The Protein Incident
Updated: Aug 18, 2019
Sometimes you know what you shouldn't do, and yet somehow you end up doing it anyway.
I was looking to fatten up a bin of European Nightcrawlers, and decided to add some chicken feed pellets (ground up to a powder-like consistency) for extra protein to boost their growth.
On it's face, that's a fine plan, but there's an important caveat, and I didn't watch the bin carefully enough for the first two weeks. If you are feeding high-protein food to your worms, you need to be extra careful that it's not too much. Otherwise, the worms will develop "protein poisoning" also known as "string of pearls" which is not only not pretty, it's deadly for the worms.
The photo above is not the worst of the bin, but shows three dead or dying worms, covered by white mites. The white mites didn't do them in, it was the overfeeding. As conditions worsened for the worms, they became ideal for the white mites, and their population exploded over just a few days. As the worms began to die, the mites, started to eat the dead worms. Generally, white mites won't harm healthy worms, but they are decomposers, and as such, will work on just about anything that is dead.
I saved as many of the worms as I could, transferring them to a new bin with fresh bedding. Some of them may not make it, but the majority should survive in their new, improved environment.
I won't give up on feeding worms ground-up chicken feed, as I know it's a fine food. But I will be much more careful in limiting the amount and keeping a close eye on conditions for the first few days and weeks.