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Re: Winter in a styrofoam box

Contribution from Peter_86 »

A wall thickness of only 3 cm Styrofoam will not be enough in most winters to safely protect the interior from frost. The rotting creates some warmth, but if the interior space is relatively small, it may only be 1-2 ° C warmer than the surroundings. In addition, the microbial activity decreases as the temperature drops: In my worm farm (worm café, usable volume with all 3 levels: 40 liters) it is usually about 2-4 ° C warmer in the middle of the top layer at about 20 ° C than the environment. From approx. 15 ° C, the decomposition of the feed is noticeably slower. At approx. 10 ° C, the rotting only warms up to approx. 1-2 ° C, from approx. 5 ° C the rotting comes to a complete standstill.
The only thing you can try is to start a warm pack in the middle of the farm, e.g. B. with old coffee grounds and vegetable residues and an insulating cover made of straw / leaves (see instructions here in the forum). For this, however, there must be enough oxygen, which will certainly be problematic with a tightly closing Styrofoam lid without air holes.
Perhaps you can saw to size a suitable cover made of untreated (not impregnated, lacquered, stained, etc.) wood, this is breathable. The wood must not be too thin, otherwise it will warp if it gets damp from below and the lid will bulge and no longer close properly.

A second problem is that at cooler temperatures the substrate quickly becomes too moist and - despite air holes - smells musty (this is because there is less evaporation, the worms are less active and therefore dig less ventilated passages, the humidity of the outside air is usually higher at low temperatures, and condensation forms more frequently in the farm) . The following measures can help:
- a reduction in the amount of feed as the internal temperature falls
- Loosen up the substrate again and again
- give mainly dry / airy, pre-dried feed
- Work in absorbent material (e.g. dry cardboard, primary rock, lime powder, bentonite)
- Work in structure materials with air spaces / air pores (e.g. hollow stalk pieces, pre-rotten wood, biochar, expanded clay) so that more air spaces are created in the substrate
- If there is a lot of condensation, leave the lid open during the day

A box that is also made of breathable wood on the sides and bottom would be idealso that oxygen can also get into the deeper layers. With plastic / Styrofoam boxes you have to dig up the substrate again and again in order to ventilate it.

A wooden box must of course be protected from moisture so that the wood does not rot.
You could of course also try the following:
A wooden box (untreated wood, does not need air holes because wood is breathable) with worms is placed on feet in a styrofoam box with air holes (in the lid and on the sides) so that there is still a few cm of air around the wooden box. This allows the air to circulate around the worm box inside, which means that oxygen also reaches the worm farm from the sides and from below and the wood remains dry. The air holes in the styrofoam do not have to have a huge diameter, a few mm are sufficient, but there should be a relatively large number per area.
The thicker the insulation layer (e.g. styrofoam, air gaps), the better the insulation. The larger the volume of the worm farm, the more heat is kept inside.

Fresh polystyrene boxes should be left to stink out in the fresh air for a while beforehand. Also, you should NOT drill the air holes with a hot drill / needleotherwise it will start to stink. This creates substances that are hazardous to health (aromatic compounds such as benzene and styrene oxide).
As a more non-toxic alternative to styrofoam you can use z. B. rectangular Bales of straw or several large ones Natural fiber mats (e.g. jute, coconut) on top of each other (onion skin principle) as insulation. Advantage: these fabrics are breathable.

However, good insulation can also fail in the event of prolonged severe frost. It depends on whether you live in a mild climate like on the Upper Rhine, where it hardly ever snows, or in "West Siberia" (Saxony, Thuringia), where there are night temperatures of below -20 ° C to -30 ° C for weeks can.

You may have the opportunity to put the box in a frost-free place (e.g. cellar) over the winter (where possibly existing flies etc. do not disturb)?
You can also install a heater, e.g. B. heat cushions for terrariums, water heating with aquarium heating rod (see posts on this in the forum).

The whole mass of the superficial humus has passed through the earthworm's body. It is doubtful that there are many other animals that have played such an important role in the history of the earth. (Charles Darwin)