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May 31st, 2008

You are currently browsing the articles from Red Worm Composting written on May 31st, 2008.

5 lbs of Red Worms – WOW!

Up close and personal with a writhing mass of hungry Red Worms

I recently added 5 lbs of hungry Red Wigglers to a large bin I’d set up ahead of time. The bin is a 121 l (32 gal) Rubbermaid-style storage tub with quite a few air holes drilled in the sides and lid. The bedding was a mixture of shredded corrugated cardboard and ‘egg carton cardboard’ with a considerable quantity of food scraps mixed in as well. Given the size of the system, I also had to spend a considerable amount of time moistening the contents with a spray bottle (I don’t like simply pouring water into a worm bin). By the times the worms were added it was definitely in awesome shape, if I do say so myself (haha!).

It was actually very important that I made sure the bin would provide an excellent worm habitat. Not only is 5 lbs of Red Worms WAY more than I would normally add to a bin this size, but I also had to go away for a couple of weeks and thus would not be able to make sure the worms were doing ok.

Here is the system prior to leaving for our trip – just before taking this photo I had added a considerable amount of watermelon (a worm favourite), plus a thick layer of cardboard over top.

Here is what the system looked like when I got back home. In all honesty, the image just doesn’t do it justice. The only hint of watermelon left in the bin was a cluster of watermelon seedlings that sprang up from the seeds! I thought there would at least be some remnants of the rinds. It just goes to show you what can happen in a nicely optimized system!

Down below the surface the worms seem to have annihilated much of the cardboard bedding, converting it into large quantities of fibrous worm castings. Not only did I find writhing masses of worms as I dug around, but an unbelievable abundance of cocoons!

Thankfully I’m now collecting food waste from a local restaurant, as mentioned in a recent post, so I’ll definitely be able to keep these worms (and all my others) very well fed. Just in the nick of time, too – I suspect this hungry bin of wrigglers would have eaten me out of house and home pretty soon!


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Written by Bentley on May 31st, 2008 with 3 comments.
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Four Worm Reproduction Experiment Wrap-up

One of the original four Red Worms added to this bin

Well folks, I decided it was finally time to pull the plug on my Four Worm Reproduction Experiment. I know I’ve really let things slide on the update front, so hopefully the final wrap-up will provide some closure for those of you who have been following along, and are keenly interested to learn how it went.

As a bit of a recap, I started this experiment (I use the term very lightly) back on December 12, 2008 (so about 5 1/2 months ago). I was curious to see how quickly Red Worms can reproduce, and specifically how quickly four adult worms could produce a thriving population of worms.

I should say right off the bat that conditions were FAR from ideal in the bin. The worms had to deal with really dry conditions for much of the experiment given the fact that I was using a flow-through (stackable) worm bin and was quite forgetful when it came to keeping everything nice and wet – especially early on.

In order to limit the amount of disturbance to the system, I decided not to do counts during the experiment – aside from the time involved, I felt that this would potentially have a negative impact on the worms. Those of you who are curious about the population size will be pleased to learn that I did in fact take the time to count the worms yesterday. It took awhile, and I have little doubt that I missed some smaller worms, but all in all I think it is a pretty good estimate of the population.
I separated worms into two categories only – adults and juveniles (as dictated by the presence/absence of a clitellum). From what I could tell, there were FAR more juveniles than adults. Here are the numbers:

Adults: 12
Juveniles: 94

So a total of 106 worms – or an approximately 25 fold increase in population size! I can only imagine how many more worms there would have been if I’d provided ideal conditions.

I didn’t bother to count cocoons, but did see a fair number while I was picking out worms.

As for the four original worms I put in the system, I think they all survived, but there was really only one worm I could say without a shadow of a doubt was one of them (since it was much larger than the rest of the worms in the bin).

All in all (despite the lack of attention), I’d say it was a pretty interesting experiment. I would certainly like to try it again, but next time I’d likely use an enclosed plastic bin and would be more diligent with adding food etc. I also would like to try putting Red Worms and European Nightcrawlers head to head (each in their own bin) in a reproduction challenge to see how they compare.

Here are all the posts (in order of appearance) from the experiment in case you want a more thorough recap:
Four Worm Reproduction Experiment (December 12, 2007)
Four Worm Experiment Update (December 27, 2007)
4 Worm Update – First Cocoon! (January 2, 2008)
Four Worm Update (March 25, 2008)
Mating Red Worms (April 8, 2008)
Fungus Gnat Invasion (April 23, 2008)

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Written by Bentley on May 31st, 2008 with 7 comments.
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