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Stories and green tips related to nature, adventure, placemaking, and food systems, written by a beginning farmer/gardener and seasoned sustainability educator who loves to grow, cook, ferment, and eat local and ecologically happy food.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Getting rid of ants in the worm bin, attempt 1

I mentioned yesterday on the blog that there has been an infestation of ants in my worm bin this week. They started showing up after I put squash in the bin for the worms two evenings ago. The morning that I put the squash in, I had discovered many of the worms were escaping. Thinking they were lacking food, I fed them more. In retrospect, I realize that part of the issue may have been that the bin was too acidic, with so much food in there. (More on this below.)

Here are some worms enjoying the fig that I gave them Thursday morning after frantically searching for food they could eat during the day since most of our food scraps were frozen.

I did a quick Google search on Thursday evening and read that making the bin more moist might stop the ants, so I watered it with a sprinkle of water, added some avocado skins after dinner, and went to bed.

Yesterday morning, there were more ants. Like, a lot of ants, all swarming on the food that is supposed to be for my worms. I wasn't quite sure what to do, so I let it go for the morning and went on with my day.

Yesterday evening, I decided to take action. I investigated the bin that is underneath where my worms live, a space that's supposed to collect excess water. I found myself staring at a worm graveyard that stunk pretty bad and was also swarming with ants that were crawling up through one of the legs of the bin. After taking a moment of silence for the worms--and for my wallet, which had contributed $60 for those 2000 worms that now mostly lay dead in my bin--I got to work, scooping the dead worms out with a paper towel and putting them back into the worm bin. I read somewhere that the worms just eat their dead buddies in the worm ecosystem, so we'll see if that's really true. Yes, I contributed to cannibalism yesterday evening, but it seemed better than tossing the dead worms in the trash.

I got out the hose, sprayed the bin down, and set it back in place. I also brought out some corn meal and poured a healthy amount near each leg of the bins, hoping that perhaps the ants would go to the cornmeal and not pay attention to the buffet of decomposing food above them in the bin.
Before closing up the worm bin, I also crushed up some egg shells and poured them throughout the bin. This is supposed to help with the acidity of the bin. I also added corn meal to the bin itself to provide what's left of the worms with a little boost of food that won't contribute to the acidity of the bin. There are definitely still worms in there, but they seem weak and there aren't many left. 

I crushed most of the eggs that were in my egg shell jar that I keep on the kitchen counter. They all went into the bin, along with a healthy scoop of corn meal. I tried to cover up the cornmeal and eggshells so they would be closer to the worms and the food.

This is a very busy weekend for me with very little time at home, but I am realizing that I need to check in on them daily to make sure they are doing okay. We have a ton of food scraps waiting in the fridge for them, so hopefully they will progress well and I can just pop some more squash rinds or pear cores into the bin today and tomorrow.

Taking care of worms is proving to take a little more work than I thought it would, but it's a learning experience and I feel like I already know so much more than I did when I started. I welcome any and all advice you may have about how to support the worms!

Thanks for reading!
Green Gal

P.S. Happy Birthday to my mom, the best mom in the whole world! I am glad that part of my busy weekend includes visiting you to celebrate, Mom. Also, Happy Birthday to my best friend from high school, Alexys! I hope you have a wonderful birthday and that I can see you soon!

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