29. Apr, 2018

Ants in Compost

 Ants nests can be beneficial in a compost heap as they increase the biodiversity by bringing insects and fungi into their nests and their tunnels can assist airflow.

 Ants are less welcome in a wormery. They are omnivorous and will not normally harm the worms, but they will compete with the worms for the food. If there are relatively few ants, provided you adding enough food to keep the worms supplied as well as allowing the ants their share it might be acceptable to just ignore the ants and let them co-exist. Allowing the ants to compete for food cause indirect result in the worms becoming malnourished as the ants will compete for sugars and fats in the feedstuff which are essential to the development in of the worms. Not removing the worms also means that when handling the compost your hands and arms are likely get covered with ants and some might take the worm eggs (cocoons) which will impact on the breeding programme.

Where ants have infested a stacking wormery it is possible to remove the trays containing most of the ants and the nest, disturb them using the hand fork and leave them exposed to the light which will further encourage them to leave. It should also be possible to hunt through the nest to find and remove the Queen. (Gloves should be worn)  The Queen will be much bigger than the other ants.   

It is said that sprinkling cinnamon cause the ants to disperse making it easier to remove the nest.  

 

The consensus is that the presence of an ant’s nest is an indication of dry bedding. Although there are several cases on Internet forums where people state that their moist wormeries have been invaded.

The moisture level can be measure using a meter of estimate by squeezing the compost in the hand (  ) but it is probably safest to assume that the bedding is on the dry side and moisten the it is using a water spray and turn it with a trowel or hand fork to disrupt ant colonies. Continue this process for a few days and most ants will move to a new home.

 As ants invade wormeries to gain access to readily   available food an invasion may indicate a review of the amount of food provided to ensure that the worms are not being overfed. Too much food left in the wormery may increase the acidity of the bedding which makes it more attractive to ants and less favourable to worms.

Ideally the bedding should be as close to neutral (ph7). If the bedding is acidic many suppliers of wormeries recommend the addition of a small quantity of lime. (which they sell!).  Some suppliers recommend treating the wormery with a small handful of lime every month, but this view is not shared by all.

 Preventative is better than cure.

 

Moated wormery

One of the simplest ways of preventing worms occupying the wormery is to surround the wormery, or its legs, with water.    With a bin on legs each of the legs can be stood in a dish or a coffee jar of water to which a little washing up liquid has been added to reduce the surface tension.  Some recommend the use of mineral oil rather than water.

Sticky Goo

Alternatively, a commercially available ant goo, a sticky substance that is painted around the stems of rose bushes to trap ant can be used this is said to be s. It is eco-friendly and does not contain any insecticide poisons   Vaseline can also be smeared round each leg.

These techniques will not only exclude ants but other creeping and crawling creatures as well, so it should only be used where ants are a problem.