After about a month of vermicomposting, my friend Cinny came over to see my beautiful worm bin. I pointed out to her the little white dots that had just started showing up in my bin. I’m talking, many white dots. Eggs, maybe, I thought. She picked one up on her index finger, and I grabbed my magnifying glass. Since her eyes are much better than mine, I let her analyze the situation.
She said it was a bug. It had legs, and it was moving. Great. At that point, I grabbed her finger and smashed that nasty white dot. One down, 2,000 to go. I was thinking my vermicomposting adventure was certainly short-lived, and was wondering what was I going to do with a bin full of worms, bedding, poop and bugs in the middle of the winter. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of having worms in my house in the first place, let alone bugs! Here they are on a piece of decaying cantaloupe.
What we learned was that the bugs were actually soil-dwelling mites. These eight-legged decomposers are supposed to be a welcome addition to a worm bin. I learned they love wet, acidic soil, and since I always added coffee grounds to my bedding, they were loving the environment. I, however, was not loving them.
Mites that are white in color will not attack or kill worms. They will, however, feed on dead or dying worms, and that’s a plus. Mites that are red, however, will eat your worms so you don’t want those!
But a bin with a huge mite population isn’t a good thing because they will compete with worms for food. The truth is, I’m really not interested in having the little buggers in my bin, regardless of color or number of residents. That’s just gross. (Like worms aren’t gross?! I knew you were thinking that.)
So here’s what I did. Since they obviously loved the cantaloupe, I put some rinds, flesh-side down on top of the bedding.
I left them for a couple of days, and unbeknownst to the mites that swarmed the fruit, they were chowing down on what was about to be their final meal. The mite-infested rinds were promptly thrown outside into a snow bank in my backyard vegetable garden area. Hope they brought their mittens.
Since my bedding was a little on the wet side, I left the bin sitting out under a light in my kitchen for a while with the lid off, and fluffed up the bedding every now and then to help it dry out a bit. This definitely cut down on my mite population, and mites were no longer a problem after that. Even before the mite issue, I would leave the bin out with the lid off to help it dry out a little from time to time. I don’t have drainage holes in the bottom of my bin, so I try to keep a close eye on the moisture content.
Since we’re on the subject of cantaloupe—unless you’re trying to grow a cantaloupe forest, I would advise against putting the seeds in your bin. Imagine my surprise when I pulled my bin out of the closet I keep it in, and I see this! (This was my original bin.)
The “trees” grew about three to four inches tall in as many days. They were actually pressing against the lid. Had it been planting time, I would have transplanted some of the starts outside and had one heck of a cantaloupe patch! So note to self–no more cantaloupe seeds in the worm bin. By the way, I just pulled up the little guys, and left them in the bin to decompose.
I hope this post doesn’t discourage anyone from giving vermicomposting a try, because mites really are not a big deal, and are easy to get rid of if they bother you. It’s full speed ahead for me! Even Nicole Ritchie (Lionel’s daughter) has a couple of worm bins. I saw her on The Ellen Show the other day, and she mentioned that she has two at her house.
In closing, I wish I would have had this worm bin when my children were little. I think it’s such an interesting process, and it demonstrates how our environment takes care of itself naturally. It’s amazing how these little poop machines work to clean up, aerate and fertilize our soil. Any teachers out there? Building a worm bin would be a great classroom project. It doesn’t take much time, and the kids “mite” just learn something. (Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.)
To see how to build a simple worm bin out of a recycled container, click here.
To see an easy way to harvest worm castings for fertilizer, click here.
This post was written by Tracy Evans, who is a certified Home Stager and Redesigner, a journeyman painter and an avid gardener. If you have an interest in home organization, DIY home improvement projects or redesign, please feel free to visit her other blog at https://homestagingbloomingtonil.wordpress.com/. You can find additional before and after pictures on her website at http://www.HelpAtHomeStaging.com.