Not too long ago, I sent Laura out to turn the compost pile. If you’ve never grown a compost pile, keeping it turned is important to helping it build heat and decompose into that rich soil you’re aiming for. Unfortunately for my compost pile, life gets in the way sometimes so it had been a few days since we had turned it. We live in Texas. That isn’t always a good thing especially since fire ants love my yard. Apparently they also love my compost pile! Luckily, if you have found fire ants in your compost pile, it’s super easy to get rid of them!
I have never had an issue with fire ants in compost before so when Laura came in to tell me, I scrambled to do my research. Surprisingly, it was a lot easier to get the ants out of my compost pile than I was expecting. Honestly, I was pretty much expecting to have to scrap the entire pile which made me really sad. We have worked really hard to develop a rich, compost soil and I was just a tad over heartbroken at the thought of having to ditch it. Luckily, Google saved me from scraping it all and now our compost is doing great again!
How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Compost Pile
Before we get into how to remove ants from your compost, let’s chat about how a compost pile works and why fire ants are bad for your compost. We had fire ants in our compost, but this stuff is pretty standard for any ants. Just keep in mind that some ants in your compost are actually beneficial and can create helpful fungi. You don’t want to remove beneficial ants if you don’t have to. In my case, I was specifically trying to get rid of fire ants in my compost pile.
How Do Compost Piles Work?
Compost piles work the way they do by decomposing food scraps and other things you can compost. When your compost pile is kept damp – not wet – and turned on a regular basis, it creates heat. That heat helps to break down the pile into a very nutrient rich soil to use in your garden. Without heat being created, your pile will not only take much longer to decompose, but may not turn into the soil you would like it to. Give it too much water and it can turn to sludge.
What to Do When You Have Ants in Your Compost
Getting rid of ants in your compost may seem hard since there tend to be thousands in a colony, but the truth is, you only need to be diligent about working on it. I have seen quite a few home remedies for ant removal, but most are more complicated than it needs to be. If you don’t mind adding chemicals to your compost pile, you can buy a commercial ant remover. Just be careful since you may do more harm to your compost pile than help this way.
In all honesty, I would not recommend using an ant poison on your compost pile at all. You’re liable to destroy your pile with the chemicals. I personally choose not to do that since I want my compost as organic as it can be. We use ours for vegetable gardening and I’d rather not be eating something grown in chemical based soil if I can help it.
Organic Ways to Remove Ants
A more safe method is to use food-grade Diatomaceous Earth. In case you weren’t aware, it is one of my favorite products ever simply because there are so many uses for Diatomaceous Earth in and around your home. To remove ants from compost using DE, add it to your compost and turn it well to mix the DE into the pile. DE is sharp and when ingested by small crawling insects such as ants and fleas, it literally slices their stomachs.
I have also heard of people using coffee grounds to remove them, boiling water and even baking soda. Those methods just seem like a lot of fuss to me especially since you need large amounts of them; more than what is likely already in your compost pile.
Side Note: If you’ve never had experience with fire ants, they bite. A lot. And those bites burn badly at first then itch worse than any mosquito bite you’ve ever had. If you’re working with fire ants in compost, please take care to protect yourself from bites. It is always a good idea to use a long handled garden tool, to wear closed toe shoes, long sleeves and gardening gloves at the very least.
Removing Fire Ants from Your Compost Pile By Turning
We chose to skip the DE for this round. It can be expensive and we have a decent sized compost pile. I didn’t want to spend that much money. Instead, we grabbed our trusty garden shovel to work on removing the fire ants in our compost pile.
It seems to me that the simplest way to remove the fire ants from my compost pile is the method that is already what I should be doing anyhow.
Turn and water.
Ants build tunnels wherever they decide to build a colony. They will dig deep into the dirt wherever they colonize. When those tunnels are destroyed, they aren’t very happy critters. Use your shovel or other tool to get down to the bottom of your compost pile and turn it in multiple directions. Doing so will ensure you destroy all tunnels the fire ants may have created.
Ants also aren’t typically too fond of water which means that watering a dry compost pile can also help them move on. Watering your compost pile by itself will not usually cause them to move on, but as I said earlier, your pile should be kept damp anyway, especially if you live in a super dry climate such as Texas.
It took approximately three weeks for us to remove the fire ants from our compost pile. We made sure to turn the pile at least once a day and to wet it down if it dried out. Texas has been slammed with quite a few storms and flooding over the past few weeks so watering wasn’t something we had to do often.
Our compost pile is now free of the blasted little buggers and doing well. Now, the only time I need to worry about them is when I mow the yard and hit their mounds. Those are next on my list. 😉