Question from Ed:
I have a mature worm factory in my basement and I have picked up a
beetle infestation. From what I can figure I think they could be Flea
Beetles. Does it sound possible that I could have Flea Beetles. Should
I be concerned? The seem to be multiplying at a faster rate. Is there
a way to erradicate them or a least limit their growth? Should I be
There are a number of different varieties of beetles that can end up (sometimes in great abundance) in your vermicomposting systems. Flea beetles are not one of them – at least not in my experience (or that I know of). Likely the most common type is the “rove beetle” (Staphylinidae). These can sometimes appear in great numbers – particularly in open systems (especially those receiving manure as a food). These beetles tend to be long and thin, and often exhibit a curious tail-raising behavior as they run.
What you are likely seeing, though, is another fairly common variety – the “feather-wing beetle” (Ptiliidae). Like flea beetles, these can be VERY tiny. But like the rove beetles, they can appear in huge abundance in a composting system.
I wouldn’t worry TOO much about them – they certainly won’t harm the worms. They occupy a similar ecological niche as springtails – mainly feeding on microbes. In other words – if anything, they likely help!
If you are still hell-bent on getting rid of them, your first step should involve cutting back on the amount of food waste you are adding to your system. You should also implement some food “optimization” strategies – things like chopping, aging and freezing/thawing can help to make the food wastes “worm-friendly” much more quickly, reducing the opportunity for other organisms to chow down.
If you happen to have access to any well-aged manure, you might also try adding a small amount of that. This material tends to have a very diverse ecosystem of composting organisms (including predators like rove beetles) and it can help to bring about a bit more balance in a worm composting system.
Hope this helps!
IMPORTANT NOTE: Some people mistakenly refer to rove beetles as “feather-wing beetles”. The latter tend to be much smaller, and spherical in shape (not elongated like rove beetles).
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