Getting Rid of Worm Bin Mites

This isn’t technically a reader question, but I thought it would be very helpful to post it. Kristen has been frustrated with her abundance of mites – specifically the ones crawling out of the bin and piling up on the floor. After not being able to find any solutions online she decided to take matters into her own hands.

Hey there! I LOVE your website and find it very helpful and
informative! Thank you for putting so much effort into keeping it
updated and interesting =)

I have an almost – 3 month old worm bin that I’ve made from a big
rubbermaid container and about 3 weeks ago noticed that sawdust type
stuff all around my bin that has been mentioned here before. I assume
they were dead white mites from what I’ve been reading around. Well, I
hear they are not dangerous to the bin, BUT, although I can handle the
idea of worms living under my sink, having to vacuum piles of dead
bugs daily just rubs me the wrong way. There aren’t many solutions I
could find for this issue and since my worms all seem very happy and
healthy I didn’t want to go picking through the bin and start it over
already, so I figured if they really weren’t a health issue I would
just contain them so I didn’t have to deal with them. . .

I had pet hissing cockroaches for a few years and abosolutely loved
having them around. They are very smart and can climb glass and they
can then even push the top up on the tank to free themselves. I
learned that if you smear vasoline around the top of their tank, about
an inch wide, they can not keep their traction and slide down so there
is no way for them to reach the actual top of the tank to escape. It
would have to be reapplied every once in a while because it’d dry out
and they would keep testing it to see if it was gone. . Soo . . I
applied this method to the worm bin hoping that the worms would not be
affected if they touched the vasoline if they tried to esape. 1st I
wiped the inside of the bin that wasn’t covered up with paper scraps
so I got rid of most of the mites I could see, then I smeared the
vasoline about an inch wide around the whole top of the bin. I also
dug down a little bit and wiped some around the ventilation holes
since that mite-dust was coming out of those also.
I had stopped feeding my worms for about a week to let them really
work on the food that was in there so hopefully that wouldn’t be the
issue that was inviting these pesky mites. So I figured they were
hungry by then so I dumped in some food, covered it all up and fast
forward 3 days later and my mite issues seemed to have just about
dissapeared! There is no more mite dust to clean up, and there is just
a minimum of mites inside the bin! yay!
so, I’m not sure if somthing I did was the solution to my problem, or
if it just was by chance they are gone, but I thought I’d get your
take on the whole vasoline idea and maybe it can be offered to anyone
looking for something to try when they have to be living so close to
their worm bin and don’t want dead bugs to be piling up all around it.

Hi Kristen!
Thanks for sharing that. Very interesting.
In all honesty, I would normally be a little worried about the idea of smearing vaseline on the inside of my worm bins – oily substances like that can coat the worms’ skin essentially suffocating them. It does however sound like an intriguing way to trap (or at lease impede) mites, and once your worms are well settled in (not crawling up the sides as much) this shouldn’t cause too much harm. Perhaps they wouldn’t even go near the stuff anyway.

I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has come up with ways (that actually work) to get rid of mite infestations. I tend to be pretty easy going about various worm bin creatures, but I know there are a lot of people out there who feel otherwise.

[tags]mites, worm bin, worm bins, worm composting, vermicomposting, invertebrates, worms[/tags]

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Comments

    • Sherry
    • June 7, 2008

    I can’t seem to get rid of the brown mites in my bin. I’ve taken it outside in the sun, put lots of dry bedding in, withheld feeding for a number of days. I also put cantaloupe rinds and avocado halves in as bait. Bread slices don’t seem to attract them much.

    The thing that puzzles me, is that I wait till the food is pretty much or completely used up before feeding. There’s no liquid in the bin, and the castings are really light and fluffy. There are also lots of cocoons. Yet I have mites. They aren’t crawling on the sides, but they are crawling all over the top of the bedding. The lids of the Rubbermaid bins are usually propped open a bit (hinged lid) or set ajar on the snap lid.

    Since the worms don’t talk, I don’t know if they are stressed or not, but I know I am.

    I’m open to ideas, short of flaming them with a torch.

    • Eve
    • July 6, 2008

    Hi Bentley

    I think this is another bug solution.

    While its still to early to know if i have a permanent fix this is working as a quick fix.

    My bin is now two months old and i just had my first bug explosion. White mites and fruit flies.

    Now that the garden is coming around I recently have started adding a lot of fresh garden produce along with too much store bought fruit, especially watermelon. The watermelon was gone just the rinds are left so it is getting ate. But the rind and everything else was covered with mites.

    I went from having a few drips of liquid to over 3 inches in the bottom of the outer bin in just a couple weeks. For the first time my bin was getting smelly and mites were everywhere, up the sides and coming out air the holes. And fruit flies were all over the house, a cloud of them escaped when i opened the lid. i don’t think that the smell of bin was so bad that it was sour but it was starting to go that way.

    I decided my first step should be to get rid of the stinky liquid so i separated the bins and dumped and washed out the bottom drip bin. I then took the opportunity to drill a few more air holes I decided not to turn it upside down so i carefully drilled them couple inches above the bottom of the worm bin.

    I noticed that the fruit flies were landing on the top edges of all the highest points in the bin so I then added a sticky fly trap into the bin. One of those cheap cardboard roll things with plastic ends made for house flies. I just laid it on top of a couple sets of inverted egg crate pieces making it the highest thing inside the bin and closed the lid.

    Checking again tonight most the mites were back down in the bedding just a few on the sides of the bin and i had an amazing amount of fruit flies stuck onto the fly trap. The smell did improve a lot by just cleaning out the drip tray, already the scent inside the bin is improving.

    Another thing i should note is that by using the double bins the mites that got out of the bin never ended up on the floor. They ‘fell’ into the outer bin. A nice plus when considering what type of bin system to use.

    Eve

    • Bentley
    • July 13, 2008

    Great, Eve – thanks for sharing! 8)
    (sorry for the delay responding)

    B

    • Eirien
    • June 2, 2010

    Hello Bentley and others!

    I just started up a double bin last month and unfortunately have had an explosion of mites. I’ve found most of them crawl right over thick layers of petroleum jelly and watermelon rinds don’t entice them at all!

    Currently I’ve gone down to a single bin and am using masking tape along the edging. So far it’s working well. I’m also going to try vinegar traps in the near future.

    While I don’t like the thought of killing en masse, I’m really getting nervous about the idea they could be leaving the bin and exploring the house!

    • schalk
    • September 5, 2010

    Hi,

    i also have problems with mites in my bin many say cantalope, or even watermelon, but we don’t get watermelons this time of year
    do you have any idea? anything will do…….

    thanx, schalk

  1. I just wanted to update my mite issue.

    I’ve come to accept mites as being normal in a healthy bin. I keep the lid off to reduce moisture on the walls/lid and use a line of masking tape on the top rim to stop exploring mites.

    Refresh tape every few weeks, esp right before a good compost turning as mites will explore everything right after.

    • Sharon
    • September 27, 2010

    Hi,
    I have found a great way to “catch” the annoying fruit flies is to put a small amount of apple cider with a couple of drops of dishwashing fluid in a small dish or cup (stirred well) works wonderfully. I set it right next to my compost holder and voila many fruit flies end up in the liquid. Also saw on tv another version of same technique is to put apple cider in a bowel and cover with plastic wrap with holes poked in using toothpicks. Fruit flies get in but can’t get out (for some reason) and they said that worked too but haven’t tried as the way I have been doing it works fine.

    • Gage
    • November 4, 2010

    I have had my bin set up for about two months and had an explosion of mites. I got my worms from unclejims so I called and asked about the proplem and they said eventually the mites will go after the worms! they told me to use raid home and graden spray to kill the mites and that it wont hurt my worms. they said to lightly mist the areas where most of the mites are.

    • Xenia
    • May 18, 2011

    From reading these blogs it is my understanding that mites in my worm bin are (1) common, (2) not harmful to the worms, and (3) difficult to get rid of. However, following on my last point, I question whether it’s ok to use the vermicompost on my garden and indoor plants. I am concerned about introducing mites to my plants. Can anyone advise? Thanks in advance.

  2. Xenia, if you don’t want the bugs in your indoor plants then scoop the soil into a baggie or bin and freeze it overnight. Let it thaw and use.

    You could also microwave, bake or boil it but I’m assuming the more you muck with it the more it loses its potency. Freezing is also easier as it doesn’t stink up the house nor tarnish your cookware. 😛

    Either way, imho even prepped compost is a far better natural fertilizer than any regular commercial ones I’ve seen at my garden centres. G’luck!

    • Starfire
    • April 24, 2012

    Thanks to everyone for the wonderful ideas on how to get rid of mites. I too got my worms from unclejims. They advertise their worms do not have mites or fleas. I’ve got news for them. About 2 weeks after introducing the worms to my worm farm, I noticed a few mites crawling around on the lid. I washed the lid & while it was still wet, I tried sprinkling a little diatomic earth on the lid. That did seem to slow them down but I was away for a week & when I came back, there was another outbreak of mites. It was even worse than before. This time, I also found a black beetle in my worm farm & it was so coated with mites you could hardly tell it was a beetle. I notice more mites on the lid at night, so I’m going to start washing it every night & give it a light dusting of diatomic earth. I also think I will try vasoline. Not many worms crawl up the sides, so hopefully this will help getting rid of the mites as well. The only way I’d ever use raide is as a last resort. I love my worms & my worm farm but these mites have got to go. Thanks again for all of the info!

    • Rose in Dallas
    • April 24, 2012

    Here’s what worked for me to get rid of mites and gnats. I started a double-bin system 4 months ago, and 6 weeks later I had white mites and gnats driving me crazy, so moved the bin to the garage. Bentley gave me the most successful advice. I realized my bin was too wet and added lots of additional bedding to help dry it up, then stopped feeding for 2 weeks. Moving it to the garage was ideal, which allowed me to leave the bin lid off, but adding an additional 3-4 inches of fluffy loose bedding on the top. I also wiped down the sides of the bin every couple days with a cloth sprayed lightly with an environmentally safe disinfectant spray. It removed all the mites that accumulated up the sides and never seemed to bother the worms. I also started burying their food really deep in the center to discourage the pests from getting to it. It took about a month of persistence but now my bin appears to be mite and gnat free. Even if there are a few, I don’t mind – I understand the ecosystem thing. My compost is also light and fluffy, and my wormies are happy, wiggly, and productive reproducers. They appear to have tripled in quantity since I started with a pound. Today I did a demonstration with my worm bin at our church school and it went over really big. One of the teachers even asked if I could help them start a school worm bin next semester. Of course I will and even donate everything to get started. What a compliment!

    • Dina
    • June 5, 2012

    Thank you for all the good ideas on controlling the mites in your bins. I noticed a lot of mites last time I harvested my bin so I left the finished compost outside hoping to kill them. It ended up raining which left about an inch of water in the finished compost bucket and all of the mites floating on top of it. I have used this compost on my inside plants with no mites in sight.

    • Ariel
    • June 12, 2012

    I started a worm bin only a week ago and there are already mites. I did get them from walmart so I figure that is why. Although mites may be ok for the worm bin, they are terrible for the reptiles I feed them too. Mites are a common problem with reptiles and nightcrawlers are always mentioned to be a good source of nutrients. I am wondering if this advice is what gives reptiles the mites. I will have to throw away my worms because I let my reptiles roam a little in my garden. Let me know if there is a way I can prevent mites or how they develop

    • Michele
    • June 22, 2012

    Are these mites (which I have in my new worm bin) the same kind that affect cats? That’s all I need

    • Bentley
    • June 22, 2012

    Hi Michele (and others),
    It is very important to realize that there are literally thousands of different kids of mites, occupying pretty well every possible ecological niche on the planet. The vast majority of mites associated with composting systems are totally harmless – and there are definitely none that are going to harm you, your pets, or even your plants.
    I always recommend developing a healthy respect for the vermicomposting ecosystem – when healthy and balanced there are far more creatures than just the worms working in harmony.
    An explosion in mite numbers (or any other critter) should not make you want to kill the mites but rather to determine WHY the balance has shifted in their favor.

    • Sue
    • January 20, 2013

    Hi Bentley
    I too have little flies – fruit flies? – in my bin along with tiny white bugs shaped like tubes.

    Should I be turning the soil daily? Sometimes the soil is really compacted where the food is along with a mass of worms.

    These little flies are now in my house plants.

    Help.

    • Adam
    • May 1, 2013

    @Xenia from everything I know about the common worm bin mites, you do not have to worry about introducing them to your garden. They feed only on decaying matter, not living plants.

    • Adam
    • May 1, 2013

    @Sue I wouldn’t turn the soil “daily”. Once a week or so is what I try doing, if that. The tiny white bugs sound like they may be pot worms. Fruit flies can be lessened if you freeze/thaw the scraps before adding to the bin or microwave then cool them. Most fruit has fruit fly eggs on it. If the white bugs are little pot worms, it could mean you are adding too much acidic foods.

    • Adam
    • May 1, 2013

    @Eirien… I would not put the castings in a bag to freeze/microwave. A lot of the effectiveness of castings is based on the microbes in them. Sealing in a bag, freezing, and microwaving will kill a lot of the benefits of fresh castings. Although they will still be nutrient rich, they won’t have microbes to help break down more organic materials in your garden. These microbes are part of what makes castings so great in fighting certain plant diseases.

    • Texgal
    • January 4, 2014

    Although I haven’t tried this yet, I was told by Texas Red Worms that food grade diatomaceous earth will not hurt the worms but will kill off springtails and mites. If the bin is real wet, not sure if the DE will work but it’s worth a try.

    If I understand it correctly, they will not harm your bin unless there is a large population of them.

  3. Don’t waste your time trying to bait with bread or milk soaked bread as some websites suggest. I’ve tried both and they don’t work. Plain bread only attracted a few millipedes. The bread soaked in milk only attracted a few mites and lots of worms. The worms were all over the bread so I left it for them to finish. Whew, sour milk really stinks!

    I’ve found baiting with slices of cantalope or honeydew melon to be the fastest and easiest way to reduce mite populations. Just place slices in the bin and in less than a day they will be covered with mites. Take the melon out and dunk it in a pail of water and then place it back in the bin. Do this 2-3 times a day and within a few days the population will be under control again. Just make sure to disspose the pail of water each time or some of the mites will survive and climb out and try to make their way back to the bin.

    I baited for mites using melon 2 or 3 times the first year I got into worm composting. I haven’t had a problem in the three years since. About the time I even see a few mites is if I’ve been feeding the worms melons or pumpkins, or the bin is a little too wet.

    • Adam
    • March 22, 2014

    Food grade DE will help only if it doesn’t get wet. It’s pretty useless for killing insects if wet. Springtails and mites aren’t bad in the worm bin. They just help compost the materials faster. With all of the buckets of food I process through them, that’s a big plus.

  4. I too have a lot of small “live” white mites or what appear to be scurrying all through out the bin. They apparently really like cardboard as it’s where I see them the most. I understand through the decomposition of vegetation there is going to with time be a natural eco-system developing that will need more than just worms to break down food deposits or worm excretions, any dead worms, etc and from what I read the white bugs are harmless to the worms.

    My concern however was despite how well I wash and disinfection my hands after handling compost is, are these the same mites that people get in their hair and is cause for concern? I have three young children and their friends often playing around my garden where I throw these compost which contain the mites. The children are also very curious about the worms and often want to hold them or in other situations I use some of mine for fishing as well.

    My question simply, is it the same mite to intestate the hair of my children and or pets (dog)?

    • Bentley
    • June 30, 2014

    Absolutely 100% NOT the same types of “mites”, Michael. These mites are adapted for life in a composting (or similar) environment. Important to keep in mind that there are thousands of species of mites, occupying pretty well every ecological niche you can imagine.

    • James given
    • March 27, 2015

    I just worm farming about two month ago ,I have a problem with red mites I tried the bread trick but I seem to have them every where ,some one please help me seems to be affecting the worms

    • Michelle
    • June 9, 2015

    Hey there,
    I’ve had my worm bin nearing three months now. I only have a minimum amount of brown mites (little round bugs), but I’m noticing something new and it looks to be similiar to a flea. They are tiny, long and thin and jump like a flea does. Is this a possibility that fleas could be living in my bin? Ahh scary. Also, how might I tell the difference between a pot worm and baby red wiggler?

    • christopher zorthian
    • January 3, 2016

    @michelle, those jumping bugs are not fleas, the’re called spring tails and are beneficial to your worm bin. they will die off if they cannot be in their natural habitat{aka worm bin} so no need to worry about those critters, there a blessing. and they do not bother the worms at all. as far as mites just use 2 inches of dry shreaded paper to your worm bin at all times and leave the lid off. when you feed your bin, scrape the bedding to one side and dig down and bury your food. then return the bedding to the top. this will keep mites and fruitflys away

    • Meggan
    • July 27, 2017

    THANK U ALL SO MUCH FOR THE ADVICE ON MITES. I started my worm farm 3 months ago..The mites scared me and I thought I was going to have to give up. Because I read all your comments I think it’s safe to keep trying…Someday I’ll tell you all about my venture to starting a worm farm… It’s pretty funny now that I look back.. It sure wasn’t when I first startedu…

    • Brandon
    • August 8, 2017

    I have white and brown or red mites as well. Since people seem to be interested on trapping the mites, I have noticed that they tend to congregate on matted down wet cardboard or pieces of paper bag. When I first started my bin I added hummus that was sitting in my fridge for little while and within days the hummus was covered in mites. Also I had spilled a significant amount of coconut milk and naturally put the paper towel I used to clean the mess in the worm bin. The mites seemed to love the coconut milk soaked paper towel as much as the worms. I have had an issue with mites literally since day 3 of my worm farm. Got my worms from Uncle Jims. I have an indoor worm bin. I find it highly unlikely that these mites somehow came from outside into my house and into my worm bin. Anyway, I am a noob at this and am experimenting with the amount of food water and types of food to give my worms. Hopefully with due diligence I can limit the environment with mites. I have read that NEEM SEED cake is scientifically proven to benefit worms. Link here https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14766163. I have some left over neem seed meal I will add to the bin and hopefully will prevent kill and deter the mites. Assuming that mites are sensitive to neem like most other insects.

    • Amy Witherow
    • July 2, 2018

    I have small round, black bugs the same shape as a lady bug, but about half the size. They stay down in the worm castings, and when I expose them (when I put food scraps in the middle of the bin) then dig down and hide. They must get be eating the worms; there seem to be fewer of them.
    My “bin” is a canvas bag that lets liquid run out. It has a netting on top.
    Any ideas about what to do about these bugs?

    • Bentley
    • July 11, 2018

    Hi Amy
    My hunch is that those are some sort of beetle. I always recommend not jumping to conclusions about various bugs (etc) eating your worms, though. Worm numbers can drop for countless different reasons (especially outdoors) – and it is often the other critters that get the blame. lol
    When there are a lot of beetles in a system there are usually also a lot of beetle larvae (more wormy in appearance but still with legs) so keep an eye out for these.

    • Lana
    • December 13, 2018

    So I ordered worms from uncle Jim’s and noticed the tiny tiny black dot moving around. I assume this is a mite? Now I see more in my bin. They are super tiny and it really looks like a black moving spec. Is it a mite?
    They don’t appear to be around the food. Should I let my bin dry out a bit? I’ve had my bin for just over a week.

    • Bentley
    • December 14, 2018

    Hi Lana – I honestly wouldn’t worry too much. Focus on taking care of the worms (feed in moderation early on) and you should be just fine. They could be a type of mite (likely) or some other composting critter.

    • Ann
    • February 10, 2019

    I also got my worms from Uncle jims and within two days saw mites, but didn’t really worry about it until a month went by. Then I noticed lots of mites and upon inspecting I noticed many nests of them between little clumps of newspaper and each clump had to have hundreds (if not thousands). They were crawling all over the bin. I decided the give the worms a bath/shower and start anew with fresh bedding. I took all the bedding and compost out of the bin and the worms clumped together.It took just a few minutes to separate the compost from the worms using light. Then I rinsed the worms of all dirt. This was just couple of days ago so I hoping it worked.

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