Good questions from Mike:
I was going start worm composting but have one question. I live in
Mississippi and it gets hot here in the summer, how hot is too hot for
these bins? I have a nice place in my yard that is always in the shade
but it could still get hot. Is it okay to take the lid off during the
day or would that invite more problems than it is worth?
Thanks for any info you can provide.
Outdoor vermicomposting can be a challenge in hot locations for various reasons. The heat alone – especially in high humidity regions (my hunch is that this would include Mississippi) – may be enough to kill off your worms. Generally, most common composting species are going to start dying if temps get up towards (and beyond) the 90 F mark. Interestingly enough, it actually seems to be the cold-tolerant worms such as Red Worms and Euros that are more heat-tolerant than some of the tropical species (eg Africans). My worm farmer friend, George Mingin, reports having had a lot more trouble with Africans once temps crept up past 86 F than with either of the other worms.
Open, or at least very well-ventilated systems can help – especially in windy, drier locations where the evaporative-cooling effect can really come into play. Creating some form of in-ground system may be another option. As an added perk, the in-ground systems can also be great when temps swing to the other extreme (helpful, if you happen to be one of those lucky people who lives in a region that gets extremely hot in the summer and extremely cold in the winter).
Apart from heat, though, warm regions can have other challenges – such as pests, predators etc. For example, Black Soldier Flies are very common in warmer regions, and their larvae – while certainly excellent waste processors in their own right – can basically overtake an outdoor worm composting system, leading to habitat deterioration etc. While it can be possible for the worms to co-exist with the larvae – especially in regions that don’t get quite so hot – and they can even work together in some cases, it’s likely NOT going to end up being the sort of “optimized” worm composting system you are after.
Other threats, such as worm predators (eg predatory flatworms and migratory birds) and extreme weather events can also throw a wrench into the works for even the most enthusiastic warm-region vermicomposter. So it’s important to go into this with eyes open, if you plan to get serious about outdoor worm composting (and really, that applies to any region).
Bottom-line, my advice would be to try out one or two outdoor systems – but also to set up something indoors. What I love about the Worm Inn (which, in all honesty are NOT the best outdoor systems in my humble opinion) is that it can eliminate a lot of the indoor-vermicomposting concerns/headaches that people worry about or actually deal with. No one wants smelly bins, dead worms on the ground, or fruit flies swarming all over the house – and it’s these sorts of things that can really turn people off from the idea of keeping systems inside. But when you have a system that avoids most of this, and just generally makes vermicomposting “easy”, it can be a lot more fun – and a lot more effective!