January 08, 2023

Gnats, Nadiring, and Neem

If you're just finding my blog, this indoor worm bin was started around Halloween. The working tray at the top of the photo was filled with moistened PittMoss Prime, a peat-free newsprint-based medium. The worms are really happy in it. Torn up cardboard? Not so much. I've read many posts saying worms love corrugated cardboard, but I never see worms on it and it's gone moldy, which isn't bad per se but I don't like it.

What I like even less are the fungus gnats and composting mites in the bin. In an outdoor bin these cohabitants would not necessarily be pests. In an indoor scenario, they are. I've lost a couple of houseplants to gnats, and I'm tired of them landing on my dinner plate.

The Wow Worm Farm in parts. It's really a neat little system.

I decided to nadir today, hoping the worms will drop down into the clean bedding but the gnats will stay in the top tray. As before, I inoculated the fresh bedding with neem seed meal but I did not moisten it at all this time. Not that they can't survive it, but gnats don't like dry. Anyway, I buried about a pint of kitchen waste in the center. Vegetable scraps produce quite a bit of moisture so I figure it'll provide what the worms need. The worms are probably pretty hungry because I haven't fed them in about 3 weeks. Reducing the amount of decaying matter seems to have helped knock down the mite population, but obviously worm activity is down, too. I'm hoping the worms' egg cases can lay dormant longer than the fungus gnat eggs can, and that I waited long enough. Maybe I should've waited a month. Ugh, I'm simply at my wit's end with these gnats!

Reassembling the Wow Worm Farm. From left to right, the base with filter to keep the worms and compost out of the leach tray, the top level where all the action is currently, the just-filled-with-bedding tray, the lid.

I am a little worried because now that I'm using both levels, I won't be able to leave the lid off. Managing moisture is key to beating the gnats and mites. Both thrive in a moist environment. If it weren't winter, I'd leave the bin outside with the lid off so the gnats could fly away and the light would drive the worms down.

Since I can't leave it open in my kitchen, I am really hoping the neem seed meal kills the gnats. If it doesn't I'll have a two-tray gnat farm. I've read it works against a plethora of pests but I haven't seen anything specifically about composting mites. I treated both trays with a generous layer of the powder and will let you know what happens.

UPDATE: The gnats are gone! I harvested the tray of finished (?) vermicompost and am running a 1-tray system, gnat-free.


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