Mites in Your Worm Bin: Why They’re There and How to Control Them

New worm bin owners often expect their worm bin to consist of worms, bedding, food waste, beautiful worm castings, and not much else.

Other critters simply weren’t part of the deal.

But when you’ve got a worm bin with rich, decomposing food waste and humidity levels normally found in the basements of Bangkok brothels, you can’t expect other organisms NOT to join the party.

Among these unwelcome invaders are mites.

This article will introduce you to mites and what they indicate as well as ways to prevent or eradicate mite infestations in your worm bin.

This article is part of a “Vermicomposting 101” series of posts aimed at helping the beginning vermicomposter. The read other “VC101” articles on how to start a worm bin, how to choose worm food, how to maintain moisture, and the differences between composting and vermicomposting, please visit the Vermicomposting 101 section of this site!

What Are Mites?

Mites are tiny arthropods that belong to the class arachnida, the same as spiders and ticks. It’s an extremely diverse group with different species drawn to a dizzying array of environments like soil, fabric, animals, the human body, and yes…. worm bins.

While mites can be predators, parasites, and herbivores, the majority of mites you’ll find in a worm bin are detritivores, meaning they feed on dead and decaying organic matter.

In other words, mites are fellow travelers with worms; both are excellent composters.

What Do Mites Mean for Your Worm Bin?

The vast majority of mites that you’ll find in your worm bin are there because they’re hungry for detritus, which is dead or dying organic matter. And mites will find this matter especially attractive when it’s wet.

They’ll proliferate in overly moist conditions in nature and they’ll do it in your worm bin as well. So if you happen to find a couple mites around the edge of your worm bin, or even collected around a dead worm, don’t panic. This is completely natural and probably nothing to be concerned about.

Unfortunately, detritus is the same kind of food that worms need to survive and work their magic in your worm bin.

Mites attacking a worm
Mites appearing to attack an otherwise healthy red wiggler

When mites are viewed eating a worm, it’s likely that the worm was already on death’s doorstep. Composting worms typically live around 1.5 years and a mature worm bin will have thousands of them.

So chances are several worms are dying each day, themselves becoming food for mites in your bin.

But I’ve seen plenty of images like this one where mites appear to be munching on a chubby worm in its prime, so I won’t promise that they’re always good guys.

Identifying Mites

While there are thousands of different types of mites, the types of mites most like to be found gallivanting your moist, rich worm bin will either be of a white or a reddish color. They will be very slow moving.

White mites should not be confused with the elongated, faster-moving, lightly-colored springtails which also love wet conditions. And the red ones should not be mistaken for similarly-colored worm cocoons.

And you won’t see just a few here and there. You’re going to clusters of hundreds or thousands of them, often covering the entire surface of organic matter they find attractive.

How to Prevent Mites in the Worm Bin

One of the best ways to prevent your bin from being overrun with mites is to make sure that the internal environment doesn’t get too moist, as mites love environments with high moisture. There are a couple ways to do this:

  • Leave your worm bin uncovered from time to time.
  • Mix fresh, dry bedding into the soil that will soak up the moisture. This could be any compostable material such as cardboard, straw, newspaper, coco coir, or peat moss.

By keeping your worm bin from getting too moist, you should be able to prevent mite populations from growing to annoying levels. But if necessary, there are a couple ways to remove them from your worm bin.

Diatomaceous earth for worms
Food grade diatomaceous earth can be an excellent tool to fight mites

How to Get Rid of Mites

If you’ve kept the moisture levels in your worm bin fairly regulated, you will probably still find these little buggers setting up shop in your worm bin. While a few mites sharing the food source with your worms is fine, there are ways to remove them if they overstay their welcome.

Firstly, if mites are congregating on the aforementioned foods, simply remove that mite-infested food by hand.

Mites typically prefer wet, rich foods like pumpkin, watermelon, and canteloupe and will gather around those foods when possible. (See here for a helpful rundown on the moisture contents of various fruit and veggie wastes.)

Reddish-brown mites, for instance, seem to love watermelon rinds. Simply remove the type of food that the mites seem to prefer and it should lead to a noticeable decrease in their numbers.

Sprinkle some food grade diatomaceous earth onto the surface of your vermicompost. This organic material, made from the fossilized remains of small aquatic organisms, will kill off mites without affecting your worms’ health.

Conclusion: Mites Are Nothing to Freak Out About

Look. You’re trying to maintain conditions in a worm bin with high levels of humidity, all the while adding food waste that will often have water content north of 85%. It’s going to be hard NOT to encounter mites from time to time.

And they *are* effective decomposers, so if you’re a glass-half-full vermicomposter, you might even see them as a complement to your worms.

But to the extent that you view them negatively, you shouldn’t seek to eradicate them because you don’t want mites. You should ultimately seek to adjust the conditions that they found so attractive in the first place.

If you’re new to vermicomposting or you need a bit of a refresher, then run – don’t walk – to read the Ultimate Guide to Vermicomposting. It’s a comprehensive resource to set you on the path to success with worm composting!

44 thoughts on “Mites in Your Worm Bin: Why They’re There and How to Control Them

  1. WOW! Thanks so much for this valuable timely information. I am new to vermicomposting and just this week…after feeding my worm bin some watermelon and veggies, I started to see an explosion of tiny white dots. Now I know what to do about these white mites!

    1. I am getting a load of these tiny white mites everytime I get the worm wee. I worry that they are bad for the garden and therefore I shouldn’t be spreading them around. But what is the point of a worm farm if you can’t use the worm wee!??

      1. Hi Cathy,
        A couple points. 1) You’re getting the mites *because* you’re getting the worm wee. They are attracted to very wet conditions so if you’re getting the worm wee, you’re running the bin too wet.
        2) Worm wee is actually leachate which has nothing to do with the worms. It’s the excess moisture released from the food waste as it breaks down. If the surrounding bedding can’t absorb the leachate, then it seeps to the bottom. It’s not necessarily harmful liquid, but it’s not worm tea or worm wee. And hopefully you’ve got a worm farm for the worm castings, not the wee!

        1. I’m not sure why anyone would want to have a sopping wet mess. It stinks to have food drippings coming out of your worms. So glad you corrected the worm wee comment.

        2. Clearly an awful lot I don’t understand about my wormfarm….
          So all that ‘worm wee’ liquid diluted down is neither here nor there in terms of nutrition for the garden?
          I should only be using the worm castings as fertilizer?
          Cathy

          1. It does have microbial benefits for the garden but is only a biproduct of excess moisture. The main benefit of a worm farm is the castings and trying to harvest sticky smelly castings isn’t fun. Too much moisture can lead to anaerobic bedding which is harmful because your worms can’t live without oxygen. Plus your mite issues will decrease drastically.

  2. Interesting. But I’ve had white mites only in my 5 redworm bins. I rarely see mites in my Indian Blues bins even though I feed all 12 herds the exact same amount of the exact same kitchen scraps. I have observed this difference consistently for the entire 8 months I’ve been doing it.

  3. I was one of those people that email Steve awhile back in reference to mites. I had a brown/redish mites in my bins and I really hated them in them. Understanding that they cause no harm and are part of the system at times. I raise Europeans and utilize the black concrete mixing tubs for my bins. I have black landscape material cut and lay it on the top to help hold in moisture, give them air and give them a dark place to be able to eat and breed 24/7. I do not feed food scrapes to my worms. I feed a worm chow if you will. A powder based feed I order in just for feeding worms. I use to top feed this daily. I had noticed these mites on the surface as well as they would run to the sides and run the tops of my bins after I fed and watered. There would be a gob of them running the tops of my bins. So I resorted to torching these invaders with a small propane torch. It would help keep them at bay. If I didn’t, I would have them crawling on me when working my bins as I rubbed up against them.

    So since then, I have gone another direction on my feeding process. I have stopped top feeding my worms and have gone to what I call a trench feeding process. I open up a trench say 1 inch deep by 4-5 inches wide, lengthwise in the center of the bin. I then sprinkle about a half cup of powdered feed in this trench. I water it real good to ensure it is all wet and then I cover it back up with bedding. Flatten the top of the entire bed so my tops lay flat on them. This has almost completely got rid of my mite problem all together. I am sure you can do the same with food scraps. Just make sure they are covered with bedding and not exposed to the surface. I have seen the white mites that end up on dead or dying worms in the past. Those are more white and slow moving. I do not have this type in my bins. Mine were brownish/red and moved right along. This also has helped with my feeding on a daily basis. I now only have to feed say every 3rd day or so. I check the trench to ensure they have consumed all the feed before I re-feed. This has allowed me to be able to go on long weekends and not worry about the daily feeding of my worms. Has made life so much easier and do not have the creepy crawlers in the bins.

    Hope this helps.

    1. Can you tell me more about the worm feed, please? Also, I don’t have the feed what food may be used instead to corral the white mites? I have coconut coir and dry newspaper. Do you put the weed cover in the bin with the food on top, pick up the cloth and dispose of the mites that way?

      The white bug party must go. They are taking over the worm party and that is not cool.

      Thank you for your help!

      1. You can try adding some bread to the bin they will go right after it, then once the bread is covered in mites you can just remove the bread on top to help get rid of the mites in your worm bin.

  4. Great info! I’ve always struggled with red mites in my various bins. I feed a lot of coffee grounds which can create wet, acidic conditions. Sometimes I would get so many I would need to burn them off with a torch or lighter. Lately I’ve been mixing in some wood ash into my kitchen compost bin and letting it sit a few days before feeding. I’ve also been adding more carbon (wood pellets or wood dust, not acidic peat moss) in each feeding to soak up any excess moisture. Working great, haven’t seen any mites in months and the worms are loving it!

  5. Thanks for the information! It use to drive me nuts over the summer seeing so many mites in the bin. This is very helpful information.

  6. I am a newbie and my worms seemed happy until now. I check my bin daily. I noticed hundred of fast-moving reddish bugs on the sides of the bin and also what looked like splattered dirt. Also, some of my worms were climbing out of the bin. Most worms were feasting on the meal. On my last feeding two days ago, I included spent coffee grounds, apple peels, and lettuce. I did not bury this slurry.
    I poured it on top and covered it with cardboard. Are these mites (you mentioned that they are slow-moving) or something else. It is difficult to see the bugs on the dirt because of the color but I am sure they are there. Why are worms escaping? What do I need to do?

    1. Hi there Plant Lady! Your bin is likely too wet which is attracting mites. I would make sure to add more bedding at a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio with food waste by volume. This helps sop up the excess moisture from the food waste.
      As for worms escaping, are they really escaping or just climbing up the sides of the walls? This could explain the “dirt splatter” that you mentioned.
      Cheers!
      Steve
      Urban Worm Company

  7. Hi,
    Thanks for your summary on mites in the worm bin. I’ve been dealing with this problem for a couple of months now.

    I’ve begun digging down into the substrate and burying the food I feed the worms there, in the hopes that the mites won’t go far down. I cover the food with torn newspaper every time I feed as well.

    I see that you wrote that diatomaceous earth can be a good tool for removing mites. I was just wondering however, how much diatomaceous earth do you need? I suppose that it depends on your set up and your mite situation, but I was just curious how much I would need for a 3 foot by 1.5 foot by 0.75 foot set up?

  8. I’m fairly new to this venture and I have been seeing both the speedy red mites and the slow white mites. I want to use diatomaceous earth for control, but I don’t know how much to use. I have a worm factory 360. Any suggestions? I want to get rid of the mites, not the worms! Thanks for any suggestions!!

  9. Hi I’m also new to vermicomposting also need the worms for fishing, I have red wrigglers I’ve been feeding my worms bananas atm buried under soil I have noticed mites showing up which I don’t mind there welcome to stay as long as there not over populated I thought used coffe grounds would deter them so we’ll have to see I used peat moss and worm castings/ garden soil as a substrate for my first working tray I thought the soil needed to be moist for worms to breath but not sure how moist was always told soil need to be like a wrung out sponge and it is but still brings in the mites have also seen few worms getting devoured by mites a few casualties is fine as long as it stays that way I just added my second tray with shredded paper and worm castings/ garden soil to help germinate. I’ve not really had any issues with my worm farm but am taking any tips from more experienced vermicomposters thank you

  10. Hi I Purchased some compost it’s a very rough compost not fine and it is running a live with my heart I have three race beds in my poly tunnel
    I just can’t go in there and plant the seeds or more plants they absolutely cover me it’s horrendous was it anything I can do to get rid of him I’m desperate

  11. Hello! Thanks for this info. I find red mites in one of my bins. The worms stay clear of the piece of food that the mites cover. I pick it out, but find them again and again with different feedings. So annoying !
    Maybe I’ll try starving them out. There is lots for the worms to eat still

  12. Well, DE cannot work wet; only dry. So, “mixing in” will not work. I’ve seen where people put dry platforms on top of the bin’s blanket, then sprinkle DE on that, to combat mites and fruit flies. Haven’t tried it yet, but I do need to do something – the mites are taking over!

  13. My bins which I’ve operated for several years, just this year developed chiggers (a type of mite which bites humans) I’m guessing it was from a small amount of outdoor sand I added for digestive grit, or maybe they just took time to show up in numbers. I’m looking for anecdotes from anyone who’s applied diatomaceous earth, as to how exactly you applied it and what your results were. I have experience using diatomaceous earth for indoor bug control, but am unsure how I would attempt to treat my finished but unseparated worm castings Thank you.

    1. Hi Aaron,
      Any DE you use would need to be sprinkled on the surface of your finished vermicompost as it becomes ineffective once it becomes wet.
      Cheers!
      Steve

  14. Greetings Steve, in regards to mites…. I’m using the food grade Diatomaceous earth like everyone is recommending and still have mites like crazy… my bin is dryer than ever, i have fasted the bin, neem oil, i have tried every recordation i can find and still mites and getting worse…. my Hungary bin is in my basement due to cold winter temps so Im asking for real help with this mite issue. or are mites just part of the deal?

  15. Steve, thanks for all the good work you do to educate us newer wiggler fans! I had an infested bin this past summer and it freaked me out–until I heard and read your info on mites. But I had already dumped that bin on a pile of rolled up turf (mostly clover, weeds and mosses–cuz that’s how my lawn is, here in the shade of mighty oaks.) Then last week as I was assessing and servicing my bins I found two more that were infested w these red mites, covered! I put them apart from the other four “clean” bins thinking/hoping I could avoid contamination of the others. I am tempted to get de, but if you say they are benign and not to worry, then I won’t. Thx again!

  16. I had an infested bin this past summer and it freaked me out–until I heard and read your info on mites. But I had already dumped that bin on a pile of rolled up turf (mostly clover, weeds and mosses–cuz that’s how my lawn is, here in the shade of mighty oaks.) Then last week as I was assessing and servicing my bins I found two more that were infested w these red mites, covered! I put them apart from the other four “clean” bins thinking/hoping I could avoid contamination of the others. I am tempted to get de, but if you say they are benign and not to worry, then I won’t. thanks for all the good work you do to educate us newer wiggler fans!

  17. Ugh, my bin has become overrun with black mites! I’m in zone 8 so I’m told I can’t keep the bin outside but I can’t have these mites all over my garage!

    It was too wet initially (I’m new to this) so I corrected that and have sprinkled DE, tried bread, reduced feeding etc. I take it outside during the day and leave the lid off but bring it back at night when it’s cold.

    HELP! Do I just start over? I’m ok with most bugs but these mites are creeping me out and I don’t wan them inside.

  18. Hello: Do Crazee Mites, or Anystis baccarum cause a problem in the worm bin. They are red mites and predatory (of pests) but not parasitic on worms, am I right? Thanks!

  19. Hello: Do Anystis baccarum cause a problem in the worm bin. They are red mites and predatory (of pests) but not parasitic on worms, am I right? Thanks!

  20. I started a worm bin and started putting scraps in it, but after the first day, I noticed these white dots. I thought it was just the bananas getting rotten, but after that day, there were mites inside the worm bin. I was freaked out even though I knew this was gonna happen. And they are like REALLY small and red. Ive heard that mites can be harmful to humans and pets. Would these mites escape? Since whenever I try to open the bin to feed my worms there are like 5 mites outside the bin. And now my worm bin has lots of these white dots scattered everywhere. I think they might be eggs since they’re not moving. Im using this for a science project at my school and have to bring the stuff but I’m worried the mites might come out and do stuff. I don’t have any plant spraying thing. And I keep my worm bin in the shower. Where I live is kinda cold so I don’t want to put the worm bin outside. Also Im worried that other bugs may come in. I’ve been giving my worms cucumber peels. Do mites like cucumbers? Any advice?

    1. Hi Bird,
      Mites are everywhere….these are soil mites though and will not be harmful to you. I’m not 100% sure what to tell you but I would try the diatomaceous earth mentioned in the article.
      As for cucumbers, mites don’t necessarily like them specifically, but cucumbers have a ton of moisture so they are likely to attract mites.

  21. This was a useful article with great advice. However, I must say that the comment about a worm bin being similar to a Bangkok brothel in its waste and humidity was very rude and insensitive. It’s 2022 and comments like that have no place in our society. You ruined a very helpful and instructive article with one racist comparison.

    1. I can buy an argument that a joke about a brothel is tasteless. But what if I’d mentioned an Amsterdam brothel? You know why that joke doesn’t work? Because Amsterdam isn’t 100F with 100% humidity. It’s the weather, not the people. Not racist…..

  22. Thanks so much for this article! I’m new to this and discovered loads of mites and my first dead worm this evening as I’m just starting my second week. I was freaking out about the mites as my bin is indoors. I’ve opened it up for the night, put a piece of bread in and will add DE after reading this. I appreciate all the helpful information. 🙂

    1. Cristan, when I look inside my worm bin during the night they are congregating and very active. They are all over the sides of the bin too. I only open the bin up to dry a little during the day. I added couple of large pieces of melon / cantaloupe skin and after couple of days the mites were all over them. I just tossed them out and replaced them with fresh ones. I will try the bread and the DE also. I do cover the bin surface with shredded paper and I only feed on one side of the bin in a trench once a week. I love reading all the suggestions. I m pretty new at this.

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