How To Breed/Grow/Raise Red Compost Worms Super Fast

Discussion in 'Poultry, Domestic Livestock, Pets, & Bees' started by Comfort, Jan 6, 2017.

  1. Comfort

    Comfort Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    When I was building my first compost worm bins I found a unique method online for breeding them faster than normally. The method not without its controversy is and some claim that it just does not work although I have found that most doubters when questions have not actually tried it, they just believe it does not work based on their experiences. There are however quite a few people who claim to have either recreated all or part of his process.

    I guess you can say I am one of those people and have successfully returned the original worms along with masses of worm eggs back to my worm bin and completed the process a few more times. I even tried to change the bedding medium from soil to cardboard which did not trigger the same result.

    This method is actually part of a larger guide called How To Breed, Raise, and Maintain A 100-Pound Stock of Worms in a Single Room that was written in 1995 and is still online today at http://www.jetcompost.com/burrow/tbp1.htm

    Warning, It is nearly 23 years old this is a very difficult read. In my opinion, he is very hard to follow because of his writing style.

    The crux of the article is that you can stacks of small adult Red Worms in a fraction of the space required for the same number of full-size adults. These small adult worms can be grown out to full size quite quickly.

    Unless you want to be growing commercial quantity of worms in your laundry or bedroom the full scope of the article is of limited use but part of the process is to trigger worm growth faster than normal and that was of interest to me.

    Compost worms have incredible abilities to thrive or survive in a wide range of environmental conditions. His process tricks the worms with poor conditions into survival mode which triggers rapid breeding between adult worms. Paley actually describes a process that kills the original worms because of those conditions but triggers a mass egg laying session immediately prior and because of this the worm quantity in weeks and months is much larger.

    Paley also noticed that those young that hatched into this poor environment stayed very small yet continued to fully mature to adult stage, just at a smaller size like juvenile worms. Now when returned to a better environment these worms very quickly returned to their normal size. You can imagine if you were trying to commercially grow worms for resale as cheap as possible in a very small area then this could be a handy trick.

    I have seen people who have said that because of neglect they have triggered similar conditions. After checking a bin that had been forgotten they found lots of small worms and when provided proper bedding and food they quickly gained size.

    For reference:-

    1000 Adult Worms is about 250gm
    4000 Juvenile Worms is about 250gm

    The whole principle works on the fact that worms will breed most often for one of three reasons:
    1. There is an abundance of food available.
    2. Their survival is threatened by environmental conditions, or
    3. They find themselves in an area which is saturated with suitable mates.

    So what this method does is it triggers all three of the above reasons at the same time. The process provides crowds a number of worms in a bedding that they find very distasteful, with plenty of food.

    Now torturing worms is just not my idea of fun. I am pretty sure I burnt a few ants with a magnifying glass when I was a child but that was the extent of my child cruelty.

    Since I dont need to grow small adult worms so there is no need to fully implement his method. So if we manipulate the environmental conditions that does not go as far as killing the original worms but return them to the main worm bin with the egg capsules we can improve our worm numbers without engaging in animal cruelty.

    Worms dont like soil. They are composting worms so their perfect environment is rotting and composting organic matter like manures and vegetable scraps. You should throw in a handful of soil into a worm bin to add grit to the mixture to make digestion for the worms easier. Other than that typical worm guides will tell you to avoid soil with worms because they don't like it and will die if you add soil to your worm farm. This is probably because it represents a state where the organic matter they are feasting on is being depleted.

    Soil as a bedding media is going to be our poor environmental condition.

    We are going to crowd these worms into a 1 litre ice cream container and we are going to seal the top so they can't escape. Many people who have used those plastic worm bins you find at bunnings know what happens when worms don't like their environmental conditions. Mass evacuation as the worms trigger an exodus to leave that environment, often resulting in their own death.

    So fill the container up to about 50 to 60% of its volume with the following:
    • 3/4 Poor Quality Sandy Soil
    • 1/4 Puree Vegetable Scraps.

    then add 20 or 40 adult worms. Each worm is hermaphroditic so you don't have to worry about males and females. Adult worms have a Clitellum which is a thicker band of lighter colour about 3/4 of an inch from one end of the worm.

    Thus we have completed the three conditions that triggers breeding. The last condition is temperature and the optimal breeding temperature is 25 degrees so find either a cool or warm position depending on what the prevailing conditions are outside.

    Leave them in the icecream container for 5 weeks and then dump the whole container into your main worm bin which should be just before the eggs laid in week 1 start to hatch.

    Make a new batch up and start again. In a few weeks as the eggs hatch your worm bin should be full of baby worms. It will take about another 7 weeks for those baby worms to reach maturity.

    I personally have found that these worms absolutely love potato sacks on top of the worm bin. I usually have a couple on the top of each bin and I dump the contents in between the two. The hessian sacks rot down and get consumed by the worms but until they do they seem to really love moving between the weave of the bag. I have dumped out the middle of a single bag and found hundreds of worms camped out inside. They should be kept wet of course.

    I hope somebody else can use the same method to boost the numbers of worms in their bins.
     
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  2. stevo

    stevo Backyard Farmer Premium Member

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    That's awesome Comfort. You're the Worm Guru! You're enthusiasm has given me a little motivation to try to improve my work farm. I bought a round black worm farm from a Nursery a couple of years ago. The next day they delivered a bag, it was supposed to be 1000 worms but I think there was more like 100. It is still going well but I think I could improve it a little as sometimes they're a bit neglected.
     
  3. Comfort

    Comfort Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    IMHO...The quicker you can dump the plastic bin version the better... you can get them to work but you have to get the worms out of there before it turns into sludge... make sure your worms are not in that...

    The plastic bins always have a tap at the bottom because it all turns into a sludgy mess and you get leachate. When you run a timber system you have no run off. This means that the worms are never in that sludge and they can breath.. the result is a friable like soil, not mud that is typical of a plastic system. I will try and take a few photos to show you the end result of a flow,through system..

    I have had the plastic bin and they are such hard work and I killed 2 sets of worms. I did some research and found that the problem is the plastic bin as it does not allow the mix to dry out and therefore the castings get to saturated which stops it from holding moisture. Worms need it to be drier as they still breath air and thus the aerobic sludge can drown them.

    Another smaller home style of worm farm is the worm in which is a fabric based worm farm which would breath very well. In these types of systems you actually have to add water to stop it getting to dry. A ply box in my mind is the middle balance... in summer I have given it a quick blast from the hose a couple of times.

    In mind if you keep the plastic bin take the top off and put a lot shredded newspaper on top and then a hessian bag.... to try and get some of the mix drying out a little.

    I use my old plastic worm farm to collect the castings falling out of the flow through system.

    From my experience the 1000 count is never 1000. ...
     
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  4. Comfort

    Comfort Well-Known Member Premium Member

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  5. stevo

    stevo Backyard Farmer Premium Member

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    bah!!!,... excellent info, but now you have got me hyped up to make more things... timber!! I have timber!! .. gees ... looks like I have a worm farm box on the list now! ... ooops Saturday night drinks :cheers:
     
  6. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    That's a great guide to making more worms @Comfort I really learned more than I expected :)

    I don't have a worm farm but I do love worms and value them in the garden. If I don't find a reasonable number of worms when digging in the garden I take it as a sign that the soil lacks health and needs more organic matter.

    It's safe to say, whenever I grow a great crop of vegetables one thing that is always a common factor is the large population of worms in the soil.
     
  7. Comfort

    Comfort Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    To me the worm farm is a natural extension of the garden. Composting in any form is great but vermicomposting is lightning fast and does not require you to get the N and C ratios just right to set off that all important thermophilic stage. The end product is also so much better for your garden.
     
  8. Comfort

    Comfort Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @stevo and @Mark here is a quick video to show you the castings you get out of a self harvesting flow through work farm.

    You can see that there is very little worms in the mix. By having a depth of about 600mm in the bin the worms stay up in the mix. I found there can be some worm eggs in the harvest but I pick out any I see and any that make it to the garden is only a good thing as long as there is some organic matter in your soil.



    I emptied this tray about 10 days ago.
     
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  9. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Very good! Cool video :twothumbsup:

    The castings look rich I bet it would be great in the garden. How long did it take to make this much?
     
  10. Comfort

    Comfort Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    That was about 7 to 10 days of castings .... but I had to feed it for 6 month before it was full so that it could then flow through.

    You put cardboard in the bottom above the bars and break through it when your bin is full... by that stage everything for about 300mm above the bars is castings that then self harvest as you put new scraps in the top.

    For the most part the worms have migrated to the higher reaches. Because egg sacs take many week to hatch you do find them deeper which is why you have the bin 600mm deep so they get to hatch before they fall through.

    You do get the occasional stray worm falling through and I have been getting some egg sacs which you see in the video but I relocate them back to the top of the bin. Even if you don't bother with this they are not at levels that would impact the community numbers in the bin.

    The main thing from the video is to compare it to the sludge you get from plastic worm bins that drown the worms.
     
  11. OskarDoLittle

    OskarDoLittle Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Would it be possible to post some kind of plan/section through the farm to show how it's built? I also have a.plastci one and have noticed the sludge your describing. My worms seem to be ok, but I actually put all our shredded paper from work in there...maybe that's been keeping it dry enough. They go crazy with it! I only put food scraps in mine. The garden waste goes in the compost bin. In both cases it's taking AGES and o get a decent load to put back on the garden!
     
  12. Comfort

    Comfort Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    No problem at all.. I will get some photos done showing you the construction. In essence though it is a 600mm x 600mm box with the frame made from any framing timber ... I used non structural... the walls in ply and the bottom made from the metal rod you get for built in robes to hang clothes.

    You put cardboard on top of the rods and then fill it up... when it is full you reach under and break through the cardboard.. Mine pretty much self harvests but you can use a small garden rake underneath to harvest more than falls out.

    Feed the top.... harvest from the bottom. I installed some corflute on the bottom because my bin was not wide enough but if you can find the right size bin you don't have to do that.
     
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  13. Comfort

    Comfort Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Got home too late to grab any photos so googled a few... these are from different constructions but they are all,from the same style but you can see that exact measurements does not really matter that much...

    Many of these are variation of the Vermibin Vb24 which is just the name of a plan that is sold online for $17USD ... 24 as in 24 inches is 2 feet. So a vb24 bin is a 2ft x 2ft x 2ft box on legs to bring it up to a use able height. So a vb48 is just twice as long (sometimes with one bin sometimes with 2 )and the vb96 is four times as long.

    I made my first one metric converted... ie.. 600mm x 600mm x 600mm

    My second bin is 1800mm x 600mm x 600mm with three bins. But I am only filling my first bin in this one.


    [​IMG]
    Front is off this one.


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]




     
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  14. cajun

    cajun Member Premium Member GOLD

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    Will these worms eat quail poop? And are they the same ones known as red wigglers?

    TYIA
     
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  15. Comfort

    Comfort Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Yes.. although you should probably age it like all manures especialky those from birds.

    Yes. Red wrigglers is the term used for these on many american websites...
     
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  16. Humust

    Humust Member

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    Thanks for this informative post. Question. Do you put holes at the top of the ice cream container? No holes?
     
  17. ClissAT

    ClissAT Valued Member Premium Member GOLD

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    All very interesting info, Comfort. Thanks for posting it. Definitely food for thought.... or is that food for worms! :)

    I was interested to note the texture of the castings from the flow through bin.
    Rather like what I get out of my bathtub farm.
    It has an open plughole under which I placed a basin to catch run off which goes on a garden bed every couple weeks.

    Recently I have not fed my farm enough & the height of the internal volume did drop considerably, maybe as much as half. The worms all gathered together in one end in a massive clump.
    I wonder if they were breeding since they thought they were hungry...or actually were hungry & therefore breeding!

    I should find a heap of stuff to feed them now I guess. Maybe my inadvertent starvation has prompted a breeding frenzy. What they need now is a heap of new food.
     
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