SSUBWHT – Update #1

SSUBWHT with plastic bowl directly beneath it

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about my ‘Super Simple Ultra Basic Worm Harvesting Tube‘ – basically my attempt at creating a passive worm harvesting system that actually works. Well, I hoped it would work, anyway.

As I wrote in the post, the system didn’t work at all for me the first time I tried it out. Even with a moist environment down below (provided by wet paper) and a hot light shining for hours above, the worms just didn’t seem interested in going down.

Something that came to mind as a potential problem (also suggested by one of our readers) was the fact that there was an air space between the screen and the paper below. In other words, the worms would basically have to fall a short distance – probably something they would try to avoid whenever possible. I also think I simply had too much material on the screen, so there wasn’t as much of a threat to the worms (and they were happy to stay where they were as a result).

Based on my assumptions, I decided to try the system again – but this time with a modified approach. I found a plastic bowl that almost seems like it was made to go with the SSUBWHT! It fits very nicely underneath, with almost the same diameter. I had to prop it up on a roll of tape in order to have it making contact with the screen, but that certainly wasn’t a major inconvenience.

I filled the bowl with moistened strips of newsprint and fall leaves – enough so that these materials would end up pressed against the screen. I then added a much smaller amount of worm bedding (with worms) – this time with Red Worms (not European Nightcrawlers) – on top of the screen, and positioned the lamp over top in the same manner as before.

I then proceeded to totally forget about it until later in the day – which probably helped.

A the results???

MUCH more promising than last time! I am happy to report that there were a lot of worms down in the bowl. Initially I thought it had been 100% successful, but then when I emptied out the upper compartment I realized there were still a fair number of worms in this material.

At least we are getting somewhere!

Some other things I am planning on testing out…

1) What happens if I used only moistened leaves in the bowl?
2) Will it help if I add a small amount of vermicompost to the material in the bowl?
3) What if I add some cantaloupe to the leaf mixture and let it sit for a few days before putting it in the bowl? (I may test this with the light on and with the light off)

I’m confident I can get the system working even better – my goal of course is 100% transfer of worms. Providing a food source down below may be the missing link.

Stay tuned!

**Want Even More Fun With Worms? Sign Up for the RWC E-mail List Today!**
Previous Post

How Often Should I Spray My Worms?

Next Post

Raising Black Soldier Flies in Cold Regions


    • John
    • January 21, 2009

    Try a little brown sugar on the moistened paper. I understand that they can sense it and that it is really attractive to the little dears. I haven’t tried it but it is a technique that the Urban Farmer (Wayne?) uses when moving worms between his vermicompost bins.

    • Jason
    • January 22, 2009


    Maybe I should sprinkle brown sugar on my bedding when I set up a new bin for my stacking system. I’ll try it and see what happens.

    At this site, even the comments are packed of great information!

    • brynn
    • January 22, 2009

    nice work! i can’t wait to hear how you do this. i have a 32-gal worm bin in my basement that i am procrastinating on harvesting: i just can’t find it in me to dump that huge thing over and pick through it with my hands, worm by worm.

    i read on a website (i can’t remember which one) that the castings are toxic to the worms – but since i’ve only seen this written in one place, i question its accuracy – could you comment on that?

    i was hoping to put off harvesting til spring, when i can put it directly into some rooftop tomato beds that i’m preparing to install for this year – i have a very small urban space to work with. if i do end up harvesting sooner than spring, any idea how long the castings can be stored before use while actually retaining their nutrients?

    • Bentley
    • January 23, 2009

    John – thanks for sharing that! Sounds like an interesting idea. I think honey or molasses could work well too. I suspect that it might be the rapid bloom of microbes (feeding on the easily assimilated carbon source) that might attract the worms, but regardless that’s something I’ve never tried – will definitely give it whirl.

    Brynn – when it comes down to it, no organism wants to live it its own waste products, nor is it healthy to do so. As such, the more worm castings (and other worm wastes) there are in a system the poorer quality it’s going to be, but it would take quite awhile before it is toxic – especially if you are continuing to add bedding.

    If you harvest the castings now, allow excess moisture to evaporate/drain away, and store in a cool dry place your castings will remain in good shape for quite some time (should definitely still be fine by spring)

    • Wayne
    • January 24, 2009

    Why let the cantalope sit? My worms can smell cantalope why I open their box and begin jumping for it. I can take a strip of canatople just cut, lay it on top of other food and there will be worms eating on it within five minutes. There crawl over other older food to get to the canatlope

    • sharon
    • February 10, 2013

    I bought a cheap bag of frozen corn on the cob. Left it sit out on carport to thaw and soften for about a week. I found that they were having a hard time getting at the corn so I took my box cutter and scored each row down the middle of corn. They really attacked it then. A couples days later I picked up one of the corn cobs and I could not believe how many worms were inside the rows and a ton of them just hanging. I made a trench for each of 4 corn cobs put them in each trench and covered them very well.
    I did that in 2 bins and must have got a pound of worms. The worms were very clean. The babies like to crawl in side the kernels and the big ones crawl in between the rows. Very fast and clean way to sort worms.

    • Texgal
    • July 1, 2014

    I’m using a small frame with hardware cloth on the bottom. It’s only 6-8 inches high. After preparing my new box, I sit the frame in the new box directly on top of the new bedding, attach a reflective shop light (60 W) to the box. During the day as I walk by it, I “stir” it to get the moist compost up to the top; depending on how moist the Vermicompost is I’ve been able to move the worms in 24-48 hours. Not exactly passive but quick and almost 100% effective.

    In your other post you mentioned adding handles to your tube; are you sifting with the tube? What are these tubes used for? Just wondering what dept I should look for them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Get Your Free Vermicomposting Guide!

* Join the Red Worm Composting E-Mail List Today *