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When harvesting worms, how do you, if you do, save the cocoons?

I'm a relatively new vermicomposter. I am a city girl with a vermicomposter. I am growing organic veggies in containers (to protect from the toxicity of city soil). When I harvest my worms, I get great soil that is full of eggs. My questions:

1. Is there any way to separate the egg/cocoons so as to return them to the worm bin? It seems to me a shame to lose all those future worms to a large container of, say, tomatoes or basil.

 ~ and ~

2. When I harvest all that great compost, it's in large chunks. I want to break it down to finer soil w/o crushing what eggs there are in the soil.

 

Thoughts? Suggestions? Many thanks.

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Welcome to the forum, Dancer.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to separate cocoons from vermicompost (VC). Describe your worm bin system in a bit more detail and maybe we can suggest some methods that will reduce the amount of cocoons in your VC. It should also be possible to avoid large chunks of VC that (I assume) are difficult to crumble. Any VC chunks I harvest are usually easily crumbled by hand - no real danger of crushing cocoons.

Meanwhile, you could soak the chunks in a small amount of water and then put them into worm towers in your containers. Another option is to simply bury the VC along with a small amount of pre-compost or leaf mold. Any babies hatching can happily live on those for food. The worms may not do as well as in a worm bin, but they should do ok as long as the soil does not compress too much or become too dry.

I would hire some little kids. My 4 year old grand daughter has a "touch" of OCD...ok, a BIG touch!  I showed her what worm eggs looked like and she and her 6 year old brother helped me separate worms, eggs & VC during my last harvest. It was a riot! 2 + hours of endless chatter & 64 million "hey grandpa" questions...I was nearly out of breath from laughing so hard...Who knew worm poop could fly nearly 10 feet?...kids are efficient & inexpensive labor resources. (they'll work for ice cream & hugs)

Whatever method you employ, you're still gonna lose a few eggs...Give the kids a try. Their enthusiasm alone is worth the price of admission

On my first several harvests, since I was trying to build my herd, I obsessed on saving cocoons and babies. Once I built up a small stockpile of VC, I just began putting the VC aside in a cool dark place and gave the cocoons a chance to hatch out. Then every two weeks or so(or when I get bored) I go through it and pick as many babies and cocoons out as I can. Then I'll give it one more "once-over" before I put it in the garden. It's pretty hard to get 'em all. Almost every time I'm planting/cultivating I'll find redworms in my raised beds and they seem to be doing OK. I'm thinking of planting several 2" pieces of pipe(w/holes in the side) on end in each of the beds and dropping food in a'la worm towers.

My outfit is still small, I just use one of those sand sifter that comes in kids SandBox toys. If I miss some cocoons, then I guess that they are "wild" worms, luckily I have cows that live behind me, so they will be able to find food.

 

I use that after I have sorted most of the worms out of the compost and it catches some worms and cocoons. I just don't stress if I miss some because they multiply so fast.

 

I know they sell cocoons on the internet but do not know how they separate them.  If you find out... please let me know.

The last time I tried this I used a large piece of sturdy card board that I folded into a "V" shape. The one feature that eggs have over castings is that they are pretty round and roll when placed on a piece of folder cardboard. I placed somewhat dry vermicompost on one side, tilted it to 30-45 degrees and brushed the compost back and forth. Eggs would roll down and stay in the fold. If you don't have a fold they roll away :-)

It worked slightly better than having someone with really good eyes separate manually.

I should not admit this but in my college days we used to separate seeds with a record album sleeve in much the same way. BTW - those days are long gone.

thanks! would not worry about it. will soon be legal in all 50 states.

My method was use a extremely small screen but I lost about 70 percent of my eggs and had issues getting all of the compost out of the screen.

You can also set the compost in a new bin after you remove all of your worms and let the eggs hatch then reharvest your new worms.

I read worm worm eggs can survive many months out of the soil and even freezing temps and still be viable.   Has anyone found this to be the truth or is the just a " Internet rumor ?" 

Mike,  I think we all just believe it at its word. Because the worms will hatch out of the eggs even after freezing solid in a compost pile during the winters months.

When I moved my worms into a bigger home, I used a straw cut on the diagonal to fish out the cocoons (http://lilliworm.blogspot.com/2008/06/saving-pods-eggs-cocoons.html). 

When I harvest the compost, I use a giant colander over an old dry wall compound bucket- that way, I can shake shake shake gently, the compost falls out into the bucket, and some larger remnants are left with the little cocoons and (gasp) sometimes some little worms!

Hope that helps :)

If you only have a few worms then hand pick them out and replace in your worm bin, otherwise simply leave them in & they will benefit your garden they contain beneficial bacteria and I read somewhere nitrogen (perhaps in protien). The eggs are fairly tough and resiliant.........IC

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