Do Vibrations Harm Worms?

These questions come from Tina. She is wondering if she will need to relocated her new worm bin, and whether or not a certain food waste is good for her worms.

I just got my first bin of red worms set up last night and
was reading and rereading lots of websites to make sure I had
everything right. One thing that I did read was that the worms are
sensitive to noise/vibrations. I have my bin set up next to the
washing machine, which I use once a week. Should I relocate the bin
while running the machine?

Also, I know that worms love vegetables, but does this include hot
peppers? Those seem a little too strong for their fragile bodies.

Thank you!
-Tina

Hi Tina!
Those are great questions. You are right – worms are certainly sensitive to vibrations, so it’s not a bad idea to keep their bin in a nice quiet spot. That being said, if your bin is simply sitting beside the washing machine but not actually touching it, you should be fine – especially given the fact that your laundry days are only once a week. Of course, if you DO have another good location where it can sit, it might not be a bad idea to relocate just to be sure.

In general the worms are pretty tolerant creatures. If you think about it, during the shipping process (assuming that’s how you got your worms) the worms can experience an awful lot of vibrations – and in VERY crowded conditions as well. While they often are pretty restless when you put them in a new bin, for the most part all those vibrations don’t have any long term negative effects.

As for hot peppers – I would personally avoid them (or at least large quantities of them) since the worms skin is a highly sensitive organ and the pepper oils can cause irritation. I would imagine they’d break down rather quickly into other harmless compounds, but it never hurts to err on the side of caution.

Hope this helps!

B

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Comments

  1. My worm bin is in the laundry room across from the washer and dryer. The worms seem mighty happy, and it is handy for adding dryer lint to the worm bin.

    • Fumblina
    • June 28, 2008

    Hi,

    I was looking at some videos of people harvesting worm casts using machinery. It looks very traumatic for the worms – much much worse than being near a washing machine! Presumably this doesn’t kill off the worms otherwise they wouldn’t use it but does anyone know how being shaken and spun about like that affects them?

    Fum xx

    • Patricia
    • July 15, 2008

    this is exactly something I have been wondering about lately. I am currently hand harvesting two huge batches and am debating which way is the most stressful. I made a frame and put 1/8″ wire on it. I either shake the frame back and forth or I take a plastice spatula or dustpan or my hand and lightly push the compost around inside the frame until the castings fall through. I then dump the frame over into a second wheelbarrow to relocate the worms. Pushing against the wire seems kind of stressful but I do it very lightly. One of the things i need to work on is letting my compost dry out a bit more before trying to harvest. One of the reasons I don’t use the pile method is because I have so much to harvest and I dont have the time to wait.

    • Bentley
    • July 16, 2008

    Strange – I didn’t see your comment come through, Fumblina. Sorry to leave you hanging like that.
    I too have always wondered about the effect that those harvesters might have on the worms. I don’t actually have any hard facts to report on, but I imagine the harvesting process must be fairly stressful for the worms. That said, there are lots and lots of worms that are harvested in that manner each week – worms that are often then shipped off across the country without any serious repercussions.

    Patricia – it sounds like you have hit upon a great method for separating castings and worms. I guess it would all come down to how vigorously the materials are shaken. Someone told me that a rotating screen would be less traumatic than a flat screen, but I’m not so sure – especially if the flat screen is being shaken gently.

    Keep in mind that composting worms are pretty tough creatures, so even if you DO cause them some stress, there is a good chance they will bounce back very quickly.

    B

    • Fumblina
    • July 16, 2008

    Hi Patricia,

    I do something similar using a round sieve that fits (almost perfectly) over the top of my rubber trug. I leave my can of worms open for a little while in the sun to get the worms to burrow down then add small quantities from the top of my can of worms onto the sieve and rescue and stray worms that appear. I shake it to sieve and break up any clumps with a trowel.

    This process is not fast, especially as I try and rescue as many as possible – I hate the idea of squashing them! However it is much much easier the drier the castings are. I tend to move my bottom tray up to the top to encourage it to dry out and get the worms to burrow down a few weeks before harvesting.

    I did try the pile method last time and I think it is actually quicker for me as I was less particular about the little wigglies that might have got missed. I was a little concerned that the quality might not be as good as the sieved, but have reserved judgement until the last batch has matured in the shed for a bit.

    Thanks Bentley for the reply. I suspect we worry about our wiggly charges too much and imagine what it would be like for us in a tumble drier when as you say they are probably a lot more robust than we give them credit for.. after all they don’t have any bones to break! 😛

    • Patricia
    • July 16, 2008

    Thanks Bentley and Fumblina. I have been working daily to harvest and we are getting a full 3 cubic ft wheelbarrow each time. Although in the past I have had a green thumb, we now live where it gets in the 100’s so I have had to think alot more about gardening in general. My 7 yr old and I sit side by side and hand sift through our screens and poor into another wheelbarrow and rarely get any that fall through. It they do, she is the first one to yell “WORM” and stop to get it out. Bentley, what do you mean about a rotating screen? Is it on a frame of some sort? Our 1/8th inch screen is 90 cents a sg foot so I have to plan ahead for new frames. Fumblina, I am confused about the round sieve and rubber trug? What other uses might you use them for or am I not familiar with the wording? TIA

    • Bentley
    • July 17, 2008

    Hi Patricia,
    I simply mean a rotating trommel screen like the ones Jet Compost makes:
    http://www.jetcompost.com/harvesters/index.html

    B

    • Patricia
    • July 17, 2008

    Bentley, I have a friend who has one like that and it is real big. His castings are beautiful. I have been trying to think of a way to either build something like this or use the basic idea. Something where I would just turn a handle . TKS for the link.

    • Bentley
    • July 19, 2008

    Hey Patricia,
    Someone sent me a link for a harvesting unit you can make yourself. I’m still a little hazy as far as how exactly to build it, but I imagine the author of the post would be able to help there.

    http://homegrowngoodness.blogspot.com/2007/12/homegrown-worm-harvester.html

    • Dan
    • January 15, 2010

    Why are worms sensitive to vibrations? Body construction? Why do they come to the surface when vibrated?

    • Bentley
    • January 19, 2010

    That’s a good question, Dan – not sure I have a really good answer!
    They do not see, so they rely a lot more on vibrations and chemical cues etc, and their entire body (primarily the outer layers of course) basically acts like a giant sense organ. I am pretty sure that the main idea with “worm grunting” (using vibrations to draw worms out of the ground) is that it mimics the vibrations associated with moles (voracious worm predators) digging through the earth, something the worms have come to recognize as a sign of danger.

    Just my 2 cents!
    8)

  2. So I’m planning on living full time in an RV for a few years once I’m finished with my education. Would you think the worms would be able to tolerate such an environment?

    • Bentley
    • January 9, 2015

    Sounds cool, Bob. My hunch is that Red Worms can get used to a certain environment pretty easily – especially with each successive generation. I don’t know that the same thing could be said about European Nightcrawlers (just in case you were thinking of using them).

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