A peek into my worm bin

Lid of worm bin
Lid of worm bin

Icky Worm Girl speaking. This is my Worm Factory, which I’ve maintained for just about a year and a month. It has five trays with mesh bottoms. You bury food scraps under the bedding on top, and as the trays fill, the worms migrate to the upper trays. After a couple months, the bottom tray is completely black and well composted. Since everything is buried, the only smell is fresh earth.

My one problem has been fruit flies. I think I finally have a strategy to control them, but they never completely go away. To prevent them from breeding, you have bury your kitchen scraps deep. To catch the ones that show up anyway, you have to trap them. A jar with a bit of fermenting sugar water covered with slightly perforated plastic wrap is remarkably effective. And disgusting.

So I’m not going to see you that. I’m going to open up my worm bin and look inside. (ICK ALERT!)

1st and top worm tray
1st and top worm tray

The first two levels look pretty much the same. For the bedding, I use a mix of leaves and shredded paper.  This topmost tray is dry, to discourage the fruit flies. I bury the scraps in the second tray, and keep it covered with bedding. As the moisture in the scraps wets the bedding, it becomes damp enough for the worms to come up.

I know you’re supposed moisten the bedding for the worms to come up faster, but until the fruit flies are gone, I’m holding back.

3rd and middle worm tray
3rd and middle worm tray

The middle tray is where you start to see some worms on the surface. The main evidence of their presence is the darkening of the bedding with worm castings. From here down, things get moister and earthier. In fact, the drain at the bottom is dripping excess moisture (worm “tea”), which is how I know the stack is moist enough to cycle.

5th and bottom worm tray
5th and bottom worm tray

As you go deeper, the fourth and fifth trays both have lots of worms. In the bottom-most tray, the bedding has been eaten, and so have most of the scraps. It’s composted.

Since I’ve been stacking the trays in reverse order, this is now on the top, and the worms are trying to get away from the light. I scooped off the dark stuff to harvest it, letting worms go into the next tray. Once it was empty, I removed it from the stack, put the other four back where they were, and set the empty one on the top. Then I filled it with dry bedding, and the cycle continues.

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2 thoughts on “A peek into my worm bin

  1. The memories, they burn! Two memories.

    I had a compost pile from age 14 through… the time I had to go to college, I s’pose. Plenty of earthworms in there. No fruit flies, but there was a large metallic blue fly that superficially resembled a wasp and had really disgusting larvae. I’d turn it using a pitchfork every couple of weeks, and poke holes in the top down to the middle so I could see steam coming out. What fun. I’d course-screen the resultant humus, mix with dirt, and my dad used it for gardening. I was more interested in the composting than in gardening, LOL.

    Second memory has to do with fruit flies. I worked in a biolab the summer between my junior and senior college years (the same summer I was playing with the abandoned typewriter). The lab where I worked was right next to the lab suite of a famous fruit fly scientist. One of his quirks was that when he was examining his flies, he’d … er, underetherize them. He said that overexposure to ether would damage their behavior permanently. So, inevitably, lots of his subjects would shake off their grogginess, and fly free! That end of the hallway always had some buzzing around… and there were always some buzzing around in the lab rooms too.

    We had lots of radioactive stuff and mutagenic solutions lying around, and the fruit flies would land on or in the stuff, crawl out, fly off… Imagine the further mutations going on in the population captive but flying free within this biology building. Being in the presence of professors of great intellect, do you not think that some day, these creatures might become… Drosophila melanogaster sapiens?

    => It might be time for me to re-read the Oz book in which H. M. Wogglebug, T.E. (Highly Magnified, Thoroughly Educated) was introduced.

  2. I love the Wogglebug! And the Gump. And Tip. I think (quick check to confirm title) The Marvelous Land of Oz was my favorite Oz book.

    As for fruit flies, they’re too persistent to need sapience.

    Finally and firstly, I see I need to show off my compost tumblers.

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