Pests In Vermicompost: What To Do For Vermicompost With Maggots
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By: Kristi Waterworth
Vermicomposting is a great way to put your kitchen scraps to work growing compost worms and creating lots of castings for your garden. Although it seems like a straightforward pursuit, all isn’t as it appears with vermicomposting. Often, you collect hitchhikers in your bin, resulting in vermicompost with maggots. Before you panic, take a breath and read this article about dealing with vermicompost maggot infestations.
Maggots in Vermicompost
Keeping a worm bin can force you to come to terms with the varied creatures that help break down living tissues. For many, these pests in vermicompost have come to be associated with filth and disease, but the truth is that many are complementary to your worm bin. One of the most commonly friendly foe is the black soldier fly. Outdoor worm bins are perfect environments for soldier fly larvae to develop, resulting in the appearance of maggots in vermicompost.
Some worm farmers will elect to leave the black soldier fly larvae in their bins, since they neither feed on worms, nor significantly impact their ability to feed. A little extra material in your bin can ensure that the black soldier fly larvae also get their fill. While they eat, they grow and exude chemicals that discourage other flies from helping themselves to your compost. As an adult, a black soldier fly only lives for about a week, but has no mouth or stinger, so there’s no risk of harm coming from them.
How to Get Rid of Maggots in Vermicompost
If you’re of the opinion that your black soldier fly larvae are simply too much to bear, you’ll need to make several changes to ensure they’re destroyed and new adults can’t enter your worm box.
First, attach fine screens to your air holes, no matter where they are, and mend any gaps all the way around. Caulking fine gaps can keep flies from squeezing in.
Vermicompost with maggots of any type is almost certainly too wet, so the first thing you’ll want to do is dry out the top of the bin. You can let it dry out on its own, then be careful not to overwater in the future, or add more material that can soak the excess liquid right away – like newspaper or shavings.
Once the bin is dry, make sure you bury your food offerings to your worms deeper under the surface to discourage flies from approaching. Fly strips can help trap adults that mature inside your bin.
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5 Signs That You're Looking at a Maggot
Maggots can be a serious problem. If left on their own, they can multiply exponentially, with a very short time between their birth and spawning the next generation. For this reason, finding maggots quickly is very important. Here are some ways you can tell if you have a maggot problem.
Maggots are easy to identify by color, because they are all white. Don't be fooled if they aren't a perfect white color, however. Maggots can come in a variety of shades. They can be pure white, or white with a yellow or gray tint. They can also have small markings at one end, or be slightly translucent. However, at a glance, all maggots will appear to be more white than any other color.
Maggots have a very distinct shape. They are tube shaped, with no legs and few other features. Maggots have one blunt end which contains their mouth parts. These are only visible if examined closely, and are usually too small to see at all. The other end of a maggot tapers to a sharp point, and may be patterned or slightly darker. They can be as long as 1/2 inch, but are usually closer to 1/4 inch long.
You might not want to touch a maggot, but their texture is a good way to help identify them. Give one a couple of pokes with a stick or watch it move to see how it is built. Maggots are soft, without an exoskeleton or any way of keeping a firm shape. Though they might be visibly segmented, they should have no hard exterior or separate body parts.
Maggots are born from eggs laid by flies, who always lay eggs directly in a food source for their maggots. As a result, any maggots you find will always be in rotting material. Many kinds of rotting material can become a home for maggots. Their most common home and source of food is rotting garbage — either plant matter, carrion, or discarded human food. However, many types of garden maggot can make a home in the roots of plants. In some cases, an untreated wound on an animal or human can become the home of a maggot infestation.
Occasionally, you can find a maggot on its own, in the middle of nowhere. This means that it has eaten enough, and it has travelled away from its food source to become an adult fly. This scenario is much worse, because it means there is a supply of rotting garbage full of maggots nearby that you have not found yet.
For the same reason you will rarely find maggots without a source of food, you will also rarely find them in an exposed place. Flies prefer to lay their eggs in dark, damp, enclosed areas. If you find maggots, it will likely be in an out-of-the-way spot, such as under a rock, at the bottom of a dumpster or even underneath your carpet.