white bugs

bostonguyMay 12, 2009

After adding some melon rinds, I've noticed a proliferation of white bugs and some of the worms seem sluggish. Which seems like the bin has become too wet and I'll be adding dry shredded newspaper to it and also leaving the top off for the day. I already threw away some avocado shell that had a lot of these white bugs and added some crushed eggshells at the top. [I have a wooden bin which I keep indoors, stack system, three stacks with the bottom one holding the worms and food.]

Here are two pic:

pic 1:

pic 2 (a little blurry):

Any other recommendations? I have been keeping worm food frozen since I had that issue of anaerobic food a while ago.


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folly_grows(10 SF by the Bay)

Say hello to white mites.
You are now in for the long haul. The bin is way too wet. Melon is often used to bait them for removal.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 12:50PM
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I'm curious - do people not throw melon rinds in their worm bin other than to get rid of white mites? I didn't notice any white mites in the bin before I threw in some melon. Looks like they really love fruits like melon.

I *despise* these white mites with a passion - they have been responsible for much worm loss from my bin in the past. Not this time though. I will post again if there are any developments.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 2:10PM
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The good thing is that at least these white mites are mostly immobile, unlike its red/brown cousins which run around like crazy.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2009 at 2:13PM
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I'm not sure I understand the problem.

1) The only time your bin is too wet is if it's able to leak heavily. Otherwise, it's not. Worms thrive in wet conditions. They also breed heavier in those conditions. They need the water to produce the cocoon. Not to mention the fact that they need the water to breathe and will compensate for dryer conditions by excreting the water in their bodies. It's better to avoid that. Use nature as a guide. More worms are found active in the wetter areas of cool compost or manure. Not the "spongy" areas with just enough moisture for bacteria to thrive.
2) The white mites are good. They help break down the food and they do it fast. If your goal is to raise worms, then you won't want the worms competing for food. If your goal is composting, then you have no problem with mites.
3) One thing the mites can indicate is too low of a pH for optimum worm activity. Try adding lime. It's good mineral for the worms to use for grinding and it increases pH. It's cheap. One $4 bag could last you years in a single home composting system.

I raise worms and compost with them. I use two different processes and expect two different environments since they are completely different goals. Using worm raising techniques and advice for a compost bin will not optimize your composting any more than using composting techniques will optimize your worm fattening and reproduction. In other words, you just need to decide if your goal is vermicompost or vermiculture to determine if white mites are really a problem.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2009 at 2:19PM
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Thanks for your detailed comment. The "problem" is that I have twice lost worms from my bin (mass exodus) following a proliferation of white mites. And both times, the few remaining worms in the bin were sluggish, seemed like they had "melted" in some places, and had these same white mites all over their bodies. So, I don't want to repeat that - simple as that - and try to keep my worms alive and healthy, by removing white mites if they seem to threaten the worm population, and by keeping the conditions in the bin such that the white mite population is controlled and doesn't take over the bin. I thought that was clear from my previous comments in the post, but I apologize if it wasn't.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 9:20AM
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folly_grows(10 SF by the Bay)

Yes, a small amount of melon rind is a favorite worm treat. However, when you added it to your bin, it might have been just a little too much and threw the moisture level off balance. Remove the remaining melon, add more dry materials and check the ventilation holes.

To get rid of the mites, some of the members here have tried removing the lid altogether and replacing it with burlap (aids in airflow). Others have rinsed the worms and started all over (jasdip). And still others hit the mites with a propane torch. (yikes!)

I keep my WF on the dry side and rarely see mites. However, I have a gazillion springtails that used to creep me out. (sigh) But I now just accept that they will be there as long as there is something to eat in the bin.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 11:09AM
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I understood. I was just trying to let you know that white mites aren't responsible for your worms dying and are not a problem unless your goal is breeding and fattening worms. They were just acting opportunistically. They don't tend to eat live worms. They will munch on dead ones, though. There is another mite that will harm worms, but those in the picture are white or mold mites. If you continue to focus on white mites, you will continue to miss the cause of your problem. The solution to your real problem might make the environment less hospitable to mites and get rid of them, but that doesn't make the mites your problem. Example: If you use the lime to increase pH because your bin is too acid it will also drive the mites out for a bit. The acidity is the problem in that hypothetical circumstance. If you assume it is the mites and use a piece of bread or melon to lure them, this won't fix the real problem. Getting rid of mites doesn't fix acidity, but fixing acidity might get rid of mites. If you ignore the real cause of the problem you are less likely to fix it.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 2:37PM
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folly_grows, thanks. I did remove the one melon rind and
the rest of it is now gone - consumed by worms and mites.
I've been checking the bin over the past couple of days
and it seems like the white mite population is under
control for now.

joe.jr317, I already added a heaping tablespoon-full of
powdered egg shells and if the situation worsens, I will
get some lime as you suggested.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2009 at 4:37PM
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