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A Case of the Plastic Bin Blues!

 
 Let me start today’s blog totally off topic….sort of.   You’ll soon see the connection.

Close your eyes.  Picture a few pounds of  rotting produce scraps.  Now, picture yourself putting the scraps into a bucket with some air holes drilled on top.  Let the scraps ferment for a week inside the bucket.  What do you think this mixture would look like, smell like, and consist of in a week?

At best, you would open the lid and get a strong whiff of vinegar.  At worst, you would be breathing a putrid sewer smell.  Either one of these is not pleasant.

This is EXACTLY what happens when you overfeed worms in a plastic bin.  No matter how many holes you drill in plastic…it does not breathe well.  Want to kill a batch of worms in a box?  Put a plastic bag over the box!  You’ll kill the worms in a matter of hours.

Would you consider putting your dog in a rubbermaid container?  How about your cat?  Why would you put your worms in one?

….Onto todays featured queston.

Hi, Worm Dude!

I’ve got a problem with my worm bin, and I’m hoping you can offer some advice.  It appears that I’ve slowly lost about half of my worms since I bought them a month ago.  I keep finding decaying worms covered in what appears to be little white eggs.  I don’t know if they died because of some kind of worm bin infection that is related to these eggs, or whether the eggs were laid by something after the worms died.  I’ve attached a picture of a dead worm and my worm bin contents.  I’ve also noticed a lot of little white potworms, but I’ve read that these won’t do any harm to the bin.  Last summer my worm bin was doing much better (until the rains flooded it and all the worms drowned).  I don’t think I’m doing anything differently this time, except I added a lot more newspaper bedding this time around.  Do you know what these eggs are, and do you have any advice?

Thanks

A.

Hi A.,

You’ve got an infestation of mites. The white mites themselves aren’t causing the problem (Although they are indicative of a bin going sour from too much food/bedding/worm ratio).  The picture of the mite on the worm looks like a dead worm being composted by the mites. 

I have no idea how much/what you are feeding your worms.  At a glance, it looks like you have WAY, WAY, WAY too little bedding.  I’d suggest trying to salvage the worms you’ve got and putting in fresh bedding.  LOTS AND LOTS.

Don’t feed the  worms at all.  They can live off the bedding.  Your goal now is to keep the worms you have alive.  When they are nice and active again, then you can start feeding again.

  

Thanks Jerry! I’ll do a bedding swap ASAP and try to save these worms.  I put in at least 5-6 inches of shredded newspaper bedding to start with, although it has compacted a bit over time.  I started this vermicompost with a bit of left over partially decomposed compost from my previous batch.  Perhaps something infectious transferred to my bin with the old compost.  I’ll start fresh and hopefully that will work.


Very good.  One thing I don’t think I conveyed enough is that you should have bedding at least 3/4 to the top of your bin.  The more bedding, the more errors you can make.

I doubt you transferred anything infectious.  What happened to you happens to almost everyone that tries raising worms in plastic.  Plastic is a horrible

When working with plastic, you need to be really careful about the amount of food you feed your worms.  Think of your plastic bin like a bucket with some holes drilled in it.  If you throw a bunch of food scraps in that bucket..you would soon create a sewer if the amount of scraps rot faster than the worms can process them. 

Additional bedding will help…but ultimately you really need to limit the food you feed the worms in a plastic bin to what they can eat in a day or two.

 

  

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