Composting Worm Traps?

Yesterday, while looking through some of the past worm harvesting blog posts (listed on Hot Topics page) I came across “John’s Passive Worm Harvester”, and it reminded me that this was an approach I had wanted to try out for myself.

With my WF-360 system now dismantled, I figured the empty trays might work really well as passive harvesters (aka “worm traps”).

I also happened to still have a fair bit of my latest homemade manure batch. I decided to mix this with some very well-aged horse manure and then fill the trays with it. I also soaked down the material to make it as appealing as possible.

I decided to place my traps in 3 different outdoor locations. My first spot was in the middle of a windrow bed very rich in coffee grounds. First, I moved the upper layers of material aside – so as to ensure that the trap would be down where the worms were hanging out – and then loosened up the old grounds a bit with a garden fork.

I then set in the trap (with lid) and covered up with old grass and straw so as to make sure that temps inside remain warm, but not hot (we are still experiencing sunny, warm days).

I put the next trap in the raised bed I’ve previously used as my winter vermicomposting system. In this case, the thick layer of old straw will be more important for keeping the contents of the tray moist (since no lid) than for protecting from overheating.

I decided to put my last trap directly in front of one of my backyard composters (which has a healthy population of composting worms in and around it).

I will likely check on the traps early next week. Should be interesting to see how many worms have moved in!

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    • John W.
    • October 3, 2013

    I actually used my WF360 for the exact same think. The tray sits almost perfectly on top of the Worm Inn. So I add a little bit of semi-aged horse manure onto a tray and place it on the Worm Inn for a day or two. Seems to work decently.

    • lowcostyardservices
    • October 7, 2013

    It seems to me that there ends up being an awful lot of worms between the surface of the bin material and the bottom of the “trap”. Therefore not going in to the trap, but staying underneath it.

    • Bentley
    • October 8, 2013

    JOHN – that’s cool! I guess great minds DO think alike! haha
    Going to check on my traps today!
    LowCost – interesting observation! That in itself could be helpful – since we can just collect the worm-rich material from directly below as well! Makes me think I should try a wet-newsprint “worm concentrator” as well!

    • Lynn
    • October 9, 2013

    This brings up a question, at least in my mind. If it works this well on the ground, or at the top of a Worm Inn, why is it so hard to get worms to move up to the next tray when the WF is being used as intended? The worms never, never leave the lower trays. Some move up, sure, but not even by half.

    • John W.
    • October 9, 2013

    I think the wf360 struggles due to the compression and constant moisture down below. When I put the tray on top of my worm inn there is basically no compressed material below so the worms are allowed to move much more freely. And my worm inn is considerably drier. So when I add the horse manure at top in te tray I also wet it down. This seems to draw the worms up to the new food scourge AND moisture. Those are just my observations. I don’t know if there is any science to back that up.

    • John W.
    • October 9, 2013

    Sorry for they typos. I am sending this from my phone and wearing a wrist brace. 🙂

    • Lynn
    • October 11, 2013

    No worries, I knew exactly what you meant. 🙂 And I hope the brace comes off soon!

    So, maybe that explains why I end up with castings in the lowest tray. I never have puddles of water, but the worms sure do like it down there. I’m thinking of changing to something different, but I can’t decide what. I guess I need to spend some time looking. Winter’s coming fast, so I’ll have more time inside. I’m limited to kitchen scraps only, no access to any kind of manure good to use.

    • John W.
    • October 11, 2013

    Well if you have a WF360 and are thinking of switching…I would highly recommend the Worm Inn. I did not have manure until recently and had my worm inn running on kitchen scraps and paper products. You honestly can not even compare the two. The worm inn is so much faster and easier. I don’t even cut up stuff anymore now that I have the Worm Inn. I just collect and throw it in. I got manure because the Worm Inn was so fast that my wife and I did not make enough scraps to keep up with it.
    And until I had manure in it, I kept my Worm Inn inside my office. So it was almost at the optimal temperature year round. I put a brown grocery bag over the screen to keep light out and it worked perfectly. No smell!
    The sad part to me is that the Worm Inn is cheaper than the WF360; or at least it was when i bought mine.
    If you can’t tell I am a big fan of the Worm Inn 🙂

    • Bentley
    • October 11, 2013

    LYNN – great question! Do remember, though, that even with the trap scenario there are still loads of worms down below. Only a small proportion (relatively speaking) are moving up – but in a system that has loads of worms in it, this can still amount to plenty of worms getting harvested.
    And of course, as John has illustrated, using a really tempting “bait” can really help as well. If you can’t get a well aged manure, you might try creating some sort of homemade manure mix similar to what I’ve described in this post:

    • Lynn
    • October 11, 2013

    I kind of figured that out, John, LOL!

    This is all good info, thank you both. I *am* actually thinking of changing to a different system. I don’t mind buying a new one, since the price will be paid back before long. The way I look at it is, I’m no longer wasting the food scraps by just tossing them in the trash, in fact I’m saving on kitchen trash bags too, and I’m also no longer paying for compost and fertilizer to feed the garden and houseplants. With shipping, the WF (I have the original, bought about a month before the 360 came on the market) cost me about $130 USD. I haven’t actually taken time to go back to receipts, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t spend that $130 on bags of dried cow manure/humus and Miracle Grow this past summer.

    I’m also tired of taking forever to harvest the WF, just because the worms don’t want to move up. The Worm Inn has moved to the top of my research list.

    • JohnS
    • November 26, 2013

    Bentley- I have two of the Soil Saver composters like in your one picture. This year I used one as a worm composter. It has to stay in a very shady location though. It seems to work well and accepts a lot of material and has doors on the bottom to scrap out the vermicompost. I was wondering what you felt about this idea.

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