Roaches in my compost :(

growingupSeptember 18, 2007

I checked on the progress of my compost today as I have pulled my pumpkins and watermelon and I'm trying to prepare my plot for fall. It is a beautiful dark, rich compost BUT it is climbing with nasty roaches. I mean full of them. Most over and inch long. They completely creep me out. Do I just need to throw all my beautiful compost into the trash? My backyard is very closed in as I live in a track development so I can't afford to dump it over, I'd have roaches everywhere and so would my neighbors. Is there anything I can do or is it just trash?

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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Send me your roach infested compost - I will take that nasty stuff off your hands.

    Bookmark   September 18, 2007 at 9:36PM
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I live in FL, zone 9. Any leaves, wood chips, flower pots, etc are a favorite home to roaches, or as the big two inchers are called here "palmetto bugs". I don't know a good way to get rid of them. So long as they stay out of the house, I try to ignore them. They scurry away when disturbed as do the lizards.

Personally, I would just spread the compost, leave a few piles of mulch somewhere for the roaches to hide and see what happens. I don't expect you will get rid of the roaches by trying to bag up the compost and throw it in the trash. The roaches will just wind up displaced in your yard instead of in the compost.

I wonder if you could find some way of trapping them to help control the population. I know they like to hide in dark places so I find them hiding under flower pots all the time.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 11:35AM
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Roaches indoors are roaches. Roaches outside -- for example, in your compost -- are palmetto bugs, and there's nothing wrong with them or any other bug in your compost. Spread out your compost and pretend you don't see 'em :-).

(In my mercifully limited experience, outdoor roaches palmetto bugs usually don't come inside the house, except occasionally by mistake.)

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 2:45PM
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I know this probably doesn't help but they are far more terrified of you. That is why they go scurrying.

In some places roach infestations are a big deal, like in a NYC eating establishment they often indicate an unsanitary environment. You know, like the food waste being left to compost on the kitchen floor and in the trash bins.
In a healthy outdoor environment, they are natural and you should use this as an opportunity to confront your bug squeemishness. I know they creep you out but with a little practice, you will probably get over it and a side effect may be that it will get easier for you to pick other bugs and caterpillars off your plants.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2007 at 4:23PM
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OHHH, so not the answer I was looking for! But, you are all right. I guess silly me was hoping for some cure-all that would rid me of the bugs and save the compost. I looked them up and the palmetto bug/cockroach is EXACTLY what I am dealing with. I'm scared to even add anything else to my bin because I don't want to see them. If I were to tip the bin, I would potentially be releasing hundreds of them. If they are mating, then my compost is full of eggs and by me spreading the compost, I am giving them more run of the yard. What if I put a insectacide into the compost, waited for them to die, then spread the compost? Logically, I know that won't be good either. Then, I'll be spreading dead roaches everywhere where tipping and letting them go at least gets me roach free compost. Any other advice? Anyone dealt with this type of infestation of their compost?

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 12:10AM
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I'm so with you. I was so happy with my composting operation in my backyard this year until I went outside at midnight with my flashlight. Big roaches just knawing away on my compost. That did not bother me as much as the ones that were eating damaged tomatoes still on the vine! That's nasty. I learned about garden hygene pretty quick. I keep all vegetable scraps confined in the pile and keep everything else as tidy as possible. I also try to bury as much of the green scraps as possible. I'm not going to hunt for greens for my pile anymore. Only fall leaves and whatever scraps that come from my kitchen. Natural food chain-shmood chain. Roaches are nasty. The bubonic plague and syphilis are natural too, but that doesn't mean I want them in my yard!

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 4:58PM
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Hah! Well, after clearing my garden of the pumpkin and watermelon vines, I was dying to plant my fall/winter garden. I needed at least some organic material to mix in and I wasn't able to run to the store with 2 babies sleeping. So, I sucked it up, dragged the bin to a far corner in my yard, tipped it over, opened the lid and started pounding away. So, there weren't hundreds, but it was still nasty. I stood by with my large shovel and got one or two when I could but those suckers are FAST! I let it rest for a while, then spaded through compost to make sure there were no more roaches and put what I could straight into the turned soil in my garden. It was a real big step for me! The way I figure, is that they were out there anyway and like a pp said, they'll run into dark spaces and hide. I still killed as many as I could ;-)

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 8:25PM
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Now you know you can do it.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2007 at 8:32PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Gosh, darn it... I was waiting for my package in the mail...

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 10:06AM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

And another great gardener is born!!! ;) See, and you were gonna throw all that great stuff away.


    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 5:26PM
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Thank everyone, and sorry joepyeweed! If I get a bad case of spiders, its all yours!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 10:09PM
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Chickens love to eat roaches. Can you say, here chik,chik,chik.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2007 at 11:59PM
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reg_pnw7(WA 7, sunset 4)

Outdoor roaches are just another bug. The ones to worry about are the indoor roaches that crawl around in garbage and sewage and your food: German roach, brown banded roach, Oriental roach ...

Lots of species of wood roaches and palmetto bugs. They are natural inhabitants in the eastern US (not here!). They might come inside briefly but they'd much rather be in their natural environment which is outside. I remember one year visiting Grandma in AL, there must have been a hole in the screen in the back bathroom window. When you went in the bathroom at night and flicked the light on, there'd be dozens of wood roaches all hustling to get out. They're still oily and creepy looking but they're not a health hazard like indoor roaches are.

You're probably not spreading them anywhere they will stay that they aren't in already. Just stand back when you tip out the compost! Maybe your pile isn't hot enough?

    Bookmark   September 22, 2007 at 11:42AM
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It sounded like the compost in question had already passed the heating stage and was perfectly aged and ready for spreading. Roaches here love hanging out in stacked up flower pots or bins of mulch and compost. Any semi-closed bin is a great hiding place for them during the day.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2007 at 8:35PM
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Roaches can survive nuclear radiation, ice ages, extinction level events like meteor strikes...I don't think a hot compost pile is going to kill them.

Roaches were a very nasty part of life in the poorer, run down apartment buildings where I lived in Chicago. I am SOO glad that I haven't seen one in the nearly 20 years I've lived in the Denver area. (Except for the first couple months I was here, but I think those were hitchhikers from Chicago.)

Sorry. No advice. Just commiseration.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2007 at 3:12AM
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Anything as mobile as a roach is not going to be killed by hot compost because it can simply move away from the heat if it needs to.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2007 at 9:51AM
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I just discovered my compost pile is infested with Roaches! I rushed to my computer to pull this discussion up. I feel better knowing I just don't have a "dirty" compost bin. I live in Texas and believe me when I say that the compost got hot enough this summer. Apparently, this was fabulous for the roaches because there weren't any there during the spring. Now I'm ready for my compost and like you, I'm scared to use it. I guess its OK.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2011 at 1:05PM
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Just had a couple dozen huge American Roaches in my compost too, but likely because its a bit stalled out and now has fresh watermelon rinds in it. Its beckoning and calling them to dinner. Creepy though, I hate these huge ones. They will fly if cornered - even more creepy.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 3:25PM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

Up here in the Midwest they don't get as big as those Southern Palmetto bugs. We call em wood roaches - you find them in mulches and such. They aren't the kind that thrive inside the house.

Nature's cleanup crew. This is why we don't keep the compost bin right under the kitchen window. :-]

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 4:01PM
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I live in South Texas and we have some pretty big roaches too. Some people exaggerate how big they are, however I've never seen one over 7 inches near a house.
They usually don't get in my compost though, the fire ants chase em out!

    Bookmark   May 10, 2014 at 12:30AM
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I see these roaches in my compost, too, and I'm concerned, because they carry so many diseases ( Here's a list: ). would the home made boric acid dough balls that I see mentioned to kill roaches mess up my compost?

    Bookmark   November 1, 2014 at 7:51AM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

A little boric acid will not mess up your compost, but don't overdo, as boron is naturally present in soil but elevated levels can be detrimental to plants. So use only what you need.

As discussed above in this thread, the wood roaches that you find in compost typically do not want to be inside your house anyway. The bad ones that hang out in the sewers, etc. are much more of a risk. I don't know for 100% certain that compost pile roaches don't carry diseases, but I suspect that fact sheet is about the other ones. Also, you can protect your health in the garden by following one simple piece of advice:

Don't eat the compost. :-]

This post was edited by toxcrusadr on Tue, Nov 4, 14 at 15:15

    Bookmark   November 3, 2014 at 2:35PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

I'ved lived down south for 27 years and I still jump and some times scream when I see on at my potting table. They like to hide in my stack of trays. At least they don't bite like so many other bugs down here do.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2014 at 2:42PM
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I had the same problem in my compost. My family hates them and I was forced to throw it out. (It was a new batch, so not much was lost.) I understand that roaches are beneficial to the breakdown process, but I was wondering if there is anything I can do to deter them. Would a different bin help?

    Bookmark   December 9, 2014 at 4:20PM
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zzackey(8b GA)

They make a tumbler composter that stands about 5 feet tall. You put your compost in it and spin it often. I never had roaches in mine.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2014 at 11:06PM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

Any compost bin needs air holes, which are an entry point for insects. Unless you can get one that has very tiny holes, it's a losing battle keeping insects out. So a different bin isn't going to do much - except for the tumbler advice from zackey. I haven't tried a tumbler, maybe they don't like being disturbed that often?

I would not be deterred by my family, composting is an essential part of proper stewardship of the soil and the planet and we just need to deal with it. As long as the pile is managed the best you can, it is what it is.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2014 at 3:06PM
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People do worm composting without any problem,
why not coackroach composting?

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   December 26, 2014 at 2:04AM
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