Friday, October 23, 2009

Horror in the Household

I haven't been visiting my vermicomposting bin nearly enough for months, so I lifted the lid the other day to check on its status and not only did a swarm of fruit flies emerge, but the bin looked like it was full of rice. Hm. Were there any worms left at all?

So, today I went home sick (developed a sore throat last night, and today I have that with a runny nose and a low grade fever). So, of course, this was my chance to deal with the worm bin.

I hauled it outside (40 degrees Fahrenheit and overcast), grabbed a bucket and put some damp newspaper in it. Pulled on some gloves and opened the bin.

Now, my plan was to rescue any worms that might remain (I didn't have high hopes of finding many), rinse them off in warm water (the "rice" turned out to be immature fruit flies - really really gross in the numbers I have - kind of like a carcass loaded with fly maggots), and stick them temporarily in the bucket of newspapers.

After one handful, I realized this wasn't going to work. First, the bowl of water was floating with "rice," which dutifully recoated the worms as I scooped them back out. Still, I soldiered on, with handful after handful of worms. Which brings us to the second reason it wasn't going to work: it seems that the worms are not bothered by the infestation. In fact, I have more worms than I ever imagined!!!

I finally gave was a classic case of tilting at windmills.

I needed a Plan B.

So, off I went to the library (a half hour drive). I looked up how to deal with fruit fly infestations in one's vermicompost. It seems that it is a common problem, although not nesssarily to the extremes mine had reached.

The solutions vary, but the overall theme seems to be that it can be dealth with! The worms are not bothered by the company, so I don't have to worry about a worm health problem.

First, the causes. In my case, the most likely culprits (well, let's face it, I am ultimately the only culprit) are an overly damp bin (I haven't added water for weeks, so it must just be decomposition juices), and the fact that I didn't (don't) really bury the food I add.

Next, the solution. I could continue trying to remove the worms, but seeing as how they've been on a breeding binge, this isn't a realistic option. So, I'm going to try the next best thing: adding dry bedding.

To add the dry bedding, I will have to dump out the entire contents of the bin (where did I put that box of black plastic I bought for the garden?). Afterwards, I will fill the bin with fresh, shredded, dry newspaper. Well, not fill-fill, but certainly add a good amount. Then I will return the whole mess to the bin. If I leave it inverted, the offending maggots will be buried (bwaa-haa-haa), or at least in theory they will. Frankly, I think there are so many that while some might be buried, others will now be closer to the surface.

And, finally, I will let the whole thing a) dry out and b) go hungry. Of course, I can't let it dry out completely, but it could benefit from a mild drought. And while worms can tolerate a few weeks without food (which I thought they already had), fruit flies cannot. My goal: starve out the @#*$&@^s.

Photos will be added anon to illustrate this article, since I am still in the library and my infested bin is half an hour away at home.

Wish me luck!

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