Okay, now I am worrying too much!

hilomark(z5 NY)July 28, 2009

Hi all!

I am embarking on my first adventure in vermicomposting and am assembling a simple homemade 2-bin system out of small (10 gal.) rubbermaid containers. The directions I have say to drill 1/4" holes in the bottoms of the bins for drainage and so, eventually, the worms can move from the bottom bin to the top bin when the bottom bin is full.

My question involves the rough plastic edges left on the inside of the bin from drilling the holes. Will these rough edges bother/hurt the worms as they move between bins or if they happen to be on the bottom of the container? Have any of you encountered the drilled holes having leftover sharp plastic, and how have you dealt with it?

I know I am worrying too much, but I want to be a good worm steward with my first batch of worms! Any advice will be greatly appreciated!


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You could take some sandpaper and "soften" up around each of the holes.

I am sure even if you did nothing the worms would find a way. When I made my stacking bins I started with a 1/4" bit but I was too lazy to drill lots of little holes so I got a larger drill bit. Made the job lots easier and I don't think the worms care. When I do pull the bins apart I usually notice most of the worms in the holes around the edges of the bin no matter what size.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 12:23AM
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hilomark(z5 NY)

Mr. Ed, thanks for the reply! After posting last night, I took the drill and drilled the holes that had been drilled from the other side, i.e., from the inside of the bin. I kept drilling any holes that had rough plastic around the edges, and this seemed to smooth them out.


    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 10:51AM
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Sounds like that will work. I am sure your worms will appreciate the extra effort you put in.

Good Luck with the worm farming!

Mr Ed

    Bookmark   July 29, 2009 at 10:11PM
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I setup three OSCR JR bins using the same 10 gallon rubbermaid totes and drilled all of the appropriate holes. The first one I took care that all of the holes were smooth but the other two I got lazy and just left them how they were. So far, all three bins seem to be happy and doing fine. I try not to mix the worms from bin to bin because I don't want them talking amongst themselves about how much nicer the other bin is. I'm afraid they will leave the other two.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 2:46PM
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I've had bins with 1/4" holes and 1/2" holes and I found the 1/4" holes got plugged up fairly easily, preventing air flow (their main purpose). Just be sure to check them and clear any debris in them occ. My 1/2" holes don't seem to get clogged.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 3:31PM
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When I made my Rubbermaids, I drilled bottom and lid together so when asembled the holes will line up. I used a 3/8 drill bit but by the time I de-burred the edges (w. the back of a utility knife, stuck in the hole and twist it along the drilled edge) the holes became like 1/2". Length-wise I spaced it 1" and the short-way I spaced 1/2". However, I did them in a shifted pattern so the holes are not too close to one another. At first I did the holes 1/4" using a glue gun because I didn't want the burrs all over the place but found 1/4" rather small and redid them. I have 2 Rubbermaids (stacked) working with a catch tray at the bottom. I don't get leachate.

The newspaper lining is starting to break down and some casting is falling to the lower bin but still no leachate which I think is good. Although when I pushed the bedding aside and checked the bottom of the bin, the VC is more on the wet side, sticking together, difficult to fluff.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2009 at 10:01PM
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"The newspaper lining is starting to break down and some casting is falling to the lower bin but still no leachate which I think is good. Although when I pushed the bedding aside and checked the bottom of the bin, the VC is more on the wet side, sticking together, difficult to fluff"

Otis, that's great that you don't have any leachate. You will find that a lot of worms hang out at the bottom, where the vc is often wetter and denser than the rest of the bin.
It all dries out nicely after harvesting.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 11:26AM
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Hi Sherry,
no leachate but I noticed if I put leaf veggie (prev. frozen) in the bin, the maggots are in there feasting. I cannot distinguish between BSFL and house fly larve (I can at the pupae stage) but I know I have them both because there are also house flies coming out of my Rubbermaid when I open the cover in the morning. Maybe my BSF population is not large enough to keep the house flies away. Again I do not want BSF to take over my bin, or any fly for that matter. It is just like weed taking over your flower beds.

I do have lots of mites (brown) and always find several spoonful of dead mites in the catch bin/day. I try to control it with egg shells but I don't see much difference at this point. Since yesterday I also found whitish/creamy dead mites there. Maybe because of the egg shells? I hope so.
I do not dare withold moisture from the bin because we are having a heat spell here. I have sprayed the top bedding w. water.

What I am wondering about is why my worms never congregate like I have seen on so many pictures, worms around the food. Maybe the mites keep them down below. I have trouble finding the food grade DE. All I can find is the ant repellend which is about 95% DE. I have read that I should get the food grade of DE (not the one for the pool filter). Don't know where to find it over here. The nurseries are not the right place.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 4:36PM
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I got my DE off the internet for a bed bug infestation a few years ago and have a few lbs left over if you want me to send you some. I will say that I spent months putting DE on the tops of my worm factory trays and I don't think it ever really helped get rid of the mite population in my bin. The mites collect on the moist rotting matter and the DE doesn't work once it is wet. I have never heard of egg shells helping to kill mites but since mite populations tend to explode in acidic conditions then the eggshells may help balance the ph which would slow down the mites population.

After battling them for months I just stopped feeding my bin completely for a full month. I only added pre-soaked wrung out shredded newspaper through the month. After a few weeks I noticed there were a lot more worms on the surface and the visible mite population had fallen drastically.

Overtime I learned to live with the mites and now I only have a mite population explosion after I feed a large amount of food all at once. If I do that I just don't feed that bin for a week or two and add lots of bedding. I have given up trying to rid myself of them as I think it is impossible.

Even if I started over with a new bin it would be a matter of a few months before a rouge mite found his way in and invited the family. Don't forget that the mites you see on the surface of your bin are a small percentage of the total population in your bin. Removing some of the mites without removing their food source just encourages them to breed more.

Good luck,

Mr Ed

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 8:27PM
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Mites have a very short life span, 7 to 11 days. But lay loads of eggs. If conditions for hatching isn't right the eggs will sit in the bin not hatching until the conditions are right. Even in the best bins there is always a few little spots that are just right for some eggs to hatch.

When you overfeed/over water the mite eggs will all hatch at about the same time, in 1 to 2 days. Stop feeding and take steps to control the excess moisture and the mites will slowly die of old age. But not before laying new eggs for the next population boom. Adding egg shells changes the PH just enough that the conditions are not right for such large mass hatchings quite so as often.

On a few sites lately i have been noticing people recommending washing the worms and moving them to a new mite free bin. I believe washing worms to get rid of mites is a wasted effort.

Mite eggs are very tiny. I seen a photo of one on a worm cocoon. In the photo the worm cocoon was the size of a orange and the mite egg stuck to it was pinhead sized. There is just no way to wash well enough to be rid of all the mite eggs. My thought at the time was that the baby mites would be small enough to hitch a ride on a dust mote. I have no idea if they would or could for that matter but that was the thought.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 12:22AM
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Thank you for your input Mr Ed & fosteem.
I have read that mites flourish in too wet AND too acidic condition so the egg shells are more for balancing the ph.
Thank you for your offer Mr. ed. There is one more place I haven't check, the store for hydroponic supplies. I am trying to get it locally first because the shipping cost is the killer.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 12:00PM
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Are red spider mites in worm boxes and worm bins the same as the red spider mites that drive gardeners crazy sucking the life out of their plants? If these are the same creature, then the vermi-compost will have the eggs in it and I won't be able to sell to these gardeners. Any attempt to pasteurize this VC to kill red spider mite eggs will also destroy all other living organisms in the VC turning it into lifeless worm manure.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2009 at 10:58AM
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The red mites in a worm bin are different then spider mites. They are from the same family but eat drastically different things. Spider mites suck the sap from a living plant while red mites eat decaying organic matter.

If spider mites are a problem I have found that Diatomaceous earth works great.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 1:05AM
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Thanks mr ed. I just get kind of freaked out when I see those red mites increasing at the same rate as the deficit. I have dusted with limestone after tossing that box, but the red mites thrive. At least the EFs and the BSFLs donÂt seem to mind sharing the box with the red mites.
Anyone need a starter on red mites? Just add water and everything is like rose colored glasses (except it kinda moves like trippinÂ).

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 9:37PM
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Are you removing the mites with melon rinds or bread?
Put some rinds in the bin, when it's covered with mites, wash them off and put the rind back in.
They'll also flock on a slice of bread as well. Just throw the bread out and put more in.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2009 at 7:26AM
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In this 4Â X 3Â X 2Â box there are a gazillion mites. There is not enough melon or bread in NC to bribe, lure or entice these stupid mites out of that box. Sometimes I stare at the surface of the compost because it looks like something alive. It moves with a sparkly, shimmery reddish tint that is like performance art. Just under the surface, the BSFLs and the EFs are busily doing their thing. This activity causes the surface to ripple and pulse. And the mites are always on the move in a chaotic traffic jam of microscopic proportions. Why do they travel, what could they hope to gain in a box of crap? Is there some positional advantage to be achieved? These are not just surface dwellers. If I turn over material in any place in the box, there are mites. Each individual mite is different from the bazillion other mites, but all are the same. All these mites are randomly careening around without a clue where they are or where they are going. These guys live here. A megabagazillion mites, several hundred of BSFLs and about 10 lbs of EFs apparently get along well enough to share a box in the garage. I add cardboard, cow manure and table scraps and I pay the light bill. I also get to watch this other world sometimes.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2009 at 9:56PM
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steamyb, is that your entertainment, lol.

I even have mites under my Rubbermaid covering the holes that are intended for airflow, attaching themselves to the newspaper liner. And in the bottom bin, the leachete bin, there are megazillions of their dead comrades and it smells like horn substance down there. I wonder if their bodies contain calcium. Anybody knows?

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 12:40AM
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Wow Steamy! I stress over my mites, you have really come to terms of acceptance (or not) over yours!!! Mites, BSFL and worms! You can rid the whole county of food scraps!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 1:54PM
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I created a group at http://vermicomposters.ning.com/group/redmiteraisers for those of us that have mites. This is a message I sent to the group:
Just a note to thank you folks for joining the Red Mite Raisers Group!
We obviously realize that we are doing a great job of caring for our worms and are mature enough to realize that those stupid mites are not our fault. Not everyone can face this truth but WE of the Red Mite Raisers Group can and do! I applaud you my fellow Red Mite Raisers and hopefully our group can be a beacon of understanding and guidance to those with worms and mites (we know they have them).
Join us.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2009 at 5:02PM
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Thank you for the information. We're a grade 5/6 class who have just started vermicomposting. We have an infestation of redmites and are planning to do the watermelon idea. How many do we need to get rid of? Do they bite? How long will it take to control the population? When we take the lid off the compost the mites crawl out and cover the table and floor
from: worried class

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 12:13PM
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a.kent -- 5/6 grade "vermi-newbies". Welcome to vermicomposting. More fun! May I suggest a video on the red worm composting blog. He takes you through the various bin 'critters'. Also acknowledges that these though these critters CAN be [not MUST be]a part of the composting picture, they are often the reason why people get discourage or creep'd out and quit. Hope that helps. Another idea I saw was to use a 'red light'[even flashlight with red paper over light] to observe the worms in a dark room. The red light spectrum doesn't repel the worms and you can watch them do their composting thing.

Here is a link that might be useful: Good bugs in a worm bin

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 5:15PM
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antoniab(5 WofChicago,IL)

The mites don't bite.
You may have lots because it is very wet in there, or too much food, or the PH is acidic. You can try letting it dry a little.
I have heard of people burning off the mites off the top layer with a torch. If the bin is very wet the contents is fine. Maybe not a great project for your class. :D
I would try the melon route.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 7:28PM
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