Wood shavings

sk290December 15, 2009

I just got my bareroot fruit trees this week and the roots came packaged with wood chips for protection during shipping. I added a couple of hand full in the bin on top of the food when I fed them today. Is that okay? I thought it would make good bedding...

Also, I have been really careful not to overfeed my bin because of bug infestation I hear about all the time. However, with all the rain we got last week the bin is a bit too wet and all of the sudden I have tons of tiny little flies around. I think they are fruit flies even though I freeze all my food before feeding it to the worms. Have you guys been affected by the rains as such? I'm hoping that it'll work itself out once it gets a little drier...


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Actually, wood chips make good bedding if mixed with something else. It will help keep the bed from compacting and also help dry out some of that excess moisture. Your bed may benefit from some extra microbes, though.

Here is a link that might be useful: Microbes for composting wood

    Bookmark   December 16, 2009 at 4:42PM
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plumiebear(z9? CA)

Sandra, what's been working fairly well for me is 3-5" of dry-ish top bedding (initially dry, but quickly soaks up moisture) and a damp t-shirt on top of that. The shirt has to cover the bin wall-to-wall. No food freezing needed. Only see the occasional fly.

Here's something more detailed. Kelly says the bedding is useless, so maybe it's just the damp t-shirt? Or maybe it makes a difference that I'm using leaves instead of shredded paper?

Posted by Kelly_Slocum on Mon, Dec 12, 05
Newbie, fruit fly and fungus gnats in a worm bin, for the most part, enter the system as tiny eggs and larvae attached to the peels of uncooked fruits and veggies. We INTRODUCE them to the bin each time we feed. The dark, damp bin environment rich in fungi and decaying vegetation is an ideal breeding ground for these flies, thus their populations can quickly explode to impressive and annoying numbers. Burying the bin contents under mounds of paper, a control method widely touted on internet forums, has little or no impact as adult flies can easily crawl up through the spaces in paper shreds, or simply rest beneath layers of paper sheets until they are lifted, and the fly larvae appreciate the moisture-holding, light-inhibiting paper layers as much as do the worms. As it appears you've discovered on your own, paper layers have little impact on small fly populations. Fruit fly traps set in the bin, another commonly suggested control measure, are essentially useless as the bin itself is, by definition, a massive fruit fly food source, leaving little incentive for adult fly numbers sufficient to decrease the total population to enter the trap.

The best way to control fruit flies and fungus gnats begins with prevention.

Again, these small fly species enter the (indoor) bin as eggs and larvae on the peels of uncooked fruits and veggies. Pre-treating feedstock before feeding it to the system by either microwaving until it bubbles and pops (you may need to stir then re-microwave once or twice, dependant on your microwave, to ensure all of the feedstock gets sufficiently hot), or freezing solid for three days kills the eggs and larvae, preventing fly populations from being introduced to indoor bins and establishing communities.

If the bin becomes infested with fruit flies and/or fungus gnats they can be controlled by initiating pretreatment methods to stop the introduction of new populations in conjunction with the application of beneficial nematodes. These nematodes feed on the fly larvae, interupting the reproductive cycle in the bin, and usually take about 10 days to bring the fly population under control. Keep in mind during this control period that any fruit of veggie left on a counter top, and any damp sponge or dishrag, unclean sink drain, or laundry hamper full of damp towels can become a fruit fly breeding site, so try to avoid making these sites available.

Nematode control is quite effective, but is not a quick fix and MUST be performed in conjunction with pretreatment of feedstock and control of ancilary fly breeding sites. Further, nematodes are a cure, not a means of prevention. Once the flies are brought under control the nematode numbers typically decline in response until their numbers disappear entirely. These microscopic worms cannot be effectively cultured in a worm bin indefinitely unless the system is continually innoculated with fruit flies, which, of course, sort of defeats the purpose of introducing the nematodes in the first place...

Pyrethrin is a safe, organic insecticide that can be sprayed in the worm bin to control flies. It, too, should be used in conjunction with pretreatment of feedstock, and discontinued once the flies are brought under control (long term use has not been studied in worm bins and there is some concern over negative impact to some of the beneficial insects associated with a healthy worm system).

Prevention is the key to controlling fruit flies and fungus gnats in indoor systems. In outdoor bins, however, where the passing fruit fly or gnat can and does smell the wonderful bin environment, efforts at controlling them is essentially useless, and, in fact, is non-beneficial. Fruit fly larvae are voracious decomposers that aid the system in processing organic waste materials while posing no threat to you, your pets or your garden plants. Indoors they are a nuisance, landing in your coffee and merlot, but outdoors, they are another beneficial bin resident that can be allowed to flourish in the bin as nature intended.

So, to recap; pretreat feedstocks prior to feeding indoor bins by either microwaving until bubbly and hot, or freezing for roughly three days; use beneficial nematodes or pyrethrin to control fruit fly infestations.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2009 at 2:13AM
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    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 2:46PM
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