Getting rid of other critters

milocrabJune 6, 2011

Bad news. I opened my bin this morning, several small flies flew out, and then I spotted one white mite, and several bright orange springtails (which means there must be more under the bedding that I can't see). I tried so hard to keep my bin "clean"; by rinsing every single worm when they first arrive, then froze and then microwave all kitchen scraps before burying them in the bin. I thought if the freezing don't kill off these bugs, the microwaving part will...but I still got them now! I have no clue where they come from. I even baked the paper scraps that I put in there!!

Ok, back to topic. I intend to use the VC with my indoor plants that are in my bedroom. I would hate to have mites and stuff at close proximity to my bed. Is there any way to get rid of all the critters, especially the mites, before applying the finished VC to the plants?

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Yes, but it would defeat the purpose, since you would kill the beneficial microorganisms at the same time.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 1:39PM
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I tried to read as much as I could yesterday; seems like everyone just let it be as long as the numbers aren't out of control. There is one account that suggested freezing the finished compost for 7 days will kill off all visual organisms, but the beneficial micro-organisms will only go to sleep. Think I might give that a try as I REALLY REALLY hated mites.

About my bin, I saw a few more mites and springtails this morning; at least a dozen small flies flew out. And I think what I thought were baby wrigglers are actually pot worms, lots of pot worms. My bin is not too wet (very few leachate), and it doesn't smell at all. I feed them once a week, I never see leftovers when I dig in there, so I don't think I'm over-feeding. Anyways, I'm going to stop feeding this week and add more dry paper scraps and crushed egg shells and see if that helps.

Oh, forgot to mention that I dug out my historic microscope to look at some stuff in my bin yesterday. Just a little speck of the dirt contained hundreds of microscopic worms (pointed at both ends - pinworms?); and there are some unknown insect egg that are yellow and round. Kinda like earthworm eggs but 10 times smaller. I'd put some in a petry dish to see what they'll hatch out to be.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 8:56PM
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milocrab: I am glad you used the microscope to see what is really going on in the bin. Great fun, no?

When adding paper, I think the worms prefer the tastier egg carton or corrigated cardboard as opposed to white printer paper shredded. It seems to absorb the water and release it more evenly.

If you have some harvested vermicompost - fresh and damp or aged and thus dried out a bit - you can put a couple inch layer on top of your bin. That will slow down the fliers and give you a fresh surface to work with.

You also might enjoy dumping the whole bin over on to a table to see just what is going on inside there. I know I do. It is strangely facinating to see what is going on where in the bin.

If the flyers have migrated to the living room then open a bottle of your finest wine. One always lands in my glass between every sip. Cheep wine does not work. (humor)

The mites are working very hard to help make compost for you. They will die off when their job is done or something that eats them comes along.

It sounds like your bin has a healthy aray of critters working for you. Despite the sterile vermicompost bin, nature found a way.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 5:41PM
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wonderpets(7 TN)

After washing your worms and all, where did their original bedding come from? Did you seed the bin with compost from somewhere else?

I'm wondering if the other creatures, especially the springtails, didn't hitchhick in on something else, like leaves and such from outside.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 12:24AM
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Yeah I think keeping everything out but worms is a lost cause. Only thing I've managed (five months and counting, touch wood) is keeping fruit flies and fungus gnats out. But that's with a Worm Inn which seals much more tightly than a bin does. That's probably with a bit of overfeeding also, so I'm extra happy it allows me to get away with a bit more.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 5:57PM
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Hi everyone! I spent the past few days trying to convince myself that it is okay to have mites and stuff in the VC that I'm going to use in my houseplants. I picked out several brown mites and pot worms yesterday, and left them in a clear plastic cup. The pot worms died as soon as they dried up; and the mites clung to the speck of VC like they can't set foot on the plastic. Well, when they did, they had trouble moving on the smooth surface and overturn very easily. I went back and look at the mites about 12 hours later, and they were all dead. So this is good, now I know they can't infest the house. I'll test the spring tails too when I can catch a few; I got one yesterday, but it bounced away before I could put it in the cup.

I think these critters came with the worms; I might not have rinsed them well enough. Perhaps a few got through and they multiplied to a number to be visible now (I started my bin in April). OR, I was thinking if it is possible for the worms to have eaten mite or springtail eggs, then pooped them out in the new bedding...?

p.s. I think those microscopic worms that I saw are beneficial nematodes, they prey on mites and springtails but will not harm the red worms...if I have not mistaken them for something else.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 8:53PM
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I just went to fluff up the bedding, the bottom layer was getting a bit compacted and slightly smelled like sulfur when fluffed; just very slightly. So I guess my bin is starting to get anaerobic.

I managed to capture 3 springtails and put them in a plastic cup. I didn't realise they were that delicate! Like the mites, they had trouble moving around on smooth surface, and all 3 of them died within one hour, dried and shrank to an orange dot.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2011 at 11:50PM
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plumiebear(z9? CA)

Have you checked what organisms are currently in your house plant soil? That's before you add the VC.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 2:04PM
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Yeah, springtails basically desiccate instantly once in drier air. Unless you live in the tropics with no aircon, they aren't going to take over the house.

You do realize even with all the live animals gone, you'll still have the issue of eggs in the VC. And for these types of fragile animals the usual is very tough and long lasting eggs in order to last past dry spells once all the parents are dead. Usually how they sneek into the bin in the first place.

So don't be suprised if you see them pop up again once water is added.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 3:35PM
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Andrew, I haven't put them in my house plant yet. I started my bin in April and thought its about time to harvest; then those isolated creatures emerged out of nowhere. Its like clean and nothing in one week, then we have mites, springtails, flies all at once in the next week.

I understand once I have them, they'll be there forever. But as long as I can confirm that they can't live outside of wet soil and infest my house, I can accept their presence and use them in my bedroom plants. I won't even bother with freezing the VC now.

I manually killed about a dozen flies the past 2 days (tried the beer trap and it didn't work), and the numbers are down now - at least I don't have any that fly straight to my face when I open the bin.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2011 at 8:43PM
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plumiebear(z9? CA)

I was just wondering what types of critters normally live in potting soil. I assume that there are at least bacteria usually found in healthy soil. I just didn't know if any of the larger critters are also there. You initially seemed to be concerned about mites from the VC. Are there any mites in your potting soil NOW, before you've added any VC?


    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 2:17PM
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If they are fruit flys purchase a very nice bottle of wine (the fruit flys do not really care but the people do :-) with the bit left at the bottom of the bottle or the bottom of the glasses (leave them a sip) add a drop of dish soap and slosh it around. If this starts to evaporate add water. Put this in a glass or back into the bottle. Put the glass so that the rim is the highest item around, like at the top of a pilar. Fruit flys will gather at the rim of the glass. Every once in a while one will get curious or thirsty and the second it touches the liquid start swimming. Soon they sink. Hold the glass to the light to see the fallen. Combined this method with curtain type material over the bin so escape into the house is not so easy. Victory is assured.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 6:30PM
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Ok equinoxequinox, I'll give that a try. I was being cheap and bought beer to lure the flies, but apparantly they will prefer wine over beer...LOL.

Andrew, I was just a bit worried about using VC that has mites and springtails in it. Now that I know they can't live long if they leave their moist environment, I don't have to worry about using them indoor. To be honest, I only have a cactus plant at the moment, no critters in the soil (which is usually very dry). The reason I started a vermicompost bin is because I wanted to grow some organic salad greens along my bedroom window (the only place in my apartment that has a bit of sunlight). It was a concern for me at first because these veges that I plan to start will be very close to my bed. I would hate to have mites and springtails on my bed. Now I'm relieved that it won't happen. So all is good now. :-D

    Bookmark   June 12, 2011 at 9:37PM
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