A 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:
||Actinomycetes: Primarily 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.
||Fungi: They 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.
||Nematodes 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
||Fermentation 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.
||Springtail: Along 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.
||Wolf spiders: They build no webs, but run freely hunting
prey. They prey on all sizes of arthropods,
invertebrate animals with jointed legs and
||Centipede: They prey on almost any type of soil invertebrate
near their size or larger.
||Sow bugs: They feed on rotting woody material and
||Ground beetles: Most feed on other organisms but some feed
on seeds and other vegetable matter.