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How to Keep Bugs Out of a Worm Compost Bin

Many people want to begin composting but are scared of their compost bin smelling or attracting bugs! Learn how you can avoid (or eliminate) bugs in your indoor, bucket-style worm compost bin with these quick tips. Note, if you compost another way, you may need to use good ole’ Google for additional problem solving.

Compost bin in a desert garden

The Set Up

Our worm compost bins are created out of two donated, upcycled food-grade ingredient buckets with one lid. This two-bucket system is single tiered (meaning the compostable materials only live in the top bucket). The top bucket has 10-15 holes drilled in the bottom for drainage and aeration (both of which help reduce bugs). The top bucket is then stacked on top of another bucket (without holes), letting the bottom bucket catch extra water that may drip out. Then, at last, there is a lid to go on top. We recommend gently placing the lid on top so the worms inside the bin can get fresh air. Once a week, dump any water (if any) the bottom bin has caught into a houseplant or garden bed.

Filling the Bin

Once you get your empty indoor worm compost bin, we recommend using a “lasagna” layering method to get started. Begin by gently covering the drainage holes with a layer of cardboard or newspaper (this will keep the soil from falling into the bottom bucket). Then, on top of the cardboard, add in your starter soil (we recommend coconut coir) and Red Wiggler worms (100-250 to begin). Add about 1 cup of compostable “greens” to this layer (a few banana peels or an apple core). Then, add another layer of “browns” (cardboard, dry leaves, or newspaper).

Kids gathered around compost bins

Wait one week to allow your worms to acclimate and microbial activity to begin (aka, the composting process). After a few weeks, slowly continue to layer your browns and greens - always ending with browns (this will deter bugs from entering your bin). Once you’re done, again, we recommend gently placing the lid on top so the worms inside the bin can get fresh air.

Practicing Patience

A good compost bin should be about as moist as a wrung out sponge. Often, when bugs are attracted to compost bins, it is because its moisture levels are high. This can happen if you add a large amount of greens at one time. You are more likely to have a compost bin that is too wet than a compost bin that is too dry.

To combat a wet bin, add in more browns to the top. If you can, we also recommend gently peeling open the layers of the bin and adding additional shredded newspaper or cardboard to absorb any moisture. Try to avoid poking and prying with your bin more than once a month.

Person holding worm compost

Feeding the Worms

There are a lot of ways to feed a worm bin. We like to take on the “lazy” way of composting where the worms do the work so you don’t have to! Use an old Tupperware container in your freezer to collect expired food, scraps, and the likewise (keeping this in your freezer will help keep the bugs away). Once it’s full, pick a day to feed your worm bin. Allow the frozen “greens” to defrost, add them into your bin, and then add a thick layer of browns on top.

When it comes to feeding your worms the right amount at the right time, try to keep track of how fast your worms are moving through their food. This will guide you as to how often to add greens to your bin (and how much to add). This is all dependent on the temperature of your bin (the right temperature will speed up the worms’ digestion), the amount of grit in your bin (coffee grounds and sand have been shown to move food through worms at a quicker pace), and the amount of worms in your bin (worms can double their population in 60-90 days, but will self-restrict their population to the size of a bin). If you still have food scraps leftover, use these tips to reduce your food waste from the get-go!

Woman holding compost bin on shoulder in garden

Once you see the last feeding mostly decomposed, you can feed the bin some more, going little by little. It takes some time, but you will begin to get the feel for when to feed your bin as you become a composting expert!

Get a Free Compost Bin

Let’s Go Compost is a community-led effort to make compost bins free and accessible. We upcycle empty bulk ingredient bins into free, food-safe worm compost bins that are donated back to the community. Click here to get a free compost bin at our next monthly pick up event.


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