If you look at a sample of active compost under a microscope you will see a host of micro-organisms working diligently to break down organic matter. In fact, it’s these micro-organisms that do the majority of the work in the decomposition process.
But if you look at that same sample of compost with the naked eye you might see some of the physical decomposers that chew, bite, grind, crush, and tear organic matter into smaller pieces. This category of decomposers would include mites, beetles, slugs, ants, worms and millipedes among others. They certainly get work done.
There is a very active ecosystem that exists in the compost pile and active worm bin. And there is a hierarchy. Each participant performs a specific function. In fact, as in any ecosystem, there are predators and prey.
To get a full view of the role that insects play in the composting process, it’s important to look at all levels of the hierarchy that insects occupy. Cornell University’s Center for the Environment has created an impressive guide to insects in the compost process that is anything but fancy. However, it is loaded with information and provides a much more detailed account of the role that insects play in the composting process than we could provide.
The Cornell guide includes images and renderings of many of the insects that can be found in the composting process and it categorizes each by the position they hold in the hierarchy. You can review the guide here: http://compost.css.cornell.edu/invertebrates.html