From Bad to Worse – Sour Worm Bin Decline

Heaps of dead mite bodies on the floor beside the bin

Well, it seems my recent attempts at getting my European Nightcrawler bin back on track are failing miserably thus far. When I looked down at the bin yesterday I was shocked to see a LOT of strange sawdust-like powder accumulated on the outer surface of the lid (near the air holes) and in various heaps on the floor around the bin. I can honestly say that I’ve never witnessed anything like this before!

Upon closer examination using my trusty Eyeclops hand magnifier, I realized that the dust was made up of countless tiny mite carcasses. These particular mites are much smaller than the round shiny ones I’ve written about before (which by the way seem to be doing just fine in this bin), so I don’t think I’ve ever really realized they were there. Given the amount of dust that has accumulated outside the bin, I’d wager to say that they were hugely abundant in the bin.
I actually found some living specimens of the same species huddled up in a writhing mass on the underside of the lid, but I suspect they won’t last much longer.

Interestingly enough, the worms seem to be ok for the most part. I saw one sluggish worm up on the surface yesterday, but it buried down into the material once the lid was off. With each passing day I am more and more impressed with these Euros. There’s no doubt in my mind that Red Worms would have been trying to get out of this bin by now and at least some would have perished I’m sure.

So what now?

I think it’s safe to say that there is nothing I can do to help mitigate the situation in the bin – it’s definitely time for an overhaul. This may sound odd (given my desire to keep a pure culture of Euros) but I’ve decided to dump the bin in my big outdoor worm bin. I want to see how well the Euros do in that bin and whether or not they can compete with the Reds. I have one other small Euro bin going at the moment, and know that I will easily be able to separate out some adults once they are in the big bin (they look quite a bit different from the Red Worms) for future Euro-only systems as well. This way I can also see what’s going on down below in the sour bin – hopefully it won’t be too ugly!

I’ll definitely take some pictures and write about it here shortly!

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  1. After reading your article “From Bad to Worse – Sour Worm Bin Decline”, I was stunned. I had the same thing happen to me and was never able to get things back to normal. I had to vacuum, at least, the same amount of mites as pictured (usually more) off the kitchen floor, twice a day. I tried all the written suggestions of how to rid the worm bin of mite infestation (yes, I even torched them) but none worked – once they got up to that large of a population it was impossible to bring it down. After having Eisenia fetida for about four years I gave away the compost to someone with a garden and stopped vermin’.
    About a month ago I started again – this time with Eisenia hortensis (Euro’s) and I am hoping I don’t end up with the same mite problem – but if I do – I have one more trick up my sleeve. I am now using a cotton towel on top of the bedding instead of plastic or cardboard as I did in the past. If I end up with a mite infestation again, I will let them cover the towel – put the towel in a bucket – pour boiling water over it and let it sit. I will then lay my back-up towel on the bedding and continue the procedure until the mites have diminished to a number “I” consider tolerable. Wish me luck. My worms never seemed to mind the mites but I was disgusted with the whole proposition.
    I also had a problem with excess water on the bottom of the bins that I was forever soaking up with dry bedding. This time I have drilled drainage holes in the bottom of the bins (only one bin has been set up) and I am being mindful of the moisture content in the food scraps I am adding.
    Regards, Thomas

    • Bentley
    • May 7, 2008

    Hi Thomas,
    Thanks for sharing your experience. Sorry to hear you ended up turned off of vermicomposting altogether – but I’m glad you decided to give it another go.
    Your idea for getting rid of mites sounds interesting. I’d be interested to her how well it works for you (should you end up with another mite infestation)


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