10 bin worm experiment.

Written by Matthew on January 12th, 2010
worm bins set up for experiment

getting the experiment set up

I have started an experiment to find out which foods, bedding, and worm density combinations produce the highest reproduction rates in red wigglers.

Ten identical plastic bins have been laid out and filled to the same depth with bedding. To see if bedding has a significant roll in reproduction rates I filled some bins with %100 cardboard bedding, some with a cardboard and peat mix, and the other bins with pure peat. The peat is acidic so ground limestone was added to adjust, but the peat beds still have a lower pH than the cardboard. Hopefully they will equal out soon as the experiment goes on.

worms being weighed on a scale

worm weigh in

Worms were weighed and then put into the bins using 1/2 pound per square foot for most of the bins, but one was set up with 1 pound per square foot and another only 1/4 pound per square foot. Also the bins will be fed different food stocks. Here is how it is all set up:

  1. Cardboard bedding fed alfalfa meal
  2. Cardboard bedding fed with manure on top
  3. Cardboard bedding fed with produce scraps (this bin does have deeper bedding than the others)
  4. Peat and cardboard bedding mix fed alfalfa and grain mix
  5. Peat bedding fed alfalfa meal
  6. Peat bedding fed alfalfa and grain mix
  7. Peat bedding fed grain
  8. Peat bedding fed alfalfa and grain mix with double worm density as normal
  9. Peat bedding fed alfalfa and grain mix with half worm density as normal
  10. And just for kicks a bin of euro’s for comparison in peat/cardboard mix fed alfalfa and grain mix

Feeding will be done regularly and at the same time for all bins weighing the feed added and also checking moisture. It will be hard to make sure all the moisture levels stay the same because of the different bedding and feeds, but they will be kept as close as possible to the same. Also checks will be made for pH, worm size, and of course a count of worm egg cocoons will be made every couple of weeks.

It is going to be interesting to compare bedding, feeds, and stocking densities and see how things turn out. Keep looking for an update to find out. I believe I am going to let this run about 2 months and then do a final egg count so the final results should be in by then.

Matthew Wilson


11 Comments so far ↓

  1. Gary Infield says:

    Matthew, outstanding job on the website. The wife and I both spent time on the mission field in similar pursuits to yours. She’ll like what you are doing also. We are still pursuing the small farm setting very similar to yours. This site, I can say is probably the most honest and educational on worms that I’ve seen.
    Short, succinct, easy to understand; I can send my Boy Scouts here for reference. Looks like your info is ready to transfer, successfully, to meet your stated goals. I’ll be visiting again.
    Gary Infield

  2. Matthew says:

    Thanks Gary for the kind words. Lots more info to come. Starting this spring I am going to turn the focus heavily towards gardening with worms. So if you like gardening keep checking for updates.

  3. Matthew says:

    Ok so I have been slack in posting the results here so here is the short of it. Most of the bins had very similar outcomes. The odd thing is that the stocking density did not seem to effect the quantity of eggs found per volume of bedding. The biggest result was that adding manure had a large effect upon egg production. In-fact the bin with manure easily had more eggs in it than any other bin.

  4. John Bunn says:

    Just starting out. I was curious about keeping a bin of “wild” worms this summer for fish bait. I read that it isn’t a good idea … got one going anyway. I started another smaller bin with a couple dozen european worms purchased as fishing bait. I figured that they won’t take up space in my fridge & if they fatten & multiply all the better. Getting the peat moss pH up was a problem. I thought that the next batch should get a couple cups of limestone ( as did both current batches ) AND a little sodium carbonate ( washing soda ( not bicarb ) ) a fairly strong soluable base. I hope a little bit won’t harm the worms. ; J.B.

  5. Matthew says:

    I have only used the limestone but I thing either carbonate will work for increasing the pH. However the limestone has the advantage of added Calcium and the carbonates add sodium which can increase salt levels. The carbonates work faster though.

    I dont see anything wrong with the “wild worm” things. At some point red wigglers and euro’s were wild. It is good to experiment so that we are learning new things.

  6. Patricia J Schedin says:

    very interesting research, just wish there was more on the results. curious about the amount of worms, weight wise, after this time has passed. Also the amount of new full sized worms in bins…can only find info on doubling rate. When do they reach sexual maturity, how long does it take them to reach full size? I thought I had found some intriguing info with your experiment, but you only posted one very unfulfilling comment to wrap it up. Give us some more. Why do you use almost solely cardboard as bedding? I know this is done (along w/a couple other things) to fatten adult worms for commercial sale. I also read it has a higher nutritional content than a lot of other options. Does cardboard seem to increase reproduction rates at all? I am also curious about the alfalfa meal and grain, what type of grain, and do you soak it first? Are these items superior to the normal veggies and fruits from the kitchen? Sorry so many questions I just want the best for my worms and I want them to multiply as fast as possible to make me as much compost as I can get my paws on 😉 Hope to hear back..gotta remember top check back!

  7. Matthew says:

    Well to be honest with you, I got caught up with other things and only took qualitative notes on the experiment. This is with the exception of the egg capsule counts which I was real careful on taking. This is because that seems to be a good indication of the overall health of the system.

    I can definitely say that mixing cardboard and peat does better than either alone and manure is certainly the best feed.

    Fruit scraps seem to actually be really good for the worms and maybe better than grains with the exception of alfalfa meal.

    Worms seem to reproduce after the loosening of the bedding material by turning it over. Be sure not to mix protein containing food into the bedding though or it may sour.

    Cardboard has shorter fiber lengths than other paper products and the worms can digest it easier or at least that is what I have been told. But if cardboard is put on one side of a bin and peatmoss the other most of the worms will end up in the cardboard. However cardboard by itself is not a good feed source unless it is finely milled and then also some protein should still be added.

    I have heard that tallow and coffee grounds will produce some big worms but have not tried it yet.

    Eggs hatch in 21 days under ideal conditions or up to never under the worst.

    Worms start reproducing in about 100 days. Yes, that is longer than most people say but it is what I have determined.

    When they start laying they will lay lots of eggs until the bin becomes crowded. When the bin has lots of worms they don’t lay many egg capsules.

  8. greg hughes says:

    he mat about those 10 worm bens exeriments it is killing me to know the out come i can’t wait call me you have my # lmbo

  9. PJ says:

    Nice study, but I have to disagree with the reproducing part. I have a lot of eggs and babies after only a month. If you can provide a good environment they will multiply like crazy very quickly.

  10. Donna says:

    I found this very interesting, since I am a beginer at this. Most sites I found say don’t put any manure in with your worms. What kind of manure did you use and how old was it?

  11. Matthew says:

    I used chicken manure and it roughly doubled the egg capsule production.

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