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Common Compost Bugs
Friends or Foes?

Although these critters may not seem useful in the eyes of your children, the following compost bugs are just that-beneficial. Actually, we’d even go one step further and say that these bugs are absolutely essential to your compost pile and garden soil. They’re all part of what we refer to as the Soil Food Web.

Remember the golden rule…Nature doesn’t make mistakes. All of her creatures, big and small, serve a very specific purpose (most of which we’ll never know). Therefore, if you see these bugs in your compost pile, rest assured it’s for a very good reason.

The next time your kids are helping you turn the compost pile and they start making a fuss over the millipedes, try the following: Take a deep breath (this is always a good idea when emotions start to rise), comfort them, and then use the following information to help them foster a new love and appreciation for these adorable little compost bugs.

Before we introduce the line-up of the most common compost critters, it’s important we mention the following…the number of bugs you’ll see in a compost pile will vary depending on the composting technique you’re using. That is, the more passive your composting method (e.g. static composting), the more variety of critters you’ll tend to observe. Whereas the more active your composting method (e.g. dynamic composting), the less variety of bugs you’ll see.


Active composting generates a lot of heat during the initial breakdown phases and most bugs are not attracted to such conditions. On the other hand, since passive composting methods don’t tend to generate as much heat, bugs are more prone to be found in these systems. That is not to say, you’ll never find these bugs in an active compost system, you’ll just tend to see less of them…at least until the pile cools down.

On the topic of bug visibility, please note that most compost bugs will be found near the surface of your pile…with one slippery exception…worms.

The Most Common Compost Bugs


Sowbugs aka woodlouse, pillbug, roly-poly, potato bug





Click the image above to learn how composting worms make an ideal learning tool for teaching your kids about composting. Worm bins provide an indoor living example of a composting system. They’re great for schools, classrooms, and homes.

The Benefits of Compost Bugs

  • As these critters burrow throughout your compost, they not only aerate it, they also poop and that poop will eventually become wonderful fertilizer for your plants.
  • The poop from these bugs becomes food for the microbes (e.g. bacteria and fungi) in your compost pile, which in term stimulates the microbial population to grow, and the ingredients in your pile to break down more quickly.
  • These specific compost critters have the ability to break down larger ingredients in your compost. That’s why they’re sometimes referred to as “shredders”. This shredding of larger parts into smaller parts allows smaller organisms, such as the bacteria, to finish the process.
  • As in any food web, these bugs help keep all other organisms in check, especially any that may cause disease.

If you’re interested in learning an easy way to trap and examine the bugs in your compost pile, please download the free bug trapping guide that we’ve created for you and your children.

Have A Photo of a Compost Bug?

Do you have a photo of a compost bug that you’d like to share? Or maybe you would like us to help you identify a bug in your compost pile. If so, please send it in!

What Other Visitors Have Shared

Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page…

What kind of bug is this? 
Hi Compost Junkies! I have a small compost bin on my balcony. Since I started the bin about a month ago, I have seen these bugs running through the …

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