This migratory bird is called Turdus migratorius or American robin. The birds rush to eat berries early this winter due to the imminent migration from British Columbia, Canada to warmer California and Mexico. After they mate, lay eggs, and raise their young.

American robin feeds on caterpillars, mosquitoes, earthworms (40%) and berries (60%). One of their favorite berries is the invasive “berry” firethorn or Pyracantha, which is closely related to roses and apples from the family of Rosaceae. The fruit is winter hardy and ferments on the tree. The seed is poisonous to humans because it contain cyanide.

I have ever tried the firethorn berry. It has the varies taste from bold of tannins, a bit sour, and bitter when it fermented is like a medicine such quinine as antimalaria. Actually firethorn fruit is not berry but pome with some hard seeds usually with a pair of seed inside the fleshy tissue in the small fruit.

It is interesting watching the American robins eat their favorite alcoholic berries because if the robins eat too many fruits, they become drunk; walk and fly unsteadily but remain alert and excited. Give them the last provision of high nutritious food and alcohol doping before migrating thousands of kilometers to warmer areas.

In warm areas, this bird is a host or asymptomatic carrier of the West Nile virus, as well as Zika virus, dengue virus, and yellow fever virus. It has been proven that other larger birds such as the crow as well as the beautiful blue jay bird will die if they are infected by those viruses.

These viruses have also claimed many human fatalities, although not as many as coronavirus victims. It can be imagined that if these birds were hunted down and then extinct, the viruses would be more vicious to attack humans. After all, a flock of American robins can still fly free and far during this pandemic.

The photo is courtesy of Macaulay Library, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the photographer is Joshua Covill.

-Bintoro Gunadi

The classical social insects such as ants, termites, and bees have been mentioned and researched in the long history of life science or biology and agriculture. Their crucial roles in the ecosystem are as bioindicators in between pests and beneficial insects as pollinators have been proven influencing of the sustainability of human population.

The insect ancestor fossils back some 400 million years to the Devonian era. There is a limited fossil of the ancestor of earthworms due to their soft and fragile body. According to the scientists, the first worm has been evolving for about 700 million years during the Cryogenian era. And the first living creatures, Annelida, segmented earthworms moved onto land from water by tunneling through underground and eating nutrients from the soil organic matter about 5 million years ago.

Recently, scientists have discovered earthworms form herds and make “group decisions”. The research started 10 years ago by Lara Zirbes at the University of Liege, Belgium. The research with the hypothesis that a social cue influences the earthworm behavior has been published in the Journal of Ethology.

An earthworm uses touch to communicate and influence each other’s behavior. By doing so the worms collectively decide to travel in the same direction as a part of a single herd. The researchers consider the earthworm behavior as the equivalent of a herd or swarm.

The striking behavior found in the compost worm Eisenia fetida, is the first time that any type of worm or annelid member has been shown to form active herds. This interaction is part of the important ecological role of that earthworm. However, the researchers started to notice that the earthworm specially compost worms seemed also to interact with each other by touching.

This behavior will save the compost worm population during the freezing winter just below zero degree Celsius. They can survive by keeping warmer temperature in the herd rather than as an individual. Moreover, the compost worms produce lumbrokinase as an anti-blood clot enzyme to prevent their blood from being frozen.

Individual compost worms or red wigglers Eisenia fetida and Eisenia andrei secrete antibacterial protein called fetidin, potentially deterring soil pathogens through yellow fluid called fetid from its posterior body to deter predators. According to the researchers, gathering into groups or herds may increase the amount of fetid covering the compost worms and hence better protect them against predators.

The photo above is a handful of red wigglers which will be much easier to be harvested during the Winter as they are forming herds during the freezing weather. One handful of compost worms can be used for processing organic waste per one square foot surface area.

Basically, compost worms or red wigglers are hermaphrodites. The female and male reproductive organs are present in the same animals. Each compost worm has both the male part that produces sperms and the female part that produces eggs. It has been reported that the self-fertilization occurs in compost worms from about 10% of its reproduction activities and mostly at the unfavorable conditions for example in harsh environments, too cold or too wet conditions.

The fact that compost worms always try to find their partners first to exchange the sperms and eggs (mating), can be another indication to support that they are a social animal. Instinctively they try to avoid self-fertilization. Self-fertilization will reduce the quality of the genetic materials within their population.

Please visit our website at http://www.burnabyredwigglers.com if you are interested in involving compost worms to create a living soil.

-Bintoro Gunadi


World Soil Day will be held on December 5, 2020 with the theme: “Keep soil alive, protect soil biodiversity”. The aim of this event is to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining healthy ecosystems and human well-being by addressing the growing challenges in soil management, fighting soil biodiversity loss, increasing soil awareness and encouraging governments, organizations, communities and individuals around the world to commit to proactively improving soil health.

For the first time this program was endorsed unanimously in the conference organized by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations in June 2013. In December 2013, the United Nations General Assembly responded by designating 5 December 2014 as the first official World Soil Day.

After 7 years digging, we know that the soil quality and quantity around the world are decreasing to support the healthy ecosystem. Deforestation, intensive agricultural practices, pollutions, climate changes, and lack of soil management are the main causes of the problem that make the soil becoming unfertile and less in soil biodiversity.

According to the study conducted by the scientists from the different countries (Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Singapore, UK, USA) with the title Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Biodiversity Conservation, which was published in Biological Conservation journal (Corlett et al., 2020), it is too early to evaluate the overall impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on biodiversity.

COVID-19 is reducing the human activities. Biodiversity in general including soil biodiversity is benefiting by reducing human activities. On the other hand, reducing the biodiversity can increase the human risk to get contact with zoonosis, diseases that can be passed from animals to humans.

What is soil biodiversity? According to the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative, millions of microbial and animal species live and make up soils, from bacteria and fungi to mites, beetles, and earthworms. Soil biodiversity is the total community from genes to species and varies depending on the environment. The immense diversity in soil allows for a great variety of ecosystem services that benefit the species that inhabit it, the species (including us) that use it, and its surrounding environment.

Charles Darwin in his last book The Formation of Vegetable Mould, through the Action of Worms, with Observations on Their Habits (1881) estimated that arable land or land used  or suitable for growing crops contains up to 53,000 earthworms per acre or about 13 earthworms per square meter. Recent research has produced figures suggesting that even poor soil may support 250,000 earthworms per acre or 62 earthworms per square meter with the addition of the organic matter, while rich fertile farmland may have up to 1,750,000 earthworms per acre or about 432 earthworms per square meter.

After the observation on earthworms in relation to soil fertility and health for over 40 years, Darwin called earthworms “friends of farmers and unheralded soldiers of mankind working day and night under the soil”. Farmers understand the soil without living creatures such as earthworms will be unfertile, unhealthy, and not productive enough to support the growth of the plants.

Creating the living soil by introducing earthworms in situ or directly on site is in accordance with the theme of the World Soil Day 2020: “Keep soil alive, protect soil biodiversity”. The simple way to participate the world soil biodiversity movement is by doing composting and vermicomposting using compost worm or red wigglers to increase the soil biodiversity.

Please contact us at www.burnabyredwigglers.com if you need compost worms and worm castings. Let us know how we can help you to feed the soil using the resource organic waste from your kitchen, office, garden, farm, and food waste or introducing directly the red wigglers to your garden bed soil indoors and outdoors to create a living soil.

-Bintoro Gunadi

Amanita muscaria or Fly Agaric mushroom is one of the most beautiful and eye-catching mushrooms found anywhere, especially in the Northern hemisphere. Most undergraduate students in biology, forestry, chemistry, pharmacy, medicine, or young naturalists have been taught that the elegant shape and bright colorful of genus Amanita can be red, white, orange, yellow, green, or regular brown as a warming color. So, starting from the beginning they learned that Amanita mushrooms are toxic or poisonous.

Fly Agaric mushroom contains Ibotenic acid (C5H6N2O4), its decarboxylation by-product muscimol (C4H6N2O2) and muscarine (C9H20NO2). Although Ibotenic acid can bind the glutamate and aspartate that may create the umami or savory taste, the compound is a powerful neurotoxin that directly influences the central nervous system. Muscimol is a psychoactive compound that displays sedative-hypnotic, depressant, and hallucinogenic psycho-activity. Muscarine is a natural product found in certain mushrooms specially in Amanita. The medical uses of muscarine are as a neurotransmitter that influences the peripheral parasympathetic nervous system in treating glaucoma, gastrointestinal, and urinary tract diseases.

In nature, some animals such dogs, cats, foxes, squirrels, and reindeers eat Amanita mushrooms, and it was reported some of them died because of overdoses. According to the Vancouver Mycological Society, it is rarely people consumed accidentally the Fly Agaric with a red bright cap and white spots on it. It is intentionally ingested by some people seeking the inebriating effects, so these people rarely come to medical attention. This is probably because Amanita muscaria contains lower and more consistent quantities of the neurotoxins, resulting in milder and more predictable effects than its close relative one of the most poisonous mushrooms Dead Cap (Amanita phalloides) and Destroying Angel (Amanita virosa). It is also reported that very few people choose to use Amanita mushroom repeatedly.

The fiction stories about Amanita muscaria starts with the “Fairy Tale Toadstool”. There is a less discussed myth in which it is believed that the Fly Agaric was the forbidden fruit that God forbade Adam and Eve to take in the garden of Eden rather than a red shiny apple. According to some scholars the forbidden fruit was the red shiny mushroom Amanita muscaria. It is well illustrated that the hallucinations from the recognizable red mushroom on the planet could be responsible for Alice’s trip into the Wonderland. Our beloved images of a red-suit Santa Claus and his flying reindeers may be caused by eating Fly Agaric that make Santa always “fly-high” happy and the reindeers also enjoy the Amanita mushroom.

There are two meanings of Amanita muscaria as a Fly Agaric mushroom. First, it is because some species of small flies use Amanita muscaria as their host to lay hundreds of eggs and their larvae (maggots) that can destroy this mushroom overnight by causing them to decompose. On the other hand, Amanita muscaria powder diluting in the milk is traditionally used for catching house fly Musca domestica. Second meaning, as it has been discussing before that the compounds of the Fly Agaric can really make people fly-high, hallucination, drunk, and even death of the overdoses. Amanita muscaria is a conundrum because it is poisonous and edible at the same time. As the Amanita’s toxins are water soluble, special preparation required to remove the toxins. This mushroom is not good for the dinner although it produces umami or savory yummy taste.

This late Autumn I walked in the woods and found several colonies of Amanita muscaria. I found that Fly Agaric growth in pine forest had dark red shiny color rather than lighter red color in the birch forest, and the young unopened cap was darker red than the opened cap. The right photo is Amanita muscaria at the pine habitat and the left photo at the birch habitat. Fly Agaric belongs to Basidiomycete fungus that forms symbiotic relationship with various coniferous trees (such as pine and spruce) and deciduous trees (birch, oak, hickory). It is normally found growing in sandy and acidic soils (pH 6 – 6.5).

At least there are five varieties or Amanita muscaria i.e. A. muscaria var. muscaria (bright red cap with white warts), A. muscaria var. guessowii or formosa (yellow-orange cap with yellowish warts), A. muscaria var. flavivolvata (orange-red cap with yellowish warts), A. muscaria var. regalis (brown cap with white warts), A. muscaria var. inzengae (orange-yellow cap with yellowish warts). Unfortunately, the molecular analysis does not support this neat classification by color or habitat characteristics. Someday all the Amanita muscaria varieties may become new species.

People want to try muscaria as an edible mushroom undoubtedly because as an entheogen to get high with hallucination experiences, and the cost for this can be fatal. This human habit may seriously influence the conservation of this species. Fortunately, nature gives an enigma as the dosage of the neurotoxins and psychoactive compounds, as they change not only from one mushroom to another stage and habitat, and even within the same mushroom with different parts of it, but also from person to person with different effects at different times.

Traditional uses and benefits of Fly Agaric in medicine are as a treatment for sore throats, arthritis, and as an analgesic, a sedative or depressant. Mushroom tincture helps to relieve sciatica (back pain) and other pains, including joint pain and swollen lymph node. It is also applied to external infections for example nail fungus and skin conditions found in Lyme disease. However, these uses and benefits are not supported yet by the scientific research.

The legal status of psychoactive Amanita muscaria mushrooms in relation to the muscimol content is different in each country. Fly Agaric is illegal for example in Australia, Netherlands, Thailand, but are considered legal in Sweden, North America (Canada and United States), and Russia. In the Netherlands, A. muscaria and A. pantherina are illegal since 2008. Possession of any amount larger than 0.5 g dried or 5 g fresh leads to a criminal charge.

-Bintoro Gunadi

Remembering my childhood, I used to have many crickets and their best diet was purslane. I was curious and once I have tried, the taste was not bad, crunchy, and juicy. Purslane as vegetable has a unique taste; it is slightly sour, salty, and has an herb smell. My personal experience with the taste of purslane from childhood until now, brings me to the taste of my own tears and sweats; it seems familiar and healthy for us.

Once William Cobbett, a farmer and journalist in his book The English Gardener mentioned about purslane that it was “eaten by Frenchmen and pigs when they can get nothing else”. The scientific name of Purslane or pursley is Portulaca oleracea. It belongs to the family annual succulent flowering plant Portulacaceae. The meaning of oleracea is real vegetable or herbal. The leaves, stems, yellow flower buds and seed of purslane are all edible. Purslane is used in culinary and medicine.

Purslane is widely used as salad in some countries in Mediterranean (Spanish verdolaga salad), Northern Africa (in Egypt as cooked vegetable), Southern Europe (Greek andrakla salad), South East Asia (Indonesian krokot salad). Scientists suggested that the plant was already eaten by native Americans, who spread its seeds. Aboriginal Australians use the purslane seeds to make seedcakes.

The nutritional facts of raw purslane vegetable are about 3% carbohydrate, 2% protein, and 0.5% fat. It is good for diet. In a 100gram reference amount, raw purslane supplies 20 calories. Purslane is rich amount of the daily value (DV) of vitamin A 1320 IU, vitamin B complex up to 25%, vitamin C 25%, vitamin E 81% and moderate content of several dietary minerals calcium 7%, iron 15%, magnesium 19%, manganese 14%, phosphorus 6%, potassium 11%, zinc 2% DV respectively.

The water content of purslane is about 93%. Recently, it is reported that purslane is the richest vegetable source of alpha-linolenic acids, an essential omega-3 fatty acid. Purslane is also a natural source of melatonin as an insomnia or sleeping disorder treatment. It is found to have seven times higher the beta-carotene or orange-red pigment of carrots.

Purslane can also be used as purgative or laxative, cardiac tonic, emollient, muscle relaxant, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic treatment that makes it important in herbal medicine. Purslane has also been used in the treatment of osteoporosis and psoriasis. Please consult with your medical doctor if you would like to use purslane in salad plate and natural medication because it contains oxalates. Oxalates is natural compound also found in spinach, chard, beet greens and rhubarb may cause problem for people susceptible to kidney stones

Potulaca oleracea or purslane is one of very few plants able to utilize both CAM and C4 photosynthesis pathways. CAM (crassulacean acid metabolism) is a carbon fixation pathway that evolved in some plants as an adaptation to arid conditions. Basically, stomata or pores in the leaves remain shut during the day to reduce evapotranspiration, but open at night to collect carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. Usually most plant require the stomata to be open during daytime and shut at night on C4 (four-carbon molecule) carbon fixation photosynthesis pathway.

As purslane has 2 pathways in photosynthesis, the plant can be used as a companion plant. Companion planting in gardening and agriculture is the planting of different crops in proximity for any of a number of different reasons for example pest control, pollination, providing habitat for beneficial insects, maximizing use of space, and to otherwise increase crop productivity. Companion planting is used by farmers and gardeners in both industrialized and developing countries since many centuries ago.

As a companion plant, purslane provides ground cover to create a humid microclimate for nearby plants and stabilizing ground moisture. Purslane deep roots bring up moisture and nutrients that those plants can use, and some including corn, will follow purslane roots down through harder soil that they cannot penetrate on their own. The role of purslane in this case as a companion plant is similar as pioneer species plant.

Purslane seed needs light to germinate so they must stay on the surface of the soil. If you are using purslane cuttings, lay the stems on the ground where you plan on growing purslane. Water it and they should produce roots in the soil within a few days.

The photo above was taken in Autumn. Purslane can be matched with aloe plants. Please contact us at www.burnabyredwigglers.com if you need purslane and aloe plants that grow well with the application of worm castings.

-Bintoro Gunadi

Most people enjoy many fruits that are considered edible either raw or cooked. According to some reports, about 25% of mammalian herbivores eat fruits and most mammalian omnivores include fruits as a primary item in their diets. Animals that eat entirely or predominantly fruits or fruit-like vegetables which are called frugivores. Bats, orangutans, gorillas, and humans are among the members of the most common frugivorous mammals that are regularly mentioned as fruit lovers.

Evolutionary scientists believe that frugivory evolved through mutualism or relationship that is beneficial to both organisms involved, to facilitate seed dispersal in plants. They have studied flowering plants diversity through fossils record since the Cretaceous period about 146 to 66 million years ago. Basically, in a natural way, the plants which produce fruits will attract mammals including humans to eat more and more the fruits in order to help their seeds dispersal and make sure that their new generation will survive everywhere, any time according to their grand strategy.

Most of the edible fruits have very attractive shape, color, smell, taste, texture (crunchy and juicy), and very high sugar, so they are nutritious and have a lot of vitamin content. Moreover, some plants which bear yummy fruits also develop tough and poisonous seeds like in wild apples to make sure that their seeds will be successful, not destroyed by frugivores. So, the seeds will thrive well as far as possible. 

In nature, like plants, the frugivore animals have also undergone some adaptations over time to be successful, for example facilitating seed dispersal in their fruit-eating activity. In some birds, their digestive system is adapted such that they can consume large numbers of fruits without any negative side effects. For instance, some birds have a shorter intestine, which allows them to pass the seeds out from the fruits they eat and keep moving, be hyperactive to burn fast the high caloric of the nutritious fruits.

Some fruiting plants have also evolved mechanisms to decrease consumption of fruits when unripe by physical deterrents (e.g. green fruits are unpalatable) and chemical deterrents (e.g. toxins, starch that is slowly converted to fructose as the fruit ripens). In general, stir fried green tomatoes contain more minerals, yellow tomatoes contain more vitamins, while red ripe tomatoes contain more sugar and lycopene. Eating colorful tomatoes is the best with the full benefits for our body and mind.

In humans, coevolution or the influence of closely associated species on each other (frugivores – fruit plants) can be a warning for fruit believers or fruit lovers. Eating too much nutritious high vitamins fruits can be superfluous. The excess of nutrients and vitamins cannot be saved in our body, it will be a waste, and the excess of the sugar can trigger obesity or even diabetes.

There is a story in the scriptures about the forbidden fruit growing in the garden of Eden which God commands mankind not to eat otherwise they will die. Forbidden fruit is a metaphor that describes any object of desire whose appeal results from the knowledge that it should not be obtained. Remember the hungers, the poor, and the unlucky ones to control our appetite on attractive fruits. Share the excess of edible fruits with others, so we can help all generations to be stronger and live longer.

Be aware and be prepared not to fall in the trap of the grand strategy of the plants that bear amazing fruit, especially in this new millennium with the very tight fruits business competition. It seems that the dependence of addition of chemicals, hormones, pesticides, and production of genetically modified fruit in order to supply the fruits market are unavoidable.

Furthermore, global warming creates more pests, so many treatments are hiding behind the attractive fruits on the farms and before reaching the supermarkets. Never eat too much fruit and try to eat reasonably seasonal fruits. If there are contaminants on the fruit, it will not accumulate in our body.

Are you ready to challenge the grand strategy of the fruiting plants and to face the temptation of the attractive fruit by sharing the excess seasonal fruits production with neighbors and friends?

Photo is courtesy of Getty Images by Carsten Schanter

-Bintoro Gunadi

The natural way of eating cannot be separated from the natural way of farming or organic farming. Organic farming has been defined as crop or animal husbandry with natural materials and does not permit the use of manufactured materials such as fertilizers and chemicals. The natural way of eating mostly is safer for us because it is less contaminants.

Healthy eating and healthy gardening can be supported by being locavores because we know more what we eat and where it comes from. Locavore is a person who only eats food that grows or produced nearby or in their local area or region within a 100-mile (about 160 kilometers) distance from their home. This movement also will minimize the effect of global warming, and costs (for example production and transportation).

Beyond the sources of the foods we eat through the natural foods and being locavores, other food factors are important to support our healthy life. Try to avoid processed foods. Eat seasonal foods particularly with the rotation of eating the vegetables, fruits, seeds, and animal husbandry, also fish. Get a good quality and quantity of the foods you eat, enjoy your own food cultures or habits, and sample others if you like. Last but not least, exercise and reflection are important as a result of meditation to develop well-being, and the state of happiness, health, and prosperity.

Seasonal foods and human feeding habits have been mentioned formerly in this publication in my blog https://burnabyredwigglers.wordpress.com/2016/05/01/seasonal-foods-and-human-feeding-habits/. Many more people may be suffering from getting too much protein, than suffering from getting too little protein https://burnabyredwigglers.wordpress.com/2019/01/01/earthworm-based-protein/. And this is the benefits of the unusual reverse exercise for the body and peace of mind https://burnabyredwigglers.wordpress.com/2019/11/01/walking-backwards/.

In this pandemic year with unwelcomed coronavirus COVID-19, building our autoimmune system through healthy foods and habits is of the utmost important. “Which is more important seed or soil? It is the soil, not the seed”.

If we compare eating healthy foods with planting seeds in good soil, of course having good soil is more important than the seeds.  Louis Pasteur’s parable reminds us that “the microbe is nothing” and that “the soil is everything.” In other words, if germs were seeds, in order for them to germinate and grow into viable diseases, they would need fertile soil. The question we need to ask ourselves is, “What is the condition of my body?” Is your body a “Disease Gardener’s Paradise”, or are you actively doing things to make your body an inhospitable residence for germs?”

One of the oldest animals is the turtle. The land tortoise on the Seychelles Islands has a life expectancy of over 100 years in the wild; even in captivity it can live longer for about 250 years. Some sea turtles have been researched to live to an average age of 150 years.

There was a publication in Scientific American magazine about the secret of why sea turtles can live longer. It is because they switch feeding habits from carnivores, eating meat when they were young to becoming mostly herbivores, eating plants as adult until the rest of their life. And most of them do exercise, keep moving by swimming regularly during the long migration.

The long-life theory of turtles that switch from carnivore snacks to herbivore diets was debated by the scientists recently. Some studies have revealed that the diet of green turtles is more complex than previously thought. Adult sea turtles are omnivores, they eat anything. They were recorded eating over 30 different food items seagrass, red algae, brown algae, green algae, small animals, and other items incidentally ingested.

The legend Li Ching-Yuen, herbalist and Qigong practitioner known for his supposed extreme longevity, was reported in Time magazine edition of 15 May 1933, one week after he died naturally outdoors at the age of 197 years. Li’s secret of a long life: Keep a quiet heart. Sit like a tortoise. Walk sprightly like a pigeon. Sleep like a dog. And eat less.

The natural way of eating supported by organic farming, being locavore, and learning from nature by doing exercises should be our way of life to be healthy and happy.

-Bintoro Gunadi

The photo above is courtesy of Brad Ashdown of RLC Park Services Canada. The vermicomposting toilets are located just inland from the sea at Sombrio Beach on the southwest coast of Vancouver Island of Port Renfrew, British Columbia, Canada. The system has 2 pit toilets sitting over the outside chamber. There are 6 chambers, 3 for each of the 2 toilet buildings that sit atop of the constructed pit as shown in the photo. Once the first chamber is full, the toilet is slid over to the second chamber, and so on.

Essentially the wooden constructed area below the pit toilet building is lined with a fine mesh screen, so that urine can escape and insects together with the small animals can’t enter the system. All the human excrement deposits in this area and wood shavings are added periodically to the pile. Each chamber is approximately 12 square feet in size and with initial compost worms or red wigglers density of 4 handfuls or about 2 pounds of worms including bedding per chamber. When the area below the pit toilet is filled with excrement and shavings, the toilet is moved to the adjacent chamber.

As shown in the photo that along the wooden wall there are cross walls creating separate square chambers, each the size of the toilet building. Essentially there becomes the pile of excrement and wood shavings that has plenty of air flow. With the help of the compost worms and beneficial soil microbes, the pile is decomposed to a smaller pile of soil that can be excavated as humus from the chamber; so that the vermicomposting toilet building can eventually be moved back over it again for use.

The effectiveness of vermiculture and vermicomposting in human pathogen reduction for USEPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) biosolids stabilization has been studied in Orange County, Orlando, Florida by Eastman et al (2001). A field experiment tested the feasibility of vermicomposting as a method for eliminating for four human pathogens indicator (fecal coliform, Salmonella spp., enteric viruses, and helminth ova) obtain USEPA Class A stabilization in domestic wastewater residuals (biosolids). It is an honor for me to be one of the co-authors of the article above.

The conclusion is that compost worms Eisenia fetida have a consumption rate of 1.5 times their biomass every 24 hours proportionally with the percentage of compost worm biomass to biosolids at a 1.7 ratio weekly. Additional biosolids should not be incorporated for a minimum 6 days to maximize pathogens reduction. Compost worms should not be harvested before this time.

Vermiculture – vermicomposting is safe for the environment, however due to compost worm population, sustainability and fluctuation, the stabilization time will need to be proportionally adjusted until a stabilization equilibrium is obtained and maintained as confirmed by sampling analysis.

According to the applied finding above, the baseline guide for quantity of compost worms and amount of biosolids to be stabilized and safe for the human can be described: Kilogram of biosolids divided by 7 = Biosolids per day divided by 1.5 (consumptive rate of compost worms) = Kilogram of earthworms required for stabilization.

-Bintoro Gunadi

There is no good or bad living creature in nature, all are the same and each has its own role in the natural environment. In a man-made environment living creatures are always sorted, beneficial creatures are cultivated or domesticated, while those which harm are eradicated. Domestication of plants and animals plays an important role in human history.

Domestication is totally different from natural selection. This artificial selection activity if not well controlled, will disrupt the natural balance (homeostasis) and slowly but surely turn out to be chaotic, or even fatal. The coronavirus pandemic this year is an example of the environment out of control by humans after the virus went beyond its carrying capacity in its natural host, presumably bats and then attacking humans.

Just remember that together with some scientists in North America once I conducted sanitation applied research in the early millennium regarding enteric (gastrointestinal tract) viruses along with other abdominal diseases namely fecal coliform bacteria, Salmonella spp. bacteria, and helminth ova (parasite of stomach worms). The four diseases are common in dirty areas and can naturally be controlled by earthworms. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsessionid=8B25DCC845A1D907E7AD47D24AF1A405?doi=10.1.1.506.662&rep=rep1&type=pdf

In this research decomposer or saprovore, a detritus or dead particulate organic material-eating animal, the earthworm is symbiotic with beneficial soil microbes during the formation of soil, which can control the enteric virus naturally. Virus is a dead object containing debris in the genetic material of DNA or RNA, an infectious agent that can only breed in the body of living creatures ranging from bacteria to humans. Because it is not a living creature then viruses cannot be killed.

Amazingly the oldest animal in the earth that has nearly the same age during the cooling down of earth, an earthworm can control the population of the enteric virus by decomposing them.

One of the group of earthworms is the compost worm. This living creature is already on earth, evolved since millions of years ago. This compost worm produces antimicrobial which is called Fetidin to adapt in the “dirty” place that many living creatures cannot survive. Until now there has been no scientific report that earthworms become sick. They are disease resistant, they die by being killed, drought, or eaten by predators.

The cleansing or sterilization of COVID-19 outside the human body is one way that controlled distribution stops infecting and killing humans. Keep in mind this action also kills many other microbes that are beneficial for humans. This needs to be observed and anticipated, as well as how the food security and human immune system can be decreasing or less resistant to the disinfectant trials.

I was dreaming that the virus particularly coronavirus is like the virus in tulip flowers or tobacco plants, which can make the plant stronger and the color of the flower more vibrant. In fiction you may remember the young Batman received “power” after experiencing with a colony of bats in bad condition. Sure, someday the coronavirus can make us stronger (in immunity and economy) and reset our peace of mind to be more efficient in taking care of our community, environment, and living soil in the one and only world we have.

The photo above is courtesy of Thilo Schmuelgen/Reuters. Coronavirus carnival in Dusseldorf at the end of February 2020, just before COVID-19 outbreak in Germany.

-Bintoro Gunadi


Over a year ago Bill Gates held up a beaker of human feces at the reinvented toilet expo in Beijing on November 6, 2018 to bring a message: unsanitary conditions are dangerous for our health as it was reported by Business Insider. From the outside, the toilet looks like any other pit latrine. The toilets involve no traditional flushing and aren’t hooked to a sewer system. Instead red wigglers or tiger worms or compost earthworms are introduced in a container below the toilet, and they feast on feces.

This idea is brilliant because clean water is getting to be too much a luxury to flush human feces in many countries. Giving the rest to the compost worms and the beneficial soil microbes to do their job as decomposers is a great innovation. The amazing creatures’ activity leaves behind a mix of water, carbon dioxide, and a small amount of worms’ poo or worm castings or vermicompost, Even it’s much less toxic and more nutrient-rich than ours.

Since 2015, a creative new type of toilet called the Tiger Worm has been introduced for testing in India. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded $4.8 million in grant money to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine for research to improve the technology and USAID supported $170 thousand for initial testing in India, Myanmar, and Uganda. “We estimated that by 2030, the opportunity here is over $6 billion a year,” Gates said.

Most of us don’t really care about Bill Gates business for other reasons, but we like this idea. Now, after years of development and field testing around the world, the technology is finally reaching people who need it most.

The facts about worm toilets or vermicomposting toilets:
– Worm toilets require no traditional flushing and aren’t hooked up to a sewer system; instead, worms compost human waste.
– More than 4,000 such Tiger Worm Toilets have been installed to date across India, in homes of people who were previously defecating in the open area.
– The worm toilets smell a lot better than a pit latrine, and don’t breed mosquitoes and germs either.
– Here’s how a $350 prototype toilet powered by worms could change the world and saves lives.
– The worms and soil microbes produce a water, carbon dioxide, and worms’ poo or worm castings, that’s much less toxic and more nutrient-rich than ours for the fertility of this planet.

Vermicomposting toilet is safe for the environment, however due to compost worm population, sustainability and fluctuation, the stabilization time will need to be proportionally adjusted until a stabilization equilibrium is obtained and maintained as confirmed by sampling analysis.

Oxford Committee for Famine Relief (Oxfam) and International Institute for Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering (IHE) Delft have been developing the Tiger Worm Toilet in Rakhine State, Myanmar since last year. This type of toilet operates at a communal level to serve up to 20 people in refugee camps. One of the biggest challenges in refugee camps is sanitation and the management of human feces. The compost worms convert the human waste into a dry and easier to handle dry worm castings or vermicompost. The photo is courtesy of IHE Delft, The Netherlands.

-Bintoro Gunadi