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“Red Worms For Sale” – Part I

Does This Look Familiar?

On a fairly regular basis (more so, as of late) I am asked to recommend worm suppliers. It is something I’m always more than happy to do, since it will hopefully ensure that one less person get ripped off by worm dealers who are more interested in making a few bucks (there is only so far you can run with that business model) than providing any real value.

I apologize for the tone of this post – certainly not my usual happy, upbeat nature. I guess you could say I’m feeling pretty ticked off, and I thought it was a prime opportunity to write about it on the blog.

I received an e-mail yesterday from one of our readers, asking for advice regarding the care of European Nightcrawlers. It read as follows:

Hi Bentley,

First off, I’d like to let you know that I am really glad I found
your site. It has plenty of useful information and is quite easy to
read.

Anyway, I recently purchased 1/2 a pound of European Nightcrawlers
but it turned out to be 1/2 a pound of dirt with maybe 8 worms inside
the bag.

I am new at raising worm (4 days), and I’m hoping you can give me
some advice on feeding such a small population.
Is once a week too much?

By the way, some of these little guys are quite limp (my 2 year old
says they’re sleeping). In your opinion are they old and on their way
out or just reacting to their new home?

Their new home is a 1.5 x 2.0 ft bin with about 6 inches of potting
mix covered by shredded newspaper.

Forgive my ignorance, but I would like to get this right and raise
them properly. So, your input would be greatly appreciated.

I thank you in advance for your help and look forward to your reply.

(emphasis mine)

Here is a innocent person, excited about the possibilities of setting up a family worm composting bin for the first time, and yet they end up getting treated like dirt (no pun intended)! It is beyond me how any “business person” can logically justify this kind of behaviour. Word of mouth is a very powerful thing – especially here in the web age. No longer do people have to sit back while businesses walk all over them – we finally have a way to make our opinions and experiences known.

With that mini-rant out of the way, let me assure you that I have no intention of ‘outing’ the offender here. That’s not my style, and I think that everyone deserves a second chance. I’m hopeful that by writing this post, I will help to inspire all worm sellers to conduct their business with the highest level of honesty and integrity. Hopefully I’ll also be able to help people avoid these sorts of situations altogether!

So how do you find reputable worm dealers?

Well, to be totally honest I tend to believe that there are far more good, hard working, honest worm sellers out there than scammers. Sadly it is the latter group that ends up putting a big black smear on the industry as a whole…but I digress (fodder for another post for sure). Even with so many decent retailers out there, I think it’s not a bad idea to chat a little about what to look for in a worm dealer.

Pricing – This is probably one of the primary ways that people get into trouble with disreputable dealers (just a guess on my part, however). As with most things in life – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! I can still vividly remember my experience with a particular vermicomposting business here in Ontario back when I was just getting into the hobby. They offered “1 lb” of red wigglers for a very low price (we’ll chat more about actual numbers in a minute), and I naively assumed that they were simply providing ‘more bang for your buck’! Given that they were located a relatively short drive away, I asked them if it was ok for me to come pick the worms up. I was bursting with enthusiasm and was hoping they might even let me take a mini tour of their operation (I asked if this was ok).

The first warning sign was probably the less-than-friendly (and short) e-mail replies I received back, but I certainly didn’t let that get to me. After all – everybody has their share of bad days, right?

When I arrived to pick up my worms it was pouring rain – but given the excitement of my very first visit to a worm farm I certainly didn’t let a little rain dampen my spirits…that is until they said “you have to wait out here”, while they went inside to get my worms and castings!! To add insult to injury, when I got in the car and opened up my package of worms I was greeted by the lamest excuse-for-a-pound-of-worms I’ve ever seen. Saying it was likely in the 1/4 lb range is undoubtedly being generous on my part!

To top it off, the ‘castings’ were very poor quality and I’m pretty sure they were even responsible for the bad case of Verticillium wilt my tomato crop had that year (and for a couple years afterwards).

Strangely enough, this individual is no longer in the worm business (as far as I can tell) – go figure!
:roll:

Back to pricing…

I certainly don’t mean to imply that ‘good deals’ are only offered by disreputable worm farmers – not at all. The pricing for 1 lb of red wiggler worms (Eisenia fetida) tends to be in the $15-30 USD range. An example of a highly reputable dealer offering a very fair price is Flowerfield Enterprises, the business started by highly-respected vermicomposting educator, Mary Appelhof (who sadly passed away in May 2005). They offer 1 lb of worms for only $19 (and 2 lbs for $34). This reminds me – make sure you read the fine print if you encounter a site advertising worms for exceptionally low prices. They may in fact be referring to their bulk discount price (eg ‘if you order at least 10lbs of worms, we’ll sell them for $10/lb’).

Also be sure you know what quantity of worms you are getting. While many in the industry seem to agree that 1 lb of red worms is made up of approximately 1000 individuals. What’s interesting is that one of the websites I’ve come across selling really cheap worms actually states that 1 lb is approximately 600 individuals, while another site with fairly expensive pricing mentions 1200 worms in a pound. Creative math at its finest! If a seller provides numbers only (no weight) I would recommend getting in touch and finding out how they sort them – ie. are they hand counted or is it simply an estimate based on weight (if so, what weight ratio are they using for the calculation)?

Friendliness / Response Time – This is a MAJOR one in my books! I pride myself on being a ‘really nice guy’, and it really irks me when others don’t return the courtesy – especially when they are helping me part ways with my hard-earned dollars! I’m a big fan of the bumper sticker that says “Mean People Suck!”, and there is nothing quite as off-putting for me as being treated rudely by a retailer, or made to feel like my needs are unimportant.

Again, to me this just makes ZERO sense! If you are trying to help someone purchase your goods, isn’t it a given that you should AT LEAST be nice to them? Maybe it’s just me!
:lol:

When trying out a new worm seller (or online business in general, for that matter), I would highly recommend sending them an email intially to see what sort of response you get back. I actually did this myself not too long ago. Prior to Jeff (who also prides himself on being ‘friendly’) offering to send me European Nightcrawlers, I was shopping around for a supplier. I came across a very nice looking website, and they were even located in Canada. Their information was a wee bit vague (I wasn’t 100% sure what kind of worms they were actually selling) so I decided to send them a friendly email to commend them on their site and inquire about their worms. Weeks later I finally received a short response back.

The end result…”No money for you!!!”
:lol:

After all, if they don’t take their business seriously enough, why should I?

Like I said, everyone deserves a second chance. Obviously we can’t expect people to respond to our emails within an hour and be absolutely brimming with friendliness all the time – that might be a little creepy in fact!
If someone falls short in the response time department, next see what their personality is like. Aside from simply being ‘nice’, are they eager to help with any and all of your questions? Do they seem knowledgeable (assuming you have asked something specific)?

All of these little things can add up to provide you with a pretty good sense of the type of business you are dealing with.

Anyway, this is turning into a novella here, so I’m going to break down this topic into a multi-part series (I may be able to wrap it up with the next post, but we shall see). Lots more to talk about still.

Stay tuned!

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Written by Bentley on January 16th, 2008 with 14 comments.
Read more articles on General commentary and Worms.

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14 comments

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Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Karen
#1. January 17th, 2008, at 2:03 PM.

Hi Bentley. I couldn’t agree more about disreputable worm sellers. We would always replace worms that didn’t look “up to scratch” and are always on hand to offer help and advice.

Karen, Wiggly Wigglers

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#2. January 17th, 2008, at 2:29 PM.

Hiya Karen,
Thanks for popping by!
Your approach is definitely the best way to go. It certainly doesn’t hurt that you are also very active online, making it much easier for people to get in touch and get to know you much better in general (reminds me – this is something I’ll chat about in my “Part II”).

Thanks again

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Ryan
#3. January 21st, 2008, at 1:23 AM.

I don’t know how someone could scam someone like that, they must have no soul. Especially to scam someone that is trying to make this planet a better enviroment for others. *Grunts* Sometimes I wonder about our species.

-Ryan

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#4. January 21st, 2008, at 3:53 AM.

I hear ya, Ryan – pretty lame!
The good news is that our unlucky friend (the one with 8 worms) is going to get his worms after all (but not from the same company), and at a very special rate I might add. ;-)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com bobby
#5. April 17th, 2009, at 5:21 PM.

THANKS,BENTLY FOR THE INFO. ON THE WEB.TODAY IS THE FIRST DAY FOR ME TO LOOK UP RED WORMES. A FRIEND GAVE ME SOME A YEAR A GO AND DONT HAVE ENOUGH TABLE SCRAPS FOR THEM .WHAT CAN I FEED THEM? ANY HELP YOU CAN PREVIDE,I WOULD LIKE,THANKS BOBBY

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com rodney
#6. March 12th, 2010, at 9:14 PM.

I started composting last August and just realized that I needed to have red worms in my composter. I have 2 plastic bins full of food scraps, grass clippings, newspapers, paper bags etc. Is it as easy as buying worms and put them in the full containers or is it to late for what these 2 containers? Will I need to start over? Will I need to bring the compost bins in my cellar during the cold NH winters? I wasn’t sure if the worms would live in the cold NH winters.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bob Collinsworth
#7. March 31st, 2010, at 2:57 AM.

Hi Rodney:

I live in South Western NH (Keene area). What part of the state do you live in?

Bob Collinsworth

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Deb
#8. May 19th, 2010, at 3:17 PM.

I just wanted to say that I visited wormwoman.com and I ended up calling them to place an order. A lady named Nancy answered and she was really knowledgeable and was so nice. I told her I was new to worm composting and she told me if I ever have any questions to just give them a call. How great is that?! I thought it was really great that they were so willing to help me get started. At this point in time, with the level of service I received, I will go to them whenever I need to purchase something and I highly recommend them.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Matthew
#9. June 25th, 2011, at 5:52 PM.

My parents and I have been composting for about 2 years here in Southern California. We have a rotating compost tumbler (I call it a “bingo or raffle” style tumbler). If I buy these worms, can I just throw them into tumbler? We mostly add dried grass clippings, dried vegetable/fruit pulps (we juice), and miscellaneous weeds and dead plants.

Also, when you use the finished compost for planting, do you separate the worms out when you mix in your compost to your garden? Thanks!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jim Hoke
#10. August 13th, 2011, at 2:28 PM.

Hi, your site was the first one I got on this morning, but was impressed with your attitude and knowledge to the point that I don’t need to look any further or at any more sites. I do a couple of questions I hope you’ll help me with. One of my best friends has some dariesin Chino so I’ll have an adequate food supply. My questions are: I would like to leave the manurer loose under a huge Grapefruit tree. It would stay shaded all the time. Will this be a problem? I didn’t think it would be a problem, but thought I should ask an expert. Ater I’ve leached the manure and have it ready to introduce the worms , how many pounds do you think would be good to start with? Probably a 20×20 foot area. I plan to plant Calivia, a type of lilly, in this area, leaving only a small foot path to get in and harvest the fruit and pick up ones that have fallen from the tree. I’m thinking the worms would find them a little sour for their diet. I’ll leave an arera for feeding off to one side.Those seem to be the questions. 1. Is the shade a problem. 2. How many pounds of worms should I start with? 3. How much a pound do the red worms sell for? If you would be kind enough to answer these questions, you would acquire a new friend in Upland California. Thanks again Jim

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bassbuster
#11. August 15th, 2011, at 4:08 PM.

Matthew:

You can add worms to your tumbler if you are keeping the temperture down by having the unit in the shade and adding plenty of water to it. I would drill quite a few 1/4″ holes around the outside of the drum and water it daily with non chlorinated water. Composting refers to biologicallly decomposing waste products but by adding worms technically you are vermiposting and the requirements are different. Composting the higher the temperature the better….not true for worms. Worms are about 80% water and will die and rot in minutes at much above 90 degrees. Hot compost can easily reach 200 degrees. Add your grass clipping green but mix well with dried leaves,cardboard,planer shavings (many wood shops give them away) straw or newspaper. I get more than enough cardboard from several local stores dumpsters. You can use wood chips from a tree service also if they are from a dead tree or you want to run them over several times with your mover and then let them age in a seperate pile Mixing 50% brown with 50% grass clippings just about eliminates all odor. If you are using fall leaves or tree service chips you can add green grass clippings several times before all is consumed. Got a friend who works at a restaurant? Ask if you drop off a 30 gall on barrel if they will save used coffee grounds for you. They can include filters. If you really want to increase your scale leave a barrel for any lettuce,watermelon,cantelope, muskmelon,apple scraps. If you grind these in a blender and add water and soak the in the juice and throw in the puld you will have huge worms and huge numbers in no time. Contrary to popular belief they can and do “chew” to some degree and the smaler you make the particles the better. Put in a small piece of water meon and look at it a couple days later. You will find holes or even tunnels into it. If you remove these worms and put them in moist peat moss or shredded paper you will find they lose about 30% of their size in a matter of a few hours….they are gourging themselves on the melon/cardboard pulp.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Pamela Linebaugh
#12. January 2nd, 2012, at 8:42 PM.

hi i just got into worm composting last august after buying redworms from a bait shop after opening the bait cups up i found alot of cocoons in with the worms and 2 baby worms it was a bait cup of 30 worms plus cocoons and baby worms from over 60 cocoons in 4 different bait cups even if i still feed them i gave them to the center and am now looking for a place to buy a lb from to used in a home bin any ideals i gave the ones i had to a center i go to they got interested in them after i told them what i found on them we used the adults worms as bait the cocoons been hatching the last few months the center is called ADDvantage Center they wanted them for a class and to used the bigger worms as bait in june i still help with them they are now close to 30 worms in there now i brought the worms from a bait store in alum creek in ohio but most bait places aint selling worms at the moment

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com John
#13. January 29th, 2013, at 3:53 PM.

You’re clearly a nice guy…. but you didn’t answer any of the questions in the letter. I want to start worm composting and it would be great to here answers to the questions in that letter. “Once a week feeding..?” “Are worms adjusting to…?” and you didn’t address the bin size.
Perhaps there is an original response that I am missing where you answered these questions.
Thanks

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#14. January 29th, 2013, at 4:06 PM.

Hi John,
If you are referring to the comments on this blog post when you say “letter”…unfortunately, it’s a matter of not being able to keep up with all the comments left on this site, especially on really old posts like this. The absolute BEST way to reach me with questions is always going to be via my contact page (found in upper navigation). If you are looking for general vermicomposting information, my 76 page vermicomposting guide and the “getting started” pages can certainly keep you busy for a while!
8)

Thanks for your interest

Bentley

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