Centipedes and other bugs - what do I do?

funkez(z6 NY)November 21, 2010

So I had a successful year of vermicomposting, thanks in good part to what I learned from all of you, lurking on this forum. However, after adopting a friend's dying worms this summer, my efforts have gone seriously down hill.

First, my two bins (modified rubbermaids punched with holes and, stupidly, screening whose tape has been coming off) started to host an insane number of mites around the wetter parts in the bins and clusters of odd, elongated brown bugs (about a centimeter long) on the outside/top of the bins. The material in the bins is somehow uneven in moisture - very wet where the food was rotting and bone dry bedding (mostly newspaper). Have been seeing fewer and fewer worms. Then, finally, I started seeing centipedes in and around the bins.

A few weeks ago, I patched up all the holes with tape and screening, but centipedes still run out from under the bins when I come by for feedings and agitate them.

Aside from the "what do I do" question, I'm also wondering when I should give up from a moral perspective. Is it cruel to keep feeding the few worms I have left if they're just going to be eaten by centipedes? Would starving them actually help make the other bugs go away? Should I just dump them in my yard (Zone 6) and hope for the best?


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"However, after adopting a friend's dying worms this summer"- Did you combine the friend's dying worms with your healthy worms?
Fluff to equalize moisture in the bin.
Stop feeding and just add bedding if still too moist.
Kill any centipede that you see.
Morals are personal choices.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 7:29AM
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funkez(z6 NY)

I didn't mix the worms - I just have two bins now, side by side. I'm assuming my original worms got the bugs when I had both bins open and was feeding, or agitating with the same wooden spoon.

If I stop feeding, will the mites and weird long bugs die faster than the worms? The centipedes will still be attracted to the bins if there's no food in them as long as there are worms there, right?

Thanks for your response!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 9:54AM
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No problem- glad to help.
I just re-read in Rodale's 'Organic Garden Basics', that if you have a sick plant and ask someone whatâÂÂs wrong with it- the first thing they do is grab a leaf to look at it. Then they walk around your garden spreading whatever is wrong with the sick plant to the rest of your garden. Remember- separate totes=separate tools. This would especially apply to a âÂÂknownâ sick worm bin. âÂÂNuff Said.
Mites only indicate a wet bin and are not a problem so forget about them. They are part of the soil web that breaks down material into compost. They are âÂÂgood guysâ and every RM tote I have ever seen has them so donâÂÂt beat yourself up over them. Any other bug you see is a âÂÂgood guyâ with a job to do.
Except those centipedes- they eat worms, which adds nitrogen to the soil which is a good thing, but we are raising worms and donâÂÂt want them in the box. Kill all centipedes, and frogs (toss them) and garter snakes (toss them, too). These have a job but they eat worms, so we donâÂÂt like them around.
Add bedding- this will starve other critters but not the worms. Worms can live on just paper. Remember worms have survived for a long time on leaf litter (paper) and manure (the dead bodies of all the bugs). Wurmz iz e-z!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 7:36PM
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funkez(z6 NY)

Thanks so much, SteamyB! For future reference, I'll be more vigilant about quarantining. Meanwhile, I'll add more bedding and probably circle the bins with boric acid to discourage the centipedes. I won't throw the worms out with the bathwater!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 9:40PM
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Also, stressed worms have sex and that means lots of babies. So even with no worms in the tote, treat it like you have some,'cause you do. They just real tiny still!

    Bookmark   November 22, 2010 at 9:52PM
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I also have red mites in my 2 bins and I do not like them. With one of the bins, I fully harvested it and put the VC in the garden. On the rest of the unfinished mateials, (cardboard and food), I microwaved it all and nuked as many mites as I could. I put it all back together and put the worms back with new food and new bedding. I doubt this really got rid of all of them and I'm sure they'll be back, but it did make a huge difference.

On the other bin, last night I pulled out pieces of pumpkin that had many mites and nuked those pieces, kill those mites. I plan to keep up that practice just to keep the mite population in check.

I know that the mites are not a true problem, but I simply don't want to raise mites and they do compete for the food. I did read one post or article that actually said the mites attacked the worms. I'm not so sure about that, but if there are enough mites on the food, the worms tend to stay away from tht food.

Some of the mites survived even after 1 minute on high in the microwave. I was amazed. I had put the pumpkin on a white paper plate and after a minute, there were still a few moving.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2010 at 11:58AM
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Well, I guess those tiny white guys are springtails all right. When I said that I had billions that was an understatement. There are at least a billion floating in the bucket that I store the leachate in. They seem perfectly happy there. Is there any known way to kill them without harming the worms or should I just tolerate them? They don't seem to be harming the worms.

Dave Nelson

    Bookmark   November 26, 2010 at 4:19PM
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I somehow got a bunch of small fly larvae in one of my bins. This was a bin that had mostly kitchen waste and was pretty wet. I could not have have the flay maggots in the house so I removed the worms and dumped the contents into one of my outside bins.

I ignore the other little critters. I have also found alot of dead mites on top of my 'casting' bucket. Seems they crawl to the top and die.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2010 at 5:49PM
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I think I used to have springtails when I first started. They seemed to like damp egg carton and line up on it in patterns. They did not seem to bother anything but me. Then the bin got these black walking things with wings but don't seem to fly that walk two stuck together tail to tail with one walking backwards. Those did not bother me at all. I wonder if they eat springtails because every single springtail like thing disapeared and I have not been able to find a single other one for over a year. I sort of miss them. Mites seem to be there in tiny numbers. Fruit flys in tiny numbers. If fruit flys are seed I feel I should increase the covering of the bed with new bedding and a layer of once through the flow through material. I wish I could mail these funny black bugs to people with springtails to see if they handle the problem.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2010 at 1:16AM
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