How to empty a compost bin full of spiders?
October 3, 2020 2:03 AM   Subscribe

Can you please help me work out how to empty a compost bin which is full of partially composted weeds and grass and a lot of dangerous spiders?

The compost bin is a large tumbling compost bin (like this). I put some grass and quite woody weeds into it and then it became too heavy to tumble. I found an alternative way of getting rid of my green waste, so it's been sitting there for two years or so.

I would like to empty it. The difficulties:
* It still won't tumble, so it's not possible to rotate it so that the opening ends up underneath
* The weeds and things which are in the compost bin are most likely quite compacted, so would most likely need to be pulled out
* It's very likely that the compost bin is heavily infested with spiders and other creatures, and since I live in Australia they are probably dangerous
* I would like to give the compost bin away to someone who can use it, so I'm not sure whether suggestions involving insect spray would be an option. But if you have ideas of how to use it and then ensure that the compost bin is safe to use, then please detail a plan

Thank you
posted by kinddieserzeit to Home & Garden (16 answers total)
Response by poster: Apologies for the heavy use of the words "compost bin"
posted by kinddieserzeit at 2:04 AM on October 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'm sorry I don't have a better answer than "with fire."
posted by k3ninho at 3:51 AM on October 3, 2020 [11 favorites]

Best answer: Bleach? Kills spiders, would probably repel any it didn't actually kill, degrades to plain salt water over time.
posted by Bardolph at 4:02 AM on October 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Fire is very tempting!

Bleach is a brilliant idea. Will definitely give that a go.

I feel awful about needing to kill the spiders, but we need to move the bin one way or another and can't risk being attacked :'(

Still interested in hearing other ideas if anyone has any.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 5:37 AM on October 3, 2020

Best answer: I use a shovel to empty my compost tumbler and shovel waste into wheelbarrow. This method would mean less handling of compost and doesn't rely on turning the bin.

But that may not be enough to address the spider problem.

Opening the bin lid and letting it dry out will change the bugs that find the environment tolerable. Leaving it open in the hot sun for several days will dry out and possibly cook anything living. If your spiders like to burrow in dry diet to avoid heat this won't work but making the bin very very wet might instead drown them out.
posted by countrymod at 5:45 AM on October 3, 2020

Best answer: First thing I'd try is sticking a long, stout pole into the fill hatch and seeing if I could use that to lever the bin around to wrench the hatch to the bottom. Spiders are going to attack the pole, not the operator on the other end of it. Any that get it together to suss out the connection between the two, you'll have time to see coming.
posted by flabdablet at 6:11 AM on October 3, 2020 [5 favorites]

Spiders are going to attack the pole, not the operator on the other end of it.

I have no expertise whatsoever about spiders except a layman's video-watching experience, but wouldn't they climb up the pole to bite?
posted by metabaroque at 6:53 AM on October 3, 2020

Best answer: Disbursing a handful or two of food grade diatomaceous earth in the container would eliminate the spiders without toxins.
posted by jcworth at 7:23 AM on October 3, 2020 [12 favorites]

-Expanding on flabdablet's suggestion, you could get a sheet of cardboard, cut a small round hole through it and stick the pole through that. It might not block the spiders 100%, but you could certainly see them coming as they would have to take a longer path around it. Could also put double sided tape or similar on the cardboard to catch spiders.

-I read that vinegar is very toxic to spiders and it seems a little less harsh than bleach.

-Get an assistant to help you spin the bin or just tip the whole thing over on its side.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 7:24 AM on October 3, 2020

wouldn't they climb up the pole to bite?

They'd be more likely to be climbing the pole to escape. And if it's a decent length, which it will need to be in order to shift a heavily lopsided compost tumbler that hasn't tumbled for years, I would expect to have plenty of time for the dropping and the jumping and the shrieking and fleeing.
posted by flabdablet at 7:27 AM on October 3, 2020 [11 favorites]

The subreddit r/compost is extremely active and a beacon of kindness and goodwill in the larger cesspool of Reddit, so you might post this question there as well. But also, I'm wondering if you might be able to get rid of this composter without emptying it? Free compost tumblers are pretty sought after, and anyone looking for a free compost tumbler is probably ok with some dirt and possible spider exposure.

Caveat: I do not live in Australia.
posted by deludingmyself at 7:53 AM on October 3, 2020

australian spiders...sound like a job for professional exterminators.
posted by j_curiouser at 10:39 AM on October 3, 2020

Best answer: Is it possible it gets too hot in there for spiders to live? Compost gets hot, though if yours is super heavy it might not be decomposing and might be cold, but that thing sitting in the Australian sun doesn't look like a friendly environment for anything. There are compost thermometers at garden centers if this interests you.

Although Australian spiders can probably walk through fires, stab you, and then go out for drinks.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:48 PM on October 3, 2020 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone. A lot of great ideas! I've marked a few answers as best answer, and probably could have marked even more that way.

Had a few good laughs imagining spiders running up a stick to attack me. It's quite accurate.

The bin has been under cover, so it's probably not that hot inside.

Unfortunately leaving it as is is not a great option, as the person interested in the bin is relatively new to composting and I don't want them to have a shit time.

At the moment I am considering using bleach, because this will hopefully take care of any spiders currently on the outside and inside of the bin, and hopefully deter any which are considering taking up residence.

Once we're confident that the spiders are mostly neutralised, we'll try using a shovel to get the contents out. Then we'll flush it out with water.

If there are any spiders left after all this, I'll take them to the pub for some beers to call a truce.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 6:33 PM on October 3, 2020 [6 favorites]

For heavens sakes! The people suggesting fire in Australia... I just don't know what to say to that...

Put a garden hose in there and turn on the water. fill up the bin. The rising water will drive the spiders out without killing them. After its soaked awhile push it over and use a tool with a long handle to pull out the weeds. The soaking will have (hopefully) softened them so they will be easier to remove.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 11:24 AM on October 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

Spiders absolutely hate mint. They head for the hills if you put peppermint oil on anything you don't want spiders near. If you want a less toxic alternative to bleach, you could get a bottle of peppermint essential oil from the chemist and pour it all over the compost. They will hightail it outta there

My bedroom seems to attract white tails, so I periodically put a few drops of peppermint oil on cotton balls and place them under my bed, and the white tails disappear
posted by Zaire at 10:52 PM on October 6, 2020

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