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Snake in My Pile


July 24, 2020

I have a 3’x3’x3’ worm compost bin. It’s mostly a lot of straw bedding as I’ve been conservative in adding scraps since just starred it up in early May. Today I went to turn some of the top layer to see how it was doing after we had been away for a few days - then I saw something squiggle away. I dug a little more and it came squiggling toward me! It was a small black snake. Maybe the length of a pencil. I worry there are more, that a bunch of eggs got laid in spring and are now hatching, and that it’s no longer safe for me to dig around with my hands, or safe for my worms.

I wondered if there were mice which would have attracted the snake, but I have seen no sign of them and have done well at keeping it all moist I think.

Are these concerns founded or bananas, and do you have suggestions for how to move it along or handle things?

Thank you very much.


Answer by JZ: Your question will be received by a few BernCo. Master composters, who may also respond to you. Here are my thoughts. Red worms are great partners in the composting process. With any composting process annoying issues may come up. We deal with them and learn from them. Any holes in your bin for drainage & air flow could be covered with pieces of screen glued over them, this will deny entry for certain critters, yet allow for airflow & drainage.

Not all snakes lay eggs, some have live births. You would have to ID the snake, then go from there.

Suggest that in an outdoor location, empty the bin, harvest, your worms with a gloved hand, allow the snake to escape. Set the worms aside. Clean the bin with water, cover the holes with glued- on screen pieces.  Add 4-6” of moist bedding: shredded paper, shredded leaves or straw, then add worms. Put a lid on the bin, then place in a cool location.

There are various options / containers for red worms.  My particular choice is to have my containers outdoors with protection from extremes of temperature. This methods gets the worms closer to a natural environment and critters, mostly insects will come and go. Insects are helpful to the decomposition process. We have a webpage which presents an in-soil container which may be used for worms: simple, easy, close to nature. The soil around the container will insulate the

contents from heat and cold.  This is truly a “Dump& Run” composting method.  See“ Bucket in a hole” on our Homemade Bins page under Composting Info on our website.

You may enjoy this presentation: Bachechi Open Space - Home | Facebook

Let us know if you have questions.  Keep up: Compost on !

From original questioner: Thank you so much for your reply. I really appreciate your observations and suggestions.We are using a wooden box - it’s open on top but maybe a screen is a good idea.An acquaintance helped me identify the snake - it’s probably one of two kinds of garter snakes, so that’s not super worrying. Still, I’d like it to move on, so maybe I’ll try your suggestion to take some of the bedding and material out and see if it’ll leave. It’s kind of a big box so it could be kind of a pain, but maybe good to see what’s going on at deeper layers. Thanks again for your helpful email!

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