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Worm Bins

This is a discussion on Worm Bins within the Earthworms, Nightcrawlers, etc forums, part of the Food: Live, Frozen, Freeze-Dried, Pellets, etc category; A good worm bin is worth it’s weight in gold to anyone who keeps newts or salamanders. If done properly ...

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Old 30th September 2008   #1 (permalink)
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Default Worm Bins

A good worm bin is worth it’s weight in gold to anyone who keeps newts or salamanders. If done properly it will provide you with a free source of nutritious worms all year round with minimum of effort on your behalf.

I thought I’d start a thread where keepers could share their worm culturing experiences and perhaps inspire others to have a go.

I’m no worm expert so don’t take this as the definitive worm bin method – it works for me.

My outdoor worm bin was started about a year and a half ago. Up till that point I’d always purchased earthworms from my local angling shop but they went through a phase of only stocking Eisenia fetida packed in manure. Even the hardiest of newts will turn their nose up at that.

I stocked my bin with a mixture of Lumbricus terrestris and a species of compost worm which produces little in the way of defensive foul secretion. I’m still a little unsure of the species but perhaps someone can help me out in that respect (photos below). For those who know little about worms it’s worth mentioning that many compost worms are very distasteful to newts and will often be rejected. Finding a species that is accepted by all and breeds prolifically is something of a holy grail.

The bin consists of a domestic plastic bin of the “swing bin” variety (I’ve removed the “swing” from my bin…it just has a flat lid with a couple of ventilation holes). Holes were drilled in the base of the bin and a layer of gravel placed over the holes to allow drainage. The bin was filled about half full with a mixture of topsoil and compost. After adding worms I then started to build up my composting layer. This consists of vegetable and fruit scraps - chopped very small. Avoid using onion scraps or citrus fruit. I also add quite a bit of weed from the pond whenever I have a clear out. Rotting duckweed and hair algae are a big hit with the worms.

The bin took quite a while to get going - I would say 3-4 months, but once it started it hasn’t slowed down. I place it in my garage during the harshest part of the winter. Over the course of time the vast majority of the Lumbricus terrestris have left the bin and it is now dominated by two species of composting worm.

This is the bin – not much to look at. Despite my weekly rummaging there’s normally some chopped vegetables on top.
Click the image to open in full size.

This is the worm species that now dominates the bin. I believe it’s Eisenia, probably fetida. Some newts find this distasteful but it is very prolific and most of my Triturus, Mesotriton, Pleurodeles and Cynops will take this worm without hesitating. I can distinguish it from the other species because it’s very red in colour and it doesn’t have a prominent saddle (clitellum).
Click the image to open in full size.

Click the image to open in full size.

This is the second species. It’s not as red as the other and has a prominent saddle. This worm does not produce a noxious secretion (in any great quantity that I can tell) and is accepted greedily by all species. I suspect it is either Eisenia veneta or a Dendrobaena species.

Click the image to open in full size.

Click the image to open in full size.

It breeds quite quickly and I always have a good range of sizes available.

Click the image to open in full size.

I’m looking forward to seeing the fruits of other keepers worm labours.
- Mark

Last edited by Mark; 1st October 2008 at 11:24.
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Old 30th September 2008   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Worm Bins

I've never heard of worm bins before. I think I might get one now considering the hassle and money it would save, thanks very much for all the information Mark. Any idea how many worms it would take to start it all off?
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Old 1st October 2008   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Worm Bins

I started mine with one pound of worms, which I ordered by mail about 5 years ago. I grow the "European nightcrawler" species (E. hortensis or D. hortensis, depending on how current the information is). They are larger and less-smelly than the standard red wigglers. Having source of small whole worms for my juvenile newts is indespensible to me.
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Old 1st October 2008   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Worm Bins

this sounds like a very good idea. definetly something i will be doing tomoz!! thanks for the info. always good to have a nice cheap way to feed healthy food to my amphibs
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Old 1st October 2008   #5 (permalink)
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I've just noticed that the last picture is rather susupicous...the worms seem to be spelling out 'pie'... I'd guard any pie you might have Mark, it seems to be a conspiracy.
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