Worm composting is a good hobby, especially if you want to recycle food scraps. More than doing something good for the environment, you are also improving soil aeration and enriching soil microorganisms.
Compost has all sorts of microscopic life, many of which are invisible to the naked eye. While you can easily see the worms and the organic scraps you are adding to the bin, there are some you might overlook. A good example of the latter would be the white bugs. These are quick multipliers despite being tiny. In most cases, they go undetected unless you look closer.
Once you start seeing white bugs in the worm bin, do not panic. The first thing to do is to identify what they are. From here, you will know if they are a danger to the worms and the compost. You should also understand what it is trying to tell you and what you can do to get rid of them. Keep on reading and learn from the insights we’ll be sharing in this post.
What Are These Little White Bugs?
By now, you are probably curious about what these white bugs are and what are they trying to say. They are springtails! They are part of a food web comprising of different levels of consumers.
Springtails are small and wingless insects. The length is usually 5cm or shorter. A springtail has six legs and short antennae. The body is soft, round, and divided into four to six segments. It will only have one eye. However, all of these physical characteristics are not easy to notice, unless you look at them under a microscope or magnifying glass.
The best way to identify their presence is to pay attention to their movements. When these bugs are disturbed, they jump. They have been in the worm bin from the start. Some of them may have even come along with the red wigglers or whatever worms you have. They are not just showing because they weren’t bothered.
A springtail is an invertebrate. It has a complex mouth that it uses to suck juices out of decomposing matter. Beneath their belly, there is a spring-like structure, which, once triggered, will make them jump. This is called the furcula. Looking at them spring in the air can even be entertaining!
There are more than 700 species of springtails present in North America. Don’t bother differentiating one from the other as this is useless. It does not matter whatever variety they are as one thing remains the same – they do not harm the worms in the compost.
One characteristic that springtails share with red wiggler worms is that they both eat decaying matter and microbes. They love fungi! These white bugs are often found in the organic food scraps after worms devour them.
Springtails are found not just in a worm bin. They are also common in the lawn. They are in areas with rich and decaying matter, including dry leaves. In one cubic foot of soil, you can find as much as 10,000 springtails. This means that it an average lawn, there can be millions of these white bugs.
A lot of people may confuse springtails with fleas. While they both jump, the main difference is that springtails do not bite. More so, fleas are teardrop-shaped and will be flat on their side.
Should You Be Bothered?
Allow us to get one thing straight – the presence of white bugs in the worm bin is not a cause of concern! Some people might think that it will get out of the bin and soon takeover their garden, or worse, homes! That is not going to happen. They prefer dark and moist environments, so they will probably stay comfortably in the worm bin!
Another thing we want to emphasize is that they do not harm the worms! Their huge presence might create panic when first detected. Keep calm! They have a symbiotic relationship with the worms. They are a part of a larger decomposition system, which means that they are beneficial for your compost.
More so, springtails do not bite, unlike fleas. Even if you touch them, they won’t inflict harm in any way. They look creepy when they jump. However, aside from their movements, they will not be a hazard for your home.
In extreme cases, they can be an issue in the garden but never in your compost. They might chew the roots of the plants, but it is seldom that they can inflict significant damage.
What Does Their Presence Mean?
Now that we have established how these worms are not harmful for your home, garden, and worms, it is also important that you know why they are there in the first place. It is not magic that you have white bugs in the worm bin. Below are some of the reasons why white bugs are present in the compost:
- Excessive Water: Having too much water in the compost is always a bad thing. Aside from the possibility that the worms will drown, it creates an ideal environment for the fast reproduction of white bugs. Too much water increases moisture, which can also cause an unpleasant smell. To avoid these problems, it is best to ensure that the moisture level is anywhere from 60 to 75%. Adding newspaper, unbleached cardboard, and chopped straw can also help in effective water and moisture management.
- Excessive Food: While food is essential for the survival of worms in your compost, anything that is too much is bad. Like anything else, add food in moderation. When there is more than what is necessary, worms won’t eat them. Instead, they will end up piling in the bin, and the white bugs will take over. They can create a toxic environment, which will increase the presence of unwanted microorganisms. Plus, it can crowd the bin, leaving the worms too little room for movement.
- Toxic Gases: The presence of too many acidic gases in the worm bin is also a reason why there are lots of springtails in the compost. These gases are from the organic scraps added in the compost. Not all foods are safe for worms. Oranges, tomatoes, and other citrusy foods do not belong to the compost. They can kill good bacteria necessary for decomposition. They can also give way to the presence of more white bugs.
Managing Springtails in the Worm Bin
Again, springtails are not dangerous. However, they can be bothersome for other people. If you are looking for the best ways to manage their population, this section talks about some of the best things that you can do.
Use a Bread with Milk
Springtails are not picky when it comes to food consumption. However, if you want to round them up and get rid of their population, you need something where they will stick. A good option is a bread soaked in milk. Put it on the top of the bedding in the compost. Leave it overnight. They will migrate from the bottom to the top and will concentrate on the bread. Once ready, take the bread off the compost, put it outside, and the birds can feed on the white bugs. Alternatively, you can just leave them on the garden, and they will have a new purpose outside of your composting bin.
Dry the Bin
Another effective way of managing the population of springtails is by creating an environment that contradicts whatever they find favorable. As mentioned earlier, they like wet or moist environments. So, a good solution is to keep the compost dry. Using a moisture meter is a practical solution so you can check the conditions of the soil. Adding paper or cardboard will help in the absorption of moisture. Also, avoid adding foods that can add too much water to the bin.
Seal Your Home
If you are worried that springtails will invade your home, caulking is a great solution. By sealing your home, you are keeping unwanted guests out of your private space. This is good not only to prevent the invasion of springtails but to also manage the presence of other creatures that can freak you out. Although, in most instances, this might not be necessary if the population is concentrated only in the worm bin.
The white bugs that you can find in a worm bin are springtails. They are not harmful for your worms! They are beneficial as they help in the decomposition. However, they can be bothersome, especially when they have a massive population, so consider our suggestions above to control them.