   July 29, 2007 at 1:20AM
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Lloyd

Hi Laura

I thought I was imagining it but I also noticed the mosquitoes more when I was working with the compost. I am wondering if it's the CO2 that is attracting them?

Lloyd

    Bookmark   July 29, 2007 at 1:29AM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Mosquitoes do not hatch in compost, unless it is under some standing water. Mosquito larva need to be in standing water, of the right temperature, to hatch from the eggs and then develop into the mosquitoes. If you now have mosquitoes bothering you, and they were not around before, there is some standing water where they have hatched from.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2007 at 7:09AM
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patty4150(SoCal)

Adult mosquitoes are attracted to warmth, water vapor, CO2, and certain odors (and other items). All of these may be present in a compost pile, and are released in a flush during turning. Octenol and lactic acid are also attractants. Lactic acid is a fermentation product, which means it is produced primarily under anaerobic conditions. Mosquitoes have evolved to hone in on plumes of attractants, which is why our breath (40 times more concentrated in CO2 that the atmosphere) is an attractant.

Do you uncover anerobic patches (fermentation/lactic acid) when you turn your compost? Could you try turning during the middle of the day, when there will be fewer mosquitoes about? I have never noticed mosquitoes around my compost, but there is definitely plumes of gases (evident as water vapor and odor) released during turning - and so it is not implausible that this could be attracting the varmints.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2007 at 12:08PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

As has been said, young mosquitoes need free water to survive and develop into adults.

Beyond that, 'tis the season for mosquitoes!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2007 at 1:42PM
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laurac17

There is no standing water around, but I do keep my compost moist. I believe that anaerobic activity is when there is little oxygen, but Patty, how do I confirm that spots of my compost are in an anaerobic state?

Thank you!

    Bookmark   July 29, 2007 at 3:26PM
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jean001(z8aPortland, OR)

Anaerobic stinks. You'll know. But mosquitoes won't be there.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2007 at 7:53PM
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patty4150(SoCal)

Right - If you get a stinky smell, you've hit an anaerobic pocket. They are usually dense and wet.

They won't host larvae, of course, but they *might* be a source of mosquito-attracting gasses. Lactic acid would be more prevalent in an anaerobic pocket, for example, and would attract to mosquitoes.

Carbon dioxide would be produced in even the best - kept aerobic compost pile, though, and that is also an attractant.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2007 at 10:45PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

In something around 50 years of composting I have not found that the compost piles are any more attractive to adult mosquitoes than any other part of the garden. If I am present then, if the weather is fairly notmal, so will mosquitoes after a time of my presence.
Were those mosquitoes present at the time you turned your compost or did they appear after you turned it?

    Bookmark   July 30, 2007 at 7:00AM
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laurac17

kimmsr - sorry for not checking in for so long. I have been in the yard too much! No, the mosquitoes were not present before I turned the compost. I did a mini-turn the other day and the same thing - mosquitoes were worse. We treated the yard the next day with a mosquito and flea (I have cats) repellent and that night and the next, minimal mosquitoes. My boyfriend wanted to spray the compost area, but I fear that could interfere with the good micro- and macroorganims.

At this point, I guess I'm just waiting for the end of mosquito season that is not quite yet the end of gardening season. Will spend the winter trying to figure out how to rid the yard of the mosquitoes next year...

    Bookmark   August 5, 2007 at 12:07AM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

The mosquitoes were attracted by your activity in turning the compost, but did not come from the compost itself.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2007 at 7:18AM
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buford(7 NE GA)

You are better off (no pun intended)treating yourself with mosquito repellent when you go outside. You can treat the yard, but it will have negative effect on everything.

Also make sure your cats are treated with something that prevents heartworm, which is carried by mosquitoes. I'm not sure what area you live in, but heartworm in cats is now endemic in parts of the southeast.

We were very dry earlier this year and there weren't that many mosquitoes. When the rain came, so did the mosquitoes.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2007 at 8:53AM
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julia_greer_gmail_com

Hi, all - I found this old post after noticing that every time I open the lid to my compost bin (to add more contents or to turn it), mosquitoes seem to be flying around in there en masse, even in the middle of the day. I don't have it overly moist so there's no standing water there (or anywhere nearby)... and I haven't turned the pile recently so it wasn't because of the turning action.

I'm cringing at the thought of spraying chemicals (mosquito repellent) on my body, but I'm getting eaten alive and can't sleep because of all the bites, so I've got to do something... if anyone has any new insight since this was originally posted, I'd love to hear about it!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2009 at 5:16PM
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stacylea23_comcast_net

I have my compost in a large, black trash can with 1/2 inch holes drilled every few inches, including the bottom and lid. The mosquitoes are horrible in our yard... with 20 or so swarming your body everytime you walk out near the woods.

We have had this problem ever since moving to the area. It usually is worse in May and early June then seems to taper off some. Although we've searched and searched - we can never find a water source that would provide breeding grounds for these pests. Oh how I wish we could!!! I can't help but wonder if they simply breed under fallen leaves in the woods that line our property. Who knows?

Yesterday I finally gave up on the compost and poured it out at the back of the property to allow it to dry completely, simply because there were so many mosquitoes swarming inside when you simply open the can. They were EVERYWHERE and in great masses! I hated to give up on my first attempt at composting, but decided it wasn't worth a case of West Nile! I do use a great deal of shredded newspaper in my compost; which holds moisture nicely, but it was not wet enough that you could wring water from it.

Since I am new to composting, I really can't say that they came from the compost... but I can attest to the fact that they sure do love to hang out there! :)

    Bookmark   June 2, 2011 at 1:26PM
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plantgrrl(7a)

Don't know if anyone is still looking at this, but...
I composted for years in the Bellevue, WA area (near Seattle), and mosquitoes weren't a problem, but the yard was fairly sunny and mosquitoes were really only out at night.

Now that I've moved to VA...we started the compost about a month ago, the back yard isn't "Forested" per se, but it has several shade trees, compost pile is under one of them, in the back. So mosquitoes when you wander under the trees, BUT, at the first shovel full for turning, they swarm! I don't really care about a couple, but swarming makes me give up and flee for the house (those little bastards love me!)--and of course then a few get inside, 'cause I don't have screen doors... I don't think they're breeding in there or anything--they could be "resting" under debris in the pile though (they like somewhere moist and out of the sun like the underside of leaves during the day, I know), or as mentioned they could like all the heat and CO2 when turning--and then they find me!

Is there a non-toxic way to make them less attracted to the pile? Herbs/spices I could sprinkle around or plants I could plant? Compost is in a "mostly shade" area.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 12:50PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

..."mostly shade" area.

Unfortunately, that's just where they hang out for the day. I only visit the shady parts of my yard when they're sunny! Anytime of day in the shade = I'm dinner!

You can spray an area with the hose before going over there. That will clear them out for a minute, but they'll probably follow you right back. One of the reasons I don't turn my pile much, if at all. Not worth 40 bites I would get in 10 minutes. Bug spray only means less bites, IME. If you can start a smoky little bonfire, and the wind is right, that would help a lot. Can you cut some lower limbs off of the trees to make the area less appealing?

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 12:58PM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

As mentioned earlier in the thread, they are attracted to CO2 and heat, both of which come out of the compost, especially when turned but really all the time.

About all you can do is surround the bin with citronella candles or torches and light them up a few minutes ahead of time, or find some other smokey thing to disperse them, or put on some DEET.

Sorry to hear this is happening! I never thought of it as a problem until I saw this thread.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 1:00PM
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plantgrrl(7a)

@Purple--I'd LOVE to limb up, but these trees are very (like 40+ years old) oak and maple so the lowest branches are fairly high and I currently have neither very tall ladder or pole saw--otherwise I would do it as I'd like to put in a couple of raised beds for vegetables, but alas...

@tox--I didn't either until we moved here. :( Ah well, I guess I'm "cold composting" until I either find some of that fancy mosquito repellant clothing, the DEET starts working better for me (I'm super delicious to the compost pile swarms it would seem), or I find a good deal on a compost tumbler. I'm hoping the mild winter is what's really created the population boom in the insects and this year is just esp. bad. Otherwise, I'm gonna have to wear DEET, skin-so-soft or whatever else, like it's perfume all summer, if I want to go out back at all.

Ahh, well, glad to know I'm not alone I guess. Thanks guys!

    Bookmark   August 21, 2012 at 10:08PM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

Sheesh, you must be irresistable to them.

In summer I do a lot of night gardening with a headlamp. It's not so hot then and the skeeters *might* be asleep. Could you wear long sleeves and pants then, and only have to worry about your face?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2012 at 10:49AM
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