John’s Passive Worm Harvester

RWC follower, John Claypool, recently wrote me an email sharing his passive approach to harvesting worms from his big bin. I loved the simplicity (and apparent effectiveness) of John’s method, so I asked if it would be ok to share it here.

Here is his description, with pictures:

Make a frame of 1×4 wood that will fit the top of your bin and cover with 1/4″ hardware cloth or other open mesh screen. Place on top of the bin and fill with food that is fine enough for the worms to work easily (I use pulverized horse manure). Cover to keep out light and wait a couple of days. The worms will come up to feed and you simply need to dump the frame onto your table to seperate the worms from the food. I will use this method to harvest my production beds but my trial just this week proved the theory. I guess if you weigh the full tray/food before and after you would have the weight of the harvested worms.



The empty screen



Screen filled with horse manure.



Bin where the screen is placed. Please note I have harvested a couple of times from this bin in the past couple of weeks.



Screen in place on bed.



Screen covered with normal bed covering to exclude light.



Screen removed after 18 hours.


Harvest totaled 5 oz. with virtually no work.


I’ve tried various worm “trap” set-ups in my larger beds to see if I could concentrate (and remove) lots of worms – but with little success. I definitely want to give John’s method a try!

Thanks very much to John for sharing (and letting me share here)!
😎

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Comments

    • john w.
    • March 8, 2013

    seems like this should work great on small scale for recently harvested castings as well. Just put in a smaller version in your rubbermaid for a week or so to get the eggs that hatched or little worms that fit through the first screening.

    • Spencer
    • March 8, 2013

    I use an old cardboard box instead of building a frame. Just drill holes in the bottom, fill with bedding and waste, set on top, close up and wait. John’s worm system(s) are far more advanced than mine, I have bin envy.

    • Gina W.
    • March 9, 2013

    I have an old nylon laundry bag and the mesh holes are 1/4″. Could lay that on top with food too. The anticipated bag of harvested worms should be easy to turn inside out and no tools required. I happen to have 2 bins that need harvesting. I’ll share pics if all goes well.

    • Carol
    • March 9, 2013

    Argh… last week I spent 3-4 days harvesting/transferring my herd into a new bin my usual old way–dividing the contents of the bin into 15 piles and going thru each one by one…I already have a sifter screen exactly like this that I use after removing as many worms & cocoons as I can find, then put the larger bedding bits that don’t go through the sifter into the new bin for further decomposition. I certainly will use John’s method next time harvesting is in order! Thanks so much for this site & the ideas!

    • Paul from Winnipeg
    • March 9, 2013

    I want to try this method next time I harvest my bin. I can see having to do this more than once to get ALL the worms but it’s definitely an easy method! I’m all for easy and passive. We’re all short of time it seems in our busy lives and this idea makes it possible to get more done in less time! Yay!

    • Tom Bergstrand
    • March 9, 2013

    A good experiment would be to try and determine a “time to weight” ratio using this method. If you put that screen on the existing bin for 18 hours and got 5 oz. perhaps you could do it for 24 hours and see if the ratio is the same. This way when you want to start a new bin with a pound of worms you could leave the screen harvester on for a selected amount of time and just dump it all in the new bin. It might not be “spot on” but it just might prove to be “prit’ near” and beats counting.

  1. What a great low cost harvest system. I have to try it the next few days.

  2. My bins get low on Pumpkin i’ll show a few other ways to congregate worms for harvest.I call it ‘The Southern Method” Lol!

    • Kim from Milwaukee
    • March 13, 2013

    I saw a youtube vid about a commercial worm production setup, and they just lay a slice of bread on top and the worms all come to it just a magnet after a day or so. Guess this is a similar method that seems to work great!!

    I really need to get back into this…but too many bug-a-phobes in my house….

    • Bentley
    • March 13, 2013

    Interesting stuff!

    LARRY – I looked forward to learning about the “The Southern Method”

    KIM – could you point me in the direction of that video? I’d love to see that!
    8)

    • Kim from Milwaukee
    • March 13, 2013
    • Bentley
    • March 13, 2013

    Thanks, Kim! Just watching it now.
    (By the way, I moved your comment over here from another post, so others following this thread could benefit from the link as well).

    • Kim from Milwaukee
    • March 13, 2013

    Bentley, since you’re watching it I wonder if sewage could be composted with worms….I’m watching the show too and it’s funny that they’re on the same program together…

    • Bentley
    • March 13, 2013

    I actually just fast-forwarded it to the worm stuff, but yes worms can certainly be used to process sludge. BUT there would likely need to be bulking (mixing with absorbent, carbon-rich material) and composting steps involved. You certainly couldn’t just pour it straight on the worm bed.

    • john w.
    • March 13, 2013

    I have to say…I lost a lot of respect for you when you said you fast-forwarded through Dirty Jobs. We don’t have tv in my house, but when we did…I LOVED that show.
    🙂

    • Bentley
    • March 13, 2013

    Well I think my wife would lose respect for me (and I would lose respect for myself) if I spent an hour watching a TV show during a “work day”! LOL

    I agree though – good show!

    • Kim from Milwaukee
    • March 21, 2013

    That bin above looks like solid worm castings!!! What a dream worm bin!

    • Ansa
    • April 12, 2013

    The video that Kim mentioned above has been removed from YouTube, but I think it is this one: http://dsc.discovery.com/tv-shows/dirty-jobs/videos/worm-rancher.htm

    • Bentley
    • April 12, 2013

    Awesome, Ansa – I really appreciate you sharing that!

    • Matt
    • May 31, 2021

    Yes, this is a really old post, but thought this would be worth sharing. I recently built a worm harvesting setup similar to the one sold by the urban worm company.
    https://shop.urbanwormcompany.com/collections/accessories/products/urban-worm-compost-screener
    I built mine a bit different, in that the wheels are up on the side of the screen frame, and roll on the top of the support frame. Turns out this help me to use the compost screener as a passive harvester, as the wheels are up out of the compost! yesterday I harvested about half a medium tub of compost, with a fair amount of worms with the 1/4″ screen. Been pondering how to easily harvest the worms, so now I see I have the tools. Coffee/manure mix on damp cardboard sitting on the screen, we’ll see how many grams of worms I can harvest this way.
    I continue to find great ideas as I peruse the site, thanks so much Bentley 🙂

    • Bentley
    • June 1, 2021

    This is great, Matt! Looking forward to more screening updates!
    😎

    • mjswider
    • June 15, 2021

    In about two passes I got 90% or more of the worms out. I put a paper towel on the screen to keep the small piece of coffee and manure out of the finished compost. The worms moved right in, and after a few days I moved the whole mix with worms into one of my bins. A second pass removed most of the rest of the worms. There were a dozen or so left that I enjoyed sifting through by hand and picking out eventually. I really like this approach to removing the worms that pass through the screen.

    • Bentley
    • June 15, 2021

    That’s great, Matt – thanks for sharing your experience! 😎

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