pokemonfan13
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Hello -- worm compost bin questions

I have a new redworm bin after the previous one failed [all the worms died]

I'm mainly here to ask a few questions to make sure my new bin is happy, healthy, and long lived since I already have a problem I'm rather worried about. Can I get some answers here in this thread, and if not could you direct me to the appropriate section?



First and foremost I've got these spider/mite things in my worm bin. Absolutely FULL of the buggers. They're reddish, slim bodies with long legs and there are eggs that are about the size of poppy-seeds all over the sides. Should I be concerned and if yes is there a way to get rid of them without killing my worms?

What do I need to be adding to an established bin to keep it happy? It mostly gets kitchen scraps [ie veggie peelings and fruits/veggies that are going bad] as well as stale/moldy bread when available.

Coffee grounds. We have an overabundance of them but I don't know how much is too much.
Last edited by pokemonfan13 on Tue Oct 16, 2012 11:01 am, edited 2 times in total.

Dillbert
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worms need food

worms need moisture

any of the above "missing"

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applestar
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I'll move this thread to the Compost Forum.

Did you put the new worms in the same bin that the previous worms died in or did you empty it out, clean it and start over with fesh bedding and food for the new worms?

You haven't mentioned bedding. What are you using for bedding and how much in proportion to the kitchen scraps do you have in the bin/are you adding?

pokemonfan13
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I put the old stuff on my potted plants then vigorously hosed it out [practically pressure washed it]

I used shredded newspaper as the sheet that came with the worms advised. I should probably add some more, though, since the worms had the bad luck of coming the day we recycled our newspapers. Apart from the infestation they seem to be doing well. What they have are some potato peelings and some wilted celery chopped and some stale bread broken into small pieces. The first thing I added was membrane from a grapefruit, and I'm not seeing any sign of that when I mix the bin.

I noticed all this talk about "green and brown" with composting, do I need to add brown to a worm bin as well?

What I'm mainly worried about are the spiders/mites. I can get a free replacement set of worms if they're a problem. Although they're there in such numbers and so quickly that I'm afraid they came with the worms...

We have TONS of coffee grounds. I'd like to add some of them to the worms but don't know how much is too much. [one nice things is we dry them out before doing anything with them so if the worms are a tad too wet I could mix in some dry coffee grounds to absorb some of the extra moisture, but again I don't want to add too much]

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ReptileAddiction
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I would say no more coffee grounds and no more bread. Only moistened paper and old fruits and veggies. You could take all the worms out and dip them in water and throw out the bedding and replace it all. That would probably get rid of the mites. As to wether they are bad i do not know.

pokemonfan13
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What's wrong with bread? They eat it really quickly.

And from what I can find coffee grounds are pretty much always listed among the things that it's fine to add, and on one site actually recommended as a "grit". I just don't want to add to much because it probably isn't ph balanced.

https://lancaster.unl.edu/pest/resources/vermicompost107.shtml
The site in question, under "Kitchen Waste:"


Since we can get free worms to replace them we're considering starting an outdoor pile and adding these to it. Since piles produce their own heat they shouldn't freeze in the winter, right? Our winters aren't overly severe anyways.

Although I might just do your idea of dipping each in water. We'd loose the eggs and any really little ones, but it would let us keep them indoors without the possibility of the spidery things invading the rest of the house...

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applestar
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Where are you located, if you don't mind?

I'm having real trouble picturing the "spidery" things. How many legs do they have? You originally said mite-like so they are tiny? I can't think what the "black poppyseed like things" are either. Are there anything else in the bin besides the worms?

I'm sure coffee grounds are fine. I think someone once said not to add more than 10% in volume of what is already in the bin. In terms off greens and browns, I believe earthworms need a LOT of browns (bedding) and only a little bit of the greens -- maybe that's the 10%? Worms do love coffee grounds, but I don't put in more than a layer/a couple handfuls at a time.

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ReptileAddiction
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I said no to the coffee grounds because a lot of people go WAY overboard and kill their worms. If you keep it a small number I do not think it would be bad. But I do not think that you would want to put it in dry though. I think that anything dry is not good for them but that is my opinion. When bread comes out the other end it isn't as nutritious as other things like veggies. Remember that you will always find contracting info. Listening to one site is usually not a good idea.

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I killed my first batch of worms in the early 2000s; not on purpose, but they were nonetheless dead. :( When I got my nerve to raise worms again, in 2008, I had a new home for them ([url=https://www.wormfactory.us/]Worm Factory[/url]) and I started a back-up population in my [url=https://www.consumersearch.com/compost-bins/smith-and-hawken-biostack]BioStack[/url].

I've kept them happy, healthy, and reproducing ever since. I've given away a quart container of worms + castings and cocoons once or twice a year ever since 2008, via Freecycle.org.

What do I feed the worms? They get kitchen scraps--they especially love melon rinds, mango peels, mango pits, and fruit cores (apples, pears). They get tea bags, coffee grounds with filters, and also carrot peels, green bean trimmings, and other miscellaneous kitchen scraps. They will eat, but aren't fond of, onions and citrus. I treat the worms as very strict vegans: no bread (it usually has eggs in it), no cheese, never any meat.

Their bedding is shredded newspaper which I soak in water, wring out, and then add to their habitat. The Worm Factory is shrouded in a blanket in my carport, so temperature fluctuations throughout the year are moderated. Worms prefer temps above 55 degrees F (approx. 12 deg C) and below (if I remember correctly) 75 to 80 degrees F (approx. 26 to 28 deg C). They do not generate enough heat to keep themselves alive below 55 degrees, and they will cook to death above 80 degrees.

Remember to drain off the leachate fairly frequently, so that the worms aren't subject to excess acidity or damp, either of which will encourage populations of invaders: fungus gnats and other "unwanteds" in the worm bin.

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pokemonfan13
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I live in Northern Virginia, a 6 or 7 growing zone.

I originally got my bin from a local park [this is actually the third round of worms, the first were in the basement and forgotten]. It is a large plastic container of the type used for storage with holes drilled in the top and sides. It doesn't have any way to drain the contents, which is why I try to add dry stuff to soak up excess moisture.

The insects are reddish. They have small bodies and long legs like spiders and are quite small, maybe the size of this O, but that's mostly legs. The photos I've seen of mites when trying to research this problem showed fat bodies and tiny legs, which confuses me... They're small enough that it would be quite difficult to count the legs, we would have to capture one and use a rather strong magnifying glass to get a good enough look to count legs, and even then we'd have the problem of getting it to hold still enough. They have the LOOK of spiders to me, but I don't know how much mites can look like tiny spiders.

As to the poppy seed things, I'm only using those as a size comparison. They are white and look like eggs and I ASSUME they are what are spawning these things since they're all over the sides of the bin and keep reappearing.

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applestar
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White egglike all on the side of too wet compost bin -- whether regular or worm -- I think are very often fruit fly pupae. But if there are fruit flies they would fly up/out when you open the lid.

pokemonfan13
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The bin doesn't seem too wet to me. We have (had?) some fruit flies, but as far as I can tell none in the bin. I haven't added any fruit yet anyways apart from a leeetle bit of grapefruit membrane that as far as I can tell isn't even there any more.

The bin is still very new, it hasn't gotten the chance to get a ton of liquid and I try not to add things that are really wet. A lot of what I say is based off of my experience with the previous incarnation.

cynthia_h
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Believe me: when the bin gets going, with dampened newspaper and fruit/veg scraps, there will be drain-off.

One way to remove it will be to scoop everything to one end or the other of the plastic tub and use a turkey baster to remove the liquid, putting it into a watering can, empty yogurt or cottage cheese container, or similar. I've found that plastic containers with lids are useful; they keep the liquid from evaporating between the day I drain the leachate off and the day I make the 9:1 solution and fertilize my plants.

If you can post a photo of the mysterious wiggling creatures, it will help enormously.

Cynthia

pokemonfan13
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*hopefully* the mites shouldn't matter since I just transferred them to a new bin after washing all the worms. [note to self...worms and cullenders don't mix]

They are now in a bigger bin with lots of newspaper and some cucumber and sweet potato peelings. We'll disinfect the old bin with salt water, rinse it well, and use it for the replacement worms when we get them.

I found masses of *something* on top of dead worms on the side of the bin so I suspect they were the predatory since I didn't normally get dead worms on the side of the bin with my previous batch.

SequioaRedWorms
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I've read some reports that the red mites are worm parasites, while other sources say they're harmless. As far as moisture levels go, a well hydrated bin should not have leachate. The material should be moist to the touch but not leak more than a drop or 2 of liquid if squeezed. It's not the end of the world if there is leachate, but it is not ideal.
<a>Sequoia Red Worms</a>

pokemonfan13
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I try not to add overly wet material [such as melon rind/guts] and add dry material if the bin seems too wet. With my old bin I'd occasionally leave the lid off to allow evaporation. I did not add holes on the bottom with the new bin I made, but we can drill some if it is needed. However, with the old bin I don't think it ever got wet enough that it would drip through holes in the bottom.

I suspect the difference for people who get the "tea" and those who don't is what is added to the bin. Different fruits and vegetables have different moisture content. Adding a cucumber that's gone moldy is very different from adding a rubbery carrot. Adding some watermelon rinds extremely different from potato peelings. For me really wet things stay out of the bin and so it might get a little too wet, but not excessively so.

So hopefully I'll be able to avoid dealing with holes in the bottom of my bins. Although maybe I'll add them to the smaller one once it's disinfected and it can be the designated "wet" bin for all the stuff like watermelon rinds that would otherwise be put.....elsewhere [my mom has the rather odd habit of putting extra fruit/veggie waste in old plastic fruit/vegetable bags from the store, knotting when full, then leaving them out on the stoop to liquify and never doing anything with them but knocking them off into the bed by the stoop. It is quite obnoxious to step on one of those noxious bags...]

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