to Look For
compost pile is a zoo of critters! All of the organisms, microbial
and non microbial, have a dramatic effect on the soil food web.
Although it is common to divide creatures into “good” and “bad” bugs,
in the compost pile, every organism has a specific role to play.
The larger organisms visit the pile when it has cooled down and
feast on the former inhabitants. Here are just a few samples of
what creatures you will find if you look closely in your pile:
decomposers common in early stages of compost. They produce
the grayish cobwebby growths throughout compost and give it
an earthy smell, similar to a rotting log. They prefer woody
material, and survive in a wide range of temperatures.
are also primary decomposers. Fungi send out thin mycelia fiber
like roots, far from their spore forming reproductive structures.
Mushrooms are most common. They’re not as efficient as
bacteria, since they can’t live in the cold.
or roundworms: They are the most abundant invertebrates
in soil. Less than one millimeter in length, they prey on
bacteria, protozoa, fungal spores and each other. Most nematodes
in the soil are beneficial.
mites or mold mites: These transparent bodied creatures
feed primarily on yeast in fermenting masses or organic debris.
They can develop into seething masses over a fermenting surface
such as a winery, but are not pests in compost.
with nematodes & mites, they share numerical dominance
among soil invertebrates. They feed on fungi, nematodes and
small bits of organic detritus. They help control fungi.
spiders: They build no webs, but run freely hunting
prey. They prey on all sizes of arthropods, invertebrate
animals with jointed legs and segmented bodies
prey on almost any type of soil invertebrate near their size
bugs: They feed on rotting woody material and leaf
beetles: Most feed on other organisms but some feed
on seeds and other vegetable matter.