The Beast – 02-01-13

I’m sure some of you must be wondering how things are progressing with my VermBin48. It’s been a few weeks since my last update (which was not even technically a “Beast” update).

I haven’t really done all that much with the bin in the meantime (wanted to let it mellow out for a while), but I’ve reached a couple of important conclusions nevertheless:

  1. European nightcrawlers are NOT an ideal species for flow-through systems (as suspected).
  2. Adding lots of water to a flow-through bed isn’t necessarily a good idea!

Ever since adding nearly 20 lb of food/bedding (mentioned in the update I linked to above), I’ve started noticing signs of trouble in the system. Apart from the overheating situation (written about previously), I started finding dried up worms – and some still clinging to life – out on my basement floor. I also started to notice quite a lot of liquid draining down from the bottom of the bin.

One thing I should mention is that I never did add a harvesting shelf to my bin. I decided instead to simply lay a tarp (doubled over a couple of times) down below and to fold it up the inside of the legs to create a sort of flexible liquid and castings catcher. I even used it as a storage area for dry bedding materials, thinking it could help to soak up any occasional drops of liquid that might fall down (lol).

So yeah…unfortunately, adding all that snow along with multiple waterings eventually resulted in a substantial quantity of liquid draining down – and not evenly either! There seems to be three or four key spots where the most of the drainage has occurred. The result of this is that I ended up with quite a bit of liquid down on the tarp.

Oh, and did I happen to mention that cheap polyfiber tarps don’t actually hold liquid all that well? They don’t. So I also ended up with a pool of liquid down below on the basement floor.

But it gets even more interesting than that!

As I recently discovered, apart from all the dead dried up worms I’ve been finding on the ground in my worm room, there were even MORE living worms down on, in, and under the tarp!

Today I decided enough was enough. I pulled out all the bedding materials and started rescuing worms. Initially I thought it might be “fun” to count them all, to see how many were Euros and how many were Reds. But I quickly realized that not only were there a LOT more than I thought, but that they were virtually ALL Euros (I literally found ONE Red Worm)!

The first image below will give you some idea of how things looked under the tarp – but I can assure you there were FAR more than that in total.

This next image shows the main gob of worms from my “rescue bin” (where I put all the worms I was finding).

In light of my rather disturbing discovering, I’ve decided to discontinue my VB48 Euro rearing experiment (lol). All rescued worms were transferred over to a new Rubbermaid tub system, and I’ll gradually be transferring over any other Euros I find in the VB48 (there are still loads of them in there so it may take awhile).

I’ve removed the tarp for now, and have replaced it with an old sheet. Needless to say, I won’t be adding ANY more water in the foreseeable future. I’ve actually been keeping the lid completely off for quite some time now, so things have (thankfully) dried out a fair bit in the bin.

I DO want to add some more food fairly soon though.
I’ll keep you posted!

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    • John Duffy
    • February 1, 2013

    Put a bright LED light shining upward on the bottom shelf. That really helped keep my worms in the bin.

    • Ben
    • February 6, 2013

    Ack! That’s horrible Bentley! Did the population of reds IN the bin survive alright? Or did you see a decline there after the great flood of ’13!

    • Bentley
    • February 6, 2013

    JOHN – great suggestion! I actually have some fluorescents on all the time in my worm room (can only imagine what it would have been like otherwise).
    BEN – other than the dried up worms outside of the bin (all Euros), there really didn’t seem to be any mortalities. The Red Worms are doing great.
    Things seem to have improved a lot in general now that I’m no longer adding water. Pretty sure I haven’t had any more roamers!

    • Ben
    • February 6, 2013

    Glad it’s stabilized somewhat. Do you think it was just the moistness or also the fact that they’re just not suited to flow through? I had been dumping a quart or so of water on my vb24 twice a week to keep the bedding from drying out. (Soil heating cable… it happens.) But once the castings built up at the bottom, it ended up getting too wet and 20-30 worms at a time started climbing up the walls. (The false bottom hasn’t even come close to degrading yet, plus “down” is a very cold area at the moment. 30-40° ambient temp.) I can only assume “upward” was the only avenue they found available, but that they were also fleeing overly moist conditions. Mine, however, were red worms.

    • Bentley
    • February 6, 2013

    I think it’s a combination of both. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to see how the remaining Euros do in the bin – but even if they DON’T crawl out any more, my suspicion is that they will stay down near the bottom of the bin, making it difficult to harvest vermicompost once it’s time to do so.

    • Ben
    • February 6, 2013

    Maybe post eviction notices in the lower layers about a week before you harvest?

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