Composting and Fruit Flies

First off, I want to apologize for having a post binge over winter break only to disappear once school started up again. When school is in session, I work (teach, grade, attend meetings, research, write, hold tutorials, lesson plan) for easily sixty hours or more per week. That doesn’t leave much time for blogging, but I will try to update as much as possible and will return full-force during school breaks.

Our composting experiment seemed to be going well until one day we opened the door to the composter (we use this one: http://eartheasy.com/yard-garden/composting/jora-jk125-composter-4-5-cubic-feet) and were met with a blinding swarm of fruit flies. When I decided we were going to start composting, I didn’t do any kind of analysis as to the kind of waste we create, so it turns out our compostable waste has largely been fruits and vegetables. There aren’t any dry leaves right now, so our nitrogen-heavy additions haven’t been balanced by carbon, which has led to an infestation. A few of the fruit flies have made their way into our house, but they haven’t found anything to feast on in there, so I don’t think they’ll stay.

It does look like this is an easy fix, though. This morning I added a bucket full of shredded newspaper and will continue to do so until the fruit fly population dies down. If it doesn’t in a week, then I’ll cover my current compost with a layer of newspaper and not spin the composter for a bit and see if that helps. Once it’s balanced, I’ll try to add a bucket of leaves or shredded paper waste to every bucket of green waste.

In the meantime, I have to think about a better answer to the majority of the waste we produce. I had initially decided against vermicomposting because the last time I did that, we had a heat wave and all my worms died. I read some articles on high heat vermicomposting that suggested that instead of red wrigglers I might try blue worms or African nightcrawlers, both of which are better suited to high heat. I don’t know if any worms can handle the 100-degree and higher dry heat we’re likely to get this summer, but it’s worth a try if we continue to produce a lot of fruit and vegetable scraps because worms can break down the material much faster than our spin composter. I’m leaning towards purchasing this one: http://eartheasy.com/yard-garden/composting/worm-factory-composter.

I will say that despite a rocky start, I’m very glad to be composting. We’re noticeably sending less trash to the dump, and that’s the whole point. Come spring, I hope we’ll have at least a little compost that I can use to start an herb and tomato garden.

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5 Responses to Composting and Fruit Flies

  1. Interesting, I’m starting one myself using plastic coffee containers. I’ve read that if you put charcoal filters on them it prevents smell and fruit flies. You might try that. I’ve yet to get mine operational(no filters yet) so i don’t speak from experience, but i will find out in a few weeks.

    • mezzie1024 says:

      My kitchen compost pail has a charcoal filter, and we’ve experienced no smell or fruit flies inside our house (I was especially worried they would move in when the fruit flies from outside started exploring the kitchen, but they didn’t). We generally dump the pail into the composter every 1-3 days, depending on how much we’ve been cooking.

      Good luck with yours!

  2. Dan says:

    I’ve had a worm bin for a little over a year and love it (and the one you’re thinking of looks awesome! Mine’s homemade). They’re addicting! Worms won’t necessarily prevent fruit flies. I know from experience. But like you mentioned, getting a good balance of carbon-rich materials and green waste will. Newspaper is good. They love wet shredded cardboard and even dryer lint. Best of luck!

    • Mezzie Learns says:

      Thanks for confirming we’re on the right track. The fruit fly population has already gone down considerably, so that’s a relief.

      My first compost bin was simpler (I gave it to my dad after I killed all my worms, and he’s been doing well with it, I think). The one I have my eye on is more like a worm high-rise apartment. I figure I owe it to the species to let them break down my food in style since I was such a bad guardian several years back.

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