Things are definitely winding down with this year’s vermigardening projects (hope to post a vermigardening “wrap-up” fairly soon) and I have been digging around in the beds and pulling apart some of the hay bales to take a look inside.
I’ve been happy to find some nice concentrations of Red Worms in the beds, but the big surprise for me has been the incredible densities of ispopods I’ve been finding as well. Not too surprisingly, the main concentrations tend to be in dryish zones where there usually aren’t all that many worms. Like springtails, ispods don’t seem to thrive in really wet habitats.
What’s really interesting is that in the zones of high isopod activity, I have also been finding concentrations of what looks like a beautiful, finely granular worm castings material. I’m pretty sure it is their own version of “castings” (if you catch my drift – haha).
Seeing how readily ispods breed/grow (probably more quickly than the worms), and finding all these “castings” deposits got me wondering how well they might “compost” food wastes on their own. While they certainly can help out in vermicomposting systems with excellent ventilation – breaking down larger chunks of (and more resistant) material – they’re rarely provided with their own “perfect” conditions (would be too dry for the worms).
So I decided set up my own “ultimate” isopod bin, and to test out this “isopod-o-composting” (lol) concept for myself!
My set-up is pretty basic. I simply found some hay bales with isopods living in them and transferred some of the material over to a large plastic tub.
I then buried a bunch of cucumber slices (just to get the ball rolling) before adding a thick layer of newsprint strips on top. This is the only cover I will add since I want the system to stay fairly dry (in comparison to a worm bin).
Once my new system was set up (I’ll be keeping it down in my basement, in case you are wondering), I decided to see if anyone else has posted about this online.
What’s funny is I came across two interesting bits of content right away – both of them posted by friends of RWC! The first one is a video posted on YouTube by Larry “Garbage Guru” Duke, showing the unbelievable densities of isopods he had in an active worm bed. I’ve never seen so many spread throughout a system – but I have been finding similar concentrations in certain sections of the hay bale beds.
The next posting was made by “Dermy” (who has commented quite a bit on the RWC blog, and with whom I’ve had a number of email exchanges) on something called “The Bug Forum”. His interesting article is titled “Isopod Composting: From Beginning to Harvest“.
I was glad to see Dermy address something I was wondering about – harvesting! Although, it looks like it might be as challenging as I suspected, since the isopods don’t flee from light the way worms do.
Based on how fine and dry their “castings” material is, I’m thinking there might be a possibility of screening it with a really fine-meshed sieve. We shall see!
Anyway – I think this is going to be a very interesting (and easy) experiment.
Stay tuned for more updates!