I've been successfully composting for quite a few years and have always had a few various bugs in my compost. But this year the cockroaches are way more numerous than ever before.
As soon as I start to spray water on the pile they start scurrying in every direction.
I have mostly veggie scraps; occasionally add shredded paper; less occasionally a bag of grass clippings that I got from someone (we don't have grass in our neighborhood); once or twice a year I add horse manure. Recently I added extra grass in an effort to crank up the heat and kill them off but that didn't do anything.
I live in Mesa.
I'm in Mesa too and the roaches seem to hit my bins more in the fall.
I have fairly large bins. On nice days when I'm doing yard work I put a couple of chickens in a bin for awhile. They love the compost bugs and those big nasty sewer roaches are their favorites. EEEWWWW!
Can I borrow some chickens? ;)
When I want to crank up the heat in my barrel I add equal parts dry leaves and coffee grounds (lots of both). I get the grounds from Starbucks. I can get the compost up to 140° this way. I don't think the bugs would like that level of heat but realize this is not the time of year for dried leaves. (I have a stash.) Hope this is of some help. I hate cockroaches!!
Thanks Ladies. That's helpful. I read info on the internet and it's all over the place about the ratios, etc. It's good to have advice from someone who lives in the desert instead of Ohio or Oregon.
They are roaches. There just turning the pile for you. sheesh!
just remember, the presence of roaches in your compost is not an indication of an unsuccessful natural decomposition process (as powell points out) ... on the contrary, it may indicate that the 'hot bacterial composting' is complete and that some of the material is ready to go out into the garden to continue the decomposition processes by means of the third trophic level of decomposers ... and then comes the fungal hoards!
now to address the humanity in us all, that makes our skin crawl when faced with the prospect of a breeding cell of roaches ... the roach population will be less likely to 'life cycle' successfully in your bin if you (the human element ;) ) accomplishes the following:
1 increase the 'heat' (as previously suggested)
'heat' the pile with successful aerobic (bacterial) decomposition... if the bacterial colony completes its 'life cycle' + dies ... the temperature of the pile will decrease and the 'hot composting' process is near completion. The third level decomposers will then move in to do their job (eating + pooping) ... (roaches fill an ecological niche as very successful third level decomposers).
2 increase the 'disturbance'
you can break the reproductive cycle by 'turning' the pile regularly ... if we turn weekly, and the chickens do their job (as previously indicated) the roach motel is less likely to gain reproductive momentum ...
if you are unable to correct this 'issue' ... you may want to distribute the cold pile material far and wide and allow the native birds to help you out ... then re-start your 'hot bacterial composting' with a cubic yard of fresh material that is 'infestation' free ... and that will heat up rapidly ...
Skin crawl? Look at these beauties. Aren't they magnificent? I hear most people love them so much you actually buy hotels for them to place around your house. That sort of special relationship and generosity really blows me away.
I often see roaches in my pile and try not to let it bother me.
I see more now that I don't turn the pile as often. So turning it more will help, especially as that generally makes for a hotter, faster pile. I am doing a pretty slow pile.
Also, having the pile up off the ground a bit may help. Roaches are always near the bottom next to the soil when I see them, and if there is a way you can raise it up a bit this may make it less handy for them to use the pile as a nest. Perhaps a pallet as a sort of floor would work.
I actually just fed a couple of cockroaches to my chickens this morning. My 3 yr old son got really freaked out by a disoriented cockroach about a month ago that flew and landed on him. He got pretty scared of them, so I caught it and put it into a little critter keeper I borrowed from my neighbor. I found another cockroach at work that same week, so the first now had a 'friend' in the enclosure. I got to teach him about how cockroaches live, what they eat and what likes to eat them. After observing them long enough for the fear to dissipate and be replaced with fascination, he was thrilled to let the chickens fight over them this morning. :) I agree with all the previous posters. Cockroaches will be where conditions are favorable and they have a place in the nutrient cycle in our lives. I draw the line at my house though - I don't mind them outside helping to build soil fertility and providing occasional snacks to my ladies, but inside my house? No way!!
Nice balanced attitude Liz&Dan. If I knew there's no way they could ever make it into the house I wouldn't be concerned.
Powell, on the other hand.......
I have heard that spreading diatomaceous earth is a natural way to kill cockroaches and other pests. Keeping it dry is pretty critical...so I don't know how well it might work ON a compost heap. I'm going to try it in my worm bin where I am getting some small roaches that i don't want to grow into larger ones :|