50 Cocoon Challenge – Update #3

Mature Red Worm
Mature Red Worm – one of a handful now present in the ’50 Cocoon Challenge’ Bin

I’m starting to think I must have some sort of internal ’50 cocoon challenge update’ clock inside my brain. For whatever reason, I had the urge to check up on the bin today and write about it here. Checking back on the date of my last post it looks as though exactly two weeks have elapsed yet again.

Well, as you can see I have some good news…but I also have some bad news as well. The good news of course, is that we now have mature worms in the bin. The bad news (also “of course”, given my track record – haha) is that I’m not really sure when the first worm matured.

That being said, I DO know that it was almost certainly somewhere between 5 and 6 weeks from the day I first put the cocoons in the system, since I couldn’t find any mature worms when I quickly looked through the bin last week.

I am really impressed with these results to be totally honest – even if worms had hatched the day after I put cocoons in the bin – which obviously didn’t happen, since I was not able to find any worms until June 25th – that would still be a relatively short period of time. Add to that the fact that the temps in the bin (~ 20C / ~68F) have been below those reported as ‘ideal’ for worm growth (25C / 77F), and this leaves me with the conclusion that Red Worms reach maturity faster than I previously thought.

As mentioned previously, I am planning to do this experiment again using aged manure as food/bedding. I suspect that maturation times may even shorter in that material.

I will of course continue to let this bin develop in the meantime. I’m interested to see how quickly another set of cocoons appears in the system, and how quickly the worm population grows in general.

It seemed like there were a lot more worms in the bin than the last time I looked, but this is obviously due to the fact that they have grown in size. I would still say that most of the worms are immature, but as mentioned in the caption above, there are at least a ‘handful’ (maybe 5-10) of worms showing clitella.

Stay tuned! More updates to come.

Previous 50 Cocoon Challenge Posts
The 50 Cocoon Challenge
50 Cocoon Challenge – Update #1
50 Cocoon Challenge – Update #2

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    • John
    • July 9, 2009

    Bently…Is it possible that some mature worms migrated from another of your bins??

  1. I thought it took 3-4 months for worms to mature? I am raising my worms in 5 gal. sheet rock buckets. Do you think the buckets have enough surface area?

    • Bentley
    • July 10, 2009

    JOHN – definitely not. This bin has a lid on it and is sitting a good distance away from any systems that might pose an invasion risk.
    BERWICK – I am surprised too! I’ve heard of entire worm growing approaches that rely upon bucket growing for at least part of the worms lifecycle, so I imagine they must be ok (assuming no lid). I’m not a major fan of buckets myself though for exactly that reason (limited surface area)

    • Duff in VT
    • July 10, 2009

    Bentley, I have never seen this question posed. Is there any particular way you should handle a cocoon? Can you just pick them up and transfer from one container to another? Should the climate in the second container be similar to the first, etc.

    • Selene
    • July 12, 2009

    Hey Bentley,
    I’ve never seen any cocoons in my worm bins but I know that they’re there cause I keep seeing baby worms. And not just a couple at that! They’re all over in the oldest bin. My question to you is: where do you find most of the cocoons to be in your bins? In the dryer top layer to the wettest bottom layer?
    Also, I was wondering about composted manure that you buy in any of the big box stores. Is this in any way comparable to the manure you get from a farm and compost yourself? Or is this too much like soil to work as a bedding/food for the worms?

    • robyn
    • July 12, 2009

    I am very interested in your experiment..I am also surprised at how quickly your juveniles have matured, i also thought it takes about 3 months in ideal conditions. But maybe not…I guess the best way to confirm maturity would be when you have evidence of a new lot of cocoons in your bin.
    I have a homemade raised worm bed about 60cm x 150cm and am trying to havest my first lot of castings. I started with 8000 juveniles about 1- 2mths old, these weighed 1.2kg and i have had them for about 6 -7 mths. I am weighing all the worms as i am pulling them out. i have only just started today and so far using the light method have pulled out 700g from about 2 buckets full of bedding. I estimate there to be about 6kg of worms in that bed, but this is just a guess. I also do not want to not waste the cocoons, so am putting them aside for month or so to collect the hatchlings. I guess i could easily repeat your experiment to see if i get the same rapid growth as you did.

  2. Every body has a different idea on worms, worm tea and compost. Some people just throw there leftover vegetables in a water bucket and let them soak, then use this for a liquid fertilizer

  3. Ive tryed this with my worms, I took out some of the cocoons anf put them in a small container by themselves and wached them closely. Quite interesting. Ill do this again and see how long it takes on to mature.

    • Don H
    • July 18, 2009

    Horse manure isn’t popular with gardeners, (I understand it is low on nitrogen, full of weed seeds etc) but ideal for worm composting. Last week I tilled the perimeter of my cousin’s horse manure pile and to my surprise it was dry and fluffy and no odor. I brought a large quantity home for my garden and will now use some for a worm bin. I’ll also add my Starbucks coffee grounds to see how they work together with normal home waste. Because of your suggestions, I’ll start this new bin with cocoons only. Thanks for all the excellent input! Don H

    • Bentley
    • July 22, 2009

    DUFF – there definitely isn’t any specific way to handle cocoons, nor do you need to be overly careful about keeping conditions the same. Remember, this is the most resistant, easily-adapted stage of a worm’s lifecycle so they can put up with quite a lot of abuse (just don’t squish them – haha).
    ROBYN/BERWICK – Do let me know if you repeat the experiment. I’ll certainly be interested to compare results with others (make sure to note temperature where bins are sitting though – this could make a big difference).
    DON – that is really interesting (re: horse manure and gardening), and definitely makes sense. Not only is horse manure pretty fibrous, high C:N stuff, but it’s also typically mixed with bedding materials making the overall C:N even higher. What’s cool about the Red Worms is that they accelerate the breakdown of this material, freeing up lots of plant available nutrients. So while I would imagine that horse manure simply added to the garden might not be all that great, horse manure added to a very active in situ vermicomposting system should be more effective. That would actually be a really fun experiment (comparing the two situations)…hmmmm

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