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Cocoons or Mites?

Hi everyone! I’m happy to report that I’m finally starting to get back into the swing of things here on the blog! I thought I might kick things off with one or two reader questions. Our first question come from Apple, who is wondering about some strange creatures found in her worm bin. Here is what she had to say:

i just subscribed to your site, and i’m having a great time reading
it. i just set up my first indoor worm bin, so it’s great have a
resource to find out about other compost bins.

so far my bin has been great, i’m trying to keep it moisture balanced
and not over-fed. i’ve only had it for one month. my question is
this – i was inspecting the walls below the bedding line around the
top of the food line and i’m noticing two different things happening.
1. i’m seeing itsy bitsy teeny tiny wiggling whiteish yellowy worms.
are these hatched babies? they are smaller than a few millimeters
long and thinner than a fingernail sliver. they appear to hang out
around soft foods, boiled artichoke leaves, for example.

after seeing your picture of mites, i’m not sure if what i’m seeing
are cocoons or mites. they are round, seedlike, and are mostly in
the bedding and on the food, but a few of them seem to move a bit.
i’m not sure if they’re just caught on some moisture and are sliding
around, or if they are mites crawling.

are the tiny wigglers normal? or might i be housing another organism
in the bin? do you think they’re safe for my worms if they’re not
their own babies?

thanks so much for reading, and any advice you’re able to offer.

Hi Apple, I’m glad to hear that you have found the site useful!
The tiny worms you have described sound like White Worms, also known as ‘Pot Worms’. These small worms are closely related to earthworms (including the ‘composting worms’) and tend to spring up, seemingly out of nowhere, when conditions get a little acidic in the bin. I’ve had huge population explosions of white worms when I’ve added too much starchy material (rice) and it has gone sour on me (anaerobic fermentation). The worms themselves are completely harmless but they MAY indicate that your bin has become somewhat acidic. You might want to mix in some more shredded cardboard (or whatever bedding you are using) along with some crushed egg shells (if you happen to have some).
Here is a great picture of some white worms (on Happy D Ranch Website) you can use for comparison.

As for your seed-like creatures, I suspect they are indeed mites. The round white mite pictured in my last post (and in various other posts written on the blog) can easily be mistaken for something inanimate since they move very little and look like little eggs. This species seems to appear when there is an abundance of water-rich food scraps in the worm bin – especially things like melons, cantaloupe, cucumbers etc (cucumber family in general).
Again, certainly nothing to worry about, although massive population explosions could be an indication of overfeeding (but it sounds as though you’ve been really careful with how much food you’ve added).

Hope this helps! Thanks for the questions.
8)

B.

Written by Bentley on March 16th, 2008 with 5 comments.
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5 comments

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Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Treasa
#1. March 21st, 2008, at 3:02 PM.

I am also new to vermicomposting and my worm bin is about a month old. but i feel I ma having a problem. I purchased a three drawer worm bin so plenty of ventilation. moisture is ok small springtail population and even a few potworms. now When i look in the bottom
of the bin or collection tray I have usually one or two dead worms.
I do not know what is causing this is it normal I feed about once a
week I have turned the soil to aerate. when I feed it is usually egg shells some vegetable peels, carboard and or newspaper all run through my food processor. because I started with only 1 pound of worms i only put a few handfulls in when I feed.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#2. March 21st, 2008, at 3:09 PM.

Hi Treasa,
I probably wouldn’t worry too much about one or two dead worms, since some worms just seem to be more adventurous than others. If you see that a bunch have moved down into the collection tray then this would likely indicate something going wrong.

Blending stuff up using a food processor isn’t a bad idea, but you DO need to be a little more careful with this sort of material since it can go anaerobic very easily. I wouldn’t blend your bedding in with the food either. The benefit of bedding is that it helps to aerate your bin materials and soak up extra moisture, neither of which it can do if blended up.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Treasa Birchett
#3. March 25th, 2008, at 1:38 AM.

Thanks for the tips. I have ben thinking that I started out with too many worms and I did what they tell you to do add the worms to the new beeding everything very sterile will adding another pound of worms help. or should I just start a new tray basically start over same worms with new bed

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Treasa Birchett
#4. March 25th, 2008, at 1:39 AM.

sorry I meant that I started out with too few worms not too many

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#5. March 25th, 2008, at 1:54 AM.

Hi again Treasa,
In this case I wouldn’t recommend adding more worms – unless of course you happened to have another worm bin that was already well balanced. Getting another shipment of worms might just leave you with less money in your pocket and more worms on the floor. :-)
New worms tend to finicky as it is, so adding them to an unbalanced system might not be the greatest idea.
I would simply slow down what you are presently doing. Make sure you mix in some more bedding and just let everything sit for a bit. If it looks like they are ok – i.e. when you poke around a bit they are active and move away quite quickly – then maybe try adding some more scraps (a few at a time. This time don’t blend them up – maybe cut them up a little to increase surface area, but no need to make a slurry. Monitor the bin closely to see if the new food is being consumed, then take things from there.

Hope this helps!

B

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