Does Fertilizer Kill Worms and Other Helpful Bugs and Insects

Worms, and earthworms, in particular, are highly beneficial to gardens. They improve several soil properties, including aeration, water infiltration, pH, organic matter, compaction, and tilth. Additionally, worms help protect the soil against harmful pests and diseases and promote healthy bacteria. The question is, does fertilizer kill worms or other helpful garden bugs? 

Most fertilizers don’t kill worms or other helpful insects and bugs. On the contrary, they support the presence of these organisms, which are a boon to the soil. However, there are a few exceptional circumstances when fertilizers harm worms. Read on to learn about fertilizers and their effects on worms.

Can Worms Live in Fertilized Soils?

Worms survive pretty well in fertilized soils. For example, adding organic fertilizers like sewage wastes, animal manure, paper pulp, potato processing waste, or compost has a positive effect on earthworms. 

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, organic fertilizer supports earthworms and can double or triple their number. Similarly, applying inorganic fertilizers in the right quantities supports the presence of worms in the soil. 

That said, worms may struggle at first to survive in ammonia and ammonia-based fertilizers, although it is possible for their population to recover after a while.

How Does Fertilizer Affect Earthworms?

Organic fertilizers are a source of food for earthworms. In addition, manure stimulates the production of crop residue, resulting in more food for earthworms.

However, the effect of liquid fertilizer may be a bit adverse due to the presence of salt and ammonia. Fortunately, earthworm populations recover and begin increasing in numbers again within a short while.

When you apply inorganic fertilizers, large amounts of crop residues get back to the soil, prompting a positive build-up of earthworms. Ammonia sulfate and anhydrous ammonia-based fertilizers negatively affect earthworms. Ammonia is toxic, and both ammonia sulfate and anhydrous ammonia have an acidifying effect.

Do Worms Eat Fertilizer?

Naturally, worms feed on soil and crop residues. Therefore, adding manure, compost, and mulch to the soil provides them with more food. In addition, the fertilizing effect leads to more crop residue, meaning more food for the worms. 

Does Fertilizer Kill Worms?

Most fertilizers will not kill worms. Instead, they support their existence by providing a cool and moist atmosphere that worms love. 

In addition, as mentioned earlier, they increase their food source, subsequently making them multiply faster. Nevertheless, some liquid manure and ammonia-based fertilizers may kill worms.

Is Organic Fertilizer Safe for Worms?

It’s safe to say that worms can tolerate organic fertilizer. Better still, they are attracted to heaps of compost, mulch, and manure. 

The only problem with organic matter is the high temperatures emitted during composting that may make the worms uncomfortable. However, as soon as the compost cools, it’s an excellent environment for the worms. 

It’s important to note that you should only apply manure after aging it for several days. That’s because fresh manure is rich in nitrogen which may introduce unfavorable conditions for the worms.

Does Organic Fertilizer Attract Insects?

Without a doubt, an organic fertilizer will attract beneficial insects to your garden. These include bees, dragonflies, and ladybugs.

These bugs are beneficial as they feast on harmful pests such as aphids in your garden.

Are Organic Fertilizers Harmful to Pollinators?

Sometimes, you may be worried that fertilizers will harm bumblebees, which are essential to our ecology and a helpful garden friend. Bumblebees assist with the pollination process, resulting in the formation of more fruits.

However, you need not worry. There’s no study proving that the extra nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium that fertilizers deliver to the soil has any harmful effect on pollinators. One notable area of concern, however, is the effect that pesticides will have on our bee population and other pollinators.

Fish Emulsion

The smell of fish emulsion may attract unwanted insects like flies and predatory animals, such as:

  • Foxes 
  • Cats 
  • Coyotes
  • Raccoons
  • Dogs 

These predators may dig up your farm in search of fish. Don’t be misled by the claim by some fish emulsion manufacturers that it has no odor. In my experience, there is always an odor. 

Blood and Bone Meal

Bone and blood meal fertilizers help to balance carbon in compost heaps and can be an excellent source of nitrogen for many a vegetable plot. However, as with the fish emulsion, the smell of meat will attract nearby pests such as possums and raccoons, which may invade your garden.

To avoid such problems, make sure you fully incorporate the bone or blood meal into the soil to minimize the odor.

Can Fertilizer Harm Beneficial Bugs and Insects?

As mentioned earlier, organic fertilizers will only attract helpful insects and bugs to your garden. These will help you eliminate any harmful pests that might have invaded your garden.

Is Fertilizer Considered a Pesticide?

No, fertilizers are not pesticides or insecticides. Their sole purpose is to feed the plant with essential nutrients for proper growth. 

Pesticides, on the other hand, play a completely different role. They prevent, eliminate, and control pests.

What Are the Effects of Ammonia and Ammonia Fertilizers on Earthworms?

It’s fair to say that earthworms don’t like ammonia and ammonia-based fertilizers, as these are toxic and can kill them. 

According to research at Park Grass, the more you expose earthworms to ammonia sulfate, the faster the decline in their population. Ammonia fertilizers usually lower the soil pH. In fact, if you directly expose earthworms to anhydrous ammonia when applying fertilizer, you’re likely to kill up to 10% of their population.

However, the high yields make more food available to the remaining earthworms, which later reproduce and multiply all over again.

What Happens When You Add Lime to Soil?

If your soil is highly acidic, turning to lime can help. Lime lowers the acidity, and because most earthworm species favor neutral pH levels, you can expect their population to increase significantly. 

In addition, the calcium in lime is beneficial to their growth. Lime also increases plant growth, resulting in more plant residues which is another indirect way to benefit earthworms too.

Final Thoughts Does Fertilizer Kill Worms

So does fertilizer kill bugs and worms? The answer is not always. Besides making the soil more fertile, fertilizers support worms and benefit bugs and insects by providing them with more food and better living conditions. Just ensure you apply them as per the recommendations and avoid harmful fertilizers.