The Insurance Bin – 10 Months Later

Back at the end of July, I posted an update for my “Insurance Bin” project (see “The Insurance Bin – 6 Months Later“).

Everything looked surprisingly (yet not surprisingly – haha) GOOD! There was still quite a lot of cardboard left in the bin, the worms actually looked quite healthy, and I even found some cocoons.

[Just to remind anyone not familiar with the experiment…this bin was set up back at the end of January, 2018 – in a pretty typical “new-bin” manner (with lots of bedding + food) – and then absolutely nothing was added to it. Ever. Again (lol…well, until more recently anyway – but we’ll get to that in a minute).]

Fast forward to the end of October, 2018…

After seeing some posts in the RWC Facebook group about worm bin neglect, I “remembered” that I should probably check on the bin! (I’m a horrible human, I know)

Wow – what a difference 3 months can make!!

The level of material was way down, there was hardly any sign of cardboard…the worms looked tiny and malnourished.

Oh, snap!

Initially, I thought I should just end the experiment, and feel pretty satisfied about the fact that I had proven you could keep worms going 9 months with ZERO input (other than what was added at beginning)…but I’m stubborn. Really stinkin’ stubborn. lol

The goal had been to go a full year (in my head, anyway) – and by golly I wanted to go a full year!

The premise all along has been that this is a completely LOW-MAINTENANCE system. So I knew continuing on with it meant steering clear of any actual “food” inputs altogether (but rest assured, you could keep one of these bins going for ages – and maintenance-free at that – with even very occasional food deposits).

All I did at the end of October was mix in a bunch of shredded, corrugated cardboard. Then, I basically just left it for another month.

More recently – thanks to the “Walking Windrow Project” – I’ve become really fascinated with wood chips as a vermicomposting medium. In the past I have basically written this material off – even pretty much warned people to stay away from it. This is because wood tends to be so resistant to decomposition, and offers virtually no water-absorption as a bedding material (unless really rotten).

I’m definitely coming around, though!

Working with (even mildly) aged chips out at the project site has made me realize they can become a really amazing “living material” a lot more quickly than I realized – especially if leaves (etc) end up mixed in.


I’ve been wanting to experiment more with this material here at home as well (will be some other posts about this I can assure you), so I figured why not try some moistened wood chips in the Insurance Bin?

When I checked on the system today, I wasn’t too surprised to see that plenty of the October-cardboard is still there. I am also happy to report that the worms actually seem to be doing better as well (I never cease to be amazed by their resilience)!

Another material I have been working with (in this case “again”) recently is stove pellets. Definitely no “living” benefits, but I love the fact that they soak up water like crazy, and offer an nice, resistant structural material.

I mixed some wood chips with water, then added the pellets to soak up the liquid pooling in the bottom, and it worked like a charm! The Insurance bin was then basically filled with this moistened mix.

I am very interested to see how the worms will respond in the weeks ahead!

Stay tuned!

Previous Posts in Series

The Insurance Bin
The Insurance Bin – 6 Months Later

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Previous Post

Indoor Food Waste Pre-Composting?

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The Walking Windrow (Follow-Along) Project


    • John W.
    • December 3, 2018

    Will be very interested to see how this one ends. Makes me think I need to make an insurance bin for when i get to busy to keep my main one alive

  1. Interesting to hear about this ongoing project. I know of many that use cardboard as their only bin filler.

    I like stove pellets in my bin as a way to absorb extra water in case of overwatering. I’ve found that my worms like pellets as no more than about 1/3 of total bin filling when you are starting a new bin.

    • Bentley
    • December 4, 2018

    JOHN – yeah, it’s a super easy way to keep a worm culture going. And no need to even neglect the worms the way I have. Even a bit more bedding and food once a month would leave you with a thriving system (still with no hassles)
    PRISWELL – That is really interesting re: the pellets! I am thinking about testing them out (along with the wood chips) as a main bedding for my Urban Worm Bag 2.0 (hoping to get started soon)

    • john
    • December 5, 2018

    YOU ARE A TRIP skilled on the computer and a great writer i do worms and the way you present it is fun John Keenan

    • Bentley
    • December 5, 2018

    John K – thanks for the kind words!

    • Caleb
    • January 4, 2019

    Awesome to see the insurance bin still alive and kicking strong!
    Couple questions:
    1) Stove pellets – I’m assuming these are completely untreated with no chemicals? Are you using them raw or after being burned?
    2) expanding on “after being burned” question, I have a smoker that uses pellets, and have often wondered about adding ash to my worm bin. Do you have thoughts or experience with adding ash into any of your mixes? I’ve seen some people use it as a way to offset acidity in soil, particularly mixing wood ash with coffee grounds as a neutralizer of pH.
    3) What size of corrugated pieces do you find is the most optimal? I have a shredder that can do cardboard thickness (even double sheets, its a beast), that puts out about 1 inch by 1/4″ long strips. But typically I see you do like 2″x2″ squares approximately. Do you just rip by hand? Have you experimented with size of these at all and found any meaningful difference?

    What I’m tempted to do, because my wife is very much a “no worms in the house” kind of person (she screams when she sees a silverfish haha), is create an insurance bin and bury it in a corner of the yard.

    • Bentley
    • January 8, 2019

    1) Good question! I haven’t actually taken a close look, but really should. They are used straight out of the package (allowed to soak up moisture and turn to sawdust before use typically)
    2) Ash can be used in gardening – can help boost K. I would be very careful about using it in worm composting systems though – I’d worry about it potentially being harmful for the worms (may be K-OH formation if I remember correctly). Maybe ok in small amounts though
    3) I shred by hand so the strips end up pretty big in comparison – the size you mentioned sounds great! I have not yet tried a comparison of different sizes – but it sounds like a cool experiment!

    As for Insurance Bins – the beauty of them is they can be very small and well-hidden. Literally in the back of a closet etc. I’m not suggesting you purposely deceive your wife (lol) but maybe a “do it anyway, apologize later (if need be)” stance might work well in this case. Put FULL blame on me!

    [Just make sure it’s not some place where she will confuse it with some other bin – that probably wouldn’t be fun for her! lol]

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