Science fair worm experiment

jirbleFebruary 15, 2009

Sorry in advance for the long post. I have searched the archives but didn't really see specific answers for this situation.

I've been lurking here for quite awhile and have learned a ton--thanks for making this such an informative and friendly forum!

Here's my question: my son, who's in 5th grade, wants to do his science fair experiment on worms and I thought I'd check in to see if anyone has any advice for us. His idea is to set up 5 or so small bins (shoebox-sized, more or less) and see which of several different foods the worms like best. We'll put the same number of worms in each bin and measure how much of each food we give them. I know we should only feed them tiny amounts, but my concern is that in such small bins it will be difficult to keep the conditions ok for the worms. Does anyone have any suggestions to keep the worms alive for several weeks in tiny bins so my son's experiment doesn't get ruined?

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Do you have experience with worm bins or are you a first timer? What type of worms will you use? How do you plan on measuring the results? What food types will you use?

Small bins work just fine, you just follow the same simple rules but on a smaller scale. I would begin at least a month before the fair to give ample time for the systems to develop and document everything that you do to each bin. I also recommend doing a bin with a combo of all of the food types used in each bin to see what variety does.

This sounds like an exciting project for a 5th grader, good luck!

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 6:24AM
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I've had a stackable tray bin going for several months, but it's been slow and I wouldn't consider myself terribly experienced. I'm building a flow-through system right now, for which I have high hopes, but we'll see how it goes! I have red wigglers currently and will use those for his experiment (since they're free). I was just worried about overfeeding, getting too much moisture, etc. in such small bins when the worms have nowhere to go to get away from mistakes. I think we'll start with very tiny amounts, like a tablespoon at a time, and see what happens. My son wants to use apples, squash, coffee grounds, and bread for the food--that way they'll eat fast enough to have some good data (hopefully). We'll feed when they've finished the food and measure how much we feed each time so he'll be able to make science fair-friendly graphs showing amount of consumption for each bin with a minimum of worm disturbance. We had planned to do one bin with only bedding as a control, but I like your idea of doing one with a mixture of foods as well. Thanks for your help!

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 11:39AM
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I think just the plain bedding is a good test too. Of course you would want to use the exact same amount of bedding for each bin. Another good and easy form of measurement may simply be appearance. Some bins may look more broken down and worked over than others. Maybe a digital photo of the previous feeding area right before you feed again; or photos once per week? You may consider weighing food samples rather than measuring by volume because of difference in densities with bread being the least dense. I'm not sure how you would handle the differences in water amounts between food unless you dehydrated everything or froze/ strained it. For example, 1 oz. of coffee grounds might have a lot more food value than 1 oz. of apple. OK just thought of something. Add foods at a controlled weight in their natural form. On a side note - dehydrate one sample of each and reweigh so you can report what % of water each food is. Then when running the bins, be prepared to add a controlled amount of dry bedding and/or water to maintain proper moisture levels. You might find that the apple and squash tests need dry bedding where the bread one doesn't. Keep us updated!

    Bookmark   February 16, 2009 at 4:22PM
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across at the gardenforums the is also a discussion about a bin with only leaves. Maybe it s a good idea to set up a control with the worm's natural food, namely leaves. I think it would be interesting to see whether worms will do better on "human" or "natural" food.

If you are finished with the experiment won't you post the results here so we can all learn from it?


Here is a link that might be useful: Leaves only

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 1:10AM
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Did you get started with the experiment?

    Bookmark   March 14, 2009 at 6:20PM
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