Spiders in the compost bin

Posted: Wednesday 16 January 2013
by Richard Jones

I imagine that, for most people, a compost bin is a useful source of compost. In our garden, though, the compost bin is little more than a private nature reserve.

Spider - Linyphia minutus

Even under the dusting of snow (more like a heavy frost really) that we received in East Dulwich, I can usually find something to peer at out in the garden, although I may need a hand lens. When nothing is flying, or crawling, about in the open, I head for the beehive-shaped compost bin, with its lidded and therefore protected microclimate.

I imagine that, for most people, a compost bin is a useful source of compost. In our garden, though, the compost bin is little more than a private nature reserve. We throw in grass cuttings, potato peelings, coffee grounds and sundry other comestibles, and it absorbs them like a black hole. Twice, in its 10-year history I have had to move the bin to another part of the garden, and have emptied the dark worm-infested contents onto a flower bed. That was all well and good, and the compost was duly absorbed into the soil. Productive, though, is not a word that comes to mind.

If ever I lift the lid for a little look-see, it is never to adjudge the mounting quantity and quality of compost, it is to gather up some woodlice for a school lesson, see what rove beetles are breeding in the fungoid slime, or to find some spiders to photograph.

Today, I am not disappointed. This one even has prey, the remains of a small cranefly. I’m fairly certain this is one of the Linyphia spiders, possibly Linyphia (or Lepthyphantes) minutus, characterized by its bristly and banded legs, but really only acceptably identifiable to species level by examination of its genital equipment. Maybe later. For now, I am just pleased to continue finding wildlife in my garden, no matter what the weather.

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TonyCal 16/01/2013 at 17:18

Great post - love all things composting. Compost heap is a thriving eco-system of bacteria, fungi and worms decomposing waste and other predators moving in to eat them up (spiders)

Read with interest that you are only getting compost infrequently (10 years!). I would expect 1-2 years in a ‘cold’ compost heap like your beehive and 3-6 months in hotbin composting. (A compost heap at 60C decomposes 32 times faster than an open heap at 10C). Views will differ on the eco-system benefits, but 60C also kills of all spiders and other insects.

artjak 16/01/2013 at 17:35

In the summer I expect compost from my 'daleks' every 3 to 6 months, but I do add compost accelerator granules and the odd dollop of horsemanure. The 2 bins get a fair amount of sun and are protected from chilly winds on 3 sides, I do add water sometimes. I always feel a huge sense of achievement when I empty one out and sieve it to use, though of course it is nature that does all the hard work; I just nip out there once a day with veg waste from the kitchen and plant waste from the garden.

flowering rose 16/01/2013 at 20:36

there is a lot of life in a compost bin,worms of every size and shape,earwigs,and allsorts of creepy crawlies,mice and rats,fox and cat sit on top and I wish I could say hedgehog.I have toads and newts in the greenhouse.

happymarion 17/01/2013 at 10:23

My favourite occupants of my three green "Daleks" are slow-worms. They curl up inside and get longer and longer. Sometimes they produce families of little ones. When I had to empty all three at once when i had eight new raised beds to fill I worried about them finding their way back but it did not take long.

flowering rose 17/01/2013 at 13:32

yes,my daughter had some in her garden last year,gave me a shock as I thought I was picking up a worm.

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