From: Pennsylvania IPM Program
Published September 20, 2004 01:22 PM

Composting Reduces Pest Populations

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA — A new and innovative composting technique reduces flies and other pest populations in commercial poultry production without spraying pesticides, Penn State researchers recently discovered.

During the experiment, Penn State Cooperative Extension Educators Gregory Martin and Clyde Meyers, along with Paul Patterson, associate professor of Poultry Science at Penn State, used a mixture of poultry manure and hardwood shavings to create natural compost. Conducted inside a chicken house, under standard operations, the compost was mechanically turned using a Compost Cat machine. "By feeding the compost through the Compost Cat belt composter every two to three days, we were able to raise the temperature to an average of over 125 degrees in some cases," says Martin. "The high temperatures killed the flies in the pupae stage, thus decreasing fly populations in a non-chemical way."

The experiment relies on the fact that in order for fly larvae to develop into pupae, and eventually into adult flies, conditions need to be slightly warm and dry. "Since fly pupae cannot move, they become 'prisoners' in the less than optimal environment of the compost pile," Martin explains.

This method of composting to reduce pest populations can serve as a component of a poultry producer's integrated pest management (IPM) program. IPM aims to manage pests — such as insects, diseases, weeds and animals — by combining physical, biological and chemical tactics that are safe, profitable and environmentally compatible.

According to Martin, this method should be integrated into a program that includes scouting for pests and using best management practices, such as keeping the chicken houses clean and dry. "This control method is actually cheaper than spraying pesticides or retrofitting a poultry house," says Martin. "And, to reduce the possibility of fly larvae migrating to other areas, we simply sweep up or air blow any pupae that fall out during the turning stage back into the pile."

According to Martin, creating the compost and turning it with a Compost Cat, rototiller or some other mechanical method not only will reduce fly populations, it will also reduce populations of other pests. "We've seen reductions in rodents in the poultry house, because we've essentially disturbed their nesting materials. Other insect pests, such as hide and darkling beetles, were also affected," he explains. Martin says that if pesticides are ever needed, they become more effective because fly resistance to the pesticide never has a chance to develop during the year.

The project was funded by a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Martin will be presenting his findings at the Joint Meeting of the American Dairy Association, American Society of Animal Science, and Poultry Science Association July 25-29 in St. Louis, Missouri. For more information on the composting project, contact Dr. Martin by email at For more information on fly control and animal IPM, call 1-800-PENN IPM and visit the 'Pest Problem Solver' at

The Pennsylvania IPM program is a collaboration between the Pennsylvania State University and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture aimed at promoting integrated pest management in both agricultural and nonagricultural situations. For more information, contact the program at (814) 865-2839, or Web site


For more information contact:

Kristie Auman-Bauer
Public Relations and Outreach Coordinator
PA IPM Program
(814) 865-2839

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