Hi, I have a springtail infestation in my red worm compost bin. (At least I think they’re springtails. They look like translucent white lice or mites, very tiny and crawly). Can I kill the springtails without hurting my worms?
Having raised worms myself, there were always two problems I encountered. 1) PH. It seemed as though the PH would always get low and very acidic over time. Undoubtedly this is related to the constant decomposition of organic matter and because it was such a small area, the PH was affected more rapidly compared to the surrounding dirt. 2) Insects. Again, most likely due to the moisture and organic matter ever present, it seemed as though my worm bin would attract all kinds of pests. If I left these two conditions alone, my worms seemingly got sick, failed to eat and no doubt were being negatively affected. I eventually found a way to deal with the two problems which in the end enabled me to keep my stock both healthy and happy.
The first thing I learned to do was to rotate my soil. I basically kept a trash can full of ready to use dirt which was both insect free and ph balanced. Periodically I would replace my bin dirt when a change was due. The old, removed dirt was then treated as explained below and recycled. Eventually I learned to keep a supply of dirt ready to use and whenever I found my soil quality depreciating, I was prepared to make a soil swap. This strategy kept my worms balanced and happy.
How often did I do this? That varied depending on the season. I commonly had to change the dirt once or twice during the summer months but rarely over the winter. All told, once or twice a year. The dirt I removed was usually very rich in nutrients so even though it had a both a PH and insect problem, I knew I had to come up with some way to save it. So here’s what worked for me.
First, I would kill off all the active insects. For obvious reasons I removed my worms prior to spraying. Next, I would lay out the old dirt on a tarp and then spray INSECT SOAP all over it making sure to get it uniformly covered and soaked. I would treat with enough product to make sure some was draining before I stopped. This insured it was through and through the dirt. I’d also mix up the dirt insuring uniform coverage which would guarantee all the springtails (and other pests) were dead. The Soap I linked to above is organic and basically has no residual. This means that within a few hours of spraying it, all the spray will have broken down and been rendered harmless so it won’t pose a hazard to the worms. This way I could recycle the dirt without injuring my worms. In other words, there was no residual like you normally have with any pesticide. Soap is great for garden pests and anything sensitive you need to treat like “worm bin” soil.
Second, for the PH, I would use some LIQUID LIME and spray the dirt again. This would raise the PH pretty quickly and within a day I would measure it using my PH SOIL TESTER. Once the PH was up to at least 7.0 I would store the dirt in a trash can and keep it till I needed it again. More information about just how important it can be to keep a balanced PH in the lawn and garden can be found at our SOIL PH CONTROL site.
I definitely don’t recommend spraying any kind of traditional pesticide on your soil with the worms present and though a few insects aren’t a major problem, springtails, mealybugs, roaches, ants and several others can become so numerous they’ll negatively affect your worms environment. Once they get out of control population wise there is a good chance they’ll forage to your house or some other structure as well so you don’t want to leave them to develop as they want. If you keep these pests in check by rotating the soil periodically and treating as needed, you should be able to both keep the insects under control and your worms safe, happy and healthy. If you have further questions or concerns, give us a call on our toll free 1-800-877-7290.
Here are direct links to the information and products listed above:
Insecticidal Soap: http://www.non-toxic-pest-control.com/concentrates/insecticidal-soap
PH Soil Probe: http://www.bugspray.com/catalog/products/page1736.html
Soil PH Control: http://www.soil-ph.com/