Splitting A Worm Composting Population

“My worm bin is overcrowded and the worms are climbing out; how do I best utilize them?” ~ Virginia

Hi Virginia,

Do you have any pet fish? 🙂

Ok, I’m mostly kidding – although if you do happen to have a fish pond it probably wouldn’t hurt to toss a few in there for a treat.

Similarly, you could use the worms as fishing bait if you happen to be a fisherperson or know anyone that is.

Of course, neither one of these suggestions represents the ideal way to deal with over-crowded beds. What you really need to do is remedy the situation so that your worm population isn’t stressed out anymore.

How do you do that?

By splitting the bed and starting a couple new systems. If you have no desire to have a second worm system yourself, maybe one of your friends or family members would be interested in giving worm composting a try!

If not, there are likely plenty of people who would be more than happy to take the worms off your hands (simply placing an ad on a free classified website for your region would likely yield results fairly quickly).

Assuming you do in fact want to continue expanding – let’s chat more about splitting beds. This is certainly an important topic, and something we haven’t really talked about up until now.

I’m sure there are many people wondering a) When they can harvest their castings and/or b) When they should start thinking about splitting their bed(s)/bin(s). This assumes that one is not using a flow-through type of bin, which you can generally start harvesting castings earlier than is the case with a container system.

Obviously, it will be ideal if you harvest/split before the worms start trying to escape – but exactly when to do so will vary from one system to the next, depending on your worm bed management skills, temperature, the species of worms being used, and size of the system – among various other factors.

According to a comprehensive worm growing article in Worm Digest (Issue #29, p.10), new growers should expect to wait at least 6 months until their first split – this factors in the time required for the worms to get settled in to their new system (when first introduced) and of course the reproduction cycles required to boost the population significantly.

It is suggested that the density of worms in your system should reach roughly 2 lbs per sq ft – but this is of course only a rough guideline.

Aside from that, it can be challenging for the average joe worm farming to know when their worm beds have reached these densities.

An easier indicator would simply be the level of processed (dark, soil like) material in the bin. Once levels are approaching the top it is a safe bet that it’s time for a split, or a move to a larger system.

If you are interested in completely separating the worms from the castings, simply dump the contents of the bin onto a mesh screen (even a garbage bag with holes punch in it will work) positioned over your new system, which hopefully already has aged food waste or some other desirable food source mixed with bedding.

The worms will happily migrate down into the new material, eventually leaving vermicompost behind (some juvenile worms and cocoons as well).

Splitting is even easier – simply take 1/2 of the contents of the bin and add them to a new system (again, hopefully containing an aged mixture of food and bedding). Do the same with the other half, or simply keep the material where it is and fill the other half with some new food/bedding.

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