Worm Bin Updates

Worm Bin Updates

May 07

Now that Laura and I have had our worms in residence for many months, we’ve fallen into a comfortable routine of saving used paper towels and napkins, vegetable scraps and coffee grounds. After harvesting worm castings and worm tea a couple times, we felt our project had been quite a success. But we’ve been reminded recently that our “project” is a living ecosystem. It may seem self-contained, and it may be a snap to start, but the result is truly alive. We’ve been forced to adapt to problems that arise as our little microsystem has evolved.

The most nefarious problem we’ve encountered has been fruit flies. Neither one of us realized just what is lurking in our banana peels and orange rinds until we started keeping them for the worms. We have a miniature trash can in the kitchen that holds food scraps until we have enough to feed the worms. (It’s a lot easier than trying to carry the scraps to the worm bin in the middle of cooking a meal.) Over the winter, we really never had any problems, but as the Florida heat started creeping in through our doors and windows, we faced a monstrous outbreak of fruit flies and their nasty little larvae. Our response was eventually three-pronged.

First, cleanliness may indeed be next to godliness, for it keeps away the bugs. We started cleaning out scrap bin frequently, and we became much more vigilant about wiping down counters and washing dishes. This pretty much confined the flies to our trash can and scraps bin.

Second, we adopted an offensive strategy. For a while, we would leave a bowl of vinegar and rotting fruit in our oven all day, then close the oven and preheat it when we came home. All the flies that had gathered in the oven were quickly fried. This took a lot of electricity, though, so we used the method sparingly. We also hung fly paper over our trash can, which has been slowly trapping flies for a couple weeks now. Finally, we clapped our hands a lot in the kitchen, always thinking we might catch a fly!

Third, we started keeping our fruit scraps in the fridge to kill fruit fly larvae and prevent adult flies from reaching it. Since we obviously can’t fit our scraps bin in our fridge, I use a plastic strawberry container (or two, when we have a lot of scraps). In addition to neutralizing the bugs, keeping scraps in the fridge before placing them in the worm bin gives the worms time to process the previous batch of scraps.

But recently, it seems the worms have become a little overwhelmed, because they aren’t processing quite as fast, so we’ve been donating much of our larger scraps to one of my co-workers who has a compost pile. We’re not sure if anything is wrong, or if we just need more worms since we put them in a larger bin. Either way, we’ve encountered another problem: Mites. At first, they were just a nuisance, these tiny brown (sometimes white) balls with legs that congregate around moist, rotting food. According to everything we read, mites aren’t harmful to the worms and, in fact, they are a normal part of the worm bin ecosystem.

Photo of mites in our worm bin

Lots and lots of brown mites around the top of our worm bin

However, increasingly large populations of mites usually mean the bin is too wet and is receiving too much food. And our mites are definitely getting out of control. So we will be adding a lot more dry paper and offering our scraps to friends with compost piles for the next couple of weeks. As we shredded newspaper today to add to the worm bin, our cat decided to help. (Here’s your daily dose of cuteness.)

1 comment

  1. Mom/Diane

    Mojito you look so cute!

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