The Beast-11-15-12

As I wrote in my recent scuttle fly post, I ended up adding my worms earlier than planned (last Saturday to be exact). I wanted to make sure they established themselves in the bin as quickly as possible so as to offer some competition for the fly larvae.

I actually ended up adding Euros AND Red Worms. My original plan had been to wait for a while to add the Reds (to give the Euros a nice headstart in the system), but I noticed that there were no scuttle flies in my Red Worm bin (from my “plastic worm bin follow-along“) – unlike the Euro bin which seemed to have a fair number of them. I thought this might be a sign that Red Worms are better at outcompeting the larvae than Euros.

Whatever the case may be, I think it’s going to be a really interesting experiment to have both of them in there. Apart from wondering about Euros in flow-through systems, people also ask about mixing Euros and Reds in the same system. Normally I recommend avoiding this, since it may hamper the success of your Euros, and it makes it difficult to separate them later on – but again, it’s always fun to challenge my assumptions (based on previous experience) and to test things out again.

As alluded to above, it was my plastic “follow-along” bin that I added to the new bin. It was absolutely loaded with small Red Worms, so I think that will get me headed in the right direction pretty quickly as far as building up my worm population goes.

I performed a similar bin-dump with one of my Euro bins – and as you can see the material in the bin was quite similar in appearance (i.e. pretty sludgy). Plenty of Euros in there, though!

I made sure to spread everything out as much as possible, while still keeping all the worm habitat (and worms) together in a layer. The last thing I wanted to do was mix everything up in the bin, forcing the worms down into zones that may have still been inhospitable for them. On top I added moistened newsprint strips.

Over top of that I added a very thick layer of dry shredded newsprint.

With the sludgy habitat material sitting up on top of a thick layer of straw – resulting in much better aeration – and the worms continuing to work on it, it’s amazing how quickly it’s been converted into something much closer to nice looking vermicompost in the short time since everything was added to the bin!

As I expected, a lot of the worms have remained in the old habitat material, but I’m starting to find quite a few down in the straw (and I have little doubt many have made their way even further down as well).

I’ve been blown away by how quickly the level of material in the bin has been dropping. I keep topping up with shredded newsprint, but within a day or so it’s already down again. There has certainly been some heating in the bin – especially in the middle – but I haven’t come across any zones over 40 C (104 F).

Temps around the outer walls are much more reasonable (in the 20-30 C | 68-86 F range) – and not too surprisingly, this is where all the worms seem to be hanging out. I haven’t added ANY more food yet. I definitely want to give the system some time to cool down and allow the worms to work on what’s already there. This practice is never a bad idea when you first start up a vermicomposting system.

I’ve finally started finding droplets of water down on the cardboard false bottom and bars of the floor grate, but nothing seems to be dripping down onto my tarp below. Nor have there been any worms (or other critters) trying to escape at all.

I have noticed a LOT of pseudoscorpions up near the lid, though, which seems interesting. I guess they may prefer lower humidity and lower temperatures.

Speaking of lower temperatures – as mentioned in another recent post, I ordered some parasitic nematodes (Steinernema feltiae), and they arrived earlier in the week. I am holding off on adding any to the VB48 though. They do not do well when temps are high, so I think it’s best to wait until most of the bin has dropped down closer to 20 C (68F). I’ll likely try them in a couple other smaller systems in the meantime.

One other quick thing to mention. I have NOT been recording the weights of materials added to the bin as of yet, but I really want to start doing so. I think it would be a lot of fun to see how much food waste and bedding this system can process over time. I’ll likely just use 20 lb as my starting amount (I know I’ve added at least that much material thus far), and start weighing/recording everything from here on out.

Stay tuned!
8)

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Comments

    • wjason777
    • May 24, 2013

    hello new to the site, just would like to know how come you switch from the WF360 to the VB48? Do you get better results with the VB48 versus the WF360?

    • Bentley
    • May 24, 2013

    Hi wjason,
    These are incredibly different systems. I didn’t switch from one to the other – I simply didn’t have room in my basement for the WF-360 (it has since been set up again for another experiment with Euro Nightcrawlers, as I’ve written in a much more recent blog post).
    Yes I DO get better results with the VB48, but again it’s like comparing apples to oranges. It is a MUCH larger system.

    • Wjason777
    • May 24, 2013

    I have the WF360 with 2 trays going now. This would be 3rd week. I was just thinking about going larger but would first like to know what would be the advantage. With the WF360 I notice that it doesn’t get that much air and when you put sticks between each tray you increase the fly population. Could you tell me what would be the advantage if I switch over? Also with the vb48 could you collect the tea from the bottom of the system like the 360?

    • Bentley
    • May 25, 2013

    Hi Jason,
    Sorry for the delay. The VB24 would be MUCH larger than a WF360 (and it’s only half the size of the VB48!). Big advantage would be processing capacity. Air flow would also be greatly improved. Also a single compartment flow-through so no messing around with trays.

    No “tea” – but I don’t recommend collecting it from a WF either. You make tea properly by producing quality vermicompost first – and then soaking that in water.

    • Wjason777
    • May 25, 2013

    Just debating rather or not the go with the VB48 or to just stick with what I have. I have the room for a VB48 and the funds. Like I said in my earlier post the biggest problem i’m having right now is the airflow and the flies. and I would love to speed the whole process up.
    Sorry to keep rambling on about this by the way.
    With the VB48 air would only be able to enter from the the vents that on the top? since there would be a false bottom that’s packed really well correct? What makes it a flow through system?

    • Bentley
    • May 28, 2013

    Hi Jason (sorry again for delays)
    Air flow (and speed of processing) is great with the VB48, but if your other system is infested with flies, they will simply be passed on to the VB48 – and then be even MORE of an issue due to the size.
    Air would enter through top and bottom (even with false bottom of cardboard it would still be quite breathable) – and the cardboard etc WILL eventually break down completely.
    Once the false bottom rots out (or is removed manually) the system would become “flow-through”.

    • Wjason777
    • May 28, 2013

    Ok thanks for the info. I’m in the process of building the vb48 with a little modifications ( more vents) being that summers here in savannah Ga are extremely hot!!! Also I’m going to put some type of screen on the vents to keep flys out. That and some more mods. I would love to post pics when I’m finish this weekend.

    So pretty much the false bottom is kind of like a mold that molds the casting/bedding so it would eventually be able to hold together once the cardboard eats away.

    By there being flys in my bin now what do you recommend doing before transferring to the vb48?

    • Bentley
    • May 28, 2013

    So your bin is going to be outside? (or do you simply not have AC indoors?)
    If outdoors I wouldn’t even worry about the flies (and really not much you can do to prevent them anyway).

    If indoors, you MAY want to attempt a complete separation of worms from their old habitat so as to (hopefully) avoid transferring any of the larvae/eggs etc into the VB48. Try concentrating them down as far as you can using the light harvesting method – and then put them (in remaining material) over top of clean habitat material and shine a bright light over top again. They should leave the old material and head down. Just remove a bunch of the upper material to be on the safe side.

    • Bentley
    • May 28, 2013

    BTW – you are correct about the false bottom. It holds everything in while materials are loose – and by the time it rots out everything will have firmed up (and lots of vermicompost at the bottom).

    • Wjason777
    • May 28, 2013

    It’s going to be in my garage. So but the temps being so hot down here. Do you think it would help adding those extra vents on both sides. And far as the flys. I just thought of and idea. With the screen being on the vents flys can’t come in nor escape, I’m going to hag fly paper from the lid of the vb48.

    Man this bin is going to be awesome. I’m out of town right now working. I can’t wait to get back to finish building it !

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