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Ants'y compost

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Ants'y compost

Post  Nonna.PapaVino on 5/6/2012, 8:13 pm

A number of years ago, a tribe of forest ants (formica rufa?) built a huge anthill near one of the trails through our back acres. At one time, it was taller than our then-5 year-old twin grandchildren. Then it looked like it had been attacked by something (PapaVino saw a flicker scratching on it one time). Whatever attacked it must have killed the queen, because the colony died out. This past week I got to thinking: Is an old ant hill, full of fine pieces of forest duff, some kind of compost? Digging down into the old hill, the loamy-smelling stuff was about the color of 80% cocoa chocolate. Light, fluffy, riddled with mycelium, but without a single earthworm. Hmmmm. Question to anyone out there: is this truly compost, or should it be mixed with something more attractive to earthworms before using as a component of Mel's Mix? (side note: there is another huge hill of these ants not too far from the old hill; interesting to watch, and definitely not fire ants.)

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Re: Ants'y compost

Post  RoOsTeR on 5/8/2012, 7:33 pm

Nonna, what ever became of this? I searched around a bit and never came up with much. Just about everything I found was more geared towards getting rid of ants.

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Re: Ants'y compost

Post  Nonna.PapaVino on 5/8/2012, 7:45 pm

I'm using this "ant-generated compost." It seemed like a good idea considering the ants have been gone for at least four years, and maples and brambles are coming up like gangbusters all around the hill. Digging down into the hill (which, BTW, is almost 3 feet tall), it's very rich looking, dark brown, with a clean, loamy scent. Texture-wise, it's more like aged peatmoss than the combination of fir needles and other kinds of Northwest forest duff usually associated with the hills of these ants (which I think are formica rufa--black/red ants). So, I'm using it in an experimental 4'x4' brand new bed, adding 4 other composts to the anthill/steer compost mix and the vermiculite. Because of its texture, I'm substituting the anthill compost for 1/2 the peatmoss. Will be interesting to see how it performs alongside the three beds with traditional Mel's Mix. If there even IS any difference. Besides, no matter what we get, we can eat our mistakes.

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Re: Ants'y compost

Post  RoOsTeR on 5/8/2012, 7:57 pm

This was the only thing fairly close to what you were looking for. I found it on another forum so take it for what it's worth Razz

The activities of ants will turn your compost into the finest growing medium you will ever see. All part of the natural process.

That was in response to this question:

Does anyone have a suggestion on how to get rid of an anthill in a compost heap ?

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Re: Ants'y compost

Post  RoOsTeR on 5/8/2012, 7:58 pm

RoOsTeR wrote:This was the only thing fairly close to what you were looking for. I found it on another forum so take it for what it's worth Razz

The activities of ants will turn your compost into the finest growing medium you will ever see. All part of the natural process.

That was in response to this question:

Does anyone have a suggestion on how to get rid of an anthill in a compost heap ?

Good luck Nonna and let us know how it goes

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Re: Ants'y compost

Post  Nonna.PapaVino on 5/8/2012, 8:02 pm

Okay, will let y'all know when I know something. The north side of the new bed will be planted in peas and pole beans to train up a cattle panel arched to the next bed. Center 8 squares will be tomatoes. The four squares on the south side are reserved for the grandkids to plant. Who knows what they'll choose. There is enough more of the anthill to harvest enough for a third new 4'x4' bed. Lots to experiment with.

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Antsy Compost

Post  Triciasgarden on 5/8/2012, 8:21 pm

Oooh that old anthill sounds wonderful to use! I will keep tabs to see how it works!

On getting rid of ants in a compost pile, I am thinking that hot water poured on them will kill the ants. You may have to do this several times. Will the hot water damage the work the compost pile is doing? I have used ant baits outside before. I put it in the trail of ants and they took it home and it did its work. I did use one set of ant traps that didn't work. I don't know if they were old or what. I would wonder if it IS bad to let the ants stay in the compost pile. They may actually be helpful. Maybe others would have some input on this.
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Re: Ants'y compost

Post  Nonna.PapaVino on 5/8/2012, 9:00 pm

Not that our observations of the forest ant hill would help much, but we THINK it was repeated digging and ant-eating by a Northern Flicker that destroyed the original hill. The flicker probably scratched into the brooder chamber and ate the queen, then the hill died out. PapaVino observed a flicker working on the hill on at least two occasions. Sorry Tricia, I don't know where you can hire a flicker to help you with your compost pile.

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Re: Ants'y compost

Post  garden girl on 5/27/2012, 11:47 am

I just went to my compost pile yesterday to get some for my garden - it has been sitting for a few weeks without my attention - and when I turned over a couple of shovel-fulls, it was crawling with ants! I bit creepy for me - who likes ants in moderation, at best! It did look like they were busy working on the pile for me, but I really need to use it. So I asked my husband for help. He provided the muscle-power to do some active turning of the pile. He said down deeper the pile was warm, so still composting. Hopefully his work will get it all cooking again and the ants will find a different home. I should be more appreciative of their hard work, I suppose!

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