Slugs in Compost Bins | Are They Good or Bad?

Slugs in your compost bin are good because they break down organic material. They will work together with the soil bacteria and worms to break down the decaying vegetable matter. Slugs can work in harmony with other creatures in your compost bin and can be a great food for a passing lizard. Too many slugs can be a problem so control them by adding more dry material and stirring the compost regularly.

Slugs and snails live in my compost bin and bury themselves under the surface around ½ an inch down. When the organic matter is moved you can see them hiding. They come out at night to feed and will hide back into the organic matter during the day to hide from birds and lizards.

Slugs are a welcome guest in your compost bin.

Slugs do not cause any harm to compost bins and actually help to speed up the break down process.

Why slugs are good for compost

Slugs and snails are will both break down organic matter in your compost. They usually bury themselves in the top layers of the compost bin eating the old plant materials. Keeping your compost bin on the ground will allow the slugs and snails to move into the bin.

Slugs lay eggs which become food for other creatures that help your compost to decompose. Slaters and beetles will visit to eat the eggs and break down organic matter on their way.

Here are the top reasons why slugs are good for compost and your garden

1. They help to break down material quicker

Slugs will feed on green material and brown, rotting material in your compost bin. They will help to break down food scraps, old fall leaves, hay, straw and old mulch. Sometimes slugs

Keeping slugs happy in your compost can also keep them away from your garden beds. If slugs have enough food in your compost bin this can keep them from venturing into your garden beds to eat your plants.

2. They work in harmony with the worms

Slugs will eat the decaying plant matter near the surface while worms will take care of the matter deeper down in the compost bin. Together they work to break down all levels of the compost over time.

If you turn your compost over regularly slugs can be accidentally dug further into the soil. Don’t worry, they will dig their way back to the surface if they weren’t damaged in the process of digging.

Slugs work in harmony with other insects to break down organic material in compost bins. Slugs do the same thing on forest floors to help to break down rotting material.

3. They provide food for lizards

Having slugs living in your compost bin can help to feed local lizards. If you have a large compost bin that lizards can find their way into, they will feed on the slugs and worms close to the surface. Lizards help to control the populations of flies and insects and will help to prevent any one species from becoming too large in numbers.

This will help to keep the insect and invertebrate balance for your compost bin. A healthy population of lizards and frogs are great for your garden and compost.

How to support slugs in your compost bin

Slugs like moist environments which is why you can find them in the surface of your mulch, on wet soil or around young seedlings that are watered often. They will feed on plant material but also love the moisture which keeps their skin moist.

How remove slugs from your compost bin

Slugs numbers can increase rapidly if there is an imbalance in your compost bin. If the bin is too moist, not turned frequently or contains too many green materials slug populations can increase. Here are my easy tips to keep your compost bin in balance and stop an overpopulation of slugs

1. Add more dry materials to your compost bin

Reduce the amount of moisture in your compost bin by adding more dry materials. Mix dry fall leaves, dry grass clippings, straw, hay or sugar cane mulch through your bin. Mix it through thoroughly to make sure the dry materials can absorb the moisture throughout the bin.

A dry environment will help to prevent slugs from reproducing too rapidly in your compost.

2. Mix the compost regularly

Mixing your compost ingredients regularly will help to control the slug population. Mixing the ingredients will mix their eggs to the lower layers of the pile where they are less likely to hatch.

3. Reduce the amount of green materials like food scraps and grass clippings

Reducing the amount of green material added to your compost bin will help to control the slug population. Green materials like food scraps, weeds, green lawn clippings and tree trimmings will add moisture to your compost bin making it a haven for slugs.

Reduce the amount of green materials added to your compost bin and add them to a worm bin instead. Worms will consume food scraps rapidly and they will not attract slugs.

4. Create a hot composting pile

A hot composting system operates at temperatures above the levels that slugs can tolerate. Temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit are common in hot composting systems where the organic matter is broken down anaerobically (without oxygen) rather than aerobically (with oxygen). The microbial activity increases the temperature of the compost making it too hot for slugs.

To create a hot composting pile a large amount of organic matter is added to a cage or pile an turned frequently. You will need at least 4 feet by 4 feet of material in one area with 1/3 green material to brown.

For more on hot composting, check out my previous article here: Why does a compost heap get hot? + the secret ingredient

5. Use a trowel and dig them out

A simple method to remove slugs in your compost is to dig them out with a trowel. Wear gardening gloves and carefully remove them. You can remove them with gloved hands as well but a trowel is easy. Slugs can be fed to chickens or ducks or squished under your boot.

Slugs in compost bins | Summary

Slugs are a cooperative member of a compost bin and will work together with worms, beetles, soil bacteria and snails to break down your organic matter. Slugs can help to create compost quicker and are a great snack for passing birds, frogs or lizards.

Leave slugs in your compost bin unless their numbers increase rapidly. If this happens mix through more dry materials and reduce the amount of green materials you are adding to reduce the moisture level.

Happy composting.