How do I control maggots in my compost?

QUESTION: How do I control maggots in my compost?

ANSWER: Finding maggots in your compost may come as a surprise and can possibly gross you out a little bit, as most people consider maggots to be one of the most disgusting creatures they could possibly come across. However, despite their bad reputation, maggots are really not that bad, and can actually be beneficial to your compost heap, helping to speed up the decomposition process by feeding on organic materials and processing them into compost at a very quick pace. 

Maggots are the larvae of the black soldier fly, and they end up in your compost bin because the adult flies lay their eggs in warm places that have their own food supply, which makes compost piles an ideal place to place their offspring. As long as maggots have a warm and moist environment and plenty of organic material to feed on, they will thrive.

Finding maggots in your compost is a sign that you either have too many green materials in your compost pile and not enough browns, or that you are not turning your pile frequently enough, which can lead to moist pockets of kitchen waste that maggots can’t get enough of. 

You don’t have to do anything about the maggots in your compost, as they are not harming anything, but are actually helping your pile decompose at a faster rate. However, if maggots gross you out or if there are just too many maggots (which can actually be a significant problem), there are a few solutions which will combat the larvae infestation. 

One way to solve your maggot problem is to simply add more brown materials to your compost heap, which will dry out your pile a little and lower the percentage of available food matter, making it harder for the larvae to find materials worth feeding on.

Another solution is to add lime to your compost pile. Adding lime may cause your compost’s pH to raise up too high, but if you want to combat maggots, adding one cup of lime for every 25 cubic feet of compost or adding lots of pine needles or citrus fruit waste, any of which will handle your maggot issue, either by killing them, or by driving them out of your pile. 

Another way to handle maggots in your compost bin is to keep the black soldier flies from laying anymore larvae in your pile to begin with. To keep flies out of your bin, just cover your compost’s circulation holes with a fine mesh screen to keep flies from getting into your compost system. If they can’t get in, they can’t deposit their larvae, effectively solving the problem. 

The final way to handle maggots in your compost is to let them be. Maggots don’t hurt the final compost product, and having them in the bin actually speeds up decomposition, so unless you have a pet peeve about keeping them around, the best way to handle maggots in your compost is to let them help you break down your kitchen waste faster than ever before. The compost created with maggots is slightly less appealing.

It doesn’t have the standard rich, earthy, compost smell, but it’s just as high in nutrients as standard compost, and it processes much faster with their help. It’s understandable to want to get rid of maggots wherever you find them, but in the compost bin, they are doing more good than harm, so it’s best to just let them be. As the weather gets cooler, their numbers will dissipate. At this point, you can put mesh over the holes and avoid housing maggots in your compost in the future.

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