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Some may remember my experiment with 5 gallon buckets. Well today is the day I'm going to empty them and document the results.

As a reminder for those that didn't see the original post, I started with 3 buckets: one with 1 lb, one with 1/2 lb, and one with 75 worms. All were prepped the same way and treated exactly alike for the entire length of time. If I added water to one, I added the same amount to all. If I added paper to one, I added the same to all. I added 1/2 cup of pre-composted rabbit manure three times - at the beginning, after about 2 weeks, and at the middle of the experiment. Otherwise I added only shredded newspaper to provide minimal bedding. I've added nothing in the last two weeks and now the castings are pretty muddy.

I've had the lids off for 48 hours with hopes that will make separating a little easier.

Results of bucket with 75 worms:

This bucket was the least composted, but with fewer worms that is to be expected. I had to sort through the material twice and I'm still not sure I counted every last one of them, but 75 worms multiplied into 102 worms for a 36% increase in worm numbers. Not too bad, but I'll admit I was hoping for something more along the lines of a 50-60% increase. Based on the material left in the bucket and the quantity of pods I found, I'd say a 50-60% is possible (with 3 more weeks of processing time).

The worms are healthy and active with mostly breeders in the bucket.

Results of the 1/2 pound bucket:

I underestimated the effort that would be required to sort this bucket. After two hours of hand sorting, I was only 50% finished. I had to take a break.

The worms are much smaller than the worms in the 75 worm bucket, but that's not surprising. There was less food available per worm.

The worms are healthy and active with mostly small sized juveniles in the bucket. I found very, very few breeder worms in the bucket.

Surprisingly I ended up with only 3 oz. of worms, which is less than the 8 oz. I started with. I didn't count them one-by-one, but I know there are many more in number than I started with, but they are teeny tiny worms. The 1/2 lb I started with was mostly breeders (bigger worms = more weight). I can only guess that the breeders have died due to poor bedding and lack of food, but before expiring they generated a lot of pods that have now hatched out. If I grow these out to breeder size my worm herd will have multiplied exponentially.

Results of the 1 pound bucket:

Mostly the same as the 1/2 lb bucket. (I've provided a few more details in the comments below this post.)

I wonder if I do the same experiment, but add 1/2 cup of rabbit manure weekly, if the worms would be larger in size (and weight), but fewer in number. Based on the effort in counting and sorting these buckets, I doubt that I'll try to validate that hypothesis anytime soon.

Continuing reading about my 5 gallon buckets here.

Views: 555

Comment by Todd H on October 18, 2010 at 5:14am
I read a page called The Burrow (as most of you have,I'm sure) and I think thats what happend with your 1/2 lb bucket and my out door manure bin.Tons of small worms but non that where full size.Why I say full size is becouse I found many of my EFs that were an inch or less that were adults (they had the breeding band)
So I wonder if you put the worms in a pefect enviroment for seven days would they grow normal size?
Comment by Todd H on October 18, 2010 at 5:19am
Comment by bpearcy10 on October 20, 2010 at 6:15pm
I finally sorted through the 1 lb bucket last night.

My 1 lb bucket was similar to the 1/2 lb bucket. Small worms, muddy castings, no food left....

I'm going to add much more food next time and use the batch composting approach next time. I wasn't using enough food.
Comment by bpearcy10 on October 20, 2010 at 6:58pm
Unfortunately I didn't use leaf mulch.

I only have Live Oak leaves here and they take at least 3 months to begin breaking down in my other bins. I tried something more like the Brian Paley experiment than like your original idea. I don't have access to leaves except in Feb and Mar when they start falling off the trees here.

In my previous comment I meant that I would add a lot more food as described here.

I think my experiment failed because my worms starved to death. I just ended up with a lot of tiny worms. More in number, but less in mass.
Comment by bpearcy10 on October 20, 2010 at 7:00pm
I guess I was hoping for the best of everything. More worms and equal size.
Comment by Andrew from California on October 20, 2010 at 10:05pm
Hmm...I was certain I posted an update here, but I don't see it after more than an hour. I finally finished harvesting the worms from my leaves-only 5 gal. bucket today. It took a long time because there were many small worms that could hide in the folds of the leaves. It was tedious to open up those leaves to kick out the inhabitants. Anyone else trying this should shred the leaves first.

I'd say there was a 10-15% increase in worm mass, but a much larger increase in worm population. Lots of small juveniles and babies. I dumped everything back into the same bucket and added pre-rotted food scraps. Tomorrow I'll also top the bucket up to 80% capacity with straw bedding so they'll have room to roam. I'll feed them regularly this time and see how they grow in the next 2 months.

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