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Worms do not drown - at least not in fresh water.
Three days ago, on November 16, I wanted to see if worms would live underwater.
Here’s a bowl with 2 EFs, 2 PEs, and 2 EEs. This is fresh water taken from the fishpond, with a
handful of vermicompost to make them feel at home. The bowl was covered with a loose lid to keep out the light, but with plenty of gaps should they want to escape.

Day 1: Worms and a gob of VC were placed in the bowl.



Day 3: 72 hours later.

None of worms had escaped, and you even see a few babies that must have been in the VC.

They were mostly laying on top of the VC, not burrowed in as I had expected.


The worms as they came out of the bowl.


A healthy looking EF trying to escape. You see a PE in the left hand corner.

So this begs the obvious question: What does it take to drown your worms?

Views: 1460

Tags: Underwater, worms

Comment by Andrew from California on November 19, 2010 at 1:00am
I don't think they drown in leachate. They most likely suffocate from lack of oxygen in the liquid or are killed by something toxic. The water in the bowl is relatively clear compared to some thick leachate I've seen.
Comment by Susan B on November 19, 2010 at 1:21am
The other option for my worms dying in leachate is that the water may be too concentrated. Really concentrated fluids will suck water out of worms. (Just like putting salt on them, fertilizers are salts.)

Either that or as you mentioned, lack of oxygen. In any case, they die in leachate!

Peter, I'm glad to know they don't drown (and the babies don't either!)
Comment by Andrew from California on November 19, 2010 at 1:34am
That's an interesting theory, Susan. I don't have any leachate. Next time someone finds a dead worm in leachate, check to see if it's emaciated. "dried out" wouldn't be accurate since they would be wet, but they would look skinny and maybe shriveled up?
Comment by The Garbage Guru on November 19, 2010 at 4:05am
In theory,i think i figured it out.I think it was Mary A. who wrote of salts? But one thing is microbes in huge numbers,use the oxygen up.That is why it goes anaerobic.
But i believe the main thing is natural condensed salts.Leachate is as condensed as you can get.I think part of the reason they tell you to water leachate down is to dilute the salt content.I have to get another salinity guage to test this theory.But my worms die in the leachate in 12 hours or less.And they could crawl out if they wanted to.I think it is salt and lack of oxygen! Of course people who use manure will have a higher salt content from the manure itself.
Comment by The Garbage Guru on November 19, 2010 at 4:14am
By the way,Pete.We definitely have the same PE.Mine are no doubt skinnier.But i think it is because of a high manure diet.I am planning on making another FT with only PE.Then i can see if i can get mine healthy looking like yours.Mine literally are anorexic! May be why table scraps go so fast.Not enough to go around.PE are the best table scrap eaters i know of,in my opinion of course!
Comment by Ar-Pharazon on November 19, 2010 at 12:21pm
The mighty Charles Darwin wrote about this too. He noted that earthworms could survive for many days submerged, as long as the water was aerated.
Comment by jean kruse on November 19, 2010 at 10:23pm
When I check the vc I've used in my tea maker I often find worms that have survived the 16-24 hr submersion in the aerated water.
Comment by The Garbage Guru on November 20, 2010 at 5:05am
Andrew,the ones i have been finding over night are PE.And to me they appear to be skinnier.They aren't a real thick worm to notice a big difference.But it looks as though they shrink.
I was wondering if someone would like to take a reading of their leachate?I have to get a simple hydrometer.But what we used to do to check salinity when fishing,is take a short piece of pvc with a cap.A little longer than the hydrometer glass tube.Then just dip it in the water.Insert the hydrometer and read lines.You should hopefully be able to test straight leachate,then watered down.And compare it to straight rain water,or even tap water.Then you just count the lines to see how far up it sticks in the saltier leachate.Will it work? I do not know? But we could compare notes even with different people who feed different things,and see what we come up with.And a simple hydrometer is cheap.I bought an expensive one,one time.And dropped it overboard.I wasn't diving in after it either!
Comment by Peter Barnard on November 20, 2010 at 7:01am
A hydrometer will tell you the specific gravity (i.e. relative density) of your leachate. It will give you some idea of what solids are dissolved in it. You can even make your own one for free hydrometer (essential equipment when you’re distilling your own whiskey)
I also add as little water as possible, so as not to get any leachate. However, on the few occasions when I did overwater the bin, the worms were quite happy to live for several days in liquid mud.
'Leachate' is a very ambiguous term, and I'm sure that some systems will produce 'good' leachate, while others will produce toxic, worm-killing stuff.
Comment by The Garbage Guru on November 20, 2010 at 10:57am
Pete,i guess i am going to have to get scientific.I bought a good hydrometer.So far i only measured rain water and well water.They were both zero.Then i mixed some strong vc with water.It read 7 parts per thousand.I need to test all sorts of stuff in an exact measurement.Solid leachate when available,manure in water,diluted leachate,vc with water,etc.It may prove really interesting.I just need someone else to do thiers also.One person does not give us anything to compare it to!

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