Over-feeding Challenge Update

Hoards of springtails coating the surface of a rotting sweet potato

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog post outlining my hair-brained plan to try and ‘over feed’ some of my indoor worm bins. Later that same day I added close to 30 lb of rotting food waste to various systems in my basement – with certain bins (and ‘Inns’ – haha) receiving the vast majority of the material.

What I didn’t mention was the fact that I was leaving the next day for a bit of a mini vacation up north – a trip that would keep me away from home for almost a week (you may have noticed that there were no new blog posts during that time). If I had been using enclosed plastic ‘worm bins’ I likely would have been worried about what I might find when I got home, but I ended up leaving with nary a concern.

As I explained in my first over-feeding post, I only use open systems now, after discovering how much easier they are to manage – so I felt pretty confident that the increased aeration of the systems and the well-established worm ‘habitat’ would help to prevent any major disasters from occurring.

I must admit, I’m almost a little embarassed by how BORING the results seem to be ! haha
Apart from the odd mortality in the one bin that received the most waste (along with too much water, I might add), the results seem to be very positive across the board. A lot of the materials have disappeared or are at least unrecognizable, and the worm concentrations up near the surface seem to have increased.

I expected to see increases in ‘critter’ populations. Other than an apparent increase in springtail numbers (I think so anyway – there were a lot of them already in the systems), there didn’t seem to be any obvious population explosions. I suspect that if the bins had lids on them I would have ended up with a lot more mites and white worms.

I have noticed some funky smells – but again, it only seems to be in the bin that received the largest quantity of waste materials, and too much water. Undoubtedly, there were (and are) some anaerobic microsites, even with the ample air flow.

Anyway, I know this wasn’t the most exciting ‘challenge’ of all time, but hopefully it will at least hammer home the importance of a good ‘habitat’ and lots of (passive) aeration!

Now, I need to come up with something a little more interesting to test!

Red Wigglers

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    • Kim from Milwaukee
    • March 27, 2009

    That is one gorgeous worm picture, Bentley!!! What color!

    B, when you say ‘open bin system’, what exactly are you doing differently? Maybe I’m a little dense, but are you just using Rubbermaid bins without a cover, or are you using a different bin without a cover? Do you have drainage holes? I’d appreciate as much detail as possible….I’m looking to switch gears a bit with my bins, to avoid mass suicides or any other mysterious historical wormicide events.


    • George
    • March 28, 2009

    Kim and Bentley

    I just came to the comments section to ask that very question. I am having second thoughts about the COW.

    Thanks 2

    • Kate
    • March 29, 2009

    Gorgeous picture there Bentley. Most of my worms are more stripy. Hehe, natural variation. I think everything I’ve learned about biology and ecology I’ve been able to apply to my worms – except maybe invasive species, knock on wood 🙂

    • Sara
    • March 30, 2009

    Bentley ,

    How to deal with the fruit flies larva / maggots , when we practice the open bin system as of yours. Exposed fruit waste always attracting the fruit flies.

    • Bentley
    • March 30, 2009

    Kim – I have multiple ‘open bin’ systems. I have my vermicomposting tray systems (have written about them before – pretty sure you commented on that thread), open Rubbermaid tubs, as well as my Worm Inns. I am not using any systems that have an actual lid on them. I do not have any drainage holes. The Worm Inns have an opening at the bottom, but there is very little (if any) drainage. I used to use only covered bins for the most part – this is totally fine, but you have to be a bit more careful with these systems since excess food etc can really cause issues.

    Sara – If the system is outside there probably isn’t a LOT you can do to protect it, other than adding a nice thick layer of bedding over top of the composting zone. If indoors, the key is to avoid letting these critters get established in the first place. Make sure all your fruit/veg waste is either cooked or frozen to ensure that no viable fruit fly eggs end up being added (can be present in fruit skin). Really, a well ventilated system is not going to protect you against these pests anyway, since they will eventually fine the air holes and get in that way.

    • Susan Bolman
    • April 14, 2009

    Bentley, am I correct in thinking that with a few exceptions, it doesn’t matter what or how much you have of other critters? Even that all of these critters are beneficial for the system? Your photo reminded me to ask this question. I recently read of someone rinsing the worms off to get rid if mites and that they are her ‘bane.’ The woman who is teaching and promoting worms in my city says they are all ‘residents in good standing’ and speed up the process. I do draw the line at things that fly and take their nutrients away from the system (and come visit me in the kitchen!)

    • Susan Bolman
    • April 14, 2009

    Sorry I forgot to add, do mould and mushrooms also fall into the category of helpful, just ignore them?

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