The dreaded compost flies.
One of the reasons why people avoid anything to do with composting is that they’ve tried it and stopped because of flies. They can be a problem if you don’t manage your compost properly. It’s possible to make compost with just a few flies appearing but not the clouds that some struggle with.
Should you be concerned about flies around your compost bin? Well, don’t panic they aren’t life threatening but yes they are a nuisance. If you want to do something that provides an instant result without using fly-spray chemicals, try hydrated lime. This is a natural approach and the lime will actually help with the overall composting process.
Compost flies can be avoided
You can get a bag of hydrated lime. Make sure that you store this in an airtight plastic bag because a large bag will last some time and if any moisture gets in, the hydrated lime will set hard like concrete.
We have a post that explains most of what you need to know about hydrated white lime and how it will improve your compost. You can find it at ‘What does lime do to compost?’.
If clouds of flies appear in large numbers in and around your compost bin or tumbler it clearly means that there is something there that they like. The type of flies that appear will have hatched out from the maggot larvae that thrive in the compost mix.
They will generally stay around the compost bin because this is where their main food source is and they will continue the cycle of breeding to produce more flies.
Don’t allow flies to put you off making compost. You need to be aware that your compost will have a diverse range of life performing within it. Much of it will be so small that it can’t be identified, you won’t even know that they are there. The fact is they are there and it’s a good thing that they are because without them the compost result that we want to achieve probably wouldn’t happen.
About compost flies
If you analysed the living activity, under a microscope, in a compost bin you would find so many life forms that you would lose count. These will include the smallest microbes at one end to worms and, if luck is really in, the largest slugs that you’ll probably ever see at the other.
All of them have an input and provide a combined effect of generating a finished compost. It’s not possible to be selective, nature decides on these things and, by and large, gets it right.
Fruit flies in compost
One type of fly that your are more likely to see are the fruit flies. These are very small and completely harmless. They don’t make any noise but, depending on the scale of the composting operation, there can be a tremendous number of them. As the name indicates these will be found where there is a lot of fruit waste.
If there are so many that they are troubling you and others, try sprinkling some hydrated lime over the surface of the waste in the bin. This should slow them down and reduce the numbers. You will see fruit flies in a room where there may be a bowl of fruit and one of the pieces has gone a little beyond the ripe stage.
White flies in compost bin
The clouds of flies that occasionally emerge from a compost bin are often mistaken as whiteflies. It is unlikely that you will find whiteflies in a compost bin. They won’t be interested in dead material that is decomposing in the same way that house-flies and fruit-flies do. The adult whiteflies won’t see the contents of a compost bin as being a suitable place for laying their eggs because they prefer the underside of living green leaves.
What are white flies attracted to?
The white-fly is more likely to be found in areas where the climate includes a mild winter as they prefer to hibernate on the underside of leaves. In cooler climates they can be found to thrive in glass houses where the temperature is controlled. In the growing seasons they suck the sap from the host plant and produce a sticky residue known as honeydew.
Do white flies hurt plants?
The honeydew residue adversely affects the plant as it encourages fungi which undermines the overall health of the plant. An infestation of whitefly will put such a stress on affected plants that you will notice. The plants will look poor, the leaves will go pale or yellow and become stunted.
House flies in compost bin
These are by far the most nuisance flies of all because, if you get them at all, they tend to turn up in large numbers. These flies make the fruit flies look tame. A compost heap that isn’t being managed properly will provide an excellent breeding place for the house fly.
As the name suggests as soon as they’re airborne they head straight for the house with the specific intention of pitching on your food and, where possible, on you. When you consider where they have come from and where they have been, this should be enough to want to get rid of them and prevent an infestation being generated by your compost bin.
But there is more. When they pitch on your food they aren’t contented with just wiping their dirty feet, they like to have a feed as well. This doesn’t mean taking a bite and flying off. Their’s is a much more elaborate feeding process.
How do I get rid of flies in my house?
I tend to see three types of flies in my house. Flies that gather in the windows, flies that try to get at my food and fruit-flies that turn up if I bring a bunch of bananas into the house. The good news is that you can get rid of flies in your house.
Let’s start with the flies that gather in the windows. At certain times of the year, a whole load of flies will suddenly turn up in the windows of my house. These are never a problem. The fact that they spend so much time gathered on the glass of windows, going up, down, around and around is a clear indication that their only ambition is to get outside.
Here, the feeling is entirely mutual. The solution is simple. I just need to open the window where they are gathered and encourage them to leave. I generally use a soft brush to protect the glass and avoid any collateral damage. These types of flies go and don’t seem to come back.
So, that’s the way to get rid of flies that spend all their time in the window.
Then, there’s the common house-flies. These are the flies that are very persistent. They want your food. They don’t see a problem with pitching on every food item on the table and wiping their dirty feet on it.
House-flies appear to have a thing about sugar but, if you watch them, they really don’t care about what they go for. They aren’t satisfied with just wiping their feet on your food. House-flies have a trick which they have perfected since they first evolved.
House-flies don’t sedately eat your food in the same way as you do.
When we eat food we take a bite and then we allow our digestive juices to discreetly work for us, starting in the mouth.
House-flies are the perfect dinner-party nightmare. They secrete digestive juices all over your food that they intend to eat. When they’re satisfied that these digestive juices have broken down the food enough they will suck it up the intake pipe which they would call a mouth.
Imagine if you had dinner-party guests who did that. Well, if you have house-flies in your house, you’ve got guests who will eat your food in this most disgusting manner whenever they get the chance.
So, how do you get rid of flies that do this? It’s no good opening the window and brushing them out. They will just come straight back again.
There is a whole range of technologies that have emerged which will deal with house-flies. You can swat flies with either a rolled up newspaper or a fly-swat that’s been made for the purpose. The only downside when you get rid of flies this way is that you tend to make a mess when multiple impacts of the swat leaves squashed flies on wall surfaces.
Another way to get rid of flies is by hanging up sticky fly-papers. These are the ones that need to be warmed slightly, before you extract them. Then you have to twist them as you pull the sticky paper out.
If you use these, bear in mind that it isn’t just flies that get stuck to them. If you hang it up where you are likely to be moving around, it’s very easy to get yourself, an item of clothing or your hair stuck to it.
An alternative is a sticky card. This works in the same way as fly-papers but with an extra attraction for flies. Printed on the sticky side of the card there are images of flies. There aren’t many images of flies on the card but there are enough to make it look as though flies have pitched on it. The idea is that when flies in the room see the silhouette images of other flies that have pitched on something, they are instinctively attracted to it. Flies are attracted to anything that attracts other flies.
These sticky papers apparently have something in the glue that attracts flies. When flies pitch on the paper they stay there and that will be the last time that they will be able to land on anything else, including your food.
It can be frustrating when you hang up a freshly open fly-paper. You’re most likely going to use these when there are enough flies in the room and they’ve pitched on you or your food, once too often.
It’s hot weather and the flies are on. You reach into the cupboard where you think the fly-papers are and, hopefully, that’s where they are. You then warm them over a hot plate and pull them out. Then you just want to hang it up somewhere, anywhere, to start getting as many flies as possible, as quickly as possible.
Then you wait and watch and nothing happens. There will be a phase when no flies will go anywhere near it. It’s almost as though the flies in the room will pitch on everything except the fly-paper.
Leave it for an hour or two and, depending on the volume of flies going around, you will see fly-papers loaded with flies that would have otherwise been on your food or pitching on the same area of your bare skin over and over again.
You can hang up lots of fly-papers but it may not be enough. I sometimes get the idea that some flies have worked out how fly-papers work and know how to avoid them. For these flies we need to take another approach.
There are plenty of ideas and gadgets out there that are designed to get rid of flies. One of the more extreme ways that will get rid of flies in the house is fumigating using plug-in fumigators.
These are powered by electricity. You plug them in at any socket in a room where flies are being a problem. There’s a fly-killer chemical involved and when switched on it will emit puffs of steam which will circulate around the room, killing flies.
This type of device needs to be used exactly as the manufacturers direct and mustn’t be used in rooms where children spend a lot of time. Would I use this to kill flies in my house? No.
Using this type of device to get rid of flies in your house would be a major operation. You need to remove all foods that are exposed and items that you handle a lot e.g. children’s toys. Then you need to evacuate yourselves from the house for 3 hours or, perhaps, even longer, while the fumes subside.
The same applies to fly-spray. You only need to use this in rooms in the house where there is a problem with flies. Most people who’ve breathed in fly-spray will tell you that they would rather have the flies in house. There are some sprays that have an included odour that attempts to make it more pleasant but there are chemicals involved that are designed to kill flies. I never use fly-spray to get rid of flies in my house and I would never recommend it to others.
There are ways to deal with flies in the house that doesn’t involve using chemicals that may or may not be dangerous to us. One system that I’ve tried for controlling flies in my house is an electric fly trap. These can be very effective. The flies are attracted by the bright fluorescent light.
The flies go to the light and become tangled up in the wire mesh that’s electrically live. The shock kills them and they drop down into a tray which can be emptied. This system can be left to work continuously but you may get a whiff of a burning fly if one gets stuck in the electrified mesh.
If you can stop flies from getting into the house, then, you won’t have the problem to deal with. There are barriers that you can put up. Mosquito nets fixed against the windows that you want to keep open in the Summer season, can work or, at least, slow them down.
The thing about flies is that, whatever you do to keep them out of the house, there’s always the odd ones, or group, that get through.
These are the flies that may need an element of hand to hand combat. Swatting flies is one option but there’s an interesting device that resembles a tennis racket. It works very much in the same way as the electric fly trap but there’s no light.
The batteries are in the handle and you wave it at any flying flies, making contact in mid-air. If successful, you will hear a snack when you hit a fly.
There is a method for disposing of flies which I use to get rid of flies in my house. It’s a method which I haven’t seen performed anywhere else. It doesn’t involve chemicals or electricity in any way.
Catching flies in my house is as easy as clapping my hands. When I see a fly that’s just pitched on the table or some other flat surface, I slowly move toward it with my hands about 6 inches apart, palms facing, in a clapping formation.
I then get into a position where I get ready to clap my hands together, over the fly. What I’m thinking about at this point is where will the fly be in the 0.25 seconds after it takes off?
I have to clap my hands together so that my hands meet at the point where the fly is in mid air.
This is a technique that’s helped me to catch hundreds of flies. It’s an art that needs practice but with plenty of flies in a room there is usually a target-rich environment.
From my own experience, I know that it’s possible to clear a room of flies in my house in just a few minutes. I drop the dead flies in the kitchen sink as I catch them and then wash my hands when I’ve finished.
If you see a fly in your house, get it!
There is one more way to catch flies. This one is a bit of a novelty and rather exotic. There are carnivorous fly-trapping plants. Among these are the venus fly-trap and the pitcher plant. You need to know that, unless you have a significant number of plants, this is in no-way an industrial method of catching flies. But it’s nice to know that you have a natural system in place that is quietly dealing with the occasional fly in the background.
Maggots in a compost bin
Are maggots in compost good or bad?
It’s quite possible that you will lift the lid on your compost bin when you want to make an addition and see a load of maggots. It may be just a temporary thing but you will probably wonder if maggots in compost are a good or bad thing.
Having maggots in your compost shouldn’t be a problem. They will be doing what worms do and nobody complains about them. They will digest rotting organic material and break it down. That’s the good side. The bad thing about maggots in compost is that they will hatch out into flies.
You have to accept that there will be many types of life in your compost bin and that all of them play a part in making compost. All of these life forms are of use. You have a load of green kitchen waste which you want to see convert into compost. For this we rely on nature and whatever turns up is what nature provides, we can’t be picky about it.
Are maggots good or bad?
However when it comes to maggots it can only mean one thing, when maggots go through their final stage of metamorphosis there will be flies. Not just a few but clouds of them. They make tending to the compost bin an uncomfortable chore and when you go near them they will take a liking to you and start following you around. They will find their way into the house where the story continues.
I think we can all agree that out of all the creepy-crawlies that live in a compost bin, of any type, we can manage without the maggots. So how do we get rid of them or, better still, prevent them from starting? If maggots turn up it can be taken as an indication that other factors are at play which shouldn’t be there. In short, if you have maggots in the compost bin it’s probably because the compost is too wet and acidic.
There are two things you can do to address this problem. The first is to add some drier material in the form of shredded paper or cardboard. The second is to add hydrated lime, this will reduce the acid level. The cardboard or paper will add carbon to the mix which will balance the nitrate level which will be higher than it should be if the mix is wet.
Adding these two components will not only reduce the maggot and fly problem but it will also reduce the smell which often accompanies wet compost that is effectively stagnating and not converting to compost. It shouldn’t be necessary to use any chemicals to remove maggots.
While they are there they are actually doing some good in breaking down organic material. It’s only when they hatch out and fly off that they start to be trouble.
Where do maggots come from?
Maggots start off as eggs which are laid by flies. Flies will only lay their eggs where they can find a food source that will feed the maggots that emerge from the flies’ eggs.
The food source that the adult flies select will be rotting organic material of a particular type and there needs to be a sufficient amount of it to cater for the ravenous appetites that maggots have.
Are maggots in a compost tumbler good or bad?
The same applies to a compost tumbler as any other composting system. If you see maggots in a tumbler it probably means that you need to adjust the mixture that you feed into the tumbler.
A compost tumbler that contains maggots will usually emit a smell. You can add hydrated white lime as you would do with a compost tumbler. This will discourage flies and make the tumbled mix less attractive.
I never see maggots in the Rolypig composter. I would expect to see maggots at the mouth-end of the Rolypig where the fresh food-waste goes in. This is where food waste remains until it rots enough for the worms to start work.
Worms and maggots are after the same thing; rotting organic material. There are so many worms in my Rolypig that they ingest everything that’s rotten enough, before the maggots would have a chance. This would make it unattractive to flies when selecting a place for laying eggs.
Does composting attract bugs?
Yes it does. You will never know how many life forms will take up residence in your compost bin. A micro environment where organic material is breaking down may look a total mess to us in our clean, tidy and ordered world. To the plethora of microscopic and not so microscopic beings this is their heaven.
Of course we need to be aware that peace is not a natural state among these creatures and that there will be those that seek to eat others. This is nature at work from which the combined effect is that compost is generated.
Should we be concerned about the types of bugs and life forms that live in the compost bin? No. Everything that lives in a compost bin is there to feed on the nutritional value that the rotting material has in it before it’s fully converted to finished compost. When the composting process is complete and there is nothing left of value to take, then most of the life forms will either die off or leave to find nourishment from elsewhere.
Is vinegar good for compost?
If anyone is thinking of putting vinegar on compost, don’t. This would be a total waste of vinegar. Compost will not benefit from vinegar in any way. Vinegar is associated with preserving foods or flavouring. The whole point of making compost is to do the opposite of preserving and break down food waste into a finished usable compost.
The other issue with adding vinegar to compost is that vinegar is acidic. Compost, through the nature of decomposition, tends to be acidic. The composting process will be accelerated if we can reduce the acid, so we must avoid adding to it.
This is where the adding of hydrated lime makes a big difference. This will reduce the acid level or bring up the ph level to a neutral point where decomposition can proceed efficiently.
Hindering the process of food-waste converting to compost will provide an opportunity for the flies to prosper. They are going to be attracted to food that is being preserved rather than food that has been broken down through an efficient composting process.
Will there be flies in a Rolypig composter?
Yes, if you don’t take the precaution of doing all the things that need to be done to reduce the acidity and moisture levels there will be flies. When feeding the Rolypig, add about one tablespoon of hydrated lime. This will mix into the compost. If the waste being fed looks wet then add some pieces of cardboard and or shredded newspaper. Doing these simple things will almost guarantee successful compost from a Rolypig without being troubled by flies.
A good indication that you’re doing everything right is seeing a strong population of worms that have moved in, by choice. If the Rolypig is on a site where there are no worms or the wrong type of worms, you can import worms but if you do this there must be enough ready-made compost for them to feed on. Find out more about the Rolypig at Rolypig.com
Find out more about making compost from things that may attract flies, see: can you put cooked meat in compost?