Maggots in Compost? Here’s What You Need to Know

Ed Wike
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The Culprit: Black Soldier Fly Larvae

Now, this doesn’t seem to bode well for the compost heap does it?

No one likes maggots in compost, regardless of the aroma of decay they produce as they break down food scraps and yard waste.

However, black soldier fly larvae (often called compost or bin flies) are an integral part of a natural composting process.

They really are misunderstood creatures, and although they can be annoying pests and a little gross, they aid in the compost success of the operation, so if you can live with a little digging and turning, here’s a few things you should know.

Causes of Maggots in Compost

If you live in the Northern hemisphere, we are just beginning to see signs of spring, the time of year when flies and most Maggots hatch and become adults.

Assuming you identify with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Plant Hardiness Zone, at this time of year it’s not too late to have your compost bin ready for the next use.

The most important thing to do is to have a compost bin. Insects and other organisms need to feed on something organic and provided a compost bin is in use, not on trash, the insects will be drawn away from your home for a food source.

Stay on top of the conditions of your compost bin by turning it frequently. The rules for composting are to have a bin 3 times the size of the contents, add food and yard waste that follows the 1 to 3 rule (more than 1 foot of food and less than 3 layers deep), keep it moist, keep it turning, keep it at a temperature of 130 – 150 degrees (F), and keep it covered.

The ideal temperatures will depend on the type of compost you are making. For example, this article explains that a Master Composter usually recommends a temperature of 130 degrees.

Solutions for Maggots in Your Compost

Something rotting in there? Check for maggots. If you’ve found that your compost is turning into fly breeding grounds, there are several things you can do. The first problem is keeping your pile small. You need to keep an eye on it, and you need to make sure it is turned regularly. A small pile will keep the flies from setting up shop.

You may also want to reset your compost pile. Make sure you get rid of any of the old compost that is already inhabited. Just toss it if you can, or break it up and put it onto your grass or a low plant. That will get old pieces of compost far away from the fresh pile.

If you have added meat to the pile, that may be the reason for the fly infestation. If you have added meat scraps, or if you have a pile of any kind of meat scraps, get rid of them immediately. Mold is a problem with meat in the pile, but the real problem is maggots.

If you are composting meat, it will speed up the process and heat up the pile. Also, if the meat doesn’t break down quickly, it will attract flies. If you are composting meat scraps, be sure to bury them thoroughly in order to make sure that the flies don’t have the opportunity to lay eggs on pieces of spoiled meat.