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Roaches in the Compost


August 17, 2012

I live in Albuquerque. I’m sure you’ve had people asking you about this problem, but I just need to know what would be the best steps. We have a composting pile that is well established in our backyard into its third year (using the soil once it’s become rich, of course). It’s in the back corner of our back yard but not far from our house maybe 50-60ft. I will admit the compost has been neglected recently as far as watering and turning it. So when I was watering all the gardens today I decided I needed to tend to the compost. I watered it down to give it some moisture and then started to turn it. Just under our recent fruit/veg scraps looked to be hundreds of small roaches about 1 in long reddish orange looking and almost still translucent looking. I suspect they are roaches because they look like roaches and move fast like roaches. I hate roaches, and my main concern is if I deter them from their current habitat, I don’t want them coming into our house. They can’t really get any further from the house, but maybe ten feet back. I’ve read on some websites to first get them the furthest from you house as you can, but in this case I wouldn’t want to just move them 10-15 feet back would I? Or I could move it more lateral across the yard, it would be further from the doors/windows, but not really any further from the house. I have read some info online, but what would you recommend being my best option at this time?


Answer by WR: Yep, sounds like roaches. They give me the creeps, too. I’ve been told (and have observed) that roaches don’t like to be disturbed so if you turn the compost fairly often, they’ll stay away from it to some extent. I’ll still see them occasionally but not in huge numbers, unless, as you experienced, I haven’t turned it in a while.

As far as them coming into your house, it’s good that you are maximizing distance from the house as much as practical. However, there are so many roaches in ABQ just on the streets, in our yards, in the water mains, etc. I’m not sure that the ones in the compost have a huge impact on what goes in your home. Last year I bought a little mini-greenhouse (about 2 x 4 feet) from someone on Craig’s List. It had rocks in the bottom for drainage. I decided to clean it out and started dumping out the rocks, and, to my horror, they were teaming with literally hundreds (thousands?) of cockroaches. This was on my patio right next to my house. I, of course, thought, oh no, my house is going to be filled with these roaches. But, the amazing thing was, I didn’t end up seeing any roaches in my house from that. Since you disturbed all those roaches in your compost, have you noticed more roaches in your house? For some reason that I don’t understand, I’ve seen fewer roaches in my house the past couple of years. I’m wondering if the city is doing something?? If I start seeing more than one or two in my house, I put out borax in shallow plastic lids (like cottage cheese lids) and tuck them out of the way such as under the refrigerator, stove, washing machine, bathroom shelf. This does seem to help. It’s great that you haven’t let the roaches deter you from composting! Thanks for writing and please write back or call if you’d like to discuss this further.

PS. From what you read on-line, you probably read that if you can stand the creep factor, roaches are beneficial in the compost, helping break down the materials in the compost. But, then if you turn it frequently you won’t have as many hanging around. But, it is better to turn at least occasionally. That’s even more beneficial to the compost. I know your big concern is turning it and driving the roaches into your house. I’d be interested to know if you have noticed more roaches coming into your house since you turned it. If you are, let’s talk about other approaches!

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