Disturbing the worms - What's the harm?

homeinametronomeDecember 9, 2012

Hello,

Newbie q here. I recently started vermicomposting two weeks ago. I am so darned curious and paranoid about these worms.

I quickly peer inside the box everyday. Only a few times I dug in with gardening gloves to see if there are actually any worms inside and alive (the box was premade for me.

Is there any harm using gardening gloves? (Do I need to wet them?)

What is the harm in 'disturbing' the worms?

How often am I allowed to check on them?

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mr_yan

I'm thinking this will be like asking a group of economists a question where you'll get more answers than there are people responding.

I use a little three tine hand cultivator to dig around in my bin. I also use this while mixing in new feedings and bedding.

I don't mix too deeply unless I think there is something wrong and need to go looking. I have flow through bins so I want to keep the layers as intact as possible but I mix the top few centimeters up with the new food additions.

I don't think that I have ever used gloves when working with my bins though I wear gloves when doing almost everything else in the garden. I have a type of genetic dermatitis that causes my hands to blister then dry, scale up, and crack off so the fewer calluses I build up the better.

Two main reasons I have not used gloves:
the wet VC will turn the leather into stiff muddy hand shaped plates similar to rawhide a dog has chewed for an hour
You lose much of your sense of touch with gloves and I am not confident I can pick up a worm when harvesting VC without smashing the worm or getting a handful of compost. This is even when I am wearing a nice pair of Mechanix type gloves.

Many people say worms won't eat for days after being disturbed. Short of destroying the bin for harvesting or making a new one I haven't found this to be the case in my limited experience.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 7:23PM
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mendopete

Peeking on your heard of worms is how you learn what they like, dislike, and learn about the health and condition of your bin. If you use gloves the rubber kitchen type are probably best. It is ok to move around the top layer of food and bedding, as mr van suggested, as often as you want. Be gentle with a new bin. The 3 tine fork is great for poking around. Good luck and do not be paranoid. Worms are EZ and forgiving.

Pete

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 9:01PM
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sbryce_gw

There really isn't any harm to the worms, but they don't like it. If you do it too often, the worms will gather around the water cooler and gripe about how bad management is, rather than do their work. The more you leave them alone, the harder they work. When I had my worms, I poked around a little almost every day. When you disturb them, they will take some time to settle back down before they go back to eating. If that is OK with you, then poke away.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 1:13AM
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equinoxequinox

Gloves, the type used to do dishes or thinner are to keep nails clean when playing around with worms. Rarely do I wear gloves when working with my worms. I do not pick up worms wearing my gloves. I do not pick up my worms without gloves. I do not touch worms. I use a three tine garden claw for groups of worms or a barbecue stick to pick up single worms, and a plastic fork if one falls on the floor.

My view is it is ok to bother the worms 24/7. Ok to flip the material clawfull by clawfull each day to see what is going on inside the bin.

I do not have the volume of material to have heating up happen due to turning the pile.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 5:12AM
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JerilynnC

Depends on the species. Some species are more sensitive to being messed with.

QUIT pestering the worms, force yourself not to look in the bin everyday. It's typical for new worm composters to "love their worms to death". :)

    Bookmark   December 10, 2012 at 6:23PM
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equinoxequinox

JerrilynnC is right "Depends on the species." My post refers to Red Wigglers only. Red wigglers would be more tolerant. I forget sometimes about the other species.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2012 at 2:15AM
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homeinametronome

Thank you so much for your answers. I got over the honeymoon phase, and stopped looking in the box. : )

    Bookmark   December 14, 2012 at 12:19PM
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Shaul(Israel)

In the beginning, I checked on my worms every day (like most folks), just to make sure they were still there etc. It's also important for when you're trying to name them. General consensus is that you're not a true Wormophile until you've tried to name all of your worms, at least once. After that, you start forgetting who's who and so it's a lost cause.
I too, use a three-pronged plastic salad fork, but with the middle prong broken off. This seems to do less damage for when moving things around. Also I wear thin, disposable, latex gloves when necessary though I'll usually wear them a number of times before actually tossing them. Finally, I've found that a plastic pancake turner works well for moving castings away from the sides of the bin without overly traumatizing the worm population.
For most of the year, I can check on the worms once a week or so ,knowing that they're doing what they do best, if left undisturbed. In the Summer though, they need to be misted every day as well as other attention.

Shaul

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 6:52AM
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JerilynnC

I've named all my worms, actually my kids did when they were young. All the worms are named "Freddy". :)

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 8:34AM
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