something (mold?) killed all my worms

psuddsJuly 8, 2013

I keep a Worm Factory(R) in my garage, which has been in constant use for over a year. I've had a couple of exoduses due to overheating (exothermic decomposition- too much green stuff) in the past and had to round up the survivors and wrangle them back into the bin. They were able to squirm pretty far away. This holocaust is different. The escaping worms didn't have the strength to crawl further than a foot from the bin before dying. I have a cascade of dried, dead worms running down the corners of the trays - and they made their escape, not from the TOP tray, but the next one down.

Yesterday, I looked at the working tray to see if there was room for another dose of scraps. It appeared rather dry, and I saw no worm activity, so I dug down a little to see if that was dry too. Just below the surface the compost was suffused with a light grey-blue powdery mold, and this also seemed rather dry. I liberally misted the working tray with water, and decided to allow the moisture to soak in for the rest of the day. When I looked at it this morning... Horror!

I've added nothing novel to my bin recently. Never any animal products, no cheeses, no citrus. I feed primarily coffee grounds (about a cup per day), vegetable trimmings (one or two meals worth per day), aging wheat grass (1 pint container per week, greens snipped up and roots and coir shredded), and rose blossoms (about 9-12 per week, mostly pulled apart into individual petals), with the occasional bundle of greens or herbs that were neglected in the fridge for too long and/or shredded newspaper.

The tray did not feel overly warm to the touch yesterday, nor does it today. This is the ninth day of the recent heat wave here in the west (northern California) and temperatures have actually been coming down the last three days, so I don't think it's environmental heat. Besides, if it was just heat, they'd have traveled some after their escape. These guys were dying AS they escaped. They didn't travel anywhere.

Are there molds that poison worms? Did I wash a poisonous mold down onto the worms avoiding it by hiding in the tray below? I have not yet disassembled the entire setup to see if ANY worms survived. I thought I'd get this question out there first.

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zzackey(8b GA)

I was told in a vermie class that they need to be kept moist. I spray mine with a mister every morning and usually more than that. It is so hot here now.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 7:15PM
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I started my worm farming with a WF 5 yrs, ago. Big expense and big mistake; I shoukd have done a DIY bin and spend the money on worms instead.
My experience with WF, it is just too small and very poor air circulation if you use it just the way the manual said. I never used the provided lid; used burlap instead covering the entire unit. I didn't nestled the trays the way they were supposed to. I used 2 tall pill bottles in the front corner. The height of the bottles are about 1/4" - 3/8" below the top rim of the tray. The front side of the next tray up sat on the pill bottles and the back was sitting on the ledge/lip of the tray below it. With the 3rd working tray, the front was sitting on the ledge and the back on the pill bottles etc, etc. This provided the needed air circulation.
OR, you could just put the trays angled, resting on the ledge instead of nestled into the one below it. I was aiming to have extra liquid to be on 1 side of the tray so the worms could be on wetter or dryer ground. I can tell you that I didn't get leachete since I did it this way. Before that, it's either too dry or leachete. Also, my thinking is, for air to circulate, there must be room for air in the first place. I kept the WF for only about 1 year and moved on to stackable RM bins and a FT.
BTW, how many lbs. of worms did you start with? Seems to me you are feeding too much. Did you notice the ammonia smell on the wheat grass? UCG takes longer to break down and generates a lot of heat. At feeding time, how much did you see of the previous feeding?
I have fed my worms many times molded stuff and I didn't notice anything that went wrong. White mold, blue mold, grey mold, long hair mold, compact mold, you name it. I even added molded oranges and it went fine.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 3:04AM
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