THE ROLE OF MICROBES IN VERMICOMPOSTING


The relationship between earthworms (including the various composting worms) and the aerobic microbes or bacteria that accompany them is one of the nature’s most perfect examples of symbiosis. The worms have millions of beneficial bacteria associated with them, both externally, on their skin, in the mucus secretions that keep them moist and also swarming internally inside their gut.

Worms have no teeth, bills or jaws, nor a true stomach and rely on the bacteria swarming around them to actually break down the foodstuff that we put in our bins. The de-constituted foodstuff is altered considerably, such that it can be sucked up by the worms as a slimy paste-like substance. It goes directly into their gizzard and passed onward through a very rudimentary digestive tract, together with the masses of bacteria that are swarming within the slime.

Inside the worm’s gut the breakdown process continues and the worms’ digestive tract, provides a perfect environment for the ingested bacteria, who multiply further and continue to convert  the complex cell structure of the original foodstuff into its basic elements and compounds, altering it into a simpler form that can be used directly by both the worms and the bacteria for nourishment. These simple elements and compounds provide the basic building blocks to sustain both worms and bacteria and are reconstituted according to the messages carried by the DNA to build up the complex cell structures that create the living physiology of both worm and bacterium. A true win/win situation for both organisms.

Large numbers of these bacteria are released back into the worm bin, together with the waste products in the feces or castings – our vermicompost. The microbes will have multiplied in the ideal environment of the worm’s gut and now, greatly increased in numbers, are once again ready to attack new food sources and start the process all over.

Of great importance, these waste products, or vermicompost, excreted by the worms have been thoroughly processed by the microbes and are now in the form of simple elements and compounds, that are readily taken up by our garden plants, providing a highly nutritious food for them. Moreover, any dangerous toxins and infected material would have been simultaneously neutralized by the bacteria within the worms gut, as complex forms of pathogenic material are also broken down into simpler, more basic (harmless) components by the microbes. In the soil, the process continues and worm compost, with its load of beneficial bacteria, will also tend to improve the health of soil around the roots of plants by removing pathogens. This is the beauty of using worms and their huge army of tiny microscopic helpers, for your composting.