How much is enough

daman1974November 17, 2009

So I have the guasimoto (sp) bins. They have like 4 trays for the worms.

How many worms can one of these bins hold before I start needing to move them out?

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plumiebear(z9? CA)

Many variables to consider, but "needing" to thin a population of worms is a situation I haven't experienced yet. The article below has a good list of things to consider.

Here is a link that might be useful: How Many Worms Is Enough?

    Bookmark   November 17, 2009 at 3:07PM
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mr_ed

Daman,

The instruction book for my worm factory says it can hold 8-12 thousand worms but, from what I understand, you should never really "have" to thin your squirm. The population will find a balance with the space and food supply available. Unless it is your goal to thin your bin for sales or to start another bin. At which case, you can do pretty much whenever your system is processing the desired amount of waste meaning it has a healthy supply of worms.

I have a 5 tray system but only use the bottom 4 trays for processing and keep the top tray full of dry shredded paper to keep the flying pests at bay. I estimate that I have 7-8 lbs of worms in the system. It takes me about 4-6 weeks to fill a tray causing me to harvest the lowest tray and by that time usually the bottom tray has very few worms left in it.

Hope this helps,
Mr Ed

    Bookmark   November 17, 2009 at 5:15PM
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daman1974

See that bothers me too. My worms are still in the first tray and it has been about 6 months since I got them.
Evidently they are slow learners or something.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2009 at 3:59PM
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plumiebear(z9? CA)

How many pounds of worms did you start with? How much are you feeding them each week?

    Bookmark   November 18, 2009 at 11:33PM
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daman1974

I started with one pound of worms approximately.
I am not sure how much I feed per week. I just check the tray and if they are low on food then we add some. Mainly salad, banana peels, and newspaper.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 10:26AM
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mr_ed

Daman,

When was the bin started with 1lbs of worms? Starting with one pound of worms it can take months before the system is up to speed. The article that plumiebear posted is a great read about starting population vs system production.

Another issue that I found with the worm factory design is that it does not really have great airflow through the trays. For the first 6 months I had my worm factory, I did not feel like the worms were thriving and the system seemed very wet all the time. In an effort to dry everything out a bit I pulled the trays out and rested them on the base rotated slightly so they do not sit inside the catch tray (see picture below). When I did that the worms have seemed much more active so I left it that way.

One more tip for getting the worms to move up is to resist the urge to pull the working trays apart. When you do many of the worms dive back into the lower tray that were already working their way up. I was pulling my trays apart every day or two and then wondering why the worms wouldn't leave the tray I wanted to harvest. I still peak from time to time but I never pull the lowest two trays apart unless it is time to harvest. I think that is why there are so few worms left when I do.

It sounds like you are off to a good start. The worms won't be rushed so we have to remember to just be patient or better yet get another pound (or five) of worms and really kick start your system.

Either way please let us know how it goes.
Mr Ed

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 1:41PM
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plumiebear(z9? CA)

If your Gusanito bin is the same as one shown on Amazon, it's 16" x 16" = 2.67 ft2. The theoretical worm density for optimal rate of reproduction would be 1.33 - 2.67 lbs. of worms. My impression from reading various blogs is the higher number is better. So 1 lb. of worms will be a little slower to reproduce, but at some point the population will hit that "sweet spot" and your worms should really start to pick up their pace in eating & reproducing. Mr. Ed has a lot more worms than you, so you can't expect your smaller wriggle of worms to consume as much as his. Pound for pound I'd give your worms even money chance against his in an eating contest. :-)

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 3:42PM
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daman1974

Yeah I am getting quite a few worms in there now. But I think I started my bin out quite some time ago. I am starting a new bin now as well. What is the optimal poundage of worms to start in a bin?

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 4:51PM
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plumiebear(z9? CA)

"To maximize reproduction, Initial stocking densities greater than 2.5 kg/m2 (0.5 lb/ft2) but not more than 5 kg/m2 (1.0 lb/ft2)."
source: Manual of On-Farm Vermicomposting and Vermiculture By Glenn Munroe

The blog post I referred to earlier used the higher number (5 lbs. in 32 gal. storage bin ~4.5 ft2) and got great results. I've never weighed my worms (collected from a regular compost bin), so can't confirm if these theoretical numbers really work.

Another quote from the above manual:
"If the above guidelines are followed, a grower can expect a doubling in worm biomass about every 60 days. Theoretically, this means that an initial stock of 10 kg of worms can become 640 kg after one year and about 40 tonnes after two years. In practice, this is difficult to achieve, though not impossible."

Even if you hit only 50% of optimal, a pound of worms might grow to be 32 lbs. in a year. You'll need a lot of food scraps to feed that many worms.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 6:07PM
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daman1974

Ok so I finally read that blog.
I got a dumb question. How do I know what a cocoon looks like?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2009 at 3:58PM
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plumiebear(z9? CA)

I didn't know either until a couple of months ago.

Here is a link that might be useful: worm cocoon

    Bookmark   November 20, 2009 at 7:13PM
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rom.calgary.ab(3a)

daman1974 - it's about the size and shape of a small grape seed. Newly deposited it will be a creamy off white, slightly yellow. As it ages and gets closer to hatching out worms it becomes darker.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2009 at 9:25AM
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jonas302(central mn 4)

I really feel the worm reproduction numbers do not reflect kitchen composting I just have not seen my worms going that fast a farm is set up to feed manure and of course try to optimize production

Just give them more time

    Bookmark   November 21, 2009 at 1:58PM
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rom.calgary.ab(3a)

Probably because farms will generally have manure that is more or less "ready to go" worm food as opposed to the average home worm bin with misc food and bedding items which take various amounts of time to decompose to the level where worms can make use of it.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2009 at 12:44AM
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