Can Dead Bugs Add Nutrients to Soil?


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Adding dead bugs and other micro-organisms to soil can have good benefits for the soil and plants that live in it. In some places dead bugs are common and you can make use of them by adding them to a potted plant or a compost.

Dead bugs directly add essential nutrients such as nitrogen into the soil when added. The nitrogen is used by plants to produce green healthy leaves for photosynthesis while the dead organisms provide an extra source of food for beneficial bacteria and fungi within the soil. 

Soil nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are important for plant growth. Having an extra input to the soil can enhance the amount of nutrients in the soil which is available for plants. 

You can add that extra free nutrient into the soil by simply incorporating dead bugs and other small organisms into the soil. However, having the right soil conditions is necessary to accomplish this which we will discuss further in this article.

What Nutrients can Dead Bugs Add to Soil and How?

Adding Dead Bugs to Soil

Dead bugs, although they are dead, they are still biological organisms. Biological organisms are made up of protein, water salts, and an array of different compounds that make them into what they are.

Decaying organisms such as bugs play an integral role in soil structure and the nutrients it contains. All fertile soil are filled with tiny bugs which also have a life cycle. They eventually die and also add to the nutrients in the soil just as a dead bug would.

The proteins found in dead bugs are no different from other micro-organisms and also adds to the nutrients found in soil such as nitrates, phosphates, and other vital nutrients available to plants

One of the more abundant nutrients that come from dead bugs is Nitrogen in the form of nitrates and ammonium

Ammonium is considered a “regenerated” source of nitrogen because of its positively charged nature (cation), it becomes attracted to other compounds and the nitrogen is released slowly into the soil. 

This is not so for nitrates, however, since they are negatively charged, often remain in solution, and can be easily leached out of the soil. 

It should be noted that Nitrates are the by-product of the nitrification process by which bacteria break down ammonium compounds.

Nitrogen comes from the synthesis or conversion of proteins in the soil. When you add dead bugs or any other organic material to the soil, it slowly starts the decaying process.

The decaying process is sped up by other biological organisms in the soil like fungi and thousands of microbes and bacteria.

Many of these bacteria are found in the upper portions of the soil called the Rhizosphere. And are responsible for the breakdown of dead leaves and other microbiological organisms to create humus.

These microorganisms such as nitrogen-fixing bacteria together with certain conditions (which we will discuss further) work together in transforming once-living organisms (dead Bugs) into useful nutrients for plants.

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What Bugs does Soil Contain?

Soil can contain different types of microorganisms (microbes) such as:

  • bacteria 
  • Fungi
  • protozoa 
  • nematodes 
  • micro arthropods

These microorganisms help break down organic compounds such as the other dead bugs in the soil and make nutrients available for plants to use.

Bugs that live in the soil also have a life cycle so they to will add nutrients to the soil when they die.

Think of soil internal structure as a terrarium and it constantly keeps regenerating itself. (once there is food for microorganisms)

How Does Nitrogen Benefit Plants – 

Plants absorb nitrogen from the soil by their roots in the form of ions. These nitrogen ions are usually Ammonium (NH₄⁺) and Nitrates (NO₃⁻ ).

Plants love nitrates because they are easier to synthesize.

Plants require large amounts of nitrogen and dead bugs can aid in adding the extra kick of nitrogen into the soil.

Nitrogen is used for the production of green healthy leaves. This is because it is a major component of chlorophyll, the compound by which plants use sunlight energy to produce sugars from water and carbon dioxide (photosynthesis).

Additionally, nitrogen promotes healthy and rapid plant growth and carries a plant to full maturity when readily available in the soil.

A nitrogen-deficient soil would produce plants with slow and stunted growth that may not reach it full size.

How Many Bugs Can you Add to Soil

The quantity of bugs that can be added to the soil depends on the quantity of soil. Once there is enough soil and microorganisms in the soil to break down the bugs into useful nutrients for the plants.

When adding bugs into the soil it is recommended that the bugs be fully incorporated into the soil by mixing and eventually covering them.

This is necessary because it makes it easy for fungi and other microorganisms within the soil to have easy access to the dead bugs and make quick work of the process.

The volume of bugs added should not be greater than ⅛ the quantity of soil to ensure that they are broken down and do not turn into a smelly rot pile.

Also, soil conditions are crucial when doing so because you would want to provide a thriving environment for the microbiological organisms to carry out the breaking down process.

Bugs can be added to potted plants in small amounts such that it can be totally cover and mixed in with the dirt. Additionally, they can also be incorporated into hot compost or vermicompost.

Once there are bacteria, fungi and microorganisms present in the soil that the bugs are being added to, they will be broken down into beneficial nutrients or fertilizer for plants.

Adding dead bugs or dead organisms to compost can add a great amount of nutrients to the compost soil very fast because of the quantity of bacteria and other organisms within the compost.

Know Your Soil Bugs

Soil Conditions to Decay Dead Organisms

Soil conditions that are necessary to promote dead organism decay are –

  • Moisture 
  • Oxygen
  • Acidity 
  • Temperature 
  • Soil Structure

These conditions provide the ideal conditions for smaller organisms to thrive. Earthworms and Bacteria, fungi and insects help break down crop residues and dead organisms by ingesting them and mixing them with the minerals in the soil.

Moisture – 

Higher levels of soil moisture promote higher biomass production.  Optimal microbial activity occurs at near “field capacity”, which is equivalent to 60-percent water-filled pore space (source).

Oxygen – 

Soil organisms need oxygen. The availability of oxygen promotes micro-organism activity as it provides them the energy required for breaking down and synthesizing the dead bugs and other organisms.

Acidity – 

The soil pH directly affects the decomposition process as pH extremes reduce biological activity.

High pH such as >8.0 (alkaline conditions) and Low pH such as <6.0 (acidic conditions) can kill microorganisms. 

Additionally, these pH extremes can also prevent the availability of nutrients for plants to use, therefore the acidity of the soil should be kept at a fairly neutral position. (pH of 7.0)

Temperature –

Studies have shown that higher temperature accelerates the decomposition process when it comes to bacteria and fungi. 

Most soil micro-organisms require temperatures between 10℃-35.6℃ for their activities (Davidson & Janssens 2006). Soil microbial activities decrease with low soil temperatures and at freezing point, most activities cease

Soil Structure – 

Soil structure with better aeration aids in micro-biological decomposition as it increases the amount of oxygen available for the process. Soils with higher water retention tend to reduce oxygen availability to organisms and will have lesser activity than well-aerated loose soils. 

Soil aeration can be also be increased by using perlite and vermiculite. check here to see the difference between the two and the benefits they add to soil structure.

dead bugs from insect trap

Where to Find Dead Bugs to Add to Soil?

Dead bugs and other flying and crawling insects can be readily found on the ground where there are bright lights at night. Usually in backyards and street lights. 

I have seen large quantities of black beetles attracted to fluorescent lights and for some reason, they fall dead on the ground at the base of the light source.

It’s easy pickings as you can just pick them up with your hands or with a scoop and add them directly into your compost or potted plants.

Dead bugs can also be obtained from insect traps and other insect devices. 

Apart from bugs, other dead organisms can also be added to the compost once they are small enough to be incorporated into the soil without exposure to the open atmosphere.

JayLea

JayLea has a passion for plants and has been gardening since 2015. He has valuable knowledge about gardening and houseplant care and can answer everyday practical questions that every plant owner has.

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