Worm bin notes: Update 22 Dorian cools temperatures, worms feast

Bins 2 & 3, Update 22.  This is going to be a short update.  Last week south Florida was preparing for hurricane Dorian.  That created lots of clouds and rain.  The lower temperatures brought the worms back to full speed and they devoured waste added from the last feeding.  I had made preparations to bring the worms indoors if the hurricane was going to pass thru here but we were fortunate that it did not move into this area.

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Gecko hidden in bin 3 handhold.

For update 22 the temperature in bin 2 was 83.3ºF, bin 3 was 81.8ºF with an ambient temperature of 85ºF, 70% humidity.  There were no noticeable odors in either bin.  We did have a couple of geckos in bin 3 but they fled the disruption.  Everything is in the video.  My favorite part of the updates are the before and after images that demonstrate how much waste those worms can consume when conditions are to their liking.  Video is below.  -13

Worm bin notes: Update 21 Where did the black solider flies come from?

Bins 2 & 3, Update 21.  Hard to believe it’s been a month since checking the bins.  I’ve been busy catching up on projects, updating supplies and equipment.  In update 20 I had placed some pupae into a canning jar to contain them in an effort to identify them as shown in the photos below.

In my mind without scientific proof the photo below shows black solider flies.  Wish I had remembered them before they died.  I would have let them go to reproduce later so they could have benefited the area.

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Bins 2 & 3 were in the same state.  The ambient temperature was 88º with a soil temp of 80.9º in both bins.  I forgot to look at the humidity percentage.  There were no odors or any food waste left in either bin.  There was a short break in the ambient temperature the last few weeks due to the volume of rain we had the heat is due to return with highs in the lower 90’s.  I fed the bins fresh and decomposing waste.  Also added some packing cardboard to see how that turns out.  Since the waste used to feed the worms is kept indoors and the bins are kept in a screened in porch where did those solider flies come from?  How did they get into bin 2?  -13

Latest video blog below.

Worm bin notes: Update 20 Things remain the same

Bins 2 & 3, Update 20.  The heat is still on high in south Florida.  There has been small break during the night hours when the temperature reaches the mid to high 70’s.  It’s not much but I’ll take it.

 

As mentioned in my last notes I would gather several of the pupae I suspect are black solider flies and confine them so that if something does emerge from them hopefully it could be properly identified.  I put a few into a ventilated mason jar then placed it back into the bin.  I’ll leave in there for the next several weeks if nothing happens then I’ll put them in the outdoor compost bin.

The above set of photos are the exact same ones from update 19.  I forgot to refresh the weather page so the video has incorrect information for the ambient temperatures.  The estimated temperature was 87°F with 89% humidity.  It was very wet feeling this morning.  My shirt was drenched with sweat before I was finished.  Surprisingly the bin internal temperatures were exactly the same as last week.

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Bin 2 had no odors nor many spiders.  There were worms on the ledge.  I think it was getting warm in there.  Maybe they were trying to cool down.  It looks like all the waste had been consumed.  There was a roach(palmetto bug) in there that was dispatched to another place and time.  Sure hope there aren’t any eggs in there.  Bin 3 had a slight odor from the left over mango.  There were a few spiders in there it looks like the heat is effecting them as well.  They usually fill the bin quickly once they find a way in.

blender food

I’ve managed to burn out one blender feeding the worms.  I have a spare in storage but it is buried in our storage unit.  I’d have to remove most of the contents to get it.  That’s not going to happen anytime soon so I purchased a new one that already smells like it won’t last through the next cycle.  I may have to rethink my plan.

I usually put vegetables like carrots that take a long time to decompose in the blender to make it more accessible to the worms.  Items like avocados and fruits get cut up and placed in the bin mostly whole.  Those items typically don’t need assistance, root vegetables usually do.  When I do use scraps put into the blender I place the waste in a thick layer covering half or less of the surface.  This helps the waste maintain moisture preventing it from drying out before it gets consumed.

I’ll check in with the bins in a week, week and half and see how things are progressing.  -13

Project video below.

 

 

Worm bin notes: Mosquito Net Frame

Better late than never?  Over the last few years I’ve had to bring the worm bins into the house due to hurricanes expected to hit our area.  I roll them over a ramp from the porch into the living room where they stay until the danger has past.  Each time the house was infested by spiders within days.  I think they detect air movement and move to those areas then start spinning webs.

After a friend was bitten on the forehead by an unknown species of spider I’ve been reluctant to bring them indoors for fear of someone getting bitten.  There are many species of spider found commonly here in Florida that we frequently encounter.  The bite wound my friend experienced left a scar that cannot be denied.  It’s very concerning to not know what species it was.

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Unknown species spider bite wound. Florida, USA

With that knowledge I couldn’t put others living here at risk.  After thinking on the topic for a while I came up with the idea to make a PVC pipe frame then cover it with mosquito netting to contain the spiders within the confines of the enclosure.  The PVC pipe should work well for this purpose, it won’t rust, is lightweight and can be put together without fasteners or glue.  That makes the frame collapsible for easy storage and portable.

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I chose mosquito netting made for a bed.  It’s not heavy duty but should work well.  As best as I can tell the netting does not contain any insect repellent that may interfere with or kill the worms.  I’ve seen people buy mosquito netting for outdoor/camping use that killed their insects because the net contained repellent.  I chose this particular net because it completely encloses the space without any openings.  Plus the net was less than $12.00 on Amazon.  An affordable way to experiment.

To construct the frame I used 1/2″ pipe and fittings.  I used 90° elbow tees on the corners, regular tees for support members and legs as well as slip caps to cover and protect the leg ends from damage and insects or wildlife.  All fittings are dry fit so it can be taken apart easily since it won’t be used much.  The cost of the pipe and fittings was $20.94 purchased from Lowes.

frame

I started by measuring the areas I wanted to cover then cut the pipe to size.  Once I cut them I put the frame together.  Once together I cut the top cross-members to fit the frame.  I installed the cross-members without fittings since it would be much easier and give me the ability to move them as necessary.

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Net sag.  Lattice may be the solution.

Once I had the netting installed it became obvious that a piece or two of plastic lattice would work well to help support the net to keep it from bridging the moat.  The lattice would allow good air circulation.  I see scraps in trash piles regularly so the next time I spot some I’ll recycle it for the project.

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I purchased enough materials to extent the frame for one more bin setup.  If I add another bin I’ll make the extension then.  For now I’ll store the materials until needed.  Overall I’m satisfied with the outcome of the project.  The real test will be to bring the bins inside the house and see what happens with the spiders.  The population of spiders is minimal presently so an experiment at this time is premature.  Total cost for the project was $32.93.   From staging the materials to clean up the project took approximately 40 minutes to complete.  I’ll post an update if I test it or modify the project. -13

Short project video below.

Worm bin notes: Heat Wave Continues (Warning graphic image)

Bins 2 & 3, Update 19.  The heat won’t stop.  Although the temperature wasn’t as hot as other days it felt like it was much hotter that it was.  The ambient temperature was 89°F with 61% humidity.  Internal bin temperatures ran from 83.8°F to 83.1°F.  It seems like the fan blowing on the bins has had some effect.  There were no foul odors.  The only smell that seems normal is the light earthy smell.  Looks like most of last weeks waste was consumed.  Otherwise not much to note about the bin conditions.

I had forgotten to put a photo of the pupae that attach to the bin walls after I’ve introduced fruit flies.  If I leave what appears to be undamaged fruit such as mangos out after cutting the larvae seem to appear out of nowhere when there are no visible flies inside the house.  Sure hate to think we’re eating these off the tree with fly larvae already inside.

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I think it was last week after feeding waste I had noticed a new species that must have been introduced by me during a feeding.  I think I’ve had these bins running for a little over 3 years at this point and have never seen them before now.  I have seen them many times in the outdoor compost bins but never took the time to identify them.  Since I can’t figure out where they came from my curiosity is up.

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I thought they looked familiar but am not sure yet.  After looking for answers online I think they may be black solider flies. The website I looked at from Texas A&M directed me to another site that makes me almost sure they’re Hermetia illucens – black solider flies.  I’ll leave them in there and see how it turns out.  I’m thinking of isolating several of them inside the bin for added assurance.  If they hatch out in isolation that should get me the answer I want.

net

I recently ordered a cheap bed mosquito net from Amazon.  My plans are to make a frame from PVC pipe to enclose the bins.  Then cover the frame with the mosquito net.  The frame will allow me to keep the moat from being bridged by the netting.  This is the best idea I can come up with for now.  The worms are surviving in this heat but I’m not sure they are thriving in it.  If this plan works I’ll be able to move them into the air-conditioned house.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We usually bring them in for hurricanes.  By doing this the spiders detect air flow then move out into the house.  I’ve never photographed the webs that show up after a storm but find them everywhere shortly after.  However I’ve been reluctant to bring them in since my friend received a spider bite getting into her van in December of 2017.  The photo below is the bite wound as it was healing.  Unfortunately we were never able to figure out what species spider it was.  There are several commonly found here, it could have been any of them.

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Why I wear gloves when working in the bins.

She is fortunate to have not been bitten on an eyelid.  With this in mind I can’t risk infesting the house with unknown species that may impact residents of the house.  My plan for the mosquito net would prevent the spiders from getting into the house reducing the possibility of a bite wound.

The bins are a rich source of small insects for the spiders which somehow find their way into the screened in porch.  Since the heat wave I’ve been motivated to get my butt in gear and do something about it so they can be brought in safely.  I’d rather sacrifice the worms than see someone injured.  The next step will be to go to Lowes and pick up the pipe and fittings.  I’ll film a video of how I make them.  The new video is below. -13

Worm bin notes: Brutal Heat, They Live!

Bins 2 & 3, Update 18.  Not much to note for the bins.  The heat wave continues with late night temperatures in the 80’s along with high humidity.  The photo below was taken shortly before writing these notes at about 3:00am.  Doesn’t look like it cools down much at night.

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July 16, 2019 03:00 hours.

 

The bin temperatures were 86.7 F with an ambient temp of 92, 55% humidity.  Both bins appear to have most of the waste consumed.  There were no odors.  A few spiders are starting to show up as expected.  That also indicates the frogs and lizards haven’t found a way in.  Still cannot figure where the frogs came from.

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Grub in red circle.

There is a new addition to bin 2 I haven’t seen before.  There were a couple of those grub looking things crawling around in there that I’ve seen in the compost bin.  Not sure what they are but hope they aren’t roaches.

AJ's Green Topics

AJ’s Green Topics YouTube Channel

If I don’t make a note about it, it’s not going to happen.  I had every intention to mention AJ’s Green Topics in update 16 & 17 but forgot.  He suggested I check the soil temperature.  Which is why the ambient and soil temperatures are now included in the updates.  As cool as the soil feels to the touch, the 86.7 F temperature cannot be ignored. Seems obvious now huh?  Go over to AJ’s YouTube channel and subscribe he has worm bins and other projects you may find of interest.   Thank you, AJ!

Since the heat is not letting up and it is still hurricane season I plan on ordering some type of mosquito netting to keep the spiders in check and out of the house in a day or so.  I’ll have to search for something that doesn’t have bug repellant in the material.  The video is below. -13

Worm bin notes: Heat Wave! They’re going to cook if something doesn’t change!

Bins 2 & 3, Update 17.  The weather over the last week or so has been hot. High 80’s into the 90’s during the day, in the low 80’s at night.  Last update(16) the bin temperature inside the bins read in the 80 degree range.  I thought there was something wrong with the compost thermometer I was using.  That prompted me to use a digital one from the kitchen.

What a surprise to discover how accurate it was.  The worm bin soil temperature readings were 86 degrees F for both bins.  That might explain why the waste hasn’t been consumed at the rate it usually is.  And also maybe why I’ve seen worms trying to escape the bin several times.

My issue is where to put the worms for a cooler temperature.  I have no other place to put them when it gets hot like this.  Not sure what to do.  I do have a fan blowing on the bins but don’t have much confidence it will help.  Since they aren’t’ consuming at the rate they usually do a lot of items are getting a little foul.

I also noticed the other insects in there didn’t seem to be as active as usual.  I’ve brought these into the living room during hurricanes.  The problem with that are the fruit flies and spiders that invade the house when I do.  Plus there is no space for them. Currently the living room is full of items from storage that we’re sorting through.  I’ll check the temperature in a few days then next week to see how the bins have advanced since this update.  -13

 

 

Worm bin notes: Time Lapse

Part of the Vermicompost Experiment includes managing all the videos and still images that accumulate for the project.  I don’t have enough digital storage to keep most of the files so they get deleted forever.  I had planned on making a video of each bin over a 6 to 12 month period.  That didn’t work out because I’ve been so far behind schedule on other projects.

I was able to photograph a 5 month period of continuous before and after images for bins 2 and 3.  Bin 1 was a little different but I did get enough to make a short video.  The images show what the bins look like with food waste then what it looks like after the worms have their way with it.  When I post the usual updates it’s not always easy to notice how much can change over a short period of time.

The time lapse videos make it much easier to see how capable the worms are turning waste into soil magic.  These have to be my favorite project videos so far.  The bin 1 video has a me explaining the experience.  The other videos for bins 2 and 3 have no speaking, only music.  Back to the video editing. -13

 

Bin 1 video.

Bin 2 video.

Bin 3 video.

Worm bin notes: Update 16 Bins 2 & 3

Bins 2 & 3, Update 16.  It’s been almost a month.  Hard to believe that much time has passed.  Still catching up on other projects.  Not much to report this update.  It was a hot, sweaty day, 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  I did use a compost thermometer to measure the inside temperature, it showed 80 degrees F.  That couldn’t have been correct because the substrate felt cool to the touch.  I’ll use a digital thermometer next time.

The plan this time was to pull all the castings from the bottom to the top.  That way the castings would get aerated and give me a chance to see how many worms are in the bin.  I looks like both bins have plenty of worms, maybe more than the space can handle.  I may have to start a new bin as I had been thinking.  Both bins had that freshly dug earthy smell.  No foul odors of any kind

Since I’ve loaded the bin up with a large amount of food I’ll come back in a week for a checkup. -13

 

 

Worm bin notes: Long overdue follow up

Bins 2 & 3, time for a few updates.  It has been some time since the last update.  Late last year was the last one.  When I recorded update 15 and went to edit I discovered two update videos that had never been edited.  Overall there hasn’t been much out of the ordinary going on with the worms, nothing worth recording.

During the filming of updates 12 – 14 there had been a lot of worm activity at the top of the bins.  Some times there were few, other times many.  I never noticed any foul odors or anything that would seem offensive to my perception.  The soil drains into the lower bin that is emptied regularly so that doesn’t seem like the soil is too wet.  It seems like there is enough food for them.  After watching some of the footage I’m thinking there are too many in each bin.  Also it seems like some food is too fresh, it needs to be more decomposed or something like it.  When it is a more decomposed state they swarm it until it disappears.

Update 13 video

Update 14 video

For update 15 there is a little of how my bins are set up and some video of the current conditions in each bin.  I decided to add some potatoes, vanilla bean and sand to see what happens.  If they don’t flee I’m considering starting another bin and rotating the soil in the bins possibly adding more moss or shredded cardboard.

Before I can do that I’ll need another floor dolly and a better way to cut cardboard the way I want too. Thinking of looking for a cheap bandsaw for the cardboard, the carpet knife is getting a little dangerous. It’s also hurricane season here these bins have to be kept clean and ready to roll inside the house. Not sure I’m ready to start another bin, having enough food will be an issue. Or maybe I can find another local who wants to start a bin and give them a portion of the worms.

This “experiment” has been fun and educational I always look forward to opening the bins and seeing what has changed. The next update should be interesting I’m mostly sure I’ll make major changes to bin 3 to see what is happening below the surface. -13

Worm bin notes: Ant Invasion = The End!

Update 12, Bin 1.  Everything was going well, Sept 7th checkup and addition of vegetable waste.  No foul odors, the roly poly population had been reduced, still not much worm activity to see but they were there.  I still think the other insects were beating the worms to the good stuff and that’s what slowed their progress down.

27 Sept, started to set up to film, that involves moving the bin out into the clear space then setting everything up.  As cleared items from around the bin I noticed ants on the lid of the bin.  I opened the bin as soon as I saw them and to my surprise and horror ants had invaded bin 1.

Couldn’t believe it.  How, I was wondering did the ants get past the moat?  After a past lesson, I learned to use and keep them full of water.  Once the ants get in, that’s it, there is no more using that bin. I would never be able to separate the worms from the ants.  Ants haul the food away and will attack the other insects, all the other insects stay on the food supply creating the casting and don’t attack each other.

Didn’t film most of it,  wanted to get that bin out as soon as possible to prevent it from happening to the others.  The only part I did film was evicting a frog and an anole, couldn’t find the gecko I had seen before.  Wanted to get them out so I could explore the substrate before it went into the compost bin.

Based on my experience with other worms and the volume of waste they were offered I would have expected them to be much larger in size and population.  The competition with the roly poly may have had a much larger effect than I expected.  The project is called the Vermicompost Experiment for a reason.

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Reasons! Ant bridge straight to the top!

The best part is the mistakenly taken photo that shows clearly how the plywood bridges the lid to the floor making the moat useless.  The plywood is sat up so it shades it from the sun.  I suspect it slipped over, or was moved by one of our cats chasing lizards, who knows?  Doesn’t matter it was a fun experiment.  Changes have been made to prevent it from happening again.  Maybe it will work.  That’s all for bin 1.

Bin 2 and 3 are still active so the experiment continues.  I’ll have to finish last years video then make an update on those two.  -13

Worm bin notes: No Vacuums!

Update 11, Bin 1.  I’ve killed them for sure.  So much for that plan.   Standing over the compost bin I open the stocking and all I see is a pile of dead roly poly that were as healthy as could be minutes before.  What a sinking feeling.

Simple plan, stick a piece of pantyhose over the end of my shop vac hose, fix it on with rubber bands, suck up the roly polys and kill them.  Not exactly what I had in mind and a surprising disappointment.

Vacuum them up and let them go, alive, was the purpose of the stocking.  Not sure what happened there but it was a miserable failure.  It’s an interesting experience to have.  The feelings created when I didn’t mean to harm something on purpose as opposed to when it is intentional.  After editing the video I see it would have been easy enough to take the cardboard outside and knock them off.  Lesson learned.

It looks like I moved enough out for now.  I think based on what I saw in the bin, that the roly poly are eating the waste before the worms get a chance to.  They weren’t anywhere near the surface that I could see.  I had to move things around to spot a few small ones.

I’m wondering if the worm population is doing well.  I expected to see many worms at the surface trying to get at the avocados.  Have to check back in a few days to see if there will be more worm activity around the waste. -13