Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Composting with Red Worms

May 2008 we purchased a worm palace to help in composting our food scraps. These are photos of the initial setup. Easy to set up and use and the worms are very happy.

Decided to publish the photos after having issues with worms dying and haven't been able to find good photos of the symptoms our worms were showing... so before going directly to the "eww" photos.. thought we'd show the "how cool!" photos.

Deformed/Dead Red Wiggler Worms

A little history before the "eeewww" photos.

Our worm palace had been running smoothly and the worms were very happy. Then we had to be away for two months. Due to an oversight on our part (forgot to leave the drain open!) liquid backed up into the first tray and overflowed a little. When we returned the liquid had gone down and evaporated.

To help in the drying process we added some very dry vermicast that we'd removed from the palace in prior months. This helped to dry things up .. but then... Within a few days of adding this material we noticed some worms showing signs of ill health and the population seemed to be declining rather fast. We've read that worm castings were toxic if they eat them AND we've read that they are not toxic.
**Could it be that they can ingest their castings multiple times while they are still in the system and exposed to other good bacteria, etc. and there are no ill effects?

**Could it be their castings become toxic when they've been removed from the system and dried and all the beneficial bacteria have died? Maybe becoming a 'super concentrate'?

The following are photos of the deformed and dead worms. These are posted to help others who are trying to figure out similar problems with their systems/worms. If you've had similar experiences or have constructive input please share!