Winter Composting Tips to Preserve Beneficial Insects

Protect & preserve your local beneficial insect population with these simple winter composting tips…

Composting isn’t just great for your garden; did you know that it can also provide a safe haven for beneficial insects? When cold winter winds blow, many of these insects seek shelter under rocks, mulch, or other debris. Many studies have found that insect populations throughout the globe are in decline, but you can help by offering them a place to hide. These winter composting tips will help give your local insect population a warm, safe shelter to wait out the winter months.

Not only will you be preserving your local ecosystem, but keeping these bugs around can help improve your compost quality and next year’s garden as well. For example, did you know that field crickets can eat more than 200 weed seeds per day – while also enhancing your soil with their droppings? Here’s more from

Crickets do their best work on the soil’s surface under the protection of weeds and grasses, but adapt quite readily to a loose pile of garden debris stacked over a garden bed. I like to make a cricket condo from my expired sweet corn and its attendant weeds, which are often holding way too many seeds. As the pulled plants dry, they shed seeds that fall through the crevices to the crickets and other seed scavengers waiting below. Pieces of hollow sunflower stalk are great for a cricket condo refuse pile, too, because critters can hide inside them. Should you want to make sure your local crickets get the message that their condo is ready, place some old bread at the bottom of the pile along with torn pieces of cardboard. They will love their new digs.

An outdoor compost pile is also a wonderful place for all sorts of beetles, bugs, and other insects to hide out in over the winter. For example, this chart from Cornell University lists more than a dozen different invertebrates likely to inhabit a compost pile in a temperate climate. You may not see these insects out and about during the winter, but they’re still there, and once spring arrives, they’ll be back in your garden, working for you! That is, as long as they can find a place to survive the winter. As this article explains:

…Cold winter weather slows their activity to a halt, but what happens to them then? Wingless life forms don’t have the means to wander far, so they snug down into the soil or find shelter under rocks, logs, or composters.

Preserving insect habitat in the composting area means not digging or moving things about too much during the coldest months, when most composting creatures alter their internal chemistry by producing natural antifreeze chemicals to keep them safe in the cold. Some species even empty their guts before going into diapause (hibernation) to further limit damage from ice crystals. When the soil warms in spring, they magically come back to life, eager to get to work.




Rose S.

An avid gardener since childhood, I love sharing my passion for gardening with others! I have gardened in a number of different climates and settings, from large fenced garden plots, to tiny patio and container gardens, and I firmly believe that everyone can learn to grow at least some of their own food - no matter where you live. Growing your own food can help you take control of your own health and food supply, and there has never been a better time to get started!

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