Worm Farm Trouble!

First, let me say, ‘I love my worm farm’.

There.  I said it.  Not something you hear everyday, but for me, it’s true!  I have been getting about 2 quarts of wonderfully composted worm poop mixed with composted vegetable matter every month or so for about a year and a half now. And that doesn’t even account for all the worm compost tea!

Worm farm

This is the vermiculture kit my husband and I gave each other for Christmas.

If you would like to read previous articles about our worm farm, you can read about how we first set it up by clicking HERE, and then another article about how to make worm compost tea by clicking HERE.

VermicultureI kept the worm farm in my kitchen until just recently. “In the kitchen?” you gasp.  Well, yes, that’s the most convenient place to put it.  After all, it is so easy to gather up the apple core or tomato peel right off the cutting board, take a few steps, and plop it into the worm farm.  Believe me, it never smelled!  In fact, when I opened up the worm farm to feed my wriggly little pets, all I smelled was the scent of good soil right after a rain. Seriously!  Except for the time I put in a bit too much plum pulp at once. After a week it had a faint odor of plum wine! 😉

While the worm farm was in my house, the only problem was when I had a small fruit fly infestation.  George took care of that.  George was a daddy-long-leg spider who took up residence in the corner behind the worm farm.  I let him be,and after a couple of weeks his web was absolutely chock full of dead fruit flies.  Good ole’ George.  When the fruit flies were gone I took George outside and set him free.

Yes…    I did. 🙂

Fast forward to a couple of months ago.  We are putting our home on the market and having a worm farm in the kitchen was not something the Real Estate Agent wanted to explain to prospective buyers.  So out to the garage went the worm farm.

That’s when the trouble started.  The first month when I went to harvest my black gold worm poop, I noticed a few ants crawling around on the lid of the worm farm.  As I harvested the bottom most tray, I noticed a few more ants, so I decided to investigate.  In the third tray up – there it was – an ant nest!  Ugh!  There must have been a thousand ants and they were scurrying to grab all those little white eggs.  There were no worms on this level either – just ants and a lot of not decomposed vegetable matter.  Harruumph!

I had to dispose of the contents of the entire tray.  I didn’t want to spray any kind of insecticide because the residue could hurt the worms and ultimately the poison could get into my garden, so I just dumped it into our green waste bin – which was being picked up by our local garbage service the next day.  Then, I put each leg of the worm farm into a plastic cup and poured water in.  That should keep the ants out in the future.Apple Maggots in the Vermiculture Bin

When I decided to harvest some compost for one of my potted plants yesterday, I found another problem – a really icky one – maggots!  Big fat ones! After doing a bit of research on the internet, I found that they are apple maggots. They must have come off the scraps left over when I made my home made pectin.  They were so gross, squishing and munching around in the compost stuff – I could actually hear them!  Eeeewwwww…

The weird thing about it was that the worms were inhabiting the same trays as the maggots!  Apparently they don’t mind each other, but this made getting rid of the maggots a bit more of a chore.  Again, I didn’t want to hurt the worms but I had to somehow get rid of the maggots.  So, I got a pair of my husband’s needle nose pliers and picked them out one by one.trouble with the worm farm

Now – what to do with all those fat apple maggots?  I decided to treat my local feral chickens.  These are chickens that have lived beside the highway in our town for decades.  There used to be a ranch there (now long gone and turned into a shopping center surrounded by fast food restaurants) and over the years the chickens have learned how to fend for themselves.  They run through the parking lot of the grocery store, looking for handouts.  At the Carl’s Jr and Wendy’s restaurants next door, I am sure people throw them french fries and bits of their hamburger buns all the time.  I thought some nice fresh plump maggots would be a healthy alternative!Problems with the worm farm

When I first arrived the chickens were a bit cautious.  They are used to people feeding them, but they are also on the lookout for kids that try to chase them around.  I threw a couple of the maggots out of the plastic bag they were in and a rooster came running up to see what I had to offer.  Then a hen came.  Then another hen.

Nom Nom Nom 😀

Pretty soon I could see that the maggots were a hit!  I loved watching those chickens, chasing each other around with their prize (even though there were plenty more on the ground!), and can’t wait to move up to our future homestead so my husband and I can have some of our own.maggots in my vermiculture

I guess my lesson here is to observe my worm farm more often than once a month when I am harvesting the worm poop compost.  I did read that if I freeze all the vegetable matter I put in – especially fruits – then I shouldn’t have to worry about an infestation like this again.

Is it worth it?  You bet!  My houseplants haven’t looked better and the worm compost tea is like liquid gold for some of my outdoor potted plants!  Besides, I know several feral chickens got some needed protein and I received the joy of watching them!

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