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Will They Eat It?: Pumpkins

With Halloween just around the corner, many people have asked us if worms will eat their leftover pumpkins and Jack-o'lanterns. Absolutely! Below we will break down our Will They Eat It? experiments and offer feedback on how you can do this at home in your mini-bin.

Background

Worms eat a lot of different things to help create soil. When we began Nature's Little Recyclers, we constantly were asked “Will They Eat It?” so we set out to discover what red worms would eat. These early videos were taken at The Plant, America's First Vertical Farm and green incubator, in Chicago, Illinois.

In our first video, we set out to answer if they would eat pumpkins. We used 20 gallon bins that were active and well established. They were kept in the basement of The Plant, where it was mostly dark, around 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and very moist. These were near ideal conditions for our feeding experiments.

Pumpkins: Episode 1

We had witnessed before that the skins on certain foods made them impenetrable by worm standards. Yet, if something were to pierce or break the skin, either through force or by rot, worms would stream in. In this first test, we did a side-by-side comparison.

Pumpkins: Episode 2

When we opened the 20-gallon bin, worms were crawling on the sides and roof. (However, as we were fairly inexperienced in worm filming, the worms had crawled back into the compost layer by the time the camera and light were ready.) We also saw that the composting bacteria were working under the pumpkin but had not yet penetrated the outer skin -- although they did enough to attract worms to live and lay eggs under the pumpkin.

In the pumpkin that was carved, the red worms and the bacteria were rapidly decomposing the soft delicious interior, the same interior that humans also love to use in pumpkin pies and so many other dishes during the holidays.

Pumpkins: Episode 3

We return to the 20-gallon bin to discover that our broken pumpkin is now fully composted and turned into castings (and, of course, worms). The whole pumpkin had fully rotted, and it was now fully being consumed. There were many worms in that area of the bin, and the pumpkin also attracted a large number of hatchlings and juvenile worms. As an observer, we saw the first signs that egg casings were often laid near slower composting items.

Conclusion

Pumpkins are good worm food, especially for breeding young worms, and once you get past the skin, the red worms will eat it in record time.

Do This Experiment at Home

Even though Nature's Little Recyclers performed this experiment with whole pumpkins, you can do this experiment yourself at home. This experiment is great for adults and kids alike looking to see and understand more about the compost process (and how their Halloween Jack-o'lanterns get eaten!).

  1. Take your pumpkin and cut two cubes of pumpkin, roughly one-inch by one-inch each. Have it include both meat and skin. Place the cubes into your mini-bin.
  2. After a week or two, observe the different parts of the pumpkin eaten. Is the meat and skin different? Look beneath the pumpkin. Do you see breeding worms and worm eggs?
  3. Every week, take another look. What have your observed? How long did the pumpkin take to be consumed? Did the eggs hatch?

Don't have a Mini-Bin but would like to compost at home? Or maybe you're looking for a friendly and low-maintenance pet for the kids? Purchase a Mini-Bin today for $24.99. Price includes kit, starter food, and worms. 

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