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14/07/2012 at 18:19

This year my compost heap has masses of red and flying ants.  I have never had this problem before.  Is it a problem (I don't look forward to turning it)? Is there anything i can do about it or should it be ignored?

14/07/2012 at 18:33

It is probably too dry -wet it- ants do not like the wet-you can kill them if you want to with the boiling water treatment-if you are not sqeamish at the thought.

 

14/07/2012 at 18:40

How can anything be too dry at present?  Wonder if they normally live under your grass and are trying to escape the wet?  I don't know why anyone would want to get rid of ants, there are tens of millions of them to each one of us, so do-one can win that one. (Mind, when I lived in Zambia, I did sometimes wonder why my four and a half million were all in my kithen at once!)  I must confess I just ignore them, unless they insist on pushing a plant out of its pot, a rare occurence, I usually just repot the plant.   They may just be getting into flying mode for mating, and if left be will settle down to their usual appearance.  The boiling wate method seems unnecessarily cruel to me, how would we like it?  If you really must get rid of them, there are less dreadful ways of doing so, various powders and liquids that poison them, hopefully less agonisingly than boiling water would. 

14/07/2012 at 19:16

We wouldn't- but then we don't want to be poisoned either, or stamped on-I wonder if this is a compost bin with a lid rather than a heap-perhaps Madeleine will elaborate?

14/07/2012 at 20:49

I have always had ants nests in my enclosed garden composter. They do no harm, break the compost up a treat and are usually gone by autumn. 

But if you really need them gone, a blob of Nippon gel near the composter (not in it) will get rid of them sharpish.

15/07/2012 at 10:05

The compost bin (2 x 3ftx3ft ones) is made out of decking and is completely closed except for the top which is covered by an old carpet square.  This allows some moisture to get in but not too much. It is good and hot within as a heap should be and works very well but i have never had the ant build up before. The ant nest is only in the "primary mix" one with the fresh cuttings etc and not the second one.  I am loathe to pour boiling water on them so I think I shall have to turn it over more regularly to keep them dispersed.

15/07/2012 at 10:27

If my Father found an ants nest he would pour petrol on it and toss a match.
My way is if they do not bother me I do not bother them.
My two boxes are of wood with a lid and for good measure an old plastic bag laid on the compost. I regularly turn it and damp it down with the magic garage mix, man made of course, apparently Ladies made is not suitable.
On the last garden show a herb grower said scatter fresh mint leaves where there are ants and they decamp?
We were in the north African desert Madeleine and saw ants large enough to give you a very nasty bite, we just kept away from them, if they did get too near on one of their foraging trips we poured petrol across the front of them and they changed direction. DO NOT pour petrol on your compost though, mind it would get up to heat fast.

Frank.

15/07/2012 at 11:33

Hi Frank - nice to read you on this site after the collapse of the BBC messageboard.  I wondered if I would find some of the regulars from there now over here. 

Re ants I suppose I always remember being bitten when treading on an ants nest and then having them crawl up my trouser legs and got into wellies so I am a bit nervous of them. The idea of fresh mint leaves sounds good and,  no, I wouldn't try the petrol thing.  I can imagine up goes the fence next door as well as my bins and the rotting goodies withinm  Mind you with all this rain perhaps it would refuse to light anyway!

15/07/2012 at 11:43

I usually get some flying ants at this time of year. As Bookertoo says, it may be something to do with mating - it doesn't last long and then they disappear.

Bookertoo - your comments about ants in Zambia brought back many happy memories. Not about ants but about the nine happy years we lived there.

15/07/2012 at 13:01

Chris Packham's recent BBC series Secrets of Our Living Planet had a lot to say about the crucial importance of ants. All living things require nitrogen, but animals and plants generally can't extract nitrogen from the air. In tropical jungles, and on grasslands, ant colonies nurture fungi which perform this essential process. Other animals and plants can then make use of that nitrogen. I don't know exactly what part ants play in our North European environment. But on a global scale ants and termites seem to be more important than humans!

Ants are more nutritious than steak.

15/07/2012 at 19:25

Kathy2, Hi, wonder when  and where you were in Zambia? I was in the far north for 4 years in the 1990's - where I learned alot about tropical gardening in a dry place - in fact in a place where we had once a year for a couple of weeks or so.  Not that I had much time for gardening, though I did try sowing pansy seeds - to no one's surprise they did not grow!!

16/07/2012 at 15:22

Bookertoo, we were there 1975 - 1983 in Kitwe and Kabwe. Struggled to get veg growing but managed to grow mulberry, peach and an avocado seedling. (wonder what it looks like now???)        The ants were a pain though - we had to make sure everything was properly sealed.

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