50 Cocoon Challenge – Horse Manure – Update

Mature Red Wiggler

Yet another challenge that has been overdue for an update!

Well, as you can see, our horse manure bin does indeed have adult worms – and some of them are quite large – but all in all, I’ve ended up quite surprised by the results of this experiment.

As you may recall, I predicted that cocoons would hatch more quickly and that worms would mature more quickly in manure-based system. I’ve seen how fast a population of Red Worms can grow in a manure heap, and how readily these worms will move into aged manure when it’s added to a worm composting system, so I figured that this would be close to the optimal situation for these cocoons.

Interestingly enough, the results of this trial didn’t seem to differ all that much from the food waste trial – in fact, if anything, I would say that the population growth has been a lot more successful in the food waste system. Unfortunately I don’t have exact stats for you, but I know for sure that the cocoons in the manure bin took a fair bit longer to hatch than those in the regular bin – this is a big part of why there haven’t been any updates. I just kinda got tired of looking in the bin and still not finding any baby worms!

I am also quite sure that the hatching success in the manure bin has not been as high as in the other bin. Even when I did finally start seeing baby worms, it seemed really difficult to track down more than two or three at a time. Yesterday when I was digging around in the bin quite a bit I probably found less than ten worms total!

I started the manure bin on or close to July 14th, and have only recently (this week) been able to find mature worms. I would say with a fair degree of confidence that once again, worms only started to mature around the 5-6 week mark. So, despite the fact that the population as a whole doesn’t seem to be doing as well in this system, there are still some worms maturing in the same amount of time as those in the food waste bin.

I will be interested to see how things develop in coming months. I’d like to harvest the entire population in both bins after say 6 months or so (from start date of each system), and really compare numbers – adults, babies, cocoons.

Something else I would also like to try is setting up a combo bin that has aged manure AND food waste / cardboard to see what happens there.

As far as the other bin goes, things seem to be moving along in there very well. There are a LOT of adults, along with plenty of juveniles and cocoons as well.

Previous 50 Cocoon Challenge Posts
The 50 Cocoon Challenge
50 Cocoon Challenge – Update #1
50 Cocoon Challenge – Update #2
50 Cocoon Challenge – Update #3
50 Cocoon Challenge – Horse Manure
50 Cocoon Challenge – Update #4

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  1. Hi Bentley,
    Glad you are back to the manure question–only 10 worms from 50 cocoons seems like a concern to me. How do you feel about it? I have to bring the de-wormer question back up again….”do you think de-wormer might have an impact on your system?”. I think there was a discussion recently on Vermicomposters.com about Ivermectin, the typical horse-dewormer, being inactivated by sunlight. I just picked up a large quantity of my stable mix (manure plus stall wood shavings, some hay and horse urine) today. I dug down to the bottom of the manure pile to the clay level without finding any worms. It might be too hot, or it might be de-wormer, but you would think you would see some wigglers?

    I am going to wet this mix and let it sit in the hot Texas sun for 2-3 weeks before introducing worms.

    • Bentley
    • September 10, 2009

    Hi Heather,
    Interesting possibility – although the material did come from an aged manure pile that’s been sitting out in the sun. BUT, unlike the stuff on my outdoor trenches, the material used for this experiment came inside and sat in big garbage cans.
    You are right – such a small number of worms from 50 cocoons just doesn’t seem right, especially when you compare with the ‘regular ol’ worm bin (which is now LOADED with worms).

    As for not seeing worms in your manure – do you mean after you added it to your system(s)? You certainly aren’t going to always see worms in a heap of manure sitting at a farm/stable. If Red Worms have been introduced at some point and if at least some of the pile remains in the same location all the time, there’s a good chance you’ll find lots of worms, but as I’ve discovered, this doesn’t necessarily occur all that often. But it being too hot/fresh is also a possibility.

    Anyway – interesting topic. I wish I knew the answer to this mystery!

  2. I didn’t see worms at the stable, in the pile there. Many gardeners go there to get manure for their compsot, and they haul off truckloads to composting companies, but still I would have to think there should be red wigglers there. The stable (and it’s pile) is probably 50 years old.
    My systems/worms seem to handle it just fine– I either mix the stable stuff into my regular compost and let compost for a few weeks, or just let sit out in the sun for a few weeks before adding to my bins.

    I wish we knew the answer also–don’t want to jeopardize or reduce cocoon hatching!

    • Bentley
    • September 13, 2009

    Hi Heather,
    The presence of red wigglers in a manure pile depends on their introduction into the habitat. These worms don’t necessarily occur in all regions for one thing, and they also rely to a certain degree on various means of dispersal (bird feet etc) since they are not really soil worms. I have come across quite a few piles that have been red worm free, even though I live in a region where these worms are definitely found.

    • Michael Allen
    • March 13, 2010

    What would happen if you did a horse & food combo

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