Here is a question from Travis:
I am raising Afrincan Nightcrawlers and Red Wigglers. I have added
wheat grass to both bins and now it seems that the worms are moving
very slowly and the mites are becoming more aggressive in the bins.
What are my possible options to save both bins and make the most of
Green materials like leaves and grass can be quite risky as food materials for enclosed vermicomposting bins (well, at least those made out of plastic). The problem lies in the fact that these materials have a low carbon-to-nitrogen (C:N) ratio, so they tend to off-gas excess nitrogen – in the form of ammonia – as they break down (which can happen quite rapidly). Ammonia gas is highly toxic for worms, even at relatively low concentrations – so you definitely want to avoid any and all conditions that can lead to its creation (high pH can be another potential trigger – so be careful with excess lime etc).
My recommendations for rescuing a worm herd typically include: 1) mixing in LOTS of new, moistened bedding, 2) taking the lid off and leaving it off for at least a few days if possible (keep under a light though), and perhaps (if possible) 3) adding some “living material”, such as well-rotted fall leaf litter, or really well-aged manure/bedding mixes (should smell earthy). It’s also not a bad idea to remove as much of the offending material as possible.
Regarding the mites – they CAN seem to become aggressive at times – I won’t deny that. What most people don’t realize, though, is that this is almost always a behavior that goes hand in hand with a decline in worm health (typically caused by poor habitat conditions). I have yet to see common worm bin mites attacking healthy vigorous worms (it seems some other worm bin creatures are not quite so fortunate: “Parasitic Worm Bin Mites?“).
Unfortunately, maintaining a nice “healthy” environment in enclosed plastic bins can be more challenging than in wooden and/or open systems, especially when you are just starting out, but it’s something you gradually develop a certain “feel” (“worm sense”?) for if you keep at it (that’s not to say there won’t ever be random experimental meltdowns or other unforeseen disasters, though! lol)
Anyway – hope this helps! Thanks for the question.