Vermicomposting & Extreme Heat
Question from Barbara J.
Any word of the worms surviving 110 degrees heat? I live in Texas and wow
it is really hot.
To be totally honest, it is very unlikely that any species of earthworm will survive being exposed to temps that high. As you get up towards (and past) 90 F even the most tolerant composting worms will tend to die off.
So, keeping a vermicomposting system going outdoors in 100+ F weather is incredibly challenging – and will only work if you can find ways to lower the temps inside the system.
Your chances of success will increase if you are using a system with excellent ventilation (and in a location with good air flow in general), and there is air flow within the habitat itself. They key will be to maintain moist conditions so as to take advantage of the evaporative-cooling effect. One interesting strategy I learned from my friend, George Mingin, involves draping a wet sheet over your system (again, the system itself needs to have excellent ventilation) and using a fan to blow air towards it.
If vermicomposting indoors really isn’t an possibility for you, another approach you might try is rotating frozen water bottles between your freezer and your system. This obviously has some limitations – especially if you are away from home a lot, but it does have the potential to be very effective! On a similar note – some might wonder about adding frozen food as a way to cool down a system. While this can indeed have some initial cooling effects, once the wastes thaw you could actually end up with the opposite effect. Accelerated microbial activity could lead to all manner of issues, such as excess heating and ammonia release.
One other potential possibility is some sort of in-ground system, especially if it can be positioned fairly deep in the ground – but, in all honesty, I’m not even sure if this would be a viable option when temps are getting up towards 110 F!
Anyway – hopefully this helps a bit.