I’ve Got White Worms!

White Worms and Euros and Mites, Oh My!

Not something most people would get excited about – in fact, I’ve had some people get in touch recently who were fairly concerned about the new white wigglers in their bin! For me however, it is exciting to get a mini infestation of white worms because it means I can finally try to get some pictures of them for the website! Yeah – I’m a weirdo!

The pics I’ve added to this post aren’t the greatest but rest assured I will keep trying to capture some decent ones. I will also likely fire up my new Eyeclops toy and see if I can get some cool critter footage!

For those of you unfamiliar, White Worms (aka Pot Worms – family Enchytraeidae) are close relatives of the earthworms. Both of these worms are members of the class (might actually be subclass now) Oligochaeta – i.e. they are segmented worms with “few bristles”, unlike the ‘Polychaete’ worms.

White Worms are common inhabitants of rich organic environments, such as is found in a compost heap or worm bin. In particular, they seem to favour acidic conditions, and in fact can be used as an indication of decreased pH in a worm bin. Commonly they will spring up (seemingly out of nowhere) when lots of acidic materials are added to the bin, or when starchy materials are added and allowed to ferment. My very first experience with White Worms dates back to shortly after I set up my very first worm bin. I decided to add a large quantity of rice to my bin (not knowing any better at the time). Shortly thereafter my bin started smelling like a brewery and zillions of these tiny worms appeared.

Close-Up of White Worms, European Nightcrawler and Mites

White worms themselves are completely harmless in a worm bin, but again they may be and indication that you are overfeeding, or perhaps adding too much acidic waste.

My recent invasion (which is very tame in comparison to my rice experience) likely stemmed from the addition of a decent amount of pineapple scraps, a very acidic material.

White Worms are actually a very popular fish food among aquarium hobbyists. Interestingly enough, one of the suggested ways for breeding them is to soak a piece of bread in milk then add it to the bin where you are keeping them. I can’t say I’m surprised – this would be the ultimate in sour, starchy concoctions!

I think I’m going to add some baby pablum in an effort to increase the population – more White Worms means more photo opps!

I’ll keep you posted!

[tags]white worms, worms, earthworms, earth worms, pot worms, enchytraeidae, vermicomposting, worm composting, worm bin[/tags]

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    • Bentley
    • January 11, 2018

    Hi Poojitha
    My guess is that you might be talking about springtails. Either way, it’s important to remember that these are creatures designed for life in a moist, dark environment. They certainly won’t cause any harm in the house. If you can put the composter inside of a larger bin that should help to keep them contained.

    • Poojitha
    • January 11, 2018

    Thank you! I got that idea of containing it. But by the time I could find a container I’m so happy to see the worms have stopped, may be for now. I guess the difference is when I stopped putting too much starchy stuff. But I think generally I should put the composter in a container.

    • Bentley
    • January 12, 2018

    That makes sense! Starchy stuff can really boost populations of both white worms and springtails.

    • Allen
    • May 6, 2018

    Years ago I was able to find enchytraeidae (white worms) that I could culture and feed to my marine fish. Do you happen to sell these? I’d like to start another culture of them. I now have very small marine fish that these would be ideal for. If you don’t sell them to you have anything that is the equivalent that I can raise? Do you know any invert breeders that sell them if you don’t?

    I’d appreciate any help you can give me … thank you.

    • Bentley
    • May 11, 2018

    Hey Allen
    Unfortunately I don’t sell them but I bet you could start your own culture if you just collected some rotting leaf litter from a local forest floor, put it in a bin and added some starchy waste materials (this kinda makes me want to try this as an experiment now – haha)
    I was under the impression what cultures of white worms were widely available, though.

    • Shani77
    • June 30, 2018

    I went to my garden after a heavy rain and found a lot of what i believe are pot worms. I literally freaked out as I’ve never heard of them and have been working my garden for at least 10 years. What do i do?

    • Bentley
    • July 11, 2018

    Assuming they are indeed white worms, this is actually something you should be happy about, Shani! These worms will only be present in very rich habitats – so that is likely a good sign for your soil and plants.

    • Donna
    • February 17, 2020

    What other species might white worms be confused for? I have a slightly larger worm (about 2 inches stretched out) that is mostly white but has a reddish/pinkish tinge to the front end as they get larger. They are found not in my compost but in shallow pails after a rain. They often stay there for a few days and eventually drown. I tried culturing them like white worms (I have tropical fish) but they were not attracted to bread or milk and instead moved loosely through the compost material I placed in the bin for them. They look very similar. Thanks!

    • Bentley
    • March 3, 2020

    Hi Donna – white worms are pretty distinct, parimarily because of just how white they tend to be. Anything with reddish/pinkish is almost certainly some form of more typical earthworm. And if turning up in rain water I would guess they are a regular soil worm of some sort (don’t tend to work well for culturing).

    • Donna
    • March 3, 2020

    Thanks Bentley! I am coming to that conclusion (likely a smaller earthworm). My betta doesn’t like eating them (a bit too wiggly as they are slightly bigger and also stronger) and my guess is that they give off a smell or taste that is aversive to him. He is interested at first, pecks at them and swims away. He will eat actual white worms no problem.
    They do seem to be doing well in the bin I have put several of them in. They just like being lower in the soil. Maybe the Corydoras I am getting will like them. LOL!

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