This is the thought that I had earlier this week when I pulled back the worm bedding in one of my bins and found a tonne of small white worms. I'd been noticing these worms increasing in number in my bin for several weeks, but wrote them off as baby red wigglers. Then as the weeks went by and none of them seemed to be maturing, I started to get a little concerned. So I decided to do a little research...
As it turns out, these white worms are not baby red wigglers. Nor are they going to cause any harm. However, even though the white worms themselves are harmless, the environment that fosters them will more than likely kill my red wigglers. Yikes!
Before I explain any further, take a look at the video I shot and see if you've ever noticed these little guys in your own worm bin.
These white worms are better known as pot worms or potworms. Their Latin name is enchytraeids. They are generally harmless and enjoy environments rich in organic matter. They thrive in conditions that are low in pH and high in moisture. Which is exactly the conditions I was fostering in this particular worm bin. As I said in the video, I had just added bokashi compost to this bin, which is naturally quite acidic.
Apparently, these worms have been labelled as "pot worms" because they were originally found in potted plants. I read some information that said some gardeners feel their potted plants aren't normal without the presence of pot worms. Neat, eh?
Pot worms feed on the bacteria and fungi, as well as the organic matter, in your bin. So that means that there must be specific sets of microbes that grow at these lower levels of pH that help to feed the pot worm populations. So how do you reduce their numbers in your bin?
As I said above, these white worms thrive in low pH conditions that are typically high in moisture. Unfortunately, these same conditions are not ideal for your normal composting worm, the red wiggler. So what should you do?
You have a couple options. The first is to do nothing. Continue to treat your worms as you have been doing and see what happens. Since the pot worms are harmless to your red wigglers, you may find that they're capable of cohabiting quite well together. It really depends on just how moist and how low your bin's pH levels are.
Personally, I am going go with option two, which is to add more dry bedding and withhold food for a week or two. This will help to reduce some of the excess moisture in the bin. Also, I am going to add some calcium carbonate to my bin in an attempt to raise the pH level.
You can find calcium carbonate at your local farmer's cooperative store and certain garden centers. Another name for calcium carbonate is marking chalk (the powder they use on sports fields to make the lines) or high calcium lime.
Another method of raising the pH is to add a small amount of wood ash to some water and mist the bin's contents. The problem with this is that you may be effectively raising the pH but you're also adding more moisture, which is somewhat counterproductive.
You can also grind up eggs shells (a good source of calcium carbonate) into a fine powder and mix them with your bin's contents.
One final method to reducing the population of these small white worms in your bin, which I'll have to try, is to soak a piece of bread in milk and put it in your bin. The pot worms are attracted to this and will quickly call it home. Once the piece of bread is saturated with pot worms, you can easily take it out and compost it outdoors or bury it in your garden soil.
Overall, this was quite the learning experience this past week. At the very least, I hope you found this article entertaining and can use it if your worm bin ever needs some troubleshooting. As always, consider me your composting guinea pig, experimenting with all things compost so you don't have to.
Did you enjoy this article? Did you learn something new? If so, please consider sharing it with others.
Have you ever found these small white worms in your worm bin? If so, what did you do about them?