Tiny Red ‘Bugs’ in Worm Bin

A question from Kelly

We recently started our bin. Picked up a large bucket of
worms/compost from Growing Power here in Milwaukee. Set up our bin
with bedding and food etc. we went on vacation for a week came back
and the inside lid had tons of water moisture on it. We actually
dumped it off (so we drilled more holes for air to release) BUT, we
also discoved little itsy bitsy tiny red bugs…the size of a
strawberry seed all over the inside lid were the water was trapped.
Is this a problem? Can it get worse? What can I do?

Hi Kelly,
It definitely sounds as though you have had a population explosion of mites (more closely related to spiders than insects). Check out the photo I’ve included below – do your ‘bugs’ look anything like the brownish-red critters? (the other guys are Springtails, by the way)
Mites VERY common in worm bins – especially your typical, enclosed plastic bin. Generally this isn’t something to need to worry about too much. They won’t harm your worms, and are just taking advantage of an available food source.

Mites and Springtails
Mites and Springtails on rotting melon


They seem to love wet conditions and water-rich food wastes like cucumber and melon. As I’ve written previously, now that I am using open systems (much drier and more air flow), I hardly see any of the common worm bin mites anymore – I’m sure some of them are still there, but likely living down where the moisture levels are higher.

I’d suggestion drilling a bunch more air holes (sounds like you are way ahead of me there) and adding lots of dry, absorbent bedding at the top of your bin to help create a drier environment in this zone. Also, if there seems to be excess food waste in the bin, you may want to cut back on the amount you are feeding your worms.

Hope this helps!
8)

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Comments

    • Ellee
    • April 28, 2009

    Hi. I am trying to harvest my compost and have set about putting the food into one side and have reduced the bedding so that I can have the compost. However the worms are not moving to the other side. I suspect they want to finish the remaining food in their side. Also I have noticed black bugs that are long with mini horns on top and the red mites. I do not know whether the red mites turn into the black horned insects but I don’t know how to deal with this. They don’t seem to bug the worms but how the heck did these insects get into the compost bin to begin with?

    Thanks

    • Dave
    • May 15, 2009

    I experienced a massive bloom of mites after adding too many banana peels to the scraps, so many mites that the top of the composter was seething with them and the worms weren’t coming up to eat. I have a plastic worm condo so it was difficult for me reach a moisture balance to get rid of them. I finally resorted to covering the top layer of compost with slivers of honeydew melon over night and the next morning taking one sliver off at a time and quickly scorching the mites with my handy little chef’s butane torch. Then I cut back on all fruits and so far so good.

  1. i had the RED MITE in my two worm farms .And i got rid of them by placeing two very ripe avacado over night and taking the avacados out every morning and wash them under the cold water .Idid it for about a week no more RED MITE .Iwill add i placed the avacados on a lid of two liter ice cream container they seem to find they way to the avacados

  2. I hope this will help every body that has thoes MITES in their worm farms

    • Bentley
    • March 11, 2010

    Thanks for sharing that Bert! Sounds like a great idea. I’ve heard of people doing the same using melons etc and it seems to be a great strategy.
    8)

    • Whitney
    • May 5, 2010

    I have had a swarm of itsy bitsy bugs also emerge in my worm bin. We have finally moved it outside because the bugs were getting onto the plant starters in the garage windows. Two questions: how can I get them off the plants, organically? And will the worms be okay outside in their plastic bin? (79-80 F days under a willow tree; 40s F at night)

    Thank you!

    • Bentley
    • May 6, 2010

    Hi Whitney,
    I’d need to see a picture of these bugs to have any idea re: what to do about them. I don’t know of any worm bin critters that pose issues for plants other than fungus gnats (whose larvae can harm seedlings).

    As long as the worms have LOTS of aeration and are never in direct sunlight I think they should be ok outside but you really do need to be careful will small plastic bin systems (with lids on that is)

  3. We live in north Florida zone 9 and are wondering how to manage our outdoor above ground worm bins in the winter? They are along the eastside our house and under cover but it can get as cold as 19degrees here….any suggestions?

    • Sarah
    • April 1, 2011

    I have a red mite problem too and found out that it’s related to PH imbalances. Fruits tend to be more acidic which is why they like them. So, I’ve been crushing up Tums/calcium tablets to bring down the ph, as well as avoiding fruits. Praying that this works!

    • Darlene
    • July 8, 2011

    R these compost mite mites harmful to plant humans or pets

    • Christine M
    • December 3, 2011

    I have a plastic bin that is filling up with condensation as well.
    I read your advice above to drill more holes. Should I drill holes only above the worm habitat or should I drill more holes on the bottom inches of the sides and bottom of bin as well? If its the latter, won’t I purée some of the worms?

    • Neli
    • April 24, 2012

    I have forgotten my worms for four days (after feeding them chopped lettuce) and yesterday, voillá, I opened the container and saw these minuscules red bugs going busy around the top of compost and under the lid. It is wet there. I have to move them to a larger container and I am going to cover it with dry newspaper, see if it works. I will try the melon method too. Thanks for this page. It really answered my concern when I saw these critters around.

    • Anna
    • July 18, 2013

    Thank you. I now know what those tiny red bugs are.
    I clean the tops of my rubbermaid worm bins 2 weeks ago and there was a red mess like fungi on the top inside the lid with tiny red bug everywherer. I washed it off and cleaned out my plastic air filters and the nylon and replace it. Well, today the tiny red bugs were back, but not as bad as before. It has been quite warm and my farms are inside. I have added more bedding with the hope that the bugs will go away.

    • Jes Anderson
    • August 29, 2013

    I LOVE THIS PLACE! I had an explosion of mites today, good to know they aren’t harmful!

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