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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26 thoughts on “Worm Farm Trouble!

  1. Oh no! I had trouble with meat ants eating my worms! And I did the same with containers of water. I have all sorts of bugs in there, but its outside so I don’t mind. I have several Georges inside too!

    • Oh – thank you Liz – at least I know I’m not the only crazy lady with a spider named George! Besides, how could I have killed such a useful spider? He minded his manners, stayed hidden and did such a great job, so felt that it would have been bad Karma to kill the little guy – though when he was done eating the flies he wasn’t so little! 😀 Luckily the ants in the worm farm didn’t seem to hurt any worms, though there were none on the level of their nest! Whew! Thanks for stopping by.

  2. This is fascinating. I love the idea of the worm farm but the two issues you mention are what keep me from doing it. Putting the legs in cups of water to keep future ants out is brilliant. I can’t believe you were so overrun with maggots but I also can’t believe you took them out one by one. Feral chickens? Hysterical end to your story!

    • The worm farm has been quite a learning experience – but I am sure glad I have it! There is nothing better than the fertilizer you get from the farm. I will admit that as I was picking out the maggots, hearing them squish and squash through the decomposing vegetable matter, all I could think of was that it looked like a good beginning of a plot for a very bad “B” rated movie. 😉 As far as those chickens – I wrote a whole story about them here: http://makingoursustainablelife.com/highway-chickens Thanks for visiting and commenting!

  3. We have both thought about worm farms but haven’t quiet yet – me due to the fact I was afraid it would attract other bugs; Kristina is in a small apartment and I don’t think she has room there. So eww on the maggots. So interesting on the chickens, I am going to read the story on them of course, but wonder about their eggs? You could catch those ladies and move them out to your farm, might be healthier for the girls!!

    • I thought about catching a couple of the hens, but let me tell you, those roosters are very protective and have very big spurs! Since I am “chicken” (pun intended 😀 ) I think I will stick with the kind you buy! Have a wonderful and memorable week, ladies!

    • No worries. I think it would probably be great if all the chickens did have homes! That being said, they are somewhat of a landmark. The strange thing is, however, that there are several residences across the street and apparently they don’t take advantage of the hens. If it were me, I would have a coop out front of my house and would collect the eggs every morning! But then, that’s just me. 😉

  4. Okay, you had me completely convinced to start a worm farm until I came to the maggot in the tweezers photo! We compost most of our stuff and I see all kinds of disgusting maggots out there, but I don’t think I want any that I have to fish out of something!

    • 😀 Well, to tell you the truth, I really didn’t have to pick them all out. The worm farm would have survived anyway. However, with the ants I’m not sure. Problem solved anyway – from now on I will just freeze all my fresh fruits before I put them into the worm farm. This helps break up the cellular walls of the fruit anyway, which helps it break down faster, which means the worms get to eat sooner! I wish you would reconsider the worm farm because the stuff that I get out of there is amazing! It literally is concentrated worm poop and, I promise, it doesn’t smell. Thanks for the visit, Pam!

    • Haha – I really think I made their week! 😀 Once a few of them started pecking and realizing what was being offered, I was almost mauled! They were so funny, some of them fighting over the same maggot while there was another on the ground right in front of them! I love chickens.

    • I had so much fun with those chickens! I ended up finding more of those icky maggots and got to feed them again. I think they remembered their first snack a couple days ago and actually came running up to see if I had more! Of course, the maggots don’t hurt anything in the worm farm, I just didn’t want them to complete their life cycle and infect more fruit. I know you are quite busy, so I appreciate your comments, Karren!

  5. Thanks for sharing this information with the readers at Wildcrafting Wednesday! I have a homemade worm bin that I really like because of all the kitchen scraps we can compost there. I’d love to build an outdoor bin so I can keep it going all winter without running over! Hope you’ll come back next week!

    • We have both the worm farm and a compost pile (actually two compost piles, one that we add to and one that is “seasoning”). The compost is just regular old compost. The worm farm, however, has all the rich worm poop soil in it and so I use it like fertilizer for both my indoor plants and the outdoor ones, so mine never runs over. Thanks for the comment, Sharon!

    • Well, there are worse things than a toddler playing with a few worms. At least your child would grow up with an appreciation of worms and their usefulness! Just don’t mention that some cultures eat them. Ewwww…… 🙂 If your husband is into fishing, tell him that once the worm farm is up and running well, he would have a good supply of red wigglers to go fishing with! Thanks, Jessica!