Neem and vermicomposting

by Bruce Jackson
(Cape Coral, FL)

I have fireants and cockroaches, which I want to dispatch and discourage. I have just begun a vermicompost worm bin with the hope that I could scale up my composting and reduce the use of commercial products in my yard and garden.

a. Is neem known to be harmful to earthworms which I hope to enlist in the compost bin(s)?

b. Could I compost matter from plants treated systemically for aphids and thrips with neem using earthworms?

Thank you.

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Neem is beneficial for earthworms
by: Birgit

Hi Bruce,

Neem does not harm earthworms, it has in fact been shown to be beneficial. Both neem leaves and neem seed kernels increased the number of earth worms (in the potting soil in greenhouses) or at least the weight (in an outside study) when incorporated into the soil.

Neem seed cake (the residue left after crushing and pressing seeds for oil) is routinely used as a great soil improver and also known to stimulate earthworm activity.

Researchers even vermicomposted neem itself. The worms loved the neem and grew a lot faster and multiplied more than if fed with mango leaves!

Your worms should be fine.

Whether the fire ants will care about the neem oil is a different question. People have had mixed results when using neem against ants. Some swear by it (as a deterrent), some saw no effect whatsoever.

Research says neem inhibits feeding and disrupts growth in fire ants, but they'd have to eat it or be sprayed with it for that to happen. Since you can't spray every ant in a colony it would mean making bait.

Neem kills young cockroaches and prevents adults from laying eggs, but only if they eat it. Again, I imagine you'd have to make bait to deal with your cockroaches.

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