Is there anything in this list you wouldn't feed your worms?

sbryce_gwApril 8, 2010

My worm die-off continues, but more slowly now. I still don't know what is causing the problem. There are three things that were happening about the time I first noticed the worms dying.

1) I had just stopped spraying what is supposed to be a non-harmful bug spray to get rid of fungus gnats.

2) I started feeding Starbucks coffee grounds.

3) I started feeding some power bars I had left over from an attempted long-distance hike.

I have a lot of these power bars that are way past their pull date, so I ground them up and started feeding them to the worms. Is there anything in the ingredient list that might be bad for the worms?


bee pollen




grape juice


lemon extract

Malted corn and barley

nonfat milk




sesame seeds

soy flour

soy oil

sunflower seeds


wheat bran

wheat germ

For the time being, I have stopped feeding the coffee and power bars, and I no longer spray. If I come up short on the kitchen scraps, there are a couple of nearby stables where I can grab some manure.

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I know nothing about plastic worm bins, but all the items on your list I would feed to my worms. I would NOT spray bug spray in my bin. Maybe cover the bin with burlap or cotton to keep the gnats in check. Hope things get better. Pete

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 9:42PM
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The gnats are gone. I tried covering one bin with cotton cut out of an old T-shirt. I had worms crawling on top of the fabric, then drying out.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 10:16PM
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The power bars probably had some preservatives and junk in them. Trust big corporations with your health?

Best suggestion right now would be to stop feeding, make sure the bin is moist and not too hot and let it be for a while. Neglect is often a very useful component.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 10:45PM
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What I posted was the entire ingredient list. No preservatives.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 10:50PM
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I'll toss out a bunch of ideas.
They may all be wrong but sometimes ideas create other ideas.

I have had your worm bin on my mind so I am glad you posted an update. All of your practices seem excellent thus the worms dying interested me. If it could happen in your worm bin it could happen in mine.

China had baby milk that was bad because melamine was put into it to boost the protein content. It killed babies and pets. So with supplies of all foodstuffs being distributed worldwide the protein bars could be the culprits. I don't think so.

A non-harmful bug spray would probably contain citrus. The specific part of citrus that has us not adds tons and tons of citrus to our worm bins. Normal household citrus should be fine. Even if the bug spray contained 100% citrus I don't think you could of possibly sprayed enough to hurt a large bin of worms even if you sprayed it directly on the top of the bin.

My prime suspects are something fermenting and alchahol or ethers or some chemical being formed by processes in the bin.

My super prime suspect is believe it or not the horse manure. I do not think it was a dewormer. Even if there was dewormer I do not think that was it. I think it was not really the manure but a batch with a large amount of urine soaked into the manure and the bedding. Urine turns into ammonia. Was the bedding maybe changed to pine shavings or saw dust?

So I think it was something like that and not enough oxygen or more specifically to much carbon dioxide.

So I do not think it is anything you did wrong. Manure is said to be safe.

Also on this board I think someone posted they put a few worms into a bin of 100% old rabbit manure. The worms shortly exhibited the string of pearls. I was surprised everybody did not jump on that post. Do you think the rabbit manure had urine in it? Because rabbit manure is so benign I'm surprised somebody somewhere is not bottling it as a beauty product or health tonic.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 11:34PM
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In another thread I posted the active ingredients in the bug spray. One of the active ingredients has a very short half-life. The other is more persistent. It is possible that there could still be some residual chemical in the bedding. Very little was sprayed near the bins. I didn't notice worms dying until after I stopped using it. It could be the culprit, but the timing is all wrong. I have three bins, but one of them is affected more than the other two. If it was the bug spray, I would expect the two bins that I had while I was spraying to both be affected equally.

As for something fermenting, the most likely culprit would be the energy bars.

I don't feed horse manure often. Most of the manure I have fed to my worms has been picked up off of the ground on a bike path. There would be no urine. The latest batch I fed the worms (after I noticed them dying) came from a pile of well aged manure that would have plenty of time for any urine to leach out of it.

It was manure that brought in the flies.

As for rabbit droppings, rabbits are usually kept in cages above the ground, and their droppings are allowed to fall to the ground below the cage. Rabbits kept this way urinate directly on their droppings. I have heard of people keeping worms in bins under their rabbit cages, but I wouldn't feed worms rabbit droppings unless they had been rinsed.

    Bookmark   April 8, 2010 at 11:59PM
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I agree with all you have posted.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 1:54AM
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I'm at a loss for the cause for your die off. Unless it was from dewormer in horse manure. The manure was fresh if you picked it off a bike path and the horse might have just been de-wormed. Another horse might not have been as recently received a dose so you gave one bin more dewormer than the other. (If you fed your bins from several piles.)

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 10:08AM
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pjames might be on to something. I have collected manure from different piles. I always do a test of the manure before I feed it to the worms, but I only do one test, then assume the whole batch is good, even if the manure may have come from different horses..

OTOH, the die off seems to continue until long after I have fed horse manure.

There is no clear consensus on whether dewormer is actually harmful to the worms. That is something I might experiment with when I have a healthy worm population. I would like to get a definitive answer on the dewormer question. I was reading an article yesterday (I can't find it now) that says that dewormer is 95% broken down in the horse's system, and degrades completely with exposure to sunlight.

If the problem is dewormer, that would explain why I am only having a partial die off.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 11:37AM
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Why not get a few small containers eg ice cream buckets, scoop some manure into one, some power bars into another and then add 10 worms to each and see how they go over a few days? Possibly also put 10 worms into another container with a small amount of fresh bedding and food as a control group.

My thoughts are that if it was dewormer at work, they would have all died off pretty quickly - that's the point of a dewormer.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 1:43PM
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Thinking about it, I seem to remember that some dewormers for animals simply 'stun' the worms or at least make them let go and then pass out of the animal's digestive tract. That is one of the reasons that dewormers have to be re-applied at regular intervals. Ivermectin is the dewormer (or was) for horse when I used to have some. it may not effect an earthworm in the slightest. It certainly is worth an experiment.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2010 at 10:23PM
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So I hit google and just read a couple of studies of the effect of Ivermectin etc on decomposition of cow pats. One of the studies concentrated on earthworm activity.

Both studies found no difference.;_userid=10&md5=395e9ef9bd72b1be09161aa5431f9d60

However I found one study that said fung fauna and dung degradtion was reduced.

If the same holds for horse manure, then it's looking good for worms.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2010 at 11:29PM
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As a rule I havent given my worms any citrus especially orange. But Im making an exception to see what happens. The exception is grapefruit rinds. I put 1/2 in one bin and the other 1/2 in another bin. If I see in a few days something going wrong or they are ignoring it I will remove it but I will keep vigil on it.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 12:41PM
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Hummersteve, my guys love grapefruit rinds.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 10:08PM
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jasdip--- Thats good to know maybe mine will like it.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2014 at 11:04PM
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As a followup on the grapefruit rinds , they are attacking it with vigor.

"Hey Mikey he likes it"

    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 2:10PM
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Well, I wouldn't feed walnuts, pecans, or almonds. Not that they're detrimental to the wormies, but I'd eat them all before I could put em into the bins.

Likewise, I wouldn't feed them lasagna, pork chops, pulled pork, scalloped potatoes, home-made cornbread, my wife's pepperoni pizza or key lime pie.


    Bookmark   April 7, 2014 at 6:49PM
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