Some good questions from Anna:
Hi, I love this site and am grateful to have some online
friendly advice! I purchased a Can O’Worms and 2 pounds of red worms
about 2 months ago. We had a heat wave and it was about 100 degrees
here and when I checked on the worms, maybe about half (a heaping
handful had gone down into the bottom section and were dead! I feel
terrible!!! What should I have done to save the poor dears?
I have a stinky bin question too – I know this means anaerobic, and I
go in and gentle mix things up, but it’s still kind of musty/farty
And there are a LOT of tiny white-ish eggs all over the bin surface
and on top of the compost. And yesterday, some inch long white really
thin worms – maggots???? I don’t put meat in the bin…Yikes!
I thank you in advance, and sorry for all the questions, but I have
no one else to ask!
No need to apologize. I really enjoy answering reader questions – especially when there is the potential to help a bunch of people at once (by answering on the blog).
Ok – firstly, I’m sorry to hear about your worms. That is certainly no fun (either for you or the worms)!
The ‘Can O’ Worms’ stacking system is a great worm bin there is no doubt about it, but your situation has certainly highlighted the limitations of systems like this. In my mind, small plastic systems (especially those that are black in colour) are generally best kept indoors since they are very easily influenced by outdoor air temperatures, and can turn into mini furnaces if let out in the sun for any length of time.
If you are going to keep these systems outside, it is very important to locate them in the coolest possible area of your yard. Red Worms are quite tolerant of warm temperatures, but if it is common for temps to reach 100 degrees (37.8 C) or more in your area I’m not even sure a shady area will keep your worms alive when kept in small plastic systems.
If I lived in a region with heat waves like that I would definitely construct a separate (larger) outdoor system. It would be fairly light in colour, would be designed to allow a decent amount of airflow (but not so much that it’s constantly drying out), and would definitely have a pit underneath it where the worms can retreat during very hot temps (I actually DO have a system like that, but I’m more concerned with protecting from the cold than the heat).
As for your stinky, farty smelling bin…
I would definitely (plug my nose then…) mix in a bunch of shredded cardboard or newspaper strips to help encourage more air flow. You may also want to hold off from adding any new food for a little while as well.
The little round “eggs” are likely mites – there is a round, slow moving variety that just seems to be born to invade worm bins (it’s rare to keep worm bins for any length of time and never see these mites). They always seem to appear when conditions start to go downhill for the worms – in fact, many newcomers assume they eat worms since you will often find them coating semi-alive, and dead worms. They are actually there cleaning up the mess, and won’t cause any direct harm to healthy worms.
As for the “inch long” white worms, you’ve definitely got me stumped there. It is common to get Pot Worms (aka ‘White Worms) in a worm bin (they often come hand in hand with the mites – well ok, not literally – haha), but they are nowhere near an inch in length – at least not in my experience. they definitely don’t sound like any sort of maggot, since those would be shorter and fatter. Whatever they are, there is a decent chance they won’t cause any harm to your worms – but DO keep and eye on them just in case!
Anyway, hope this helps somewhat!
Thanks for the questions.
[tags]worm bin, worm bins, can o worms, vermicomposting, worm composting, white worms, pot worms, mites[/tags]