Worm Inn Mega – 07-30-14


It has been almost 3 weeks since my last Worm Inn Mega update, so I figured I should probably bring everyone up to speed on that front.

As touched on last time, I have decided to take more of a laid back approach with the system this time – an approach that’s likely much closer to the “norm” among Worm Inn owners. My extreme-optimization strategy was certainly effective, but realistically, there likely aren’t that many vermicomposters who want to go to those lengths to help the process along.

What’s great is that a Worm Inn can work well either way, even if you are feeding heavily on a regular basis (the same can’t be said of most plastic, enclosed systems – that’s for sure). But there are definitely “right” and “wrong” ways to do it. Bare minimum, you will need to include plenty of bulky bedding with each addition of food. Even with all the air flow a Worm Inn provides, a huge heap of decomposing food will turn into a foul stinking mess.

I like to take things one step further by also adding a layer of “living material” (in this case, well-aged horse manure) every time I feed as well. This way I get loads of beneficial microbes (and other critters) right where I need them to be, and I also get the odor-eating properties of the aged manure. This could be considered “optimization” for sure (as could the freezing of the wastes, which I am also doing) – but it is the sort of “easy” optimization that anyone can implement without much additional time/effort.

Adding alternating layers of food, living material and bedding, you can basically just fill the Inn right up to the top – regardless of the size of your worm population. As you can see in the next image – taken after today’s feeding – I am getting quite close.

The total amount of food that’s been added since July 8th is ~ 36 lb (this does not include bedding or living material). This works out to about 1.6 lb of food per day – so it’s on the “low” side for a Mega – but I’m still adding food faster than I did last time around.

I’m enjoying the convenience of the new approach – but it’s not without its disadvantages. For one thing, it has become abundantly clear that I’m going to fill the system a lot faster than the level of material can go down. This means I will likely need to stop feeding altogether for a period of time.

Adding a lot more bulky foods, and foods that won’t immediately be processed by the worms in general, also greatly increases the risk of ending up with an outbreak of various other less-desirable critters. And that’s exactly what has happened. The system is loaded with fruit flies and gnats now.

What’s interesting is that I started seeing a LOT of them flying around in the bathroom where the Mega is sitting. At first I couldn’t figure out how this could be – the zippered lid is normally so effective at keeping them contained. Then I noticed that I had somehow nicked a couple of small holes in the mesh! Doh!

Placing a piece of tape over the holes solved the problem, and the presence of these flying annoyances has hardly been noticeable ever since. Had this been pretty well ANY other type of system, I’d have clouds of them flying around my house (not to mention an angry wife – lol), and would need to either take serious action or to throw in the towel altogether.

In this case, the only “action” required is a pre-feeding vacuuming. I simply open up the zippered lid enough to get the vacuum nozzle in, turn it on and suck up the flies/gnats before opening up the lid enough to add the food (etc).

I’m very interested to see how the worm population is doing this time around. My hunch is that I won’t end up with the same densities found in my uber-optimized system, but I’m sure there will still be plenty of worms, especially in a few months time! I’ll likely start digging around a bit – to find out what’s happening down below – once the system is completely full.

Stay tuned!

*** UPDATE – 07-31-14 ***

Today I added another 7.4 lb of food + thick layers of aged manure and bedding to finish off my upward stacking of materials in the Mega (it is now officially full). I will likely now let it sit for at least a week before digging around and posting another update to let everyone know how things look.

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    • John W.
    • July 30, 2014

    I don’t do any type of optimizing other than freezing my food. As long as I do that I am able to avoid fruit flies. If for some reason I ever forget to freeze it I will see fruit flies pop up, but I think my worm population is dense enough that it keeps the fruit fly numbers from exploding. I am getting densities pretty close to what you show in your “optimized” food pics. It took me longer to get to that type of numbers, but I think in my experience that the numbers are about as close weather I chip everything up and spend 25 min getting food rready or if I just freeze food and throw it in no matter what it looks like.
    The only thing I am working on now is making sure I add enough bedding to food ratio

    • Bill Braun
    • July 31, 2014

    There were several things in the article that resonated with me. Just recently I experienced a sudden and massive die off of worms. One day they looked just fine and two days later lots of dead worms and a foul smell.

    From reading your Vermicomposting Guide and now this article I am able to pierce together my mistakes. One is overfeeding, two, using food from a friend which had a good deal of starchy food I did not take note of, and three, failing to use enough bedding. I think the combination of starchy food and overfeeding lead to the anaerobic fermentation you describe in the guide.

    I immediately turned the compost, food, and bedding onto a table and was able to salvage somewhere around 300-500 worms (I used the color and animation test – if they looked good and moved around I assumed they were health enough). I think there were north of several thousand worms so this was quite the setback.

    I started over in a plastic bin so it was easier to look in on the worms. Now, several weeks later, they seem happy and healthy, and things are cruising along. This weekend I plan to transfer them back to the Worm Inn.

    My only regret is this was all preventable. I knew better but ignored what I knew.

    • Paul from Winnipeg
    • August 2, 2014

    Hey guys, I’m still chopping up my frozen food waste before adding it. Maybe I’ll try skipping that and see how it goes. About 2 weeks ago I added 2 gallons of chopped up perennial weeds I didn’t want in my regular compost, and at the same time added about 2 pounds of frozen kitchen scraps. I didn’t do a good enough job on the bedding front and soon could detect a very strange odour I had never smelled. Next thing I knew I had a white mite explosion. Ack! Stirred up the new layers, added lots more bedding and within days the smell was gone and things are back to normal. Bedding saves the day again. I think I’ll have to have a supply of extra bedding for when I add a silly amount of food next.

    • Bentley
    • August 2, 2014

    John – interesting stuff. Now I am even MORE curious to see what the worm densities end up like. I am already surprised by how quickly the level of the system is going down. Somehow I doubt it will be too long before I can add a bunch of food again.

    Paul – I often overdo it as well – that’s partially why I love adding the aged manure as well. It is great for odor capture. Also likely helps to balance all that carbon in the bedding (hopefully resulting in less bedding leftover at end).

    • Bentley
    • August 2, 2014

    Bill – sorry I missed you there (just realized your comment wasn’t approved yet). It’s never fun when things go bad with a vermicomposting system. But it happens to pretty well everyone at one time or another. The key is that you learned from it, and know how to prevent it from happening again!

  1. How’s this Worm Inn Mega Doing Bently? Seems like your having your typical mellow approach to updating! 😛

    • MikeM
    • September 2, 2014

    Hi John W:

    I am impressed with your worm density video! I am a aspiring worm inn mega vermi and am wondering what bedding you use? Have you adopted Bentleys hybrid of cardboard + living material “manure”. That seems to work really well for him.
    Any advice would be appreciated.


    • John W.
    • September 26, 2014

    I have done bedding several ways. I sometimes go all out and do the optimized worm food like you see in betley’s video. I don’t have much access to horse manure so I don’t do it often. To be honest, I don’t do much in the way of bedding. I try to shreadmaster our junk mail and add that a few handfuls at a time. If I get bored I have been know to break down come cardboard boxes and put them in there, but I just don’t pay attention that often. Everyone in a while I just quit feeding all together and mix in shredded paper in the top layers.
    Sorry I am not more help. I will say that I did set up my worm inn exactly how Bentley shows it in his blog.

    • Mike M
    • October 12, 2014


    Thanks for the message. From what I can see in the video you posted your approach is working very well. I have added a lot of bedding (cardboard, leaves, green/brown organic waste and news paper) and have probably gone a bit light on the food side in the beginning as the worm population grows. I am like you, no easy access to manure, so I likely won’t be adding that to our system. In the last week I have noticed that the worms are getting bigger, but am no where near the densities that you have shown. I like the laid back approach as it fits easily with my lifestyle. It is nice to see that worms will adapt to both the optimized system and the low maintenance approach. It seems to me like you have figured out how to add just enough bedding to keep everything processing along nicely. Great work! Thanks John.

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