> Howdy, all--
> Well, since I went ballistic on the need to control RATS in big-city
> compost heaps, I feel some compunction to respond to this one. :^)
> It's funny, but as soon as I saw the "Subject" line of this message
> and who it was from, I thought, "She's got em in her new composter."
> >the compost seems to be doing well. but now i noticed this
> >morning as i opened the lid to peer in that there are
> >hundreds of maggots (i quess that's what they are) eating
> >the grapes and tomatoes that i tossed in the past few days.
> > the surface was boiling with them. Eeeek. i thought the
> >years growing up on the farm had cured me of a squeemish
> >stomach, but this made me a bit sick.
> White, squirming, about the size of a grain of rice, and, yes,
> "boiling." Sounds like some fly's larvae to me. Which is what maggots
> are. I've got goosebumps on my legs just thinking about it. Talk
> about ancient genetic memory. And no amount of experience can take it
> away. It's just there.
> >i know the advice was to mush everything up before it went
> >into the composter, but i haven't been doing that. should
> >i worry about all these squirming things?
> Only if you mind playing host to flies. OK, ready? Are you eating?
> Stop, or come back later to read this.
> Common house flies lay their eggs on rotting material--up to 100 per
> brood. These hatch out into maggots, which feed on the place they've
> hatched till they can become grown up flies.
> A fly can carry four million microbes that cause hepatitis,
> salmonella, dysentery, typhoid, cholera, tapeworm, hookworm, and
> more. Flies are major disease vectors in many parts of the world.
> They have sticky-pads on their feet (kinda like post-its), that let
> them walk surfaces at any angle. The glue picks up microbes and other
> substances from anything they land on. But here's more joy: they
> taste thru their feet. So they walk on everything to check it out.
> Kate's organic compost is the least of our worries. The fly that has
> just checked out (and tested the palatability of) the dog droppings
> on the lawn or the puddle of <CENSORED> in the alley, and laid its
> eggs there to hatch and feast--well, you get my point--it goes on to
> check out and test the palatability of, say, your sandwich. Your
> drinking glass. Your apple. Or your organic compost for that matter.
> And just think: our high-chemical-control-inclined sistren and
> brethren, who spray the dickens out of fly-intensive places, give the
> resistant SuperFlies (no Richard Roundtree jokes, please) an
> opportunity to distribute those pesticides around with their busy
> little bodies.
> Here's more Fun Fly Facts that David Cronenberg didn't have to make
> up. They sponge their food up with a proboscis. But what about solid
> food, you ask. Easily taken care of: the fly regurgitates its saliva
> onto the food to liquefy it. Can you imagine what's in that drool?
> And, yes, they leave residues of that stuff around between meals. As
> well as their own droppings (flyspecks).
> A fly generation runs about a month, but in the course of a summer, a
> single fly can produce up to a dozen broods. Litters. Or whatever
> you'd call a mingle of maggots.
> And these are just plain old common house flies, the black ones.
> Green and blue bottle flies look for carrion. Then there are
> horseflies, and stable flies, which can bite thru fabric and leather
> (after all, horses wear horsehide). Mosquitoes, whom we all know
> well. Gnats and midges. All blood-suckers.
> But your maggots, Kate, in my experience of that part of the world,
> are probably houseflies and some bottle flies perhaps.
> First of all, trust your evolutionary revulsion and destroy the
> things. Scrape them off into a pail of scalding hot soapy water, with
> whatever words of karmic apology you consider called for, and Do Them
> In. I always liked the prayer that Russell Hoban had one of his
> characters utter in the novel /Riddley Walker/ during a boar hunt:
> "Your turn now, my turn later." The world doesn't need more flies. Or
> maggots. Or flies. Or maggots. Or--you get the picture.
> Next, when you add things to your compost, tuck them into the top
> third or so of what's there; this is easier as your heap gets fuller.
> Or if you compost grass clippings, leaves, shredded paper, etc., that
> can tuck the food wastes in. But flies in my experience are not drawn
> to composters as readily if wet and rotting foods aren't exposed.
> They beam in on the smell of putrefaction. This won't stop the flies
> from trying, but it may cut down on the number of those who do.
> I've learned thru various urban gardeners the trick of planting mint
> around the composter. Flies don't like mint. The next trick is to
> keep the mint from taking over your neighborhood, but you already
> know about that.
> Other things folks have planted near the composter: basil, tansy,
> marigolds, and suchlike scented herbs. Someone once suggested putting
> the composter next to the herb garden, but I wouldn't do that--I
> wouldn't want to encourage flies in stopping near the composter and
> landing on the herbs. I've also known folks who've used traditional
> herbal fly repellants around their composters, like pennyroyal,
> camphor, eucalyptus, or bay--hanging bruised leaves in clusters or
> applying dabs of oil to the outside of the composter.
> Also, encourage biodiversity: ants, frogs, toads, spiders, snakes,
> and birds will feast on maggots. You *could* try laying open the
> composter and seeing who comes to tidy up...but the maggots could
> just tuck away where they're not seen.
> I would think that a pet toad or snake would be a great idea. A
> garden-living pet, that is. Give them a down-low garden light near
> the composter, turn it on a few hours a night to provide a nice
> supply of bugs...but now I'm digressing into urban wild habitat....
> If you find that flies are entirely out of control, you can put
> screen around your composter (I once ended up lining a compost bin
> with hardware cloth to control bees and flies).
> I personally think setting fly traps out (bottle traps baited with
> food or pheromone lures) is a good idea.
> People controlling flies in livestock areas have resorted to many,
> and sometimes desperate, measures. Some--like electric zappers,
> biological controls, flypaper, and pheromone traps--are
> environmentally more benign than others--like "no pest" strips,
> sprays, and ear tags. But if you've ever grappled with a dense hoard
> of flies in the summer--biting ones or not--you can understand why
> people were so excited about DDT when it came out. The knockdown-kill
> effect must have been stunning for folks to witness.
> Don't get me wrong: flies are recyclers, and maggots clean up a lot
> of stuff that we humans leave behind, etc. But like many city
> creatures (including humans), they have concentrated to the point
> where living with them is not only unpleasant, it can be dangerous.
> It's a tenuous balance we humans expect of nature in the very cities
> we've built to be colonies for a limited number of species. Without
> the usual checks and balances in place, you may have to assert
> control while working to increase biodiversity. Making cities more
> sustainable is big work.
> I can post some resources Friday if folks are interested.
> Michele Gale-Sinex
> Communications manager
> Center for Integrated Ag Systems, UW-Madison
> UW voice mail: 608-262-8018
> Home office: 415-504-6474 (504-MISH)
> Home office fax: Same as above, phone first for enabling
> Half of this game is ninety percent mental. --former Philadelphia Phillies
> manager Danny Ozark
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