What Didn't Work: Transparent Worm Bins
Once the worms had acclimatised to their Dubai home, I was looking to expand their home and their composting potential.
I went through a number of trials and tribulations before I found a method that worked efficiently for all organisms involved; this post is about one that didn't and the possible reasons why.
First off, the reasons for using the plastic transparent worm bin:
It was large and I was looking to scale up
It had a darker lid (good for photophobic worms)
It allowed me to keep an eye on things in the interior without disturbing them
It had built-in ventilation
It was already here
In an effort to keep costs down and to reuse plastic, this environment seemed ideal as it was plastic, as their old bucket had been and fit the criteria of many an online worm bin How To, which I followed to the letter. Bedding, food, more carbon layers on top:
I even added volcanic rock dust and some eggshells (though not ground) to try and keep it hospitable.
However, I immediately ran into several problems which required endless troubleshooting:
1. The ventilation allowed fruit fly access. Supergluing cheesecloth over the ventilation holes worked short term but eventually became accessible again.
2. Worm escapees. All the time. Everywhere. They even managed to get out from under the lid! I kept the light on for 3 days straight and I would still find them crawling up the sides of the bin.
4. Too wide a surface area; not enough depth for worms to escape the light.
5. Impatience on my part. I overfed them, looking to increase their numbers and thus gave them all sour crop/protein poisoning. (See above Worm Cannibalism- the juveniles and mites are eating the decomposing body of an adult. Yuck)
Upon reflection and experimenting with further bins which had varying degrees of success, possible reasons for these failures could have included:
There was more than enough air access- but the environment I created was too wet and encouraged sour crop and mite explosions. Even though the worms love some pongy worm juice- don't let them! We have to parent the worms like we parent our teenagers. Put your foot down and don't let them live in squalor.
Using a light to keep worms in place only works if they have somewhere dark to escape to. A worm bin that is too transparent or small won't allow the worms to worm well and they will try and escape.
If a transparent worm bin is all you have, pile all the food, substrate and bedding in one corner so as to create an environment dark enough for them to stay there.
There was no way to mitigate the fruit flies with this model.
As showcased in our Worm Bin Rehab series, you can rehabilitate almost any worm bin but it requires patience and Goldilocks Management.