Jump to content
Cultural Healing and Life
Sign in to follow this  
JJ the Gardener

Vermiculture, Vermicompost - Worm Castings - Part 4

Recommended Posts



Vermiculture, Vermicompost

Worm Castings - Part 4


Using Vermicompost

Vermicompost is a fully stabilized organic soil amendment that is much more microbially active than the original organic material that was consumed.

  • It has a fine particulate structure and good moisture-holding capacity.
  • Vermicompost contains nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium in forms readily taken up by plants.
  • It also has plant growth hormones and humic acids, which act as plant growth regulators.


You can either use your vermicompost immediately or store it and use it later.

  • The material can be mixed into the soil in your garden and around your trees and yard plants.
  • You can also use it as a top dressing on outdoor plants or sprinkle it on your lawn as a conditioner.
  • It’s best to protect the vermicompost from direct sunlight by incorporating it in soil or covering it with mulch.


You can also make “vermicompost tea” to spray on your plants.

  • Simply add two tablespoons of vermicompost to one quart of water and allow it to steep for a day, mixing it occasionally.
  • Water your plants with this “tea” to help make nutrients in the soil available to the plants.
  • Be sure to use the vermicompost tea on your plants within 24 hours of making the batch of solution.
  • Do not use vermicompost tea on the edible portion of a plant unless you are absolutely certain that the solution does not contain pathogens.


Mixing castings for use in starting a garden

photo.jpg Pauly Piccirillo - How To Mix Worm Castings For the Garden.


The way to much information section

Worm farming information:  A special thank you to Rhonda Sherman for all her work in the industry.


"Vermicompost for Healthier Plants"

photo.jpg JC Raulston Arboretum - "Vermicompost for Healthier Plants"



Worm Bin Troubleshooting

Bin smells bad

  • Overfeeding
    • Stop feeding for 2 weeks
  • Non-compostables present
    • Remove non-compostables
  • Food scraps exposed to air
    • Bury food completely
  • Bin too wet
    • Mix in dry bedding, leave lid off
  • Not enough air
    • Drill more holes in the bin


Bin attracts flies

  • Food scraps exposed to air
    • Bury food completely
  • Rotten food
    • Avoid putting rotten food in bin
  • Too much food
    • Don't overfeed worms


Worms are dying

  • Bin too wet
    • Mix in dry bedding; leave lid off
  • Bin too dry
    • Thoroughly dampen bedding
  • Extreme temperatures
    • Move bin where temperature is between 59° and 77°F
  • Not enough air
    • Drill more holes in bin
  • Not enough food
    • Add more bedding and food


Worms are crawling away

  • Bin conditions are not right
    • Review above;
    • Leave lid off and worms will burrow back into bedding as they escape the light.


Mold is forming

  • Conditions are too acidic
  • Cut back on acidic foods; remove mold; moisten bread products


Bedding is drying out

  • Too much ventilation
    • Mist bedding
    • keep lid on the worm bin


Liquid collecting in bottom

  • Poor ventilation and/or over-watering
  • Leave lid off for a couple of days and add dry bedding
  • Feeding too many watery scraps
  • Cut back on coffee grounds and food scraps with high water content
  • Mix food with bedding material before feeding


To prevent unwanted seeds, generally a professional for profit operation.

  • Compost traditionally until the internal compost pile temperature reaches 131 °F to 170 °F for 3 days. 
  • Remove composting material (is not done we only want to kill the seeds and pests)
  • Spread around and let the compost cool or you can cook your worms.
  • Add this compost as feed stock to the worms.


Pests - Not all are harmful but annoying




  • Potworms are common in worm bins and enjoy slightly acidic conditions.
  • Potworms are small white worms commonly found in soil.
    • They can develop into massive populations, especially in compost piles or in earthworm farms.
  • They’re scientifically known as enchytraeids (enn-kee-TRAY-ids) and are segmented relatives of the earthworm.
    • They are often thought to be baby red wigglers, but baby red wigglers are reddish even when they are tiny.
  • The name “potworms” comes from the fact they inhabit the soil in pots and containers.
    • There is some unnecessary worry that overpopulation will choke out the worm population.
    • That is typically not the case as potworms and a host of other creatures, including those that cannot be seen except under a magnifying glass or microscope, reside peaceably with earthworms, often in great numbers.
  • When a potworm invasion occurs, they can number as many as 250,000 in a ten-square-foot area.
  • Adults measure about a quarter of an inch, and can literally appear to be in the millions in comparison to your red wiggler worm population. Potworms tend to congregate together under food.
  • Potworms feed on the same type of litter as earthworms and inhabit rich organic environments such as a compost heap or worm composter.
  • They are efficient at aerating soil and breaking down just about any organic material.
  • This species prefers an acid environment that is moist.
    • When lots of acidic materials are added to the bin, or when starchy materials are added and allowed to ferment.
    • If the bin is too dry, they will die.
  • The easiest way to reduce potworm populations is with bread soaked in milk.
    • They will flock to a piece of soaked bread and can be lifted out and destroyed in large batches
  • Just as potworms won’t harm other living worm species, they do no damage to living plants.
    • The only possible problem that could occur with potworms in a worm bin is if their population grows so large that they compete for food with the red wiggler composting worms.
    • However, this rarely happens and potworms generally help with the composting process.


Spider mites (Brown and white)


  • Mites are the most common pests to show up in your vermicomposter.
  • Most worm beds usually contain several species of mites.
  • Earthworm mites are small and are usually brown, reddish or somewhere in-between.
  • They tend to concentrate near the edges and surfaces of the worm beds and around clusters of feed.
  • They are not known for attacking the earthworms but do eat the worm’s food.
    • When the mite population is too high the worms will burrow deep into the beds and not come to the surface to feed, which hampers worm reproduction and growth. 
  • Mites can compete with the worms for available food if the population spirals too high. High mite populations usually result from:
    • Feeding the earthworms overly moist garbage and vegetable refuse as feed.
    • Over-watering. Keep the beds damp but not wet.
    • Poor bed drainage. Ensure that there are adequate drainage holes at the bottom of your worm bin or housing.
  • Remember, the same conditions that ensure high worm production will be less favorable to mites.
  • If you find your worm farm overrun by mites, expose the beds to the sun for light for a few hours.
    • Cut back on water and feed and then, every 1 to 3 days, add calcium carbonate.
    • Add additional shredded paper or coconut coir to absorb any excess moisture.
    • Drain off any liquid that has collected in the base and check to make sure the spigot is not plugged.
  • They seem to love cantaloupe and watermelon. Place the rinds on top of the compost (after you have enjoyed the fruit of course).
  • Leave it over night and the next day you will have mites covering the rind from top to bottom. Wash the mites off over the sink. Keep repeating the process until you are satisfied with the results. When you're done leave the rinds in for your worms to enjoy.


photo.jpg Christy Ruffner - ControllingSpiderMitesInTheWormBin


Fruit Flies

  • Not a friend, neither an ally, just plane annoying. 
  • A common method for ending the cycle of nature on these worm farming pests mainly in your house.
    • Fill a small bowl with apple cider vinegar,
    • wrap it with plastic wrap and punch a couple of small holes in the middle about the size of a toothpick. 
    • They will fly into the hole and eventually drown.
    • They are attracted to the acid in the vinegar.
  • This is probably what attracted them to the bin in the first place.
    • Remember to add the food in small layers to avoid rapid bacteria growth and pungent odor.
  • A way to prevent their eggs from hatching can be to boil it before feeding it to the worms or freeze it but only if you see them in the fruit. 
    • Freezing will probably only kill the larvae and not the cocoons.
  • Make sure to bury the food under at least 2 inches of bedding to eliminate any flies from getting in.
    • This will also mask the smell from emanating from the bin and attracting other worm farming pests.




  • Springtails are tiny, wingless insects, usually white in color but may also be yellow, gray, red, orange, metallic green and lavender.
  • They feed on mold, fungi, bacteria and decomposing plant material so they are harmless to earthworms.
  • Springtails can “jump” about 75 mm. They have a tiny spring-like structure under their bellies that causes them to jump when disturbed.
  • Springtails are most numerous in wetter bedding, while numbers decrease as the bedding dries out.
  • Although they have on occasion been observed to eat dead or weak worms, springtails are primarily a nuisance because they eat the worm’s food and can, when the populations are big enough, drive the worms deep into the beds and keep them from coming to the surface to feed.
  • One deals with them the same way one deals with mites




  • They are not harmful in a worm composter but may eat some of the earthworm food.
  • Earwigs are outdoor insects usually found under mulch, logs or dead leaves.
  • They both need and are very attracted to moisture.
  • Earwigs are rapid runners, and are easily identified by the prominent pincers on the end of the abdomen.  
  • The common earwig is a light, reddish brown flattened insect, up to one inch in length.
  • Most species of earwigs are scavengers that feed on dead insects and decaying plant material but some species are predators.  
  • Earwigs may try to pinch if handled carelessly, but are harmless to people.




  • Beetles are not harmful in the worm composter.
  • The most common beetles in compost are the rove beetle, ground beetle and feather-winged beetle.
  • Feather-winged beetles feed on fungal spores,
  • The larger rove and ground beetles prey on insects, worms, snails, slugs and other small animals.
    • Rove beetles are the most common group of beetles found in composting bins.
  • They are slender, elongated beetles with wing covers (elytra) that are much shorter than the abdomen; over half of the top surface of the abdomen is exposed.
  • Their tail often bends upwards and they can be mistaken for earwigs.
  • Most rove beetles are black or brown. Most rove beetles are medium sized beetles; a few species are up to one inch long. Rove beetles are active fliers or runners. When they run they often raise the tip of the abdomen.
  • Rove beetles don’t sting, but can give a painful bite.
  • They are found in or near decaying organic matter and feed on other insects such as fly maggots.


Centipedes - Remove these pests


  • Centipedes are fast moving predators that will kill worms and should be removed.
  • Centipedes resemble millipedes, but their bodies are more flattened and less rounded at either end.
  • Centipedes have one set of legs per segment on the bodies and a pair of pincers which originate behind the head. The centipede is generally more reddish than the millipede.
  • The stingers behind their head possess poison glands that they use to paralyze small earthworms, insect larvae and small insects and spiders. 
    • The only way to control centipedes is to remove them by hand which should be done carefully.
    • They will use the pincers to sting.




  • They are harmless to earthworms.
  • Millipedes have worm like segmented bodies with each segment having two pairs of walking legs.  
    • Millipedes move much more slowly than Centipedes and have a rounder body.
  • Colors range from black to red, but those species found in the worm bin are commonly brown or reddish-brown.
  • Millipedes are vegetarians that break down plant material by eating decaying plant vegetation.
  • They will roll up in a ball when in danger.


Sow Bugs and Pill Bugs


  • They are highly beneficial in the worm composter but can harm young plants.
  • Sow Bugs, also known as a “wood louse” are fat bodied crustaceans with delicate plate like gills along the lower surface of their abdomens which must be kept moist and a segmented, armored shell similar in appearance to an armadillo.
  • They are brown to gray in color and have seven pairs of legs and two antennae. They move slowly, grazing on decaying vegetation.
  • They shred and consume some of the toughest materials, those high in cellulose and lignins.
  • Sow bugs are usually found in the upper areas of the worm composter where there is an abundance of unprocessed organic matter.
  • Pill bugs, or “roly polly bugs” look similar to sow bugs but roll up in a ball when disturbed.


Slugs & Snails


  • Slugs and snails can be found in your vermicomposter. While they will not harm the worms they will eat any fresh kitchen waste in the composter.
  • The biggest detriment is the eggs they lay.
    • The eggs can be transferred into your plantings in the compost providing them with a meal of succulent young plants.
  • It is best to remove any slugs or snails you find immediately. If they become a problem you can make a slug trap as follows:
    • Cut several 1 inch opening in the sides of a clean, covered plastic container.
    • Sink the container into the bedding of the top tray of the worm composter so that the holes are just above the level of the compost.
    • Remove the lid and pour in ½ inch of beer or a yeast mixture of 2 tablespoons flour, ½ teaspoon baker’s yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar, 2 cups warm water.
    • The slugs will be attracted to the beer or yeast mixture, fall in and drown.
  • Check the container regularly.




  • Ants are attracted to the food in a worm bin.
  • They feed on fungi, seeds, sweets, scraps, other insects and sometimes other ants.
  • Try not to spill anything near your bins and clear away any spillage as soon as it is spotted.
  • The presence of ants is an indication of dry bedding.
    • Moisten the bedding and turn it with a trowel to disrupt their colonies and most ants will find some place else to live.
  • One way to keep ants out of your worm composter.
    • Put each of your bin’s legs in a dish of water that has had a drop of dish soap placed in it to reduce the surface tension of the water. This prevents the ants from walking across the water.
    • Alternatively, most of the garden centers sell ant goo, a sticky substance that is painted around the stems of rose bushes to trap ants.
    • It is eco friendly as it doesn’t contain any insecticide poisons.
  • If all else fails and the ant invasion has already become serious,
    • Dust the area around your beds with pyrethrum dust or douse the ant nest and the trails leading to your bin with a granular insecticide, or use commercially available ant traps, which contain slow release poisons that the ants take with them back into their nests.
    • Please be sure not to use any insecticide on the actual worm bed soil or you will kill your worms.
    • If ants are already established inside the beds soak the section they are in with water and they will usually go away.
  • The ants don’t bother the worms and they actually benefit the composting process by bringing fungi and other organisms into their nests.
  • The work of ants can make worm compost richer in phosphorus and potassium by moving minerals from one place to another.


Blow and House Flies


  • Excess flies buzzing around your worm bins or worm farms are usually the result of having used meat, greasy food waste, or pet feces as feed.
  • They spread disease and can also result in maggots if the beds aren’t properly sealed.
  • If your farm is kept indoors or under some sort of shading
    • Hang up some fly strips, which will draw them away from the farms. 
    •  A properly maintained worm farm will normally not stink and therefore not attract flies.


Soldier flies


  • Soldier fly larvae are harmless to you, your worms and your plants. They are very good decomposers and, if allowed to stay in your vermicomposting system, will help to recycle your waste.
  • Just be sure that your worms get plenty to eat as well. The soldier fly manure does make good worm feed as well.
  • Soldier flies are true flies that resemble wasps in their appearance and behavior.
  • Adult flies vary in color from black, metallic blue, green or purple, to brightly colored black and yellow patterns.
  • The larvae of the fly are a type of small maggot that feeds exclusively on putrescent material.
  • They are often found in worm composters but are not a real threat to the worms.
    • They do not attack them or compete with them for food and may in fact complement the compost worms activities.
    • Like the vermiculture worms their feces make excellent compost.
    • They can best be kept out of the worm composter by not using meat and fatty waste and by keeping the moisture on the dry side.
    • Make sure that there is a good cover of bedding material over the feeding area.
  • These remarkable creatures, unlike the common housefly, do not spread bacteria or disease.
    • The larvae ingest potentially pathogenic material and disease-causing organisms and thus render them harmless.
    • Moreover black soldier flies exude an odor which positively discourages houseflies and certain other flying pests.
    • When the larvae reach maturity they leave the feeding area to pupate.
    • The adult fly is nocturnal and characterized by very fast and rather clumsy flight.
      • It has no mouth and cannot bite or sting.


Maggots or larvae


  • The most common type of maggots found in a worm bin are grey-brown and about 1/2″ long.
  • These are the larvae of the soldier fly, a large pretty, blue/black fly.
  • These larvae are attracted to compost piles and to the worm bin, and will not harm you or your worms.
    • In fact, they are good decomposers and, like the redworms, will produce a high quality casting.
  • If you haven’t added animal proteins, and don’t have any foul odors in the bin, then in all likelihood the maggots you are seeing will be soldier flies.
  • Once your bin has soldier flies, it can be difficult to say goodbye to them.
    • Your best tactic is to simply allow them to grow out of the larval stage (which they do quickly) and fly off.
    • If you really can’t stand them, you’ll have to harvest the worms and get rid of all your vermicompost material (put it in an outdoor compost pile, or bury it in the garden).
    • Then put your worms back into fresh bedding.


Flatworms and Planarians


  • Land Planarians are extremely destructive to earthworm populations and need to be removed and destroyed upon sight.
  • Land Planarians, also called Flatworms, are iridescent slimy worms with a hammer or disk shaped head.
  • They eat slugs, each other, and are voracious predators of earthworms.
  • Much like slugs, they hide in dark, cool, moist areas during the day and require high humidity to survive.
  • They are rare in rural sites.
  • Feeding and movement occur at night.
  • They can survive desiccation only if water loss does not exceed 45 percent of their body weight.
  • They are thought to primarily be distributed by tropical plants.
  • Planarians are a predator that you will want to remove and destroy every time you see one.
  • Spray with orange oil or bleach, or collect to dry out in hot sun.



Utilizing worm castings in the garden is an excellent way to ensure balanced plant nutrition and maintaining a healthy soil web.  Castings are sometimes referred to as "black gold" due to the plant and soil benefits but also its economic value as high quality worm castings can be profitable.

Additionally, vericulture works to remove food and other organic waste products from landfills where it does not assist nature.  Today more and more restaurants, schools, farms, military and many other businesses and institutions are utilizing vermicomposting and truly making a greener world!  For this, they have our respect!

Depending on the food stock that you feed the worms the traits of the castings can be different.  Such as more manure based castings are different than vegetable based worm castings but they all work great.  Their is also not much data available on this aspect but I do know that is a thing.  In time when more data is more accessible I will update this compilation. 

I hope you have a positive view of worms and perhaps become friends with them.  We owe much to the not so lowly earthworms and I thank them!



Congratulations for learning about composting worms!



Credits - Please support these people and organizations directly.







~A Proud Cultural Healing and Life compilation



Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

  • Create New...