White mites and coffee grinds

thedogsLL(6B)March 11, 2013

My worm factory 360 is, overall, doing well, but I have a question that I haven't been able to find an answer to. After reading many posts, here and on other forums, about how much worms love used coffee grounds, I tried adding some to my bin. We drink most of one pot a day, using 4 coffee scoops for each pot. They sit all day in the filter, although I don't use a paper filter. I have one I empty and rinse out at night when I make coffee for the next morning. The worms did indeed love it, congregating under the grounds in huge numbers.

However, after about a week of adding one filter per day, I had a massive explosion of mites. There were so many that they were coming out of the air holes in the lid, so many that the top edges of the bin looked frosted. I turned the lid so it stayed open all day last Sunday, and by late afternoon the mites showed signs of drying up. At least, they were smaller and not "swimming" in damp. So during the daytime, for several days, I left the lid tilted so moisture could evaporate. Saturday (day before yesterday) I checked the worms, and I still have plenty squirming just about everywhere, so all is well again.

I know that my bin got too wet. My question is, is it better to let the UCG sit somewhere for however long it takes for them to dry out? I've never seen this addressed anywhere, but what I have seen is people who have access to a much larger quantity than what I was using and no mention of the bin getting too wet. What is the difference? When Dunkin or Starbucks gives UCG to someone, is it drier? I can't logically accept that dry coffee grounds would be attractive in any way to wigglers, so where is the compromise?

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I sometimes use big (20-30lbs) bags of UCG from a local coffee house. I have a few big wormbeds outside and add whole bags at a time and spread it about 1" thick, fiters and all. I have not noticed mites.

Once UCG dries out, it is difficult to re-hydrate. Use it wet and cover with lots of bedding.

Good luck, Pete

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 9:49PM
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Hmm, I think maybe I went too light on the bedding. I actually had tiny pools of water on the edges of the trays that first day. Opening the lid during the day for a couple of days fixed all that. I'll try again, and keep the bedding bag handy. Thanks, Pete!


    Bookmark   March 12, 2013 at 6:13PM
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I am going to take a chance and throw my two cents in.
I have a newly set-up worm facory 360 as well so I am naturally interested in what you have going on with yours.
From what I understand the mites are not a direct threat to the worms they do compete for the food and if your bin is inside I can see why you would not want them in there. I read an article that over feeding could be a cause as well as excess moisture.
If you are adding a filter and grounds per day it seems to me it could be a little much.
It is also possible too that the water you are seeing is condensation as apposed to the bedding being too wet. If the bedding itself should be slightly warmer than the ambient temperature and that would cause this.
Another thought is in the instruction guide it mentions using dry bedding in an unused tray placed above the working tray to slow them down. They were talking about white flies but maybe it would help in your situation.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 12:54PM
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Petrock, I'm taking a chance and adding mine, too. Some of my problem is not knowing forum etiquette, having started at it at a ripe old age and no one around to offer any help. I am thinking I sometimes put others "off" unintentionally, or maybe I just don't ask the right questions, who knows? I'm not too old to learn, but still need a bit of time to figure it out.

Your points are all good, and I thank you for the input, all and any of which I appreciate, from anyone.

The bin is not only inside, but in my kitchen over in a corner, and I get a kick out of people not even knowing it's there if I don't tell them.

I wasn't concerned about the worms, really, and yes, it was condensation, but a really LOT of it, and for the first time since it was set up in late October, I had a puddle in the bottom. I keep a somewhat thick layer of newspaper over the bedding in the top tray, and it was not only very damp, it was solidly covered with mites. Again, I wasn't concerned about the worms, but wanted to know what had the bin out of balance. I am working really hard at learning how NOT to succumb to new worm bin syndrome!

I'm at the six month point, and want it to keep going as well as it has been.
You are correct that it was too much to add a filter full a day (not the paper remember? reusable basket), but more because I was just dumping it in and not making sure I was covering it with bedding than because of the amount of UCG, which Bob made clear. It went straight from a closed drip coffee maker, and was full of water. It was room temp, having sat all day, but still not the best way to add them.

Overfeeding isn't the problem, or at least I don't think it is. I started slow and just added more as the herd multiplied. I think I started with either 1000 or 1 lb of worms in one tray, don't really remember, but it wasn't many compared to the bedding the instructions told me to add. Now I have worms in, it seems, pretty much every square inch of the middle tray, still some but not many in the bottom tray full of castings, and an increasing number in the top tray, where I feed and added the UCG. I don't add food if there is anything recognizable left over.

I run about a week ahead, with worm food going in a bag in the freezer for a week, then being left in a wire strainer in the sink for half a day or so, getting stirred now and then, before being added to the bin. When I take a bag out of the freezer, I start another one for the next week. It used to go through my blender, but that got to be a lot of trouble, so now I just chop it small when I'm all done cutting and prepping for eats the next week for me and hubby, and toss it in the bag. The bag starts out skinny and is fatter by the end of the week. I try to use common sense how much of it to add without overfeeding. As in, how much did they eat of the last batch?

I don't know where you got your worm factory from, and I don't even presume to know enough to make recommendations, but I do feel okay giving a suggestion. Toss the directions that came with the factory and listen to what you get here. I realize that this might label me as a lurker, but I've read every single post made in the last however long, and some others, and there is a wealth of knowledge and experience here that I really wish I had found before I spent as much $$ as I did. I am not saying the worm factory is bad and mine is doing well, but I know now I could have done (and will do in the future) better for less. I do believe it's called live and learn. :)

I'm sorry. I just reread this and it really sounds like preaching, doesn't it? I don't mean it that way. I just started saying what I thought and it's what came out. I hope I didn't offend anyone.


    Bookmark   March 13, 2013 at 8:09PM
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I dont think you was preaching. You are obviously further along with your composter than I am with mine. I mostly was just repeating something I read about the mites and flies. It may have jinxed me cause now I got them too.
Good luck to you

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 8:41PM
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:) Thank you. I guess everyone else did. Or, I just didn't say anything that prompted a response. Like I said, I'm brand new at forums.

Oh no! Mine are gone. I credit lots of bedding and leaving the lid open during the day for reducing them. Hope that'll help you.


    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 6:19PM
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The extra bedding I think is right. I believe Eqinox is one of the ones that has posted that as a key in several posts.
I have followed that suggestion as well. That would be one thing that in theory you could not go wrong with. Thus far I am enjoying this, much as a child might. Again best of luck with your farm. I want to continue with an update on my worm factory 360 as well as my garden worm bin that I started. TC Bill

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 9:45PM
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I built my own worm factory type thing and just looked up the 360 and noticed the spout at the bottom. i would drain that more often and also i use burlap to cover my scraps . I feel the burlap will let it breath better than layers of paper.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 9:17AM
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Well, I would, but there's nothing to drain. When I first set up the bin, I believed all the hype from the website I bought it from about collecting "all that good juice," and was concerned that there wasn't enough liquid to drain. Then I found this forum and redwormcomposting.com, and I have learned better. And until the mites exploded, I never had more than just damp on the bottom sides.

What you say about the burlap makes perfect sense, and if I come across a reasonable amount of it for low price, I might pick up some. But one thing I learned from equinox is that buying material to make worm poop is kind of, well, weird. At least I think it was Equinox. I've read and learned so much here, that it's hard to separate who said what. :)

For now, opening the lid during the day is doing the trick. It's back to just barely damp, and the worms are munching and squirming.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 5:50PM
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Burlap is an excellent wormbed topper It is easy and helps keep down the flying critters. It takes several months for the worms to consume it. I get free coffee bean sacks at a local coffee company. The worms love them.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 6:16PM
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Tractor Supply
Quest Burlap Bag
SKU 6807646
20 in. x 30 in.
$1.19 each

Figure it probably opens up to a piece of cloth 40 by 30. If your bin is a 5 gallon bucket and you cut 10 inch by 10 inch squares you will have 12 covers. You may want to double or tripple then in which case you will have 4 to 6 covers, a two year's supply? for less than a cup of coffee.

Some posters report the eggs build right up in the burlap.

If it works great for you then search out a free source.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 3:09AM
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    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 5:43PM
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You guys are so awesome...

You make me feel so guilty cause I don't work nearly that hard at my worm bin.

I've had my 360 since last April and I keep it in the kitchen. I wash my fruits and vegis cause I don't want to introduce pesticides but that is it. I don't freeze them, I don't bother with chopping them up much. I just throw the scraps in the bin without even thinking about it.

Some times I'll go 2 to 3 weeks without feeding them and sometimes I'll drop in several pounds (whenever I do it seems to be followed by an explosion in population).

My brother has been juicing, doing a cleanse or something like that, he gives me all his pulp and they just adore that.

Other than that, my process is...

1. I leave the tap on the bottom open ALL the time. never close it. Have a container underneath to capture anything that drip. If there is dripping I know I have too much moisture.

2. I only actively use the bottom three trays. The top tray I keep full of DRY bedding (Mostly shredded newspaper).

3. When it comes time to harvest I wet the bedding add some food and move the tray down.

4. I move the bottom tray to the top take the lid off and shine big old halogen lights at it for a day or two stirring it occasionally. That dries the castings out a little and drives the worms down into the lower tray.

4. When the castings have been vacated, like I said usually after only a day or two of light shining on them. I gather them up into a bucket, and fill the top tray with dry bedding again then put the lid back on.

I do get some mites, but nothing so thick as you have described. I truly believe the dry bedding on top helps a lot with my worm bin. If the bin gets to wet, it absorbs some of the moisture. But it insulates the the bin and helps keep it from getting to dry. It also acts as an effective barrier to other critters moving in and when the time comes, all I have to do is wet it, add some food, and move it down.

I LOVE my worms. But the reason I love them, is because I can ignore them and they don't seem to care. They actually seem to prefer it that way. What better pet can there be.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2013 at 7:16PM
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