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I’ve Got White Worms!

White Worms and Euros and Mites, Oh My!

Not something most people would get excited about – in fact, I’ve had some people get in touch recently who were fairly concerned about the new white wigglers in their bin! For me however, it is exciting to get a mini infestation of white worms because it means I can finally try to get some pictures of them for the website! Yeah – I’m a weirdo!
:lol:

The pics I’ve added to this post aren’t the greatest but rest assured I will keep trying to capture some decent ones. I will also likely fire up my new Eyeclops toy and see if I can get some cool critter footage!

For those of you unfamiliar, White Worms (aka Pot Worms – family Enchytraeidae) are close relatives of the earthworms. Both of these worms are members of the class (might actually be subclass now) Oligochaeta – i.e. they are segmented worms with “few bristles”, unlike the ‘Polychaete’ worms.

White Worms are common inhabitants of rich organic environments, such as is found in a compost heap or worm bin. In particular, they seem to favour acidic conditions, and in fact can be used as an indication of decreased pH in a worm bin. Commonly they will spring up (seemingly out of nowhere) when lots of acidic materials are added to the bin, or when starchy materials are added and allowed to ferment. My very first experience with White Worms dates back to shortly after I set up my very first worm bin. I decided to add a large quantity of rice to my bin (not knowing any better at the time). Shortly thereafter my bin started smelling like a brewery and zillions of these tiny worms appeared.

Close-Up of White Worms, European Nightcrawler and Mites

White worms themselves are completely harmless in a worm bin, but again they may be and indication that you are overfeeding, or perhaps adding too much acidic waste.

My recent invasion (which is very tame in comparison to my rice experience) likely stemmed from the addition of a decent amount of pineapple scraps, a very acidic material.

White Worms are actually a very popular fish food among aquarium hobbyists. Interestingly enough, one of the suggested ways for breeding them is to soak a piece of bread in milk then add it to the bin where you are keeping them. I can’t say I’m surprised – this would be the ultimate in sour, starchy concoctions!

I think I’m going to add some baby pablum in an effort to increase the population – more White Worms means more photo opps!
8)

I’ll keep you posted!

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Written by Bentley on March 24th, 2008 with 46 comments.
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Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com brian
#1. December 26th, 2008, at 9:15 PM.

Those are another species of worm? I had tons of those come with some worms that i bought and I tried my hardest to save them because I thought they were babies! How would one tell the difference between a baby worm and a white worm?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#2. January 6th, 2009, at 3:04 AM.

Hi Brian,
Sorry for the delay responding. I wouldn’t worry too much about having these come with your composting worms – they should gradually disappear (or at least decrease in number) over time. White worms tend to be very white, with little in the way of pigmentation in their bodies. Baby earthworms tend to be more translucent with some pigmentation visible inside – they also tend to be larger than white worms.
Hope this helps

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Janet
#3. October 17th, 2009, at 2:10 AM.

That is true, the pot worms are very white compared to baby redworms that are a translucent pinky orange. The reason is that redworms have red blood and the white worms don’t.
JT

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Marian
#4. May 14th, 2010, at 8:43 PM.

Hi,

I’ve recently gotten interested in lawn care. (After findings ant hills all over our lawn.) I had bought a bottle of Chemfree ant killer spray. As I sprayed the ant hill, these tiny white worms emerged from the hill. Days later, I had plucked some grass (with the root) in hopes to identify the type of grass we have and noticed again this tiny white worm dangling from the root. Are they pot worms and if so, are they good for my lawn and why the heck are they hanging out with the ants?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com bee
#5. September 1st, 2010, at 2:47 AM.

Help! I all of a sudden have millions of these guys – or they look like them – and my red wigglers are hating it. they are at the surface and the lid now and trying to escape. this is the first problem i’ve had and i’ve had my bin system going for about 6 months. i have no idea how to fix this! a million thanks to anyone with experience in this matter who’s able to share their tips.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Nick
#6. February 27th, 2011, at 1:51 AM.

Bee, its because your bin is to acidic. You need to fix the ph level in your bin. I had this issue with my worms as well. As soon as you fix the Ph your worms will go back to the bin no problems

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Flavia
#7. March 10th, 2011, at 7:46 PM.

Hi, I have had a worm bin for two years now, and last summer was when I had serious problems with a white work infestation. First, I started watering my veggie plants with a mixture of water and “worm wine” that drains and collects at the bottom of my bin. A couple of days after watering I noticed that some of the plants started to look very sick, and upon investing a realized that I had a white worm outbreak. The white worms were sucking the life out of my plants. This didn’t occur the year before. Not only did the “worm wine” contain the eggs or larva of the white worms, but the actual compost material did as well. So, the only means to rid the infestation was by killing them with a pesticide. And my veggies didn’t come out as great as they did the year before.

I’m rather nervous about using the worm bin compost this coming planting season, as I don’t want to have to go through this again. Any help on how to rid my bin of these white worms would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bee
#8. March 10th, 2011, at 8:51 PM.

Hey Nick – thanks for your comment – the problem sorted itself out after a matter of days. But it’s helpful to know for the next time it happens.
Flavia – i’ve never fed my plants the drainage from my worm bin — i imagine it would be quite concentrated in acidity. Despite the white worm problem, putting my actual castings in my plant pots has never caused me any problems.
hope this helps!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com margaret gauvin
#9. April 27th, 2011, at 2:03 PM.

yes we had a lovely lawn a year a go and now we have a dead lawn
we were told it was the white werm in the earth what do we do for it

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com yoder
#10. June 1st, 2011, at 6:09 PM.

i’m wondering if there’s two different types of “white worm” that people are talking about. Could the one that normally consumes dead matter somehow also have a taste for live plants? Maybe when they run out of their preferred food sources…?
I’ve been curious about these white ones, wanting to introduce them to my place, but i’ve heard mixed stuff about them, like that they can out-compete the red worms. the pH thing’s a good one to know… anyone tried adding a tiny bit of wood ash to some water and seeing how that pH increase affected their infestation??

sounds like they’d be useful for taking care of acidic stuff that the red worms don’t care for. starches, dairy, citrus?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#11. June 2nd, 2011, at 12:53 AM.

Hi Yoder,
Like any common worm bin organism, white worms can certainly do better than Red Worms – but in my opinion it not so much that they outcompete them, but rather that they are taking advantage of conditions that are better suited for them then the Reds.
I’ve never really tried to optimize for white worms so I’m not sure how effective they are on their own as composters – would be interesting to test out though.
I’d be surprised if there were white worms (aka “pot worms”) that harmed plants. Nematodes for sure, but they are typically too small to be seen with the unaided eye.
Careful with the wood ash and water – that’s how they used to make (caustic) lye for soap.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Flavia
#12. June 2nd, 2011, at 7:57 PM.

Yeah, when I was feeding my plants the liquid worm casting juice (I have a special bin that collects the liquid) I was diluting it with water based on the directions given. The first year it worked great. The second year was the problem associated with the “white-worm” infestation, and all of my pots/veg beds planted with worm casting compost and watered with the “worm-wine” showed unhealthy plants with “tons” of white-worms in the soil and concentrated around the root balls of the plants.

Note that the worm casting compost and the “worm-wine” didn’t appear to have live worms in it all the time of use, which leads me the the conclusion that they just hatched from eggs in the castings materials.

I will give the wood ash suggestion a try, as I have plenty of ash from using a wood-stove almost daily during the winter months.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com yoder
#13. June 2nd, 2011, at 8:54 PM.

yes, bentley is right — wood ash is POWERFUL stuff. Maybe get some pH drops (a bottle costs only several bucks) and make sure your pH isn’t above 8.

Wild guess, you won’t need more than a teaspoon or so in a gallon of water.

oh yea…
“White Worms are actually a very popular fish food among aquarium hobbyists.”
i wanted to say that i recently visited an aquaponics (fish are fed fish food, and their poop feeds food crops) company, and they had their own on-site vermicomposting system (about ten 3′x3′x3′ boxes). The guy said they actually add a bunch of the castings to the fish tanks, because it really helps their SLIME LAYER be thicker, which is an excellent sign of health. I thought that was really cool. I wonder if it’s the nutrients in the castings that are helping the fish, or the worm slime itself that’s just sticking to them. maybe both…

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Flavia
#14. June 2nd, 2011, at 9:15 PM.

Thanks for the extra advice, I’ll check my wood ash mixture with my fresh water aquarium pH test kit. I would think a level of 8-9 would be adequate to start lowering the pH in my bin, as I don’t want to shock the system, but gradually lower the pH to favor the red worms.

Fish excrete a mucous (slime layer) from their skin’s mucous membranes and my best guess is it’s the nutrients in the castings that help promote healthy bacteria in the aquarium environment that benefit the fish’s overall health.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com yoder
#15. June 4th, 2011, at 8:42 PM.

cool.
correction: you want to _raise_ the pH. wood ash is alkaline. pH will go up, which will favor red worms.
luck!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Joe
#16. June 22nd, 2011, at 7:11 PM.

@Flavia,

Have you tried cooking the worm wind/castings? 30 minutes in a hot oven ought to kill any plant-eating bugs.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com yoder
#17. June 23rd, 2011, at 7:26 PM.

those bugs will just come right back if your soil conditions are favorable

more effective would be to nurture your soil towards being a favorable environment for beneficial/predatory bugs

let them do the work

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Shelly
#18. November 15th, 2011, at 3:06 PM.

I have a worm bin filled with white pot worms, I just checked the PH and it is 8. I am confused, should I raise or lower this number and what should I add? I actually have two bins, my second has no white worms but also has a ph of 8 and the worms are trying to escape. thoughts? suggestions?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Paul
#19. February 28th, 2012, at 10:41 PM.

Pulverized egg shells are a very mild way to de-acidify (raise pH). I wash them and put them in small food processor for about 3 seconds. I’ve heard the wrigglers like them as “grit” for digestion.
Paul

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Robyn
#20. March 16th, 2012, at 1:17 PM.

I thought these were baby worms! I’ve just harvested a bunch of worm castings and didn’t pasteurize most of it for my seedlings. There are some white worms in the pots with the little plants now, will they harm the seedlings? I read Flavia’s post, but I think her issue was that her worm leachate was very acidic – increasing the population of the white worms and also causing harm to her plants. I don’t think this means the white worms were actually causing harm to the plants, does anyone know if they do though?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Anne
#21. March 20th, 2012, at 6:12 AM.

Hi,
So, I also find small white worms in my compost. They came up when all of the worms died. ( African Nightcrawlers). But when we measure the ph its not acidic, goes around 9-9.5, what will be the effect of these white worms? thank you!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#22. March 20th, 2012, at 10:18 AM.

WHOAH! That sounds awfully alkaline, Anne! (how’s that for some awesome alliteration?! lol). Are you sure the pH meter (or however you measured) is working properly.
I could see how that would kill the worms if it is indeed the pH (high pH can result in ammonia release), but to me it does seem weird that a lot of white worms would show up.

As for their effect – probably not a whole lot. They process waste materials like the composting worms, but not nearly as effectively.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com bev cotton
#23. May 15th, 2012, at 2:18 AM.

i was surprised to find white worms in a small forest area of my garden i have never seen them before i live in a area of the south island in new zealand i am very interested in your article it has been very informative thank you

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bug Barb
#24. May 17th, 2012, at 12:20 PM.

Wow! I found a number of these white worms in my front yard where my husband had put a lot of oak leaf and wood scrap. I live in Angeles National Forest, so the critters coming to the garden are mostly native ones.
I have found earthworms almost as large as nightcrawlers. Talk about worm baby food….I opened an avocodo in my worm composting bucket and found it teeming with baby earthworms, looking like a million tiny white threads.
I love worms.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Flavia
#25. May 23rd, 2012, at 4:32 PM.

I still don’t think that my veggie sickness was related to the pH level of the “worm-wine”; I diluted it with water per instructions. And if you still don’t believe me on the “worm-wine” Google Full Circle Compost in Nevada as they’re the business that sells them and advocates the “worm-wine” byproduct of the worm bins. I bought my bin from them already going and with a gallon of “worm-wine”. I had no problems with either the compost or the “worm-wine” that growing season. The white worms showed up the 2n year and I had some in the worm compost and some in store bought compost. The plantings in the worm compost and sprayed with the “worm-wine” had the bad white worm outbreaks. The white worms were definately sucking them dry. The only difference from the first year and the second year was the white worms! I have been shy of testing the current worm compost out this year…

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Janet Harbaugh
#26. May 26th, 2012, at 10:24 AM.

I found a white worm, about 8 inches long in my yard, well away from my compost community. I didn’t think to take pictures of it yesterday when it was still very white, but I do have a a few from today showing it’s size and appearance, I just need some help to upload, then I’d love to know if anyone has seen anything similar. We have many oak trees in the yard so I imagine the soil is very acidic. I had some tree work done and the bobcat used to move debris around must have acted like a signaler to the worm. Let me know how to get the pics uploaded. Thanks.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Carolyn
#27. August 13th, 2012, at 4:22 PM.

I too have TONS of these white worms. I have no idea what was acidic to cause the isurrection of white worms. The red worms are decreasing in number and I don’t know how to fix the Ph, maybe add baking soda that neutralizes both acid and basic solutions? More brown matter???

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Dustin
#28. December 30th, 2012, at 8:13 PM.

Carolyn, from what I have read they won’t hurt your compost….But as I read more people are saying the same thing that they are. I’ve been composting for almost 5 months now and I didn’t have these little white worms till after I added bread but a curtin way, I crushed the bread up, along with coffee grounds and potatoe peels and grinned them up after about a week I had them and I freaked out but I am trying to under stand them more now for not just me but everyone. I’m gonna try ashes from wood as well as other ways let me know if you find a way. Thanks
Dustin

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Karle Granlund
#29. April 5th, 2013, at 1:48 PM.

I wonder if anyone knows anything about these white worms affecting pets?
I cook rice for my hounds and there is some spillage in the concrete pens.
About a year ago I started seeing these white worms about 1.5″ long show up not just on the concrete, but in the dogs water dish.
I tried elevating the water dishes on pedestals, but they still got in.
Vet says they are coming from the dog coughing them up when they’re drinking.
Just went through a very expensive worming on the hounds;
burned around the pen;
bleached the concrete many times….
and they’re back.
Any suggestions as to really smoke them out for good?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#30. April 5th, 2013, at 2:34 PM.

Those would definitely be a different kind of “white worms”, Karle. Some sort of parasitic worm if they are affecting the dogs. The white worms we are referring to here are adapted for live in a composting environment, and pose no threat to any other organisms (well except for microbes! lol).
Regards

Bentley

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jennie
#31. April 10th, 2013, at 5:09 PM.

I found the tiny tiny white worms when the snow’s gone and some tracks with the dead grass poped up on my yard. Firstly I found a tons of oval-shaped larva under the dead grass and a week later tiny tiny white worms showed up, but a week later they disappeared…this kind of worms is you guys talked about because it’s quiet different from me that “your worm” were found in composting bin…anyone can tell me what worms I got?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Karuna Poole
#32. September 13th, 2013, at 2:24 PM.

I’ve had the tiny white worms in my worm bin all along but all of sudden they multiplied until it is a major infestation. What should I do? I read about putting bread dipped in milk to attract them and that seems to be working some but not enough to control the major number that are in the bin.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Paul Kagan
#33. September 17th, 2013, at 12:40 PM.

As many posters said, you need to de-acidify the bin. The way I do this is to grind up some eggshells as fine as possible, and add the eggshell dust with the next feeding. I ALWAYS add egg shells when I put coffee grounds n the bin. I use two shells for a bin with a surface area of about 2 sq feet (Can ‘O Worms)

Paul

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Wannus
#34. October 24th, 2013, at 12:50 PM.

I was looking for info about the small white worms in my compost, but now figured out that they are maggots! probably from the fruitflies and other I recently had to combat. I got rid of the flies in a few days by putting alot more dry leaves everyday on top when I mixed the daily veggie trash in the top layer. So I presume now I will get an outbreak of flies within the next week :(

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Karuna Poole
#35. November 4th, 2013, at 9:31 AM.

I still have trouble with huge numbers of white worms. I use the egg shells fairly regularly but haven’t noticed much difference. Bread soaked in milk didn’t do much. They are very attracted to corn cobs so I am able to get some of them out that way. I think numbers may be a little lower but not much. When I checked the pH it was fine.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Dustin
#36. November 4th, 2013, at 10:14 AM.

Karuna Poole, Hi. I’ve had the same problems but the only way I have gotten to get rid of them is horse manure or Cow!!! If there is farms close to you ask to get bout 2 or so lbs of it.
Dustin

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Alex
#37. November 6th, 2013, at 12:58 PM.

Actually, Dustin, 2 pounds of horseshit isn’t just for worms. I use it here in San Francisco to treat a surprisingly wide variety of problems, including recalcitrant bosses, unaffectionate cats, rambunctious trick-or-treaters, and inveterate liberals.

Seriously though, this thread is hugely helpful. I didn’t even consider that ph could be a factor.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Emily Sullivan
#38. January 14th, 2014, at 6:16 PM.

I was able to coax a the bulk of pot worms out of one of my redworm bins (a large clear plastic salad greens container from the grocery store) with bread smeared with plain yogurt. It took a few weeks, but I put three 1″ chunks of bread in the worm bin, and about once a day, I’d scoop the small clusters (half the size of a pencil eraser) of white worms out of the redworm bin and put them in their own little container. (kind of tedious process, but fun to do each night).

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Vicki
#39. February 16th, 2014, at 5:03 PM.

Dear Sir:

Every time I plant something in my yard it will soon begin to die off and when I dig it up There are always white worms in the soil I have tried treating it to get rid of them but sooner or later they just come back perhaps I am putting too much potting soal or other things to make the plants and trees grow and for some reason the worms like the soil and then kill off the plants. can you tell me if this is true or not.. please help been trying for years to make things grow in my yard to now avail…thank you. Vicki T.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Lonnie Lefeavers
#40. February 27th, 2014, at 11:40 PM.

Invasion! Separation of eggs/poop/ babies. My first bin & the pot worms are surrounding baby reds.. 2nd day allowed them nooks & crannies on white plastic bag. During search I realize ten ir more smother 1 baby. Also , during Adult coynt/ separation = some seem to Know I was clearing pot worms fromeye’s (there should be Two ((eye brows)) Micjey Runey) LOL. They seem to hold still. I finally got rain water- rinse started, as a quick Pot worm in my eye REMOVAL. This speeds up separation process. Still what to do with P. Worms. Will they harm Tater’ Crop? Do they really eat Ne

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Lonnie Lefeavers
#41. February 27th, 2014, at 11:43 PM.

Pot Worms; Do they really eat Nematodes? Will they bother Tater’s? Im counting Reds 128 adults. Glad to see Potworms go

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com kevin masson
#42. February 28th, 2014, at 9:45 PM.

As a keen aquarist[I keep tropical fish] its great to see so many white worms in my compost, although they are great for bringing fish into breeding condition they are a rather fatty food. However I do want to use the compost soon for my veg patch. Will it be ok to just use the compost as it is and will the worms improve my soil or damage the new plants?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Dave
#43. March 5th, 2014, at 8:19 PM.

Hey everyone love all the posts. Here is a backwards post from everyone else. I want the white worms, how can I get them to start. I am a fish keeper, and white worms just happen to be a very good food source for fish. I am new to the worm composting thing I am only on my second week, I do have a bin started, with about a pound of worms in it. My plan is two fold, I do want the compost, but I also want to feed my fish, I was planing on keeping my red wriggler population down by feeding young worms to the fish. BUT if I can get the white worms to start that would be even better. Can someone tell me how they got them ” white worms ” to start?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Brianna
#44. March 11th, 2014, at 12:23 AM.

So I found these in my soon to be garden. I just moved in to a house and was starting to clear out the raised garden beds and as I was going through the soil I found a ton of these.

Does anyone know if they will damage my plants?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jo
#45. March 16th, 2014, at 7:08 PM.

Has anyone had any problems when using the compost with pot worms on their vegetable plots?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Emily Sullivan
#46. March 23rd, 2014, at 7:30 AM.

@Dave, I don’t know where they come from… they just show up in worm bins. You can buy starter packs of white worms, they multiply readily and are easy to feed. (there are videos on YouTube). Or, just keep digging through your worm bins until you find some, and start setting them aside in a little container with some soil. Throw in bread with yogurt on it, keep it moist. They’ll breed and grow their population. They also LOVE to eat cat food kibble.

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