Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Mites vs. Worms vs. Me.

[Please note: there are no pictures of bugs accompanying this post. You're welcome, Mom.]

I am not an animal activist.

I eat meat.  I wear leather.  I'd wear fur if only I had the lifestyle to warrant it.  I don't hunt, but have no qualms with hunters.  I fish. Well, I GO fishing, I've have never caught anything.  I support the Canadian commercial seal hunt.  I love our dog, but if some day her quality of life is severely compromised I am prepared to make a decision about euthanasia.  When the boys' goldfish was slowly dying from a months-long swim bladder infection, I gave it a final good-bye swim in a glass of vodka.  I squish any bug that touches me.  If an insect contravenes the Insect Non-Aggression Pact and enters my domicile, I will kill it. Especially if it's an earwig.

So you can imagine my surprise that I'm currently feeling very guilty about the state of my vermicomposter.

Back in November we purchased a multi-leveled worm composter and 800 worms. Things were going well until three weeks ago.

That's when the mites showed up.  Thousands of mites. I made a good show of it.  I removed what mites1 I could see. I trapped some on moistened dryer lint. I set out melon rinds to tempt them out of the soil. I tried drying out the bedding. I added crushed eggshells. Nothing works.  They keep multiplying. And they are no longer interested in eating just leftover food scraps. The vile little creatures are now eating the worms. WHILE THE WORMS ARE STILL ALIVE.

I'm a big nature lover. And a big proponent of evolution. But watching natural selection play out in front of your very eyes? It's really disturbing.

I'm now faced with a dilemma: do I continue trying to rid the vermicomposter of the mites or do I humanely put the worms out of their misery? I'm also puzzled by the soul searching this has inspired. Why does it bother me to consider killing my worms when I have killed thousands and thousands of mites over the past three weeks? Surely if I can kill mites without guilt, I should be able to off the worms?

Are my feelings of guilt about killing these worms the gateway drug that begins my descent into the madness that is veganism? Because if so, I'd like someone to euthanize me. RIGHT NOW.

• • • •

1 the mites are only in the bin. They show no interest in migrating elsewhere. Thank heavens for small mercies.

• • • •

Update: Since I first drafted this post a few hours ago I've worked up my courage. I decided the humane thing to do was to put the worms -- and the blasted mites -- out of their misery. I won't go into too much detail, but I will just mention that it's -10ºC  out right now.


  1. Wormcicles? Mitecicles? Does it mean you have to set up your whole bin again?

  2. OMG what did you do?! Freeze them? Were they not outside to begin with?! I am VERY interested (but can do without the photos, too)!

  3. Ew. But that's the obvious response, yes? I sort of wish you'd included pics because now I have to go google mites. What are they? And the worms? What kind, earth worms? It sounds like an epic battle and also a good start on a graphic novel. Good luck!!

  4. @Jenifer -- I think I prefer wormcicles. Well, the term anyway. I'll have to start the bin again, but I'm going to take a few weeks off.

    And next time I will NOT put in anything that hasn't been microwaved (to kill off any hitch hikers). I think the mites came from some raw onion skin I put in the bin. Excuse me while I go vomit.

    @Gwen -- They were in our basement utility room. And yes: I froze them. Because they're mostly water they froze in less than a minute after I tipped them into the snow covered compost bin in the backyard.

    @OmahaMama -- the mites were tiny and white. They are related to spiders, and moved v. slowly. I had other reddish-brown mites that moved super fast, but were scarce and harmless. The worms were red wigglers -- a variety that do well in the worm bins b/c they are "social" and won't try to escape.

    Heavens, I do have a lot of worm facts floating about my head.

  5. I think you did the right thing. Also, bwaherghhhhhhhh. I think I might need a shower now.

  6. You feel guilty now. Have you read The Edible Woman? You're on the slippery slope. Pretty soon you're going to hear carrots screaming. They are roots, they are alive! Aaaaalllliiivvvveeee!

  7. OMG. I was THIS CLOSE to doing the red wriggler worm bin---we know people who do it, but you have totally freaked me out. MITES!?! I'm now so itchy.

    You did the right thing. Ugh. Those poor worms (and yes, I did call them "poor worms".) Heh.

  8. And now I will never get a worm composter. Never.

  9. It's interesting to consider why certain things gross us out and others do not.

    Our lastest foster rats arrived last night (I foster them for a rescue) & I'm on lice lookout. Fun, fun, fun.

  10. @Bibliomama -- shower away. It's the cure for the creepies.

    @Nicole -- I just know this will end in me getting rid of all my lovely leather accessories in favour of vinyl. *shudders*

    @FairlyOddMother -- damn, so there is zero chance of my selling you this gently used Worm Farm set up?

    @happygeek -- I'm going to single-handedly kill the vermicomposter industry. I just know it.

    @hornblower -- I'm not uncomfortable with rats, much less rats that may have lice. I'm a wimp.

  11. Ewwww ewwww and ewww. I have a general Dalek style compost bin that is full of worms. Do these worms live in the lovely vegetation I give them? No, they live on the underside Of the tightly fitting lid that requires a good yank n heave to get it off. ( no innuendo intended ) . The resultant negative push pull thrust forces ensures that worms are flung at me from the lid and every single time I drop the lid and scream my head off as if Freddy Kreugar was in there . Then when I pick the lid up off the floor, a billion wriggly worms lay writhing in a swollen malignant mass that makes me actually dry heave as I shovel them back in. True story . I'm a worm hater, a twisted worm hater!

  12. Arrrgh long interestingly witty comment vanished