What kind of bug is this in my compost?

chicaincoJuly 17, 2012

Hello Gardenweb.com posters,

I have a compost bin which I started a month ago on my balcony. About a week after I started it, I noticed these black bugs running around in it.

When I lift the bin top, I notice a few of them on the newpaper I keep on top of the compost to keep the fruit flies down, but as soon as the light hits them, they run for cover.

It seems to be two bugs connected at their tail end and it can run in either direction without having to turn its body around. It has wings on both parts of its body, but I've never seen it flying. This is a picture of it from the bottom. I wasn't able to take a picture of it from the top because its too fast. I was able to catch one in a clear plastic container and it seems to only stop running when it wedges itself into a groove on the container lid, which is where it is in the picture.

I searched extensively on the web for information about this bug (and/or pictures), but haven't been able to find out anything about it. I would really appreciate it if someone could tell me what it is, and if it should be in my compost.

Thanks, chicainco

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Here are some other pictures of it

    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 4:50PM
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pict #3

    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 4:51PM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

You are so CUTE! I'm not sure what kind of insect it is, but I can tell you that you're about to have a lot more! Your one backward-forward bug is really a pair....mating.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 5:28PM
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Hahahahaha! That is so funny! Well, what do I know?! This nyc transplant to colorado experimenting with making compost cause I hate throwing away all those nice "greens" in the trash! I thought my little amateur compost pile was breeding some mutant two headed bugs that would eventually destroy the world!! :) Thanks for the input! I'm learning as I go, and its so much fun! :)

    Bookmark   July 17, 2012 at 6:05PM
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kimpa(z6b PA)

You may find lots of living things in your compost. As far as I am concerned, that is the way it is supposed to be. As the conditions change in the organic matter, bugs will come and go. Some are an indication that it is too wet-then add more dry. Try to keep it as wet as a wrung out sponge. I can see wetness but sometimes will put a bare hand in and feel it.

Compost is alive with many microbes and that why it is so great. Keep it fun!

    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 8:29AM
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The materials that we compost should have a lot of small thingys known as microbes digesting that material, but these microbes are not visible to the eye without the aid of a microscope. As a general rule of thumb if the wee critter can be seen without the aid of a microscope it does not belong in, or on, the compost pile.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 6:55AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Good grief. Anyone reading this thread hoping to gain more insight regarding the health of their compost pile would do well to ignore that last comment by kimmsr.

A compost pile should not only be teeming with billions of unseen microorganisms but will (and should) be alive with a population of macroorganisms, too. There is a very long list of "not so wee " critters that would be expected to be present in a healthy compost pile. These would include those that live and /or breed in the organic layers of a forest floor, as well as feed (recycle) on organic matter.

The presence of these 0, 6, 8, or jillion legged animals is normal. It is important to know that. Of course, an overpopulation of certain species (fly maggots, for instance) is an indicator of poorly managed compost.

Chicainco, your situation is different than most composters. You'll need to be mindful about keeping your balcony bin healthy and balanced. Did you add some native soil as a means of introducing the essential microorganisms? And what are you doing with your finished compost?

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 3:30PM
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A properly built compost pile, in active digestion, will be too hot for most any of these "macroorganisms". While Pill Bugs, Sow Bugs, Millipedes, Earwigs, and many other digesters of decaying organic matter might be seen in many compost piles their presence may be an indication that the pile is not in active digestion.
Many years ago it was a common thought that soil was needed to introduce the bacteria needed for digestion. Since those old days we have found that our vegetative waste has the bacteria needed to digest it already in place just waiting for the right conditions (that is why the stuff starts to rot on your kitchen counter) to go to work.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 7:34AM
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Hot compost will not be home to insects, but to get hot compost, you need about a cubic yard of materials. If, like many home composters, your pile is not that big, your compost will be warm, not hot. Insects can live in it, and they do break down the compost ingredients as they pass through their digestive tracts. Warm compost is decomposing. It just takes longer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Composting

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 10:05AM
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