little white worms

deeee(northern calif)June 10, 2005

I have a very low tech worm bin system....4 oak wine barrels, sitting side by side, with plywood on top for covers under the shade of alder trees, the worms are, shall we say "natives"...mostly transplants from another compost pile I had going, and all the worms I could find under and in pots from around the yard. It's been working great for a few years, really more like 4 mini-compost piles than a "true worm bin". A few months ago, I emptied the barrels, saving some of the worms for re-seeding the barrels,(there were ZILLIONS OF WORMS) and then started rebuilding the barrels with leaves, horse manure, veggie scraps, etc. I work in restraunt, so I bring home veggie scraps,too. a few months ago, we had a refridgeration disaster at work, so all the salad bar salads had to be tossed, so I brought them home, thinking "good worm eats"....yes, i know I should'nt have, but I couldn't stand the wasted food...pasta salads, potatoe salad, bean salads, etc. long story short, it STUNK for a few weeks, but everythng broke down, but there are NO REGULAR WORMS in the barrels, only ZILLIONS of 1/2" long white wormy things. Not maggots. At first, i thought they were masses of baby worms, but it's been a few months and they havn't developed into anything else. I have continued to add veggie scraps, which continue to be eaten up. The compost looks ok, but what are these little white guys? Any ideas? i've searched the forums and only found maggots and white spots....

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fadoodle(z3 alaska)

Pot worms, perhaps? Here's a picture...

But I'm surprised you lost all your regular worms, if pot worms made it through; seems like there should have been cocoons that would have survived the temporary bad conditions. Perhaps they're just lurking in a cooler, gunky spot at the bottom? (that's where I can always find mine when they aren't happy)

    Bookmark   June 10, 2005 at 1:18PM
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squeeze(z8 BC)

might be a soldier fly larva? - you fried the worms because the material you added heated up like a hot compost, and gassed off much ammonia [the stink, especially from potatoes] - also the bad part of what you added was all the fats, and the concentrated grain starches - get more carbon material like shredded paper or leaves in there and 're-seed' w/ more worms and see if it doesn't all recover - should be quite a few cocoons left from the worms that packed it in


    Bookmark   June 11, 2005 at 12:01AM
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Kelly_Slocum(sw WA state)

The worms you're seeing in your bins are, as fadoodle suggest, most likely enchytraied worms, commonly called pot worms. Common to healthy worm bins, these tiny white annelids are frequently mistaken for baby red worms, but lack the slightly pinkish tinge found in the newly hatched of their more rosy-colored cousins.

After adding the salads with their high moisture and nitrogen levels to your bin the system became anaerobic, which is waht caused the foul odors. Anaerobic microorganisms produce sulfur gasses and alcohol, phenols and terpenes (and leachates with names like 'cadavarine' and 'putrecine'. Yummy!) all of which are toxic to worms at high concentrations. We often see loss of worm population when bins become strongly anaerobic.

Provided the foul odors are no longer present you can add worms back to the bin and begin again, taking care to manage moisture carefully. If you have a lot of high N/high moisture feedstock consider mixing it with leaves, sawdust, paper or other carbonaceous material before adding it to the bin, as Chuckie suggests. This will balance the carbon and nitrogen in the system while absorbing excess moisture and maintaining space for air movement.

Know that most vermicomposters experience at least one die- off, so you're in good company. I shudder to think of the number of worms that have died while under my management over the years! Experience is a wonderful teacher.

Kelly S

    Bookmark   June 11, 2005 at 3:35PM
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deeee(northern calif)

thank you...I beleive that's exactly what i have. I'm just glad i can use my compost and know i'm not adding something bad to my garden beds. There are a few "regular" worms in the barrels now. I knew as I was adding the salads that it was a mistake. Soon after, I started turning the piles frequently (holding my breath!) and added alot of leaves, garden waste, anything i could to dilute the salad mess. Actually, the compost looks pretty good now, maybe another month and i'll have 4 oak barrels of some good stuff...then I'll start over again.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2005 at 8:02PM
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ew ew ew! I dont know why, maybe because Id never seen them, but these REALLY grossed me out yesterday. Ive got a decent population of these in one of my bins now.

My fiances advisor is looking for worms to feed his fish, so it may be a good thing! theyre just so much stickier than my esinea, maybe thats the gross factor for me.

glad to learn theyre harmless. We have mice in the garage this winter, so I was hoping they werent some kinda nasty mouse-vectored evil!

Jerry over-fed the bins last time, big cloud of penicilinium and bread mold, but Ive got 3 fairly healthy garage-bins this winter. Maybe ill raid the chopped-leaf pile for some more bedding, it was warm earlier in the season.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 7:42AM
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Ewww, gross, ewww. Thanks so much for the links to pics! Otherwise I would not have known that those strange pods in my new worm bin are in fact, soldier fly larvae. I started a worm bin in my apartment almost two weeks ago and haven't had much trouble with it. I got the worms from someone on Freecycle and with it a few fruit flies, but managed to get rid of them right away. Last night I was poking around in the bin and found 3 or 4 of those pod/legless caterpillar/larvae things. I searched through the whole bin and took them out and froze them! Do you think I will find more? A lot more? How long do you think those things will pop up? I had put grapes in the bin and realized that was a bad mistake. They were too wet and they went moldy because my worms are still getting acclimated. I stopped I think I found them all and took them out, but now I'm a little freaked out. I saw someone mentioned potato peels and I have a bunch of those in there too. I haven't added waste in 3 days, just more browns to balance out the bin. My worms seem happy, and I did see my first springtail, but it seems such a delicate balance. My bin is VERY small. I used a bucket from cat litter, so it's about 3 gallons. I need to buy a 5 gallon bin so I have more room and a more horizon

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 4:06PM
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