Worm Farming Pests: Friend or Foe?


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Worm farming pests do get in on occasions, so I put together a small list that you may want to refer to from time to time. After reading this page it should come to no surprise.

However, you will have questions when you see just what wormed its way into the bin causing vermiculture problems.

They may be friend, they may be foe, 
So here's a list just so you'll know.

ATTENTION!
Many of these bugs in the worm bin can also be controlled using
Diatomaceous Earth Learn how to apply this in the worm bin.


Friends (the annoying ones)

Spider mites (Brown and white)
It's not entirely uncommon to find some kind of mite in the bin. These worm farming pests are also the Creator's clean up crew. Any time a bin becomes too acidic it can have an over population of mites, mainly the brown or white spider mite.

These guys aren't necessarily a problem as much as they are a nuisance. In some cases they can bring balance to your system. When worms become sick or start dying, they will consume them but leave the healthy ones alone.

However, if the mites become too populated, they may start to choke out the worms and the worms may look for new residence. There's a popular way among worm farmers to get rid of these little pests.

They seem to love cantaloupe and watermelon. Place the rinds on top of the compost (after you have enjoyed the fruit of course). Leave it over night and the next day you will have mites covering the rind from top to bottom. Wash the mites off over the sink. Keep repeating the process until you are satisfied with the results. When you're done leave the rinds in for your worms to enjoy.

**Side Note**
You may have some baby worms on the rinds. It might be considered a sacrifice to release these into your garden for the population control of the bugs in the worm farm instead of rinsing the rinds.

Here's a demonstration on removing mites.


Fruit Flies

Not a friend, neither an ally, just plane annoying. They stay in your house for what seems like weeks-on-end. I currently don't know of any silver bullet for this pest except time. Here is a common method for ending the cycle of nature on these worm farming pests mainly in your house.

See the detailed How To Get Rid of Fruit Flies page.

Solution:
Fill a small bowl with apple cider vinegar, wrap it with plastic wrap and punch a couple of small holes in the middle about the size of a toothpick.  They will fly into the hole and eventually drown. They are attracted to the acid in the vinegar.

This is probably what attracted them to the bin in the first place. Remember to add the food in small layers to avoid rapid bacteria growth and pungent odor.

A way to prevent their eggs from hatching can be to boil it before feeding it to the worms or freeze it but only if you see them in the fruit. Freezing will probably only kill the larvae and not the cocoons.

Make sure to bury the food under at least 2 inches of bedding to eliminate any flies from getting in. This will also mask the smell from emanating from the bin and attracting other worm farming pests.

Sow Bugs (pill bug)
Pay no attention to these guys. They're more friends than anything else. They break down the hard matter like wood and leaves. They're actually perfect for the bin. Now I'm not saying go grab a handful and throw them in, but rather just acknowledge their presence and thank them for the role they play within the cycle of nature.

Solution:
If they populate too much then they are indeed worm farming pests. So let them know that they've worn out their welcome by tossing them out one by one.

Springtails
These are in fact not a pest but help in the break down of organic material. They have an organ called a fercula (a tail-like appendage) that they hold against their body. When they need to go somewhere or feel threatened they release this organ that catapults them into the air thus being called the springtail.

Watch Springtails in the Worm Bin at Paulys Video

They are literally small enough to fit on the head of a pin. No need to even give these critters a second look or be concerned as a threat or bug in the worm bin.

Solution:
Allow the worm bin to dry out. Leave the lid off and the worms will move farther down into bedding. This will not rid you of all the springtails but should reduce them quite a bit.



Foes
 in the worm bin


Ants
Ants for the most part pose no threat to the worm bin environment. A few scouting ants here and they're not an issue but you know that scouts can bring a slew of others competing for the food. So, be on the lookout for scouts.

Solution:
A preventive measure you can take on bins inside or out (especially the stackable ones) is to put the legs of the bin into bowls of water. This serves as a mote. Either the ants will drown or avoid the water altogether.

Red Mites
Farmer beware! These are parasites that latch onto the worm and suck the blood right out of it. It will also attach itself and suck fluid from the cocoons. Make no mistake.

These are worm farming pests of the 4th kind and are predatory creatures. I have not had experience with these blood suckers. I've only read about them.

Solution:
So the only way to get rid of them that I've read is to *See instructions below or first try using DE.

Centipedes and millipedes
At first glance you may mistake these arthropods as a worm because of its long segmented brownish body. They mainly feed on decaying matter but are also known to feed on small insects, other arthropods, and yes, earthworms. I am not sure what makes these bugs feed on worms from time to time but...I will categories them as worm farming pests.

Solution:
If you see any, it's a good idea to pull them out. Be careful! Some can be poisonous but not detrimental to humans, just irritating. Watch out for those pincers!




Black Soldier Flies

They live in wetlands and enjoy composts and manures. I'm mainly talking about the maggots in general.

They can grow in numbers if not taken care of. 

Read Full Article

Soldier Fly Larvae

They do no harm to the worms and they are great composters. But again, its unneeded competition for food. Thus making them worm farming pests if too many.

If you only have a few you might want to wait it out. Pull as many out as you can. You need to keep the adults from coming back and laying eggs. Remove as much food as you can and fill the bin with plenty of absorbent shredded material.

The worms will eat the bedding while the bin will not attract the adult flies. you may also want to put some mosquito netting around it as to not allow any adult flies in to lay eggs but all larva must be gone before netting is installed.

If there's way too many and you cannot deal with them then...

Solution:
You'll need to start from scratch. *see instructions below.



Other Predators


Earth dwellers
If you plan on having some type of setup outside then you better be prepared for double trouble. Other potential unwanted visitors may include moles and shrews. Moles live underground and burrow through the root systems of plants and grasses.

Solution:
Be sure your worm habitat if directly on the ground has a bottom to it like wood, concrete, or metal screening. There's no better delicacy to a mole than worm delight. (Note: If you have some type of flooring make sure it has proper drainage so you don't flood your worms from too much leachate.)

Birds
INCOMING! INCOMING! That's right! We all know the early bird gets the worm and if they're on to you then you might as well fill your bird feeder with your worms instead.

Solution:
The best plan of action is to have all four walls and a roof. Install some kind a chicken wire or put a cover over it. This also applies to those who have backyard chickens or free range (pastured) chickens clucking about.


Other Thoughts

Obviously the list could get quite long but these are some of the biggest threats posed to worms. Most of you will be operating on a small scale and indoors so you won't have to worry too much about unwanted guests. I know what you're thinking.

Now you're getting scared about starting your own worm farm. Relax! It's much easier than you think. Once you get the hang of it, the system will practically take care of itself.

Many of you will never have a problem, but I just though it was appropriate for everyone to be aware of extraterrestrials lurking about.


Rebooting instructions
*In the worst-case-scenario you have no success in managing your worm farming pests then you'll have to start all over by pulling out all your worms, washing them over some type of screen mesh or colander (Guys don't tell the wife), rinse out the bin, and prepare it with fresh bedding.

This is extremely rare to have to do, but will keep your worms from wanting to leave, or worst case, die.

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