Tiny white bugs in my bin

iamtryingApril 29, 2009

I've noticed an increasing number of tiny, tiny white insects in my worm bin. Are these mites? They don't seem to be hurting anything. Am I wrong?

Also, about six weeks ago, I had a huge number of tiny flies (fruit flies?) swarming around the bin. I think this may have been the result of overfeeding (I communicate love with food). I added a lot of damp shredded newspaper and cardboard and stopped feeding for about a month. The number of flies decreased quite a bit, but there are still some present. I've stopped feeding my little buddies fruit and veggie scraps and are only giving them coffee grounds, thinking that maybe the flies don't like coffee as much as leftover salad. Does anyone out there have any advice for me?

I've been reading in the GW forums for quite some time now, and I'm excited to finally be joining in the discussion!

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sbryce_gw

The tiny white bugs could be mites or springtails.

To avoid fruit flies, you can freeze your food scraps before you feed them to your worms. That will kill fruit fly eggs.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 1:34AM
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folly_grows(10 SF by the Bay)

When you have an overfed/overwet condition -- indicated by mites, potworms, fungus gnats, glop, etc. -- add DRY shreds or cardboard. You want to balance the moisture, not stretch it out. The bin can tolerate much drier conditions (and less food) than you may think. You can also try leaving off the top to dry out the bin. After feeding, I often remove the lid to my outdoor WF, then replace it as night approaches.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 11:31AM
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iamtrying

Thanks, folly and sbryce, for the responses. The mites are definitely hanging out in the wetter areas of the bin. I built a big flow-through bin from the reclaimed boards of old pallets and dumped the contents of the worms' rubbermaid home into it last December. The new system is much dryer than the old one, but perhaps still too wet. I have been adding water whenever the top layer of paper starts to dry out.

I'm running out of patience waiting for my worm population to increase. Any tips on accelerating baby worm production? Is there a worm aphrodisiac?

    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 10:35PM
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beth_monsterworms(9 SF East Bay)

Hi. It sounds like your bin is out of balance. Getting it back in balance is the best red worm aphrodisiac there is! 1. You need to get your bin drier. Turn it every few days and add DRY shredded newspaper. Leave the cover off. Put the cover back on at night or put a light over the top to keep the worms in. 2. Stop feeding coffee grounds for awhile. Coffee grounds make the bin acidic. 3. Get some calcium carbonate and sprinkle (not much) it into the castings/bedding material when you turn it. This will help to neutralize the bin. We buy crushed oyster shells at a local feed store. You can also save your egg shells, dry them, then grind them up and sprinkle them in. 4. Bury the food. We use opposite corners when we feed. This way the worms can move away from it if they don't like it. We never have to add water to our bins. As the food breaks down, it releases a lot of moisture. All we do is keep moistened burlap on the top to keep the top dry. You could use an old cotton T-shirt. 5. To control fruit flies, we use apple cider vinegar with a little liquid dish soap in a cup or bowl or whatever. The flies are attracted to the sweet vinegar. They fly into the liquid and can't get out because of the dish soap. Hope this helps and wasn't too much info!!!!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 1:43AM
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folly_grows(10 SF by the Bay)

["The new system is much dryer than the old one, but perhaps still too wet. I have been adding water whenever the top layer of paper starts to dry out."]

To really know the moisture level of your bin, pull back the top bedding. You may be surprised how damp things actually are in there. Remember that the top bedding acts as a wick to absorb and dissipate the moisture.

["I'm running out of patience waiting for my worm population to increase. Any tips on accelerating baby worm production? Is there a worm aphrodisiac?"]

Ah yes, we've all been there. Time and good bin conditions are the only tried & true ways to increase the population. However, a lot of people here have success with sprinkling oatmeal over the bin. Do a search for "oatmeal" to get more info. Lkittle has some good experience with this method.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 12:16PM
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sbryce_gw

I think I read on one of the forums that feeding manure will cause the worms to reproduce faster. In any case, in a few months the worm population will explode if the bin conditions are right.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 1:11PM
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folly_grows(10 SF by the Bay)

And why are you adding water if you think that the bin is too wet? The worms can tolerate much drier conditions than most us provide. Remember: "damp as a wrung out sponge" not "wet as a soggy glop."

Since the flow-through is relatively new, it is probably still trying to get in balance. It is much deeper than your original bin, and there are many more levels through which the worms and moisture can settle. Vermiculture takes time. Envision paint drying and heed the wormers mantra: "Moderation. Diversity. Patience."

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 1:13PM
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beth_monsterworms(9 SF East Bay)

Quick note on using manure. Make sure that the animal has not been recently given a de-worming medication. If that is present in the manure, it could kill your worms. Also, make sure to age it first. Otherwise it could heat up and kill the worms.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 2:11PM
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briansttt(5)

I have a question. If coffee grounds are ph neutral or very close to ph neutral then how do they make the bin acidic?

http://faq.gardenweb.com/faq/lists/soil/2002015354019975.html

    Bookmark   May 2, 2009 at 4:58PM
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mndtrp

Because most people are generally confused when it comes to coffee grounds and their lack of acidic qualities.

People would have far less problems if they would stop adding water to their bins after the initial setup. If you are adding food, the moisture will be enough.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2009 at 1:56PM
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steamyb(7)

WEMG Chap. 12 Page 62 Mites

    Bookmark   May 5, 2009 at 8:46PM
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iamtrying

Thanks to everyone for all the great info! I'll try turning the bin every few days (except for the bottom four inches, and carefully so all the stuff doesn't fall out the bottom since it's a flow through bin), stop feeding except for a few ground egg shells, and add shredded dry cardboard. The vinegar fly trap also sounds like a good idea. In a couple weeks (or whenever I start feeding again) I'll freeze the food first, allow it to thaw then bury it in alternating corners of the bin. No more water added, only a couple damp t-shirts laid on top. I'm embarrassed to admit that I have never read Worms Eat My Garbage. I guess I'll go to amazon and purchase a copy (used, if there's anyone willing to sell it!).

Also I think I'll start a new smaller bin. I'd like to start with a more ideal environment and see what happens. I do alot of sheetrock work, so I have access to tons of empty 5 gal sheetrock compound buckets. I'll drill a bunch of holes in the bottom of one (for bedding and worms) and set it down in one w/o holes (to catch the drippings). For bedding I could use some of the composted manure I got from the landscaping supply place for my garden(or should I use the manure from my neighbor's barn, cleaned out last fall?) and some damp shredded card board (What is a good manure/cardboard ratio? or would the peat moss purchased for the garden be better?) I'll select a few hundred lucky volunteers from my from my old bin to populate this worm Utopia. When the bedding is processed I could set a new bucket with holes in the bottom on top of the first one and allow the worms to migrate up, allowing enough time for any cocoons to hatch so the babies can migrate too. I have lids for the buckets, and a dark corner in the basement in which to store it. What do you think? Will it work? What are the weaknesses in this plan?

Sorry this is so long. Maybe I'll make that last paragraph a new topic.

Thanks to all.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 12:01AM
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mndtrp

I never picked up Worms Eat My Garbage, either. I didn't see the point with all of the information here.

Is your bin outside, or in the garage? If so, don't worry about all the freezing process. You'll get mites and flies occasionally, and then they'll go away. It is a good idea to hold off on feeding, and suck up the extra moisture with bedding.

I simply throw my food in the bin as I come across it. If it looks like I'm starting to get an excess of food, I toss in some bedding. Mites come and go, fruit flies occasionally show up. Food gets broken down, poop comes out the bottom, and worms multiply.

Work smarter, not harder.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 1:31AM
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beth_monsterworms(9 SF East Bay)

iamtrying......I think you've got it all figured out. I LOVE the 5 gal. bucket idea. I am really interested in getting a follow up to that one. How big are you planning on making the holes? My only concern would be adequate ventilation. As for the manure...definitely go with the FREE composted stuff. I don't want to start a peat moss war here, but we're opposed to using that. Why not just get some free newspapers from your local coffee shop?
Beth

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 1:58AM
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briansttt(5)

I wouldn't use peat moss as it is acidic. Might still work but I wouldn't take the chance. I'd use something free other wise it you really want to buy something that is really good and that they love as bedding get some choir (ground up coconut husk) if you can find it at your local pet store or organic garden center. Other wise I love the idea, keep us posted on how it works out. I just put up my new green house and am looking for something to try in that.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2009 at 9:17AM
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