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Are ants in compost bad?

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Are ants in compost bad?

Post  Bobalu on 9/6/2012, 9:16 pm

I've always had sugar ants in my compost bins, but tonight I found what looks like a huge fire ant colony that seems to have developed overnight. My bins are made from heavy duty hardware cloth with 1" square openings, and the colony stretches from a volley ball sized clump of clay at the base and goes about 3 foot up the side of the bin. There is now what looks like a wide swatch of dried coffee grounds up the side of my bin. I assume these particles are what once was the material I am composting. If these ants are eating my compost they have to go, but I wanted to check with more experienced composters first.

BTW -- I'm only assuming they are fire ants. I didn't offer my hand in friendship to them to make sure. But just the flurry of ants that swarmed out of the base mound when I stuck it with my pitch fork tells me they aren't common sugar ants.

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Re: Are ants in compost bad?

Post  camprn on 9/6/2012, 10:03 pm

My guess is that if you turn the pile and disrupt the colony they will either meet their demise or move on. Good luck!

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Re: Are ants in compost bad?

Post  toledobend on 9/7/2012, 8:36 pm

If they are fire ants, death is the only solution. The nest is probably in the ground so I suggest you move the pile a few feet away (hopefully without getting stung) then using a suitable fire ant killer on the bed in the ground (you should be able to see it again in a few hours). Moving the pile keeps the ants from carrying the poison into your compost. I use Amdro. The trick with Amdro is to not use to much and don't put it directly on the pile, just sprinkle it around the outside of the pile. Amdro is a slightly toxic bait. Fire ants feed the queen by eating a little, carrying it (in their tummy) and regurgitating it. Another worker eats it and repeats the process until it finally gets to the queen where the accumulation in her body gets her. The bigger the mound, the more "in-betweeners" there are. If you use too much Amdro, it can kill the carriers before they reach the queen and the mound will just move. If done right, the mound may move once or more depending on size, but with the queen dead or dying, the mound will eventually die. If you catch a mound right when it starts, it's a lot easier to eradicate. If you don't kill them, they will create more queens and more colonies.

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Re: Are ants in compost bad?

Post  LittleGardener on 9/8/2012, 4:52 am

@toledobend wrote:If they are fire ants, death is the only solution.
The trick with Amdro is to not use to much and don't put it directly on the pile, just sprinkle it around the outside of the pile. Fire ants feed the queen by eating a little, carrying it (in their tummy) and regurgitating it. Another worker eats it and repeats the process until it finally gets to the queen where the accumulation in her body gets her. If done right, the mound may move once or more depending on size, but with the queen dead or dying, the mound will eventually die. If you catch a mound right when it starts, it's a lot easier to eradicate. If you don't kill them, they will create more queens and more colonies.
Wow! very helpful. - Now what's a "Fire-ant"? - Wikipedia informs there are over 280 Shocked species of those critters worldwide. Oh boy! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_ant "Fire ants can be distinguished from other ants by their copper brown head, & body with a darker abdomen. Worker ants are blackish to reddish, their size varies from 2-6 mm (0.12 in to 0.24 in)." - We have ants almost black, only 1 mm; what are those?

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Heat it up

Post  bwaynef on 9/8/2012, 9:08 am

While I doubt that ants will be doing anything to hurt your compost, I wouldn't want them in my compost bin. I would imagine that if you got your compost hot enough the ants would move on.

If you've got a good mix of greens and browns, make sure its evenly moist ...and if it still doesn't warm up, you can mix in some blood meal (or flour or rabbit pellet food, though I've tried neither of those).

If they're fire ants, I'd take whatever action is necessary to get rid of them (...but you would too if you knew what it looked like when 42 of them had bitten your 2 year old daughter)! Preferably, without having to add chemicals to my compost ...but I wouldn't let that keep me from killing them.

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