Worm farm science

...now browsing by category

 

Red Wiggler Worm farming in the heat.

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

“How hot can my worm composting bin get without killing the red wigglers?”

That is a question I have been getting lately. Worms can actually survive quite high temperatures, but the conditions have to be right. Continue reading “Red Wiggler Worm farming in the heat.” »

Worm castings, the best way to make a brown thumb green!

Saturday, April 24th, 2010

What are the benefits of worm casting?

Worm castings, the all natural organic fertilizer

Worm castings are provably one of the best tools available to “Green your thumb.”

Take a look at the results that this amazing organic fertilizer can produce.

Worm-casting-result-upon-plant-result

ChrysanthemumsPlants on left were grown with castings. Plants on right without. Only 10% castings added by weight was necessary to produce these results!

The largest improvement we often see by the addition of worm castings is in the root structure of plants. Continue reading “Worm castings, the best way to make a brown thumb green!” »

10 bin worm experiment.

Tuesday, 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.

Continue reading “10 bin worm experiment.” »

More worm bin critters

Saturday, January 9th, 2010

Well I am sure there are to many critters that could possibly find a home in a worm bin to ever list, but I am going to start a list. There are many places with list already, but I will try and produce the most extensive list with common and scientific names and pictures. I will include a reference HERE. This post will be updated regularly as it will be an ongoing work. Please help by adding new creatures, your experiences with them, if a particular creature has been a problem or help to you, what you have done to get rid of a creature or manage it, corrections to scientific names (they are always changing), any good pictures you have of a bin creature or anything else that may be helpful. And so it begins…

There are plenty of authors who have wrote of there experiences with worm bin creatures but two excellent sources , although not writing specifically on this subject, having practical information on many creatures are worth mentioning. Mary Appelhof’s Worms Eat My Garbage covers many of the more common creatures, and Ruth Myer’s A-Worming We Did Go! goes into great detail about a couple of common problem creatures and how she finally overcome the great troubles she had with them.

This is going to take some time so I think I will do it like this. I will make a list here on this post and then go back and make a more detailed post on each creature in this list with a link to it from here.

Scientific names may be given as a family where many varieties exist.

potworm whitewormWhite Worms, Pot Worms
Scientific family: Enchytraeids
Small white segmented worms. 10-25mm long
Effect on worm bin: Consume and help break down bin components. Not a problem where composting is the main objective. Undesirable where worm production is the objective. These are not nematodes which are unsegmented.

Springtails

colorful-springtail-with-water-drop

Thanks to lord v on flickr for another amazing photo!

Scientific order: Collembola
Over 1200 different know species with habitats from the Arctic to the equator.
Small white flea like creature. May cover surface of bin so thickly that they look like a white powder.
Can jump the equivalent of human jumping the Eiffel Tower!
One of the most important creatures for creating the worlds soil humus.
Effect on worm bin: Consume and help break down bin components. Not a problem where composting is the main objective. Undesirable where worm production is the main objective.

Woodlice Rolly-Polly SowbugSowbugs, Pillbugs, Woodlice, Rolly-Pollies, Isopods
Scientific name: Armadillidium vulgare
Look like tiny armadillos. Can roll into small balls. Need a moist environment to transpire O2.
Effect on worm bin: Consume and help break down bin components. Not a problem where composting is the main objective. Relatively non-invasive and should not ever present a problem to most worm bins.

Centipedes
Picture
Scientific Class: Chilopoda
Ok these are one thing that we need to keep out of the bin. They are not likely to multiply rapidly but if you see them kill em, at least this is my opinion. Be careful as they have a poisonous bite and they may eat the occasional worm. They often find there way in on yard trimmings and I often see them in mulch. You can easily tell them apart from harmless millipedes by the number of legs per body segment. Centipedes have two legs per segment, while millipedes have four. Also centipedes can move much quicker than millipedes.

millipede

Millipede

Millipedes

more info to come

mites-and-a-springtail

Thanks to lord v on flickr for the use of this amazing photo! He has more click on the photo to look.

Mites

more info to come

Critters of the worm bin. WARNING SCIENCE CONTENT! May cause drowsiness

Friday, December 18th, 2009

Warning science content. May cause involuntary loss of conciseness known as sleepiness!

Worms are greatly outnumbered even in their own home. In the bin with them they are countless numbers of microorganisms. How many you may ask, countless billions to hundreds of billions in a mere handful of compost is common (Miller and Gardiner 2001). These microorganisms consist of micro plant life such as algae and fungi and countless bacteria . Not only is the number of microorganisms astounding but the shear variety is amazing. Most of the microorganisms that commonly occur in average soils have yet to be named or studied.

Algae, like plants, consume CO2 and release oxygen in a process known as photosynthesis. During photosynthesis the CO2 is restructured with hydrogen from water to produce starches, fats, and sugars. Because photosynthesis requires light algae are only active in the upper layers of compost where light is available. When algae die they are decomposed by fungi and are now a food source to the other creatures in the compost including worms.

unicellular algae

Thanks to PROYECTO AGUA on flickr for the photo

The fungi kingdom consist of molds, mushrooms, yeast and a few others. They do not utilize light to produce energy and therefore may occupy all levels of a compost bin. Since they cannot use light to produce energy they must consume oxygen and decompose carbon into carbon dioxide to produce energy. Hence fungus help decomposition whereas algae do not. The vast majority of fungus are harmless and many produce substances beneficial to man such as antibiotics and also the interesting flavor of blue cheese. Fungus also help change nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium into forms usable by plants (Pollock and Griffiths 2005). In-fact without microorganisms life on earth would quickly cease because of a lack of CO2 (Surber 2009).* See note at bottom

mushrooms growing is the woods is a type of fungus

Mushrooms are a common type of fungus

Bacteria though are the real movers in all of this. Bacteria can double in number as little as 30 minutes! Bacteria play an extremely important role in converting gasses that are toxic and unusable to plants into more stable and useful solids. Bacteria are classified as aerobic, requires oxygen to live, or anaerobic, does not require oxygen. Because worms need air anaerobic bacteria should not be found in large quantities in a worm bin. Aerobic bacteria use oxygen to convert nitrites into nitrates. This is good because nitrites are toxic to plants and worms (Miller and Gardiner 2001). This is another reason it is so important to have good aeration in the worm bed. Also it is important to not add to much nitrogen to a bin at once because the bacteria will consume the oxygen quicker then it can be replaced. At this point the harmful nitrites will build up inside the bin.

happy knitted yarn bacteria

Actual bacteria as viewed under a microscopeThanks to Beth at loxosceles.org for this creative photo

Actual bacteria viewed under a microscope at 50,000x magnification

Well if you made it this far thank you for reading this. If you enjoyed it you may consider yourself an official “Worm-Book Worm”

*Plants have a voracious appetite for CO2 and would quickly consume all available. Then when the plants die they would just lay there without decomposing and lock up that CO2. Most botanist agree that CO2 is the limiting factor for plant growth.

See related article