Separating worms from vermicompost

zaleon(Gauteng ZA)January 3, 2009

Please help. Do anyone have a low cost, low tech method for separating worms (and their eggs) from vermicompost. I use a can-o-worms, and the lower bucket is just about overflowing with vermicompost. I'm already busy with the second one for the last few months, but for some inexplicable reason, only about a third of the worm population migrated up to the second bin. I now need the vermicompost, and thus have to separate it from the worms

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folly_grows(10 SF by the Bay)

The simplest way to harvest is to reverse the trays. Put the lower tray with the VC on top of the working tray. (With the lid off) the worms will migrate down to the working tray to escape the light. Mound the VC and slowly separate the VC and eggs into other containers, the exposed worms will continue to go downwards. Once you are finished harvesting, put fresh bedding, compost, your harvested eggs, food and shredded paper into your new working tray.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 4:57PM
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hamiltongardener(CAN 6a)

I found this worked well for me:

Dump the contents of the bin into a square of burlap (like you wrap trees in for the winter). Refill the bin with fresh bedding and food. Pull up the corners of ther burlap to make a sack holding the contents of the old bin and place it on top of the new bedding. Spread the corners back out and level the vermicompst. Place a lamp shining a bright light onto the bin and the worm wil go down through the burlap to the new bedding.

That doesn't separate the cocoons, but works very well with the worms. If you had time, you could leave te lamp there and wait a few weeks until the cocoons hatch and the baby worms go down into the new bedding.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 10:16PM
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flowersnow

hamiltongardener,

I like your method! I will try that. Where did you get your burlap? Would any other material work?

The three times I'v separated, I've done it by hand (with surgical gloves on). Time consuming, but rather pleasant (quiet and no teenage boy bothered me for "what's for dinner?"-go figure!) I would set a timer and separate for an hour a day until done. The last little bit was almost all worms so I just dumped it all in.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 7:20PM
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hamiltongardener(CAN 6a)

Hardware stores, nurseries, I think even Walmart has it. I got mine at Canadian Tire, but I don't think that's going to help you. Just ask for the burlap you can wrap young trees in for the winter. It came in long lengths (1 meter by 3 meters) so I just cut it into three sections and save the other two for later use.

I suppose other materials would work, but I can't think of any off the top of my head, especially ones that would be cheap and won't harm the worms. Maybe an old screen from a window if you can find a square large enough.

I found an added benefit to the burlap. If you place a square of damp burlap on top of your worm bedding, the mites seem to disappear and it keeps the bedding damp. Just lift the burlap and dig food into the bedding when you feed the worms.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 8:42PM
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bencjedi(6 - Central Kentucky)

If you have a Sam's Club near you and like Indian Basmati rice.. they sell a large bag that comes wrapped in burlap. Inside the burlap is a plastic bag containing the rice,so you can easily slip out the rice in its own plastic bag leaving the burlap sack. If you really need burlap and rice.. there ya go!

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 10:16PM
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seamommy(7bTX)

Any fabric store or thrift stores that carry fabric remnants. Burlap is cheap and burlap from a thrift store is more cheap. Cheryl

    Bookmark   January 7, 2009 at 10:16AM
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jasdip

Hi Flower,
I do the same thing using a plastic garbage bag, punched full of holes with a kitchen fork. Lay this on top of the prepared new bin, with a light overtop, and the worms will crawl thru the holes into the new bin.

By scooping up remaining castings with your hands, you can quickly look thru it for stray worms and cocoons, then dump the castings into your storage pail.

This is my preferred way of harvesting. So use whatever you've got on hand....burlap or plastic bag

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 8:21AM
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takadi(7)

This youtube video shows a lady harvesting her worms, it seems like you have to be a bit patient though

Here is a link that might be useful: harvesting worms

    Bookmark   January 8, 2009 at 5:12PM
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flowersnow

I went to a fabric store and was quite surpirsed at the price of burlap (ok, I'm cheap). As I was walking around, I found the "bargain" section. They had several colors of a fabric with small holes (like a very flexible, soft window screen). Well, I set up my new bin, laid the material on top and transfered the worms. I can tell it's going to work and be soooo much easier than my search and drop in new bucket method. I did this about 30 minutes ago and already worms are working their way thru the material. As an added bonus, I picked a bright pink color! LOL

    Bookmark   February 5, 2009 at 10:49PM
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susanfromhawaii

I've got blues (perionyx excavatus) and the cocoons are REALLY small. I'd need a magnifying glass to see them.

I don't want to throw away the babies so when I don't need the compost right away, I let it sit for 2-3 weeks for everyone to hatch. Then I put it in something airtight (costco cookie container or ziplock bag). You leave a small part open so just a little air can get in. The babies go for the little bit of oxygen, climb up the sides and are easy to take out. The first time I tried this I got more than 50 babies out. Since then I've let my worms get more crowded and they haven't been reproducing as much.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 2:56AM
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gringojay

Hi Susan,
? Do you breed "blues" because of any particular suitability to your state's tropical climate ?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 11:40AM
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wormnelly(Hawaii)

Gringojay:
In Hawaii, we can only get the blues.

I'm going to try the burlap method. I dug around by hand and it took forever! I've also tried the dump them out and make little mounds and scoop them out. . . takes forever! But with the blues, you gotta clean it out GOOD at least once a year or they slow down. My population is still going strong. I've heard of people losing their worms??? That's what one of the professional worm folks said in an email blast. . . I was SCARED for awhile but my blues are fine!

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 12:18AM
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cathd66

If you can't get hold of burlap (also known as hessian) you can use those loosely knitted cotton kitchen or floor cleaning cloths. One big one or a few smaller ones laid out over the surface of the new bedding.
Another great way I find of lifting off compost but leaving worms behind is to use a pair of rubber gloves that are too big for you and 'grab' lumps of vermicompost with the 'tips' of the fingers, which are so floppy they leave the worms behind.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2009 at 5:19AM
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tclynx

I've never worn gloves while sifting worm castings. I've usually done the mound technique for sorting worm castings and it is very tedious.

I do know that window screen works just fine as a layer that worms can crawl through. Like the rolls of fiberglass window screen that you can get for a few bucks at the big box home improvement stores. We actually use layers of screen in our bins since we don't have a stacking system. the screen lets us lift out the newer bedding/food so we can scoop out the more finished stuff from the bottom for sorting.

I kinda like the idea of putting the more finished stuff on top of a screen on a prepped bin of bedding. It would not sift out the cocoons but I suppose I could then put the castings into a bucket with a yogurt container (with some holes) of corn meal. For the corn meal method of collecting stragglers, does anyone know how moist to make the cornmeal?

    Bookmark   February 25, 2009 at 9:46PM
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kioni(3)

Tclynx: in the link below vislander makes mention of using a yogurt container with cornmeal, no mention of how much moisture, I'd like to know also, since I now have a bin of fresh vermicompost with tiny ones and eggs, and would like to save them too.

Vislander, where are you?

Here is a link that might be useful: Cornmeal in yogurt container when harvesting

    Bookmark   March 7, 2009 at 10:18PM
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ncdirtdigger(7b)

I find it odd that one would worry about losing worms or coccoons for a species which will double in population in such a short time. I see it kinda like thinning out seedlings. I know that it makes the ones left healthier by thinning and if you don't increase the size of your bins and the amount of food you feed them, they will self regulate their own population anyway. Don't cry over lost worms.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2009 at 11:30PM
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fosteem1

ncdirtdigger, A lot of us are still building our herds so every worm is precious to us.

I started with a half pound of worms 11 months ago and would never consider tossing the babies out with the bath water. That may become different someday when the worms are able to keep up with my scrap production. But until then i save every one i can.

Here is a couple photos of a easy to build sorter from another forum. The photos are not mine. I am thinking of building one with a crank handle though.

http://vermicomposters.ning.com/photo/seperate-container-sorter?context=latest

http://vermicomposters.ning.com/photo/sorter-from-top-angle?context=latest

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 12:47AM
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beebiz1960(6)

Fosteem,

Thanks for posting these links!! Like one of the posters in the first link, I had seen the commercially available models. But, I could not get my pea brain around how to secure the mesh to the bucket halves. In the picture, it is easy to see that this can be done with plastic zip ties!! Whoda thunk it?? :>)

Thanks again,
Robert

    Bookmark   March 15, 2009 at 6:58PM
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