Should this be going faster?

veronica_p8(6/7 Pittsburgh)July 22, 2010

I started about 100 small to medium sized worms in a bucket back in April ... They survived, ate some paper, I put some veggies in there, they didn't touch them.

Beginning of June, I moved said worms to this 18 gal bin and added about 300 more comprised of probably 30 adults, 70 juveniles, and 200 babies. These are all from sod I took up in my backyard so it's a mixed species bin, but I'd say 70% are "red wigglers"... There is probably 3 inches of bedding in the bottom of the bin.

They don't seem to be doing much! How long do you think until the population can process food? I tried a piece of corn cob ... they didn't touch it. I put a wedge of apple in there two days ago ... no worms are near it. I've been hoping they're happy (there seems to be some castings being generated) and breeding up to a decent population, or at least GROWING up so that they eat more. The bin is kept in my garage with a holey piece of cardboard on top of the bedding and the lid ajar for air circ. I don't have holes in the bottom or side. I'm going to try to turn it into a bin like boreal wormer's which looks VERY cool.


1) why aren't they eating food?

2) how long (est) until they are a large enough population to process food/bedding and create VC for my garden or tea?

3) Does the bin look ok? I water it every 3 days or so when the top bedding starts to dry out. Photos taken after moistening (I add about a cup of water sprinkled on the bedding)

4) There are a lot of bugs.

I can keep the bin in the garage thru fall, but it can't survive out there in winter, so I will have to move it into the basement. How do people control the bugs? There are a lot of flying and crawling lil things that seem happy frolicking about in the bin, which is fine in the garage, but I don't want these things in my house. I tried the apple cider vinegar in a saucer thing. Nothing.

Suggestions on how to make it more home friendly? I could cover the top with weed control fabric, but do i need to clean it all out and put in fresh bedding for that transition? I assume the lil bugs are breeding in there, so will covering make them die, or are they a self-sustaining population now?

Interestingly, a few little spiders have moved in to control the bug population. It's kinda cool. They are the little ones that live in the corner of windows or in the corners of my basement that I leave there because there is always a pile of rolie polies underneath them.

Any suggestions are welcome. Thanks for your time :)


(first time posting pics ... sorry if they are too big.)

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What a great story and excellent pictures.

1) why aren't they eating food? It takes a thousand worms to satisfy vemi owners as to a decent out put.

2) how long (est) until they are a large enough population to process food/bedding and create VC for my garden or tea? Waaaay longer than you want to wait. But if you do wait. It will be worth it.

3) Does the bin look ok? I water it every 3 days or so when the top bedding starts to dry out. Photos taken after moistening (I add about a cup of water sprinkled on the bedding) Other posters will answer.

4) There are a lot of bugs. Lots of bugs like your stuff. Since you appreciate the spiders, I think you will do ok with the bin down cellar. You may want to purchase curtain material, finer than mosquito netting and drape this upon your system.

To combat fruit flys a multi prong attack is good. Vaccume sounds good. I did not do this.

Wine and water in a glass and put the glass up on a pedastal near the bin.

Gossimer cloth drapped over the bin.

When adding fruits add vermicompost, or much bedding. Think inches.

In the celar the bugs should disapear.

Although, I'm not quite sure where they go.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 1:51AM
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First, I'm not sure you've got the right type of worms. Some others can respond to see if they've ever had success with yard worms, but I don't know that they're the composting type.

Second, if they are the composting type they need some grit to help process their food. They have gizzards. So throw some coffee grounds in there.

Third, it might just be me, but your bin looks like it might be a little on the stinky side. And although I don't use a bin like that I think it still might need some air holes for circulation.

It's totally possible to move it to the basement in the winter provided it doesn't get too cold down there. And I think the bugs will naturally go away during that time anyway.

Hopefully a similar bin user can offer up some advice on your particular bin. Hope it works out for ya! Don't give up just yet. :)

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 5:30AM
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A mixed worm bin is not a bad thing. Every worm (and micro-organism for that matter) has a purpose in the composting process. I do not think adult worms transition well from one environment into another. So it looks like you may have a ¼ to ½ cup of worms in an 18 gallon tote. Realistically, it would be very hard to tell how much this little crew eats. It may be time to feed cukes, melons with a slight dusting of grains and sweet water to fatten them up and help them to get busy.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 5:53AM
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Hi veronica your start is ok but can be improved on in several ways. I will list them in order of "your" comfort.

1. Use the bin you have 18 gal to store castings in. When Lowes has the 10 gal ones on sale buy 4 or five. Transfer contents of 18 gal to one of them. 10 gal will be easier to work, the compost gets very heavy when you have 4" in the bin. The 10 gal can be stacked. Put some air holes around upper edge 1" below lid.

2 When you can, get a paper shredder and open newspaper, turn it so you are holding it by edge fold into thirds and shred(gives long strips of paper. This is to make it easy for you to add a handfull when you think the bedding needs refreshing. The long damp strips will tear as you fluff the bedding.

3. The type of worm you need to compost can be picked up in your back yard. Put down some organic material (similar to your bedding material) in a pile wet it slightly and cover it let it be for a week or so. Then early one morning when rain is comming uncover and pick up as many worms you can (take a 10 gal bin easy to carry).

4. The worms you already have are red worms I would say more likely than not several species (Ef, Ea ,Lr are common) the hardier ones will out survive the less hardy.

1 For the worms comfort the bin you are happy with. It must have some damp bedding, Some dirt a hand full from garden or flower bed will due. They will also need some food breaking down so some mothers oats sprinlled on top of the bedding and dampened with a few drops of water or plant mister if you have one. The worms will then have all the materials they need to make you a happy wormer getting all the poo and babies they are able to deliver to you.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 9:01AM
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veronica_p8(6/7 Pittsburgh)

Thank you everyone for your quick and thorough responses :)

I apologize for not including the fact that I did include some soil in there. When I (and my partner, god bless him :P ) were picking through the sod, often there was still some soil attached to the worm, and I probably included about a cup worth for their gizzards. I also have fed them a little cooked oatmeal ... but the thing is, I *never* see them eating anything. I've seen some very cool photos in this forum where the worms jump on top of the food and attack it within a day or two... I have not seen any such activity.

Also, I see now it's not easy to see, but I do tear the newspaper into 1 inch strips. Do you think it should be smaller paper-shredder sided? I have one.

I have heard about the heaviness of an 18 gal bin, but I am planning on dividing it with a grate into halves (a la boreal wormer) and have one half process while the other half is empty, then fill the empty half with bedding, lure the worms over with new food, and take out the processed VC (yes, I've heard they are not easily lured ;) ) ... so, maybe it's better to say "sort" the VC side and put any worms still in there back into the new bedding side. Repeat. :)

I also read a bunch on "pests" on "the burrow" website and I think I am more comfy with the other critters occupying the bin. I will probably still get some gossamer-type cloth (ty equinox :) ) to exclude the things such as fruit flies.

The bin actually isn't stinky at all. There's not a ton of bedding in it, and not a ton of food to MAKE it stinky. I will try a little more oatmeal today and see what happens. I will also tear up some more newspaper and moisten it to stack on top. I'll try to grow my population a bit before dividing the bin in half with a grate.

Thanks again, all of you, for responding. I've caught the gardening bug this year, which has included square ft gardening ideas w 12 4x4 beds, 3 outdoor compost piles, and a bin of worms in the garage. It's been a fun summer :)

Ignored Apple

Happy Lid Spider

After watering, a tiny bit lasts in the groove in the bottom, but it's dry by the next day and the paper remains damp for the next 3 days, but then the top starts to dry out so I water it again.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2010 at 10:13AM
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veronica_p8(6/7 Pittsburgh)

Ok, so ... I finally decided to split the bin into two sections to have one side processing, and then have another side for the worms to migrate to when harvesting the compost....

So here's my question... WHAT HAPPENED TO MY WORMS? My honey and I EASILY put over 200 worms in that bin ... (and I know a lot more, but I'm being conservative)... and I dumped the bin today to insert a grate in the middle, and seriously ... we counted maybe 14 worms. :( :( :(

Even if we missed .. say ... HALF ... that's like 10% of what I put in there.

There are no little piles of dead worms around the bin. There are no major predators (like centipedes, or earwigs or anything ... just a few small spiders that seem to be completely controlling the gnat/mite issue that was going on) ... no dead worms in the bin. The worms we saw were not huge (I'd say teenager age)...

I'm at a loss.

Any vermi-Sherlock Holmes thoughts? *sigh*

    Bookmark   August 11, 2010 at 2:00PM
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gardenfanatic(MO zone5b)

If you got your worms from out of the soil, they're probably not composting worms. They're probably lumbricus terrestris, which is a soil dwelling worm that digs burrows several feet down into the soil. They're not suitable for living in a worm bin because that's not the type of environment they're designed for. And since their natural environment is down in the soil, they can't withstand temps much over 50 degrees.

If you want to get composting worms from outside rather than buying them, you need to look where composting worms are going to be - where there's organic matter to consume. Like under a pile of wet leaves or in a manure pile.

The worms that died decomposed into the bedding. They're mostly water, so they don't take long to break down.

Incidentally, putting soil in a worm bin isn't necessary, or even particularly desirable. So next time around, you can skip that part.


    Bookmark   August 14, 2010 at 2:01AM
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