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Last fall our household of two people invested in a small, 3-tiered, commercially-available wormery that came with all components (bedding, lime, worms). All seemed to be going well until we brought it inside to protect it from sub-zero (C) winter temperatures. It was at this point that a colony of what looked like white spider mites (the same size as, though far less active than, the red ones) exploded in the wormery and inhabited the inner lid and surface of the kitchen scraps. The mites appear to like warm damp conditions so we did our best to control them by keeping the wormery aerated and by physically removing the mites regularly, although these efforts had little effect. The worms still seemed to be 'healthy', but when draining the reservoir, I often found several dead worms in the liquid. Once outdoor temperatures turned mild enough, the wormery went back outside. At this point, the mite population decreased, but this was accompanied by a mass worm die-off resulting in failure of the wormery. We followed advice that came with the kit (not adding onion or too many acidic scraps; added newspaper to absorb water; added eggshells to keep the pH balanced; drained the reservoir regularly; kept temperature as stable as possible). Searching through wormery-related online forums resulted in no helpful advice.

Has anybody had a similar experience and knows why this might have happened?

Has anyone had a similar infestation of mites and knows for sure what they are?

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Is your wormery ever in direct sunlight? Also, when you moved it outside, what was the temperature at night? Have there been any nights where the temperature could have gotten down near or below freezing? –  Shane Jun 14 '11 at 16:15
    
@Shane: I made sure to keep it out of direct sunlight. The temperature wasn't too extreme and I protected it as suggested by the wormery company (wrap with insulating material but don't impede air circulation). It almost seemed as if the worms were trying to migrate from the compost because I found them all in the run-off reservoir - they can only really get there with some effort. But I can't see any reason they'd want to leave! –  Shanna Jun 16 '11 at 9:36
    
I'm stumped. If you had good temperature, plenty of food, enough moisture (but not water-logged), I would think they would love it there. –  Shane Jun 16 '11 at 13:53
    
@Shanna, from the (very) little I know about wormeries, it sounds like you did everything right (& know your stuff) & might have just been unlucky on this occasion. An infection of "white spider mites" is normally a sign of too much moisture in the wormery. Did you ever get to the bottom of the problem, or have you assigned it to lessons learnt? –  Mike Perry Jul 12 '11 at 22:20
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1 Answer

I got one of those this spring and nearly lost it in a similar experience. I think I was just over feeding and over watering them, and this caused anaerobic bacteria to take over. They release amonia and hydrogen sulfide, which make it stink and kill off the worms. I stopped feeding and watering for a week and now I'm careful about how much food I add, and use very little watter and they seem to have recovered and are doing much better.

Every few days I check the reservoir and pull out two or three worms that have fallen down there and toss them back into the top.

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