How to protect worms from ants
Seeing ants in a worm farm is not uncommon and concerned worm composting enthusiasts often contact
us to find out if the insects are actually attacking and eating the worms and how to best get rid of the
With about 15000 species varying in size from just 2mm / 12th of an inch to more than 2.5cm / 1 inch that can be found all over the world one can obviously not just give one simple answer to the problem.
Ants are social creatures and live in colonies ranging from just a few thousand to millions of insects. They are constantly on the search for food and once one of their spies has identified a new food source it will take only a short while for the “worker ants ” to arrive and start harvesting the food and carrying it back into their nest.
Worm farms with all different kinds of organic waste products are naturally a potentially great place for ants to raid and if the conditions are right this can go on for quite a while.
Although ants are omnivorous most species specialize usually on certain kinds of foods and will not actually harm the worms. Some eat only meats and fats, other like sugary fruit, others leaf’s or seeds and many of them nourish themselves on a combination of the above.
If you don’t mind the ants taking some of the food out of your worm farm and you have more than enough worm food to keep your compost worms supplied than it might be ok to just ignore the ants and let them take their share.
Only very few species of ants are likely to attack the worms themselves. But if they do it can have devastating effects on your worm population.
The predatory ants you should look out for are
· “Army ants” (They are nomadic and can overwhelm their victims in sheer numbers.)
A Carpenter ant
Picture courtesy of Arvind Balaraman at Freedigitalphotos.net
· “Carpenter ants” (They build their nests in wooden environments and feed on many different foods including insects and earthworms.) and
· “Red fire ants” (they feed mostly on plants but prey as well on crickets, earthworms and even small infant birds. Their sting is very painful even for humans)
How do we protect worms from ants?
There are a few ways you can discourage ants from entering or returning to your worm farm. One way to protect worms from ants is to raise the moisture level in the worm farm to levels that the ants won't tolerate anymore.
Another method to keep ants from entering your worm bin is to cover the legs or the base of your bin with a sticky oily cream or gel (for example Vaseline). I found that this will work only temporarily and becomes quite a messy affair.
The best way to protect worms from ants is to deny the insects any access to your worm bin.
Convert your worm farm it into an island surrounded by water.
Don’t worry it sounds more fancy than it actually is. It only takes a few minutes to set it up and it’s to my knowledge a near bulletproof protection for your worm farm against any kind of ants.
What you need to set it up is
· a waterproof basin or container that is larger than your worm farm
· 2 to 4 bricks
· A few liters / gallons of water.
How to set up your worm farm island!
A worm farm island keeps ants out!
· Put your basin in the place where you want to set up your worm farm
· Place the bricks inside the basin in a way that your worm farm can safely stand on them.
Place 2 bricks inside the container for the worm farm to rest on.
· Fill the basin with at least 2 inches / 5 cm of water.
A worm farm island with bricks and water.
Place your worm farm on the bricks and make sure that neither the bricks nor any part of the worm farm touches any of the sidewalls of the basin.
A worm farm protected by water against ants and other invaders.
Now your worms are safe from ants as they cannot swim or cross water. Note the bigger the distance between the worm farm and the outside walls of the basin the safer will this solution be as well against other pests like slugs.
The only way ants could access your worm farm now
would be in the highly unlikely event that an ant queen and a few males would fly onto your worm farm and start a new colony right inside your worm farm.
Important: Make sure that there will always be water in the basin to protect worms from ants and other pests.
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