Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fly by

Here we are about three and a half months into The Great Worm Bin Experiment and I'm still a bit high strung when it comes to my first batch of wigglers. I've been advised by seasoned vermiculturists that the best way to go is something akin to benevolent neglect, but to be honest I live in constant fear of inadvertently killing them. Too much food? Too little? Too much moisture? Too little? Too hot? Too cold? And what's with all of the flies lately?

So here we are midway through the second try with the under-sink worm bin. (Those of you following along may recall the premature sifting through castings just before Halloween, when my beloved little guys almost drowned in a poop lagoon.) Things have been going alright this time around... Well, mostly. You see, there has been a noticeable proliferation of flies in the bin in recent weeks. And, more disturbingly, a noticeable lack of worms. Crud. I hope nobody from Worm Protective Services comes knocking on my door. (Earlier today I had to submit an FBI background check form to work with one of the after school cooking programs. Will this mar my otherwise stellar record? I can see it now: Violation of section 27d of the Invertebrate Guardian Clause -- negligence and second-degree wormslaughter.)

I dragged my bin outside during a freakishly warm afternoon earlier this week and took the lid off, trying to shoo most of the flies out. At least there wasn't standing water this time, but where were the worms? I saw a few 1/2-inch white worms squirming around, but mostly lots of flies. I began to worry. Did I mess things up irreparably? Would it be better for me to bequeath my wormies to a better caretaker, entrust them to Mother Nature? Am I a terrible mother??

As usual, Susie -- my calm and reassuring worm expert on call -- talked me down from the proverbial ledge. The flies can be a nuisance, she admitted, but there are a few ways to curb their numbers. I already had one of the fly traps that the Worm Ladies website suggested (filled with fancy, organic apple cider vinegar -- well, I'm not going to the store in this 30-degree weather just for a bottle of the cheap stuff). I realized that rather than burying the food scraps, which discourages egg-laying by flies, I'd simply been lifting the lid a crack and tossing a handful of vegetable scraps on top as I was cooking dinner every few evenings. But -- not to defend my total failure to follow these basic instructions, I'll admit I missed that part -- wouldn't I be disrupting the worms too much if I was stuffing scraps into the bottom of the bin every time?

My worm guru suggested that I cut a piece of cardboard to fit the top of my bin, run it under the water in the sink so it gets wet/damp, and lay it inside over the scraps. A fly egg barrier, I like it. I learned that putting food scraps in the freezer overnight also interferes with the flies' egg-laying activities. Huh. Who knew?

Finally, Susie pointed out, the presence of small, white worms was encouraging. It meant that the worms were reproducing. (What? My worms are old enough to kiss other worms and go on dates and...? Oh.) My little wormies are growing up. But they'd better get cracking to be able to keep up with my holiday vegetable scrap production. Maybe I need to put on a little Marvin Gaye to get them in the right mood....

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

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