Worm Cocoon Hatching-08-04-10

Small Red Worm
Likely the largest Red Worm found in my cocoon experiment bins!

I’m sure that many of you had written off my first worm cocoon hatching experiment as a “goner”. Yet another of Bentley’s hair-brained experiments that had fallen off the tracks, never to be written about again!

Well, we were pretty close to reaching that point -that’s for sure! But something possessed me to sort through the bins this morning (and it certainly wasn’t an abundance of free time on my hands! haha) – in hindsight I’m really glad that I did though! I hate leaving loose ends, and of course it’s always nice to get at least a few “results”.

My last update was almost exactly two months ago today (anyone still doubting the power of the “worm clock”? haha) – see “Worm Cocoon Hatching Experiment-06-02-10“. I didn’t really give it much thought as I was counting the worms today (likely due to the fact that I couldn’t really remember what I found last time), but it’s interesting to see how things have changed since then!

Cardboard – Room Temperature
Immature Worms – 24 (was 7 last time)
Mature Worms – 0
Empty Cocoons – 13 (was 3 last time)
Full Cocoons – 0 (was 13 last time)

Cardboard – 3 Day Fridge Exposure
Immature Worms – 33 (was 6 last time)
Mature Worms – 0
Empty Cocoons – 11 (was 2 last time)
Full Cocoons – 1 (was 14 last time) – the 1 I found was clearly no longer viable

Cardboard + Cantaloupe – Room Temperature
Immature Worms – 43 (was 9 last time)
Mature Worms – 0
Empty Cocoons – 11 (was 3 last time)
Full Cocoons – 0 (was 13 last time)

Cardboard + Cantaloupe – 3 Day Fridge Exposure
Immature Worms – 39 (was 7 last time)
Mature Worms – 0
Empty Cocoons – 13 (was 3 last time)
Full Cocoons – 1 (was 13 last time)

Right off the bat, it is important to note that there are now cocoons missing from each system (recall that we added 16 originally). This is quite surprising since the actual shell (for lack of a better word) seems to be quite resistant to breakdown (and I was not able to find any that seemed partially broken down). In case you are thinking this may come down to negligence on my part, let me assured you that I literally went over each piece of cardboard and any remaining debris with a fine toothed comb (ok, it was actually a fine metal probe – haha)!

Another obvious observation is the fact that a lot more worms hatched out after my last update. No surprises there. It IS interesting to see the difference between the cardboard-only and cardboard-cantaloupe treatments – don’t think I’d be so bold as to suggest that there is a “significant” difference (since we’d need to conduct and analyze this experiment in a much more scientifically-rigorous manner), but it does look as though the presence of a good food source (even in small quantities) may influence hatching rates. Other possibilities could include higher mortality in the cardboard-only bins (not an unreasonable idea since I found at least one small worm that appeared to be dead in one of the cardboard-only bins).

It’s important to mention that the cardboard-only room temperature treatment was quite dry when I opened it up – a fair bit dryer in fact than the other cardboard-only bin. I’m not sure why exactly this is, but I suspect that this contributed to the lower worm numbers there.

Worm activity, as indicated by the accumulation of cardboard castings, was clearly higher in the cantaloupe bins. I suspect this was not only due to the higher number of worms in these bins, but also the larger average size (no hard data here – just based on observation).

Worm Eaten Cardboard

Speaking of size, as you can see (in the first picture) the largest worms were still very small! I wasn’t able to find a single mature worm, and in fact most still looked like hatchlings.

Small Red Worms

I have little doubt that this stems almost entirely from the fact that I provided the worms with so little in the way of sustenance. Even the cantaloupe bins had a pretty meagre spread for the little wormies by the time they hatched out.

Cantaloupe Rid Remains
Scraps like these were the only evidence of cantaloupe ever having been added to the bins

YES, in hindsight I feel really guilty for subjecting the little lad-ladies to this!! As such, I came up with a way to hopefully make the rest of their days as comfortable and food-filled as possible!

So, WHAT exactly happened to the 139 weeny wigglers once I was finished sorting through the bins?!?!

Well, Bob…I’m happy to report that all worms were whisked away on what could be only considered a wonderful and wormy “vacation of a lifetime”! Our wiggler friends were taken to the Forest Green Worm Inn Spa and Vermi-Retreat where they will enjoy sumptuous feasts (all you can eat food waste, and alpaca manure microbial buffets!), the finest of shredded cardboard and coco coir bedding – and most importantly, the opportunity to grow, prosper, and wiggle their way back to good health! With any luck, our wormy friends will also get to know each other a wee bit better (wink wink), and produce some new wormlings of their own!

Stay tuned!

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    • Anna
    • August 4, 2010

    Interesting results, Bentley. Thanks for keeping us updated.

    I must also say that I smiled at the thought of the poor, malnourished worms spending their retirement at such a lovely retreat.

    • LARRY D.
    • August 4, 2010

    Looking at the color of that top worm,and also seeing how i am starting my color change theory experiment.I was wondering.Do you know if albino worms exist in the worm world?I think i may have one.But i failed to locate it again now that i want to get a picture of this worm! i may be mistaken.But considering the picture of the perionyx excovatus i saw.They surely must exist.I’m not talking snow white.But more on the snake line.Any how.Notch it up to another “you shoulda seen it” campains.But i know which bin it’s in.Oh well!

    • Nic
    • August 4, 2010


    • Steve K
    • August 5, 2010

    The third photo looks like baby worms, superimposed over the word “Love”. Is this part of the adverstizing campaign for the Forest Green Worm Inn Spa and Vermi-Retreat, or a sneak peak at Bentley’s vermi-greeting card business?

    • Bentley
    • August 5, 2010

    Haha! You’ve exposed my next RWC venture, Steve! Vermicomposting greeting cards! lol
    Seriously though, what looks like “love” (and I definitely thought the same thing, by the way) is actually part of “cantaloupe”, and it was just a fragment of the experimental notes I was jotting down. I figured it might provide some scale so people could see how small the worms really were!

    • LARRY D.
    • August 5, 2010

    You’re right Steve.It looks like he was practicing spelling love,using the baby worms to make the word! Pretty cool postage stamp or letterhead idea too.You can just tell Bentley doodles around drawing worm art.He calls them wormalisa’s and signs them with worm kaligraphy.

    • Bentley
    • August 5, 2010

    Oops – didn’t see your mention of greeting cards! Great minds DO think alike, Steve! LOL

    • Steve K
    • August 5, 2010


    It’s a little tricky to do a comparison, because we don’t know whether more worms hatched or more worms survived. However, if we make some assumptions, we can run a z test of proportions.

    1. These numbers reflect hatching, not death
    2. The worms did not reproduce
    3. The ideal number of hatchlings is 16 cocoons x 4 worms per cocoon = 64

    Using the ideal number of hatchlings as the sample size (64, but it’s the same if you assume 8/cocoon), we can convert the number of worms per treatment into a percentage of the ideal (for example, RT-cardboard is 24/64 or 37.5% successful hatching at day 78 post treatment).

    Comparing the percentages with a 2-tailed z test, we find that mellon increased worm hatching to a statistically significant degree in the room temperature tub (z = 3.19). Mellon had no effect in the cold-treated tub (z = 0.89). Overall, cold treatment had no effect in either the bedding-only (z = 1.42) or mellon-fed group (z = 0.55). I ran the numbers for d15 (May 2 update), and they did not differ from one another, which is not surprising given that the range of 6-9 was so tight.

    As you said, we would have to repeat the experiment to know anything for sure. That said, these preliminary data indicate that adding a food source does more to increase hatching rates than brief cold exposure.

    • Bentley
    • August 5, 2010

    Yeah – what he said!
    WOW – that was pretty impressive, Steve! I had zero expectations of there being any hope for an actual analysis of the results! Thanks for taking the time to do that!
    Question – would it make a difference if we assumed that the average expected hatching rate would be 3 per cocoon (closer to the number I’ve come across in the worm composting literature)?
    Statistics has NEVER been my strong suit – and I’ve hated it as a result. But this is COOL!
    Thanks again

    • Steve K
    • August 5, 2010

    If you drop it to 3 hatchlings per cocoon (48 total), then the differences are pretty much the same, though you do get a small effect of cold treatment in the cardboard-only groups. Still, there was no effect of cold in the mellon-fed groups, and mellon feeding was still effective in the cold-treated or room temp tubs.

    As you mentioned earlier, it’s hard to know whether it was the food source, or just that there was more moisture in mellon-fed tubs. Regardless, these worms appear to have hatched more than the ones in cardboard-only.

    • LARRY D.
    • August 5, 2010

    I’m glad Steve stepped up and did that two tailed analysis thing!In the south that’s dual exhaust with a crossover pipe to increase horsepower.
    I was gonna comment that the melon could make a gob of worms!

    • Tracy M
    • August 7, 2010

    “I’m glad Steve stepped up and did that two tailed analysis thing!In the south that’s dual exhaust with a crossover pipe to increase horsepower.
    I was gonna comment that the melon could make a gob of worms!”

    Now see, I’d have gone with the 3 toed Alpha test but Steve chose what he did and I’m good with that! lol

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