The Encyclopedia Hydroponica

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Worm Bin Modification 18 July, 2008

Work’s been crazy and I’ve been cranking out 50-60 hour weeks while enduring a long course of reconstructive dental work and keeping up as best I can in the garden.  So you’ll have to forgive me if I’ve fallen behind in the blog a bit.  On that note I’ve got one thing to add to my blog entry about Vicodin awhile back: I figured out what the “up” of Vicodin is.  I don’t like it (I don’t like buzzy, “zingy” stuff) but a couple days ago I tried doubling up on the Vicodin (pharmacist said I could, so I’m not just making my own rules) to push back some pretty nasty pain and ended up a bit stoned.

Won’t be doing that again anytime soon.  Pain is better than the flighty, shaky, wobbly thing.

But that’s not the focus of this blog entry.  I’m here to talk about my new pets – some worms!

This is where they live.  I built their home based on the great information found at Red Worm Composting.  The guy that runs that site is a wealth of knowledge on worm wrangling and a genuinely cool guy to boot.

I won’t go into all the details of how to build a worm bin since he’s done it infinitely better than I could, but what I will do is detail some of the modifications I’ve done to his design based upon my particular needs and problems.

Here’s the thing:  my wife (unsurprisingly) is not a big fan of worms in general.  Even more shockingly she seems nonplussed at sharing living space with worms.  To be fair she’s not so opposed to the idea that I’m going to get in trouble to by keeping an indoor worm bin, but it’s tenuous enough that should she get any unauthorized squirmy visitors that both me and my worms would suddenly find ourselves in the doghouse.

One other problem I have is that I insist upon fantasizing that I will, at some point in the future, actually scrape together enough free time on a regular basis to start fishing again.  Never mind that I haven’t actually been able to get out my poles in a good three years, but I’m not going to abandon hope.  So instead of getting regular Red Worms I decided to get their larger cousins, the European Nightcrawler.  These guys are the perfect size for bait worms, hardy, and very active.  Everything you could want in fish bait with the added benefit of being darn-near ideal composting worms.  Win-win, right?

Sure, unless you’ve got a wife that is going to have a serious issue with large, hardy, and very active worms escaping from your indoor worm bin.  Of course the bigger problem here is that my wife is incredibly smart and won’t miss for a second that if I’m modifying a worm bin in order to make it so worms don’t escape from it that there is a reason for that.  Honey, if you’re reading this, I caught them all and they’re back in the bin.

So we’ve got these active worms that like to explore and, not being very bright, escape from a bin that’s the only environment they can survive in.  For their sake and for me being allowed to sleep in my own bed, the bin needs to be made escape-proof.

I started out by covering the side ventilation holes with nylon cloth from an old pair of pantyhose.  At first I tried an unnecessarily complicated system of trying to cover all the holes on one side at once.  But this shown to the right works much better.

Just tear off a small piece of duct tape, fold it over with the sticky side out, and cut a little notch out so you get a square hole when it’s opened back up.  Get a bigger square of nylon cut, and smooth it out on the sticky side over the hole.  Then line it up with the ventilation hole and stick it on.  Voila!  It’s like a window screen for worms.  Air goes in and out, but worms stay put.

Except that they don’t.  In my bin, at least, they were still escaping sometimes through the gap between the lid and the top lip of the bin.  I decided to pull out all the stops and cover all the bases with a double-pronged assault.

I went out and bought some of that stick-on foam weatherstripping and a cheap LED night-light.  Worms hate light, but I wanted something that wouldn’t make a lot of heat and could easily plug into an outlet.

As you can see here, I ran the insulation around the lid where it would just meet with the inner edge of the top lip of the bin.  The idea isn’t to create a super-tight fit because then the lid simply wouldn’t lock down at all, but rather to just make it worm-proof.  Or at least more worm-proof.

The night-light turned out to be a really easy addition.  I just pushed it against the underside of the lid where I wanted it to be to make some marks in the plastic with the prongs, and then cut some narrow holes for them.  I cut them a bit small so it would be a snug fit.

Then, with the prongs sticking out the top, I simply plugged an extension cord onto them as you see here.  It may not be fancy-looking or anything, but it’s decently clean.  Not “living-room when company visits” stylish, but I like the final product.

Here we have the finished look inside (to the left) and outside (to the right).

As you can see it shines pretty brightly even through the lid.  The light itself is actually much whiter than it looks in the picture and the black insulation stuck on it in the left-hand picture is just to cover the light sensor so it would turn on for the photograph.  It’s not necessary.

Verdict: Flawless functionality.  There’s zero detectable heat and not a single worm to be found climbing the walls.  No escapes, no problems.

Looking back I’d have to say that the night-light will probably solve the problem entirely on its own, but obviously requires a handy electrical outlet.  I think a combination of the other two solutions (nylon screens and foam insulation strip) would probably take care of it in situations where electricity isn’t readily available, such as outdoors.  I wouldn’t want an extension cord left out in the rain, for instance.

Most importantly, this means I can keep my worms AND sleep in the bed.


13 Responses to “Worm Bin Modification”

  1. CompostGuy Says:

    Wow, thanks for the nod!
    A lesson in blog marketing – say nice things about someone and link to them and you will surely get their attention! 😉
    (totally teasing, H – I know you meant it).

    Glad you wrote about your various wormy solutions – I’m going to send some readers your way!

    Ok – now off to read your post about ‘Gay Worms’ (another lesson in blog marketing – catchy titles always get attention – HAHA)


  2. In the interest of fairness, there are women whose husbands are less than thrilled with the worm hobby. Fortunately, I’m not one of those women, even those my husband doesn’t see what I get so excited about.

    If you haven’t already, drop by the Vermicomposting Forum of The Garden Forums at

    Lots of friendly people with great information who are willing to share it. Hope to see you there!

    Gardening By Mistake

  3. Kim from Milwaukee Says:

    Ummm, I have one small tip for you, Sir…..wormies need air, too. Just might be why they’re trying to escape….they be smothercating!

  4. hydroponica Says:

    Well I followed the instructions on Bentley’s site, so there’s 15 air holes drilled in the lid and about 18 or so in the top of the sides. The top side ones are the ones that I sealed up with nylon, so air still gets through but worms don’t.

  5. Kim from Milwaukee Says:

    That sounds like it would work, and that’s what I followed as well with my three bins, but my worms were trying to get out as well. I took the lids off, replaced them with a piece of corrugated cardboard just laid on top of the pile inside, and I haven’t had any issues with mutiny since. I’ve even left the lids off altogether at times, with no escapees. Yet, when we had some construction work done in our basement, we covered ones of the bins with plastic and the worms tried crawling out over the plastic.

    if I put my ear to the bin, I could hear little tiny gasps… 🙂 so plastic came off.


  6. Kim from Milwaukee Says:

    I have to add….that led light setup is quite stupendous…the plug thingee poking thru the plastic…brilliant.

  7. hydroponica Says:

    It’s a trade-off. With the lids off you get more light inside which discourages them from trying to climb out – they’re photophobic because if the light can reach them, the sharp eyes of birds can see them. So worms that aren’t afraid of light tend to be the ones the early bird catches.

    But with the lid on, you retain more moisture and have to spend less time worrying about the humidity.

  8. John Davis Says:

    Thanks! Really funny. I wish i could spend my time on writing articles…just have no time for it.

  9. BigBan Says:

    Oh, Thanks! Really interesting. Big ups!

  10. mamawhatthe Says:

    I just blogged about planning to start a (homemade) worm bin and then found your post here. Great info- thanks so much! I will check out Red Worm Composting also. Don’t you love a good lead?

  11. Metqa Says:

    I saw your ideas and used them on my small apartment size bin. I was less concerned with worms getting out, and more concerned with things getting in. Living in an apartment I can’t be sure that I won’t end up foster a colony of roaches and flies instead of worms. I used the foam insulation and the pantyhose duct tape. I put so many holes in the lid and got tired of taping so I just slid the entire lid down into the leg of the pantyhose and tied it off. It doesn’t interfere with the lid closing or the insulation, and I’ve got lots of ventilation and no chance of anyone getting out or IN! Thanks!

  12. kathleen Says:

    i set up my first bin when my husband was away. when i told him about it he was really creeped out….

  13. […] Worm Bin Modifications Heaters Night Light […]

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