Help! Worms commiting suicide

spotmaxdogMay 16, 2010

I've been trying to start a vermicompost system to process the massive amounts of poop my dogs produce. I bought a worm farm stacking system and I've killed my second (expensive) set of worms.

The first set died when they all drowned to death during a torrential rainstorm that I wasn't in town for.

I just got the second set last week and when I went to put more food in I found them all in the worm stew catch basin, drowned to death. It looks like they dug through the paper towel that was blocking the holes in the bottom and the entire colony just fell or wrigged through the holes into their own tea.

How can I prevent this from happening on my third set of worms? I'd really like to get this project going, but I've manage to kill nearly $100 worth of worms so far.

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First, you need to be able to drain the catch basin. If it has a tap, open it.

Then you need to work out why they are so keen to get away, it may be a heat issue, especially if the bin is in the sun.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 8:42PM
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"to process the massive amounts of poop my dogs produce"
Maybe the worms just didn't like the dog poop they were getting?
I imagine that the worms you bought were not raised on dog poop. How much of dog doo (and anything else besides it?) did you put in the bin. Is your system specifically to process dog poop?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 9:02PM
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antoniab(5 WofChicago,IL)

Do you have enough bedding? I know that manure needs to be aged a bit before the worms can break it down, and I assume the dog poop is similar. If all they have to be in is fresh, raw dog poop, that may be the reason. Do they have plenty of places to hang out until the poop is aged and ready for them? Plenty of damp cardboard and newspaper and stuff that is not full of fresh poop?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 9:41PM
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I put landscape fabric over the top of the liquid basin and pulled it tightly across.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 10:04PM
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Your worms didn't commit suicide. You murdered them. Dog and cat poop is nasty stuff. It isn't good for worms, compost or anything. Feed the dogs to the worms.

Dave Nelson

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 10:12PM
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Dave's response has lots of merit and this is a chitty thread.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 10:41PM
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Manure does not need to be aged. I have fed my worms horse manure that was only a few days old. They love it.

We don't know enough about how the bin was set up to diagnose the problem. If the worms were given just dog poop with no bedding, that could have been your problem.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 11:37PM
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antoniab(5 WofChicago,IL)

I found these sites, maybe they will be helpful?
If you have a dog, it is better to think about composting, rather than just bagging the poop and landfilling it.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 11:46PM
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antoniab(5 WofChicago,IL)

Sorry about that. I thought I put spaces in between the links!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 12:03AM
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Thank you for being one of the few dog owners taking care and responsibility of all the needs of dogs not just the front end. "Canine faecal contamination and parasitic risk is serious. Many canine gastrointestinal parasites eliminate their dispersion elements (eggs, larvae, oocysts) by the faecal route." Dog poop lands on the ground and should be moved to a collection site or container below the ground. To move dog poop up into a stacking system lets parasites and other bad things have a second chance of spreading around. The issue with putting it in a stacking system is even with gloves you are touching it twice. More risk of disease. The in the ground system should have other things added than just massive amounts of dog poop. Leaves, grass clippings. A covered hole or dug in container maybe. Depending upon water sources that could be contaminated. Do your neighbors have wells? Throwing big money does not solve all problems. No container needs to be purchased. Maybe not even worms need to be purchased. You need to start slow to let the population catch up. I have heard the tick, worm medication takes 25% of years off of a dogs life. If worm medication is in the dog poop it may not help the worms.

Maybe the answer you are looking for are BSFL?

Dogs are not just cute, they do leave pawprints, thank you for realizing that and taking full responsibility.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 1:27AM
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Is it possible to make a vermicomposting 'pit' to process your dog's waste? You might find some useful tips from RWC pet wast vermicomposting.

Here is a link that might be useful: Scroll down to

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 2:03AM
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antoniab(5 WofChicago,IL)

When I have been backpacking in some areas, there have been solar composting toilets set up. These bake the poo and pee of hikers (and dogs) to ash, so that it can be brushed out on the ground with no remaining pathogens.

There are very simple plans out there (such as in Earthship plans) for solar toilets and solar ovens that would work for baking the dog poop in largish batches to make it easier to deal with, either before or after vermicomposting. If you live in an area with abundant sunshine, this may be an option as well.

Here is a link that might be useful: discussion of pet waste composting on USCC

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 10:36AM
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My dogs are too swift for the worms to catch :0

I think I've identified the problem by looking at photos of other peoples' setups. I was doing the bedding material way too thin and the bottom grates need to be covered with more than paper towel, something like 1/2 inch of wet newspaper at least with 2-3 inches of shredded bedding on top of that.

Other than that. No, the worms arn't in the sun, they're on my patio. The flies are kindof annoying though, the worm factory has vent holes on the top for air. I wonder if I can cover those and still get enough oxygen into the system through the drain spout being left open all the time?

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 7:18PM
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Kudos for staying with us. I'm much more worm friendly than dog friendly. It would be great if worms could help dogs to be more enviornmentally balanced. If you succeed maybe share what you learned with other dog owners. Many may not care. But some will. Every bit helps.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 2:22AM
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antoniab(5 WofChicago,IL)

Could you cover the vent with a breathable fabric of some sort, rather than block it all the way? I don't think the drain would be vent enough alone.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 10:47AM
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