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The two giant compost bins in our garden (thanks, Stroud Council!) doing fine. But imagine the surprise last summer when I discovered at least three grass snakes in there. This spring, whilst taking the bin apart, I found what I had hoped to find: remnants of egg casings from the snakes. In a recent programme on the Baltic states it was mentioned that these snakes were venerated and worshiped there. I feel privileged.
It is amusing to see adverts and articles extolling the benefits of compost making, and illustrating the animals which are found in compost bins - but omitting any mention of insects, these seem to be the most prominent life associated with our compost heaps. I suppose insects are not normally a polite subject? When does it seem sensible to stop adding to a compost heap and start another? Clearly a heap which appears full can be a foot lower in a few days, like a magic porridge pot in reverse, in fact.
Hi. I have just read all about Insects on a compost heap, and I would like to add that for the last 3/4 years my compost has been infested with wood lice, and I mean infested!Thousands of them. I have moved the compost site 4 times and still the blighters multiply. Can I use this compost? I'm worried the wood lice will eat my plants. Would this be the case? I would point out that we have several very large fir and silver birch trees in the garden. Regarda Angela Alden
Just got another compost bin today given to us by a friend our first one has some lovely usable compost in it at the moment which we've been using to grow potatoes in. We didn't want to add anything else to it so the weekend grass clippings can start off the new one. We're going to compost cardboard in this one as well. We have noticed the wildlife in the first one and along with frequent turning the stuffs composted in no time at all.We also added the odd bucket of pond water with algae and duck weed in it, keeping it moist certainly helps.


Hi, I have an ant colony in my compost bin, should I be bothered, can I add more materials in. Desperate. Glasgow
Is there anything that we can do to attract insects that contribute most to the composting process into the bin?
For many years my husband and I have had two large compost bins. This year I emptied the 2006/7 bin. The 2007/2008 bin will stay until next year. We also have a large open container for autumn leaves which are transferred out into the next years new compost bin, but save some for the next year to put around azaleas and rhododendrons, who seem to love the leaf mould. Our bins have fruit flies, woodlice, slugs and various other insects. The leaf bin frogs love.
I need help i have something eating my runner beans and dont no wot to do, allso blackfly
Don't worry about the woodlice, they are doing the composting and performing a valuable service for you. Despite a supposed reputation for nibbling seedlings, woodlice feed mainly on dead and decaying matter, so what better place for them than the compost bin.
I'm used to all sorts of bugs in both my plastic compost bins but now I have a RAT!! I only compost garden rubbish and vegetable household waste but it seems to like fruit and veg - a vegetarian rat obviously. How do I get rid of it -anyone any helpful ideas? Sure I never got them in my old wooden bin.
I see no mention in the aforementioned comments of the presence of small red worms. I have thousands in my compost bin, they are everywhere on the inside, even on the underside of the lid! When I leave the lid on the ground for the birds they don't touch them. Why is this?
I don't know a lot about wood lice but I had occasion to look them up a while ago and it seems they really do not eat plants. They eat dead wood & dead vegetation generally and don't attack living material. We always have some woodlice in the compost heap, but not as many as you! I wonder if you are putting a lot of sticks or bush prunings in, which they might like? Try just putting the kitchen peelings in (maybe start another heap for garden prunings) and see if long-term this reduces the numbers of woodlice. Otherwise, just don't worry about it. I rather like them. Their nearest relative is some kind of sea creature and they still have gills underneath for breathing. Enjoy!
Compost bins provide perfect shelter for all manner of creatures (I'm jealous of moverGingercat's grass snakes). We had bumblebees in the allotment pile. They will not do any harm so keep piling on the kitchen and garden waste. The only trouble you may have is when you want to remove the compost later. You will have to decide whether you want to disturb whatever has taken up residence. Most compost wildlife is in the top, decaying, layer, but ants may well be burrowing down into the new soil. As you extract the compost the ants can be removed by spreading it out on a plastic sheet and leaving it for an hour or two for them to disperse. Ant hills in the wild have their own particular flora, with many delicate plants only growing where the ants have tilled the soil. If anything they will improve the final tilth of your compost.
What you have are most likely "Eisenia foetida". Try searching for "vermicompost" on the internet for more information. Consider yourself lucky! -I paid for mine.


Rats in compost bins. Unfortunately rats are everywhere near our houses, so occasionally they will take up residence in a compost bin and, just as they do elsewhere, feed on whatever is available to them. One of our cats brought in a young rat a few weeks ago, and although they do not appear to be in our compost, there are plenty of other places for them to hang out. Rats have lived in close proximity to humans ever since we started dropping bits of uneaten food for them to scavenge. All we can do to control them is to be scrupulous with our left-overs, but as you observe, even a well-controlled compost bin can still attract them. It does not help that we cannot control our neighbours, so living in a town or city it only takes one person in a street to be lazy with the rubbish or careless with the compost. I object to people who scatter seemingly whole loaves of bread out for the pigeons. They may as well be leaving out rat food. If you are set on ridding the bin of its rat resident I suggest you dissect the whole thing and start again. Alternatively you could start a worm composting system for a few weeks until the hungry rat has moved on. Good luck.
In a one person household, small garden, no lawn, I have partially solved the problem of the quantity of compostable material by asking neighbours and friends for grass clippings and veg waste. I also have a wormery and recently harvested my first supply of vermicompost, beautiful stuff. But the wormery is another worry as some things they would welcome I don't have enough of such as cooked food waste and even resort to cooking some of my veg peelings etc to make them more suitable. Having watched Monty Don's visit to Cuba I am interested in the possibilty of finishing off my compost in my wormery. Has anyone any info on this, have you tried it?
I have 3 compost bins. In the most advanced 2,I have a lot of grey, mottled slugs about 2 in. long. Are these helping with the breakdown of material or should I remove them. Incidentally I have only seen this species of slug over the last 2-3 years.
We have 2 on the go at our school, and the cookery students chuck their veggie and fruit peelings onto it every day. The school restaurant give us the salad leftovers, the offices give the contents of their paper shredding machines, and the woodwork department have given us "some" of their vast quantities of sawdust. Added to this are the lawn cuttings from our garden club lawn, the weeds and prunings and we have a great pile. Aparently, according to Bob Flowerdew, urine is a great accelerant for your compost heap so, occasionally under cover of weekend gardening, I get my small son to help out in that area! All together, with very little mixing due to lack of time on my part, I have the most wonderful pile of stuff, full of worms, fruit flies, slugs, frogs, and any number of scavengers .... squirrels, robins, a rat occasionally ..... and they all add to the "ecosystem" you mentioned in your article. And, I too get those strange mottled grey/beige slugs!! I've never seen them before. Must be a compost heap thing!! Isn't life wonderful!!!!
My neighbour has a ten-year old walnut tree in her garden. It is only inches away from a wall with a conservation order on it. Must she destroy it - it is actually bearing numerous fruit this year. Could it be transplanted? or must it go?