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Raising Earth Worms

A 'Squirm' of Red Worms

It’s funny, I spend so much time reminding people that ‘regular’ soil worms are not well suited for worm composting, yet here I am talking about raising ‘earthworms’. Be assured that the term ‘earthworm’ refers to a wide assortment of different worms, including those used for composting, and does not in fact solely refer to the ‘worms of the earth’ (aka the soil dwellers).


With that out of the way, let’s now talk about how to properly raise worms. I think a lot of people forget about the fact that they are essentially taking care of a living breathing creature – a large number of them in fact – when they start up a worm composting (or worm farming) system. In general, most of the composting worm species are quite tolerant of less-than-ideal conditions, but for the optimal performance of your worm system, your wiggly friends need to have their needs met.

The following is a basic (and brief) guide to the conditions required to raising earthworms effectively. Be assured, I will continue to add more to this page over time.

So what exactly do the worms need?

1) Moisture
2) Warmth
3) A Food source
4) Darkness
5) Oxygen

These are the major requirements (in no particular order) when it comes to taking care of your worms. Let’s now chat about each of them in more detail.


Moisture
Earthworms breathe through their skin and thus need to stay moist at all times. Anyone who has had worms crawl out of their bins will know from experience that they can shrivel up and die relatively quickly, so it is vitally important to make sure that the material in yoru worm bins/beds never dries up – in fact, you should be keeping your bedding as moist as possible. That being said, moisture content can be a double-edged sword. Too much moisture can interfere with one of the other mentioned requirements – oxygen! Water can only hold a certain amount of oxygen (a lot less than air), and as such can go ‘anaerobic’ (ie lose its oxygen) quite quickly – especially in the case of organically-rich liquids which are full of oxygen consuming microorganisms.

Many people refer to the ideal moisture content of a worm bin as being similar to that of a “wrung out sponge”. This is an easy do-it-yourself determination of moisture content that has been borrowed from the composting (ie ‘regular’ composting – not worm composting) field. Research has actually shown that composting worms typically prefer a moisture content higher than that typically recommended for thermophilic composting – even as high as 80-90% (Edwards & Lofty, 1996). That being said, the ‘wrung out sponge’ level of moisture is almost certainly a better approach – especially for those with limited worm composting experience – since it can be very easy to end up with too much moisture in your bin. This is especially true when using sealed plastic bins.


Warmth
Red Worms (Eisenia fetida) are certainly amongst the most cold-hardy of the composting worms. According to Glenn Munroe, author of the ‘Manual of On-Farm Vermicomposting and Vermiculture’ (you will need Adobe Acrobat reader to view), adults of this species have been known to survive being encased in frozen material, and that cocoons are well adapted to survive sub-zero temps for extended periods. I know from personal experience that it is relatively easy to keep a population of Red Worms alive outdoors over the winter with some protection from the cold. Of course, keeping the worms alive is far different than providing them with the requirements for optimal performance! Interestingly enough, optimal temperatures for breeding can be a fair bit different than those for overall worm growth. According to Edwards (1988), the optimal temperature range for breeding Eisenia fetida (red wigglers) is 15-20C (59-68F), yet maximum growth (weight gain) occurs closer to 25C (77F). A similar pattern is reported for other species as well. Speaking of other species, I should also mention that the tropical composting species, such as the African Nightcrawler (Eudrilus eugeniae) and the Blue Worm (Perionyx excavatus) will actually die at temperatures below 10C (50F).

On the other end of the spectrum are the upper limits for worm survival. Eisenia fetida once again outshines the competition, tolerating bed temperatures reportedly as high as 43C (109.4F) according to Reinecke et al. (1992). That being said, it is definitely best to avoid letting your worm bed temperatures go above 30C (86F) whenever possible, as the success of your worms will decline markedly past this point.


Food Source
As I’ve discussed elsewhere on the site, it is actually the microorganisms growing on waste materials that provides the main source of nutrition, not the material itself – but of course the worms do manage to slurp up the rotting material in the process. This is the reason I highly recommend setting up your worm bin (with bedding and ‘food’) well before you even get your worms. By the time you add the worms to the system there will be a very rich microbial community waiting. Ever since starting to take this approach myself I had no problems with worms trying to escape from a new bin.

The best food sources are therefore the materials that support the richest microbial population. This helps to explain why animal manures are pretty well the best material to grow composting worms in! One important factor to keep in mind when considering the potential of various waste materials is the carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio. Generally speaking, a C:N in the range of 20:1 to 30:1 is going to be ideal (similar to thermophilic composting). Below this range there is the tendency for nitrogen to be lost as gaseous ammonia; above this range decomposition can proceed more slowly, with N being the limiting factor.


Darkness
Worms prefer it dark – there is no doubt about it! In fact, extended periods in direct sunlight can kill worms. One of the commonly used techniques for keeping worms in a new bin relies on this very principle. If you find that your wigglers are attempting to migrate out of the bin (and don’t notice any obvious hazard that is causing the stress) you can generally keep them where they are by shining a light directly overhead!.

Some guideliness for maintaining darkness for your worms can include using opaque (ie not ‘see-through’) containers, keeping your worm systems in low light areas (not really necessary if you take other measures), and providing ample bedding material to help block out the light. Don’t let this scare you too much though – you can still play with your worms from time to time without harming them.
:-)

If you are keen to observe your worms for extended periods (ideal for a classroom setting) you can set up your own ‘dark room’ using red lights (this wavelength of light does not bother worms).


Oxygen
While way more tolerant of low O2 concentrations than us, composting worms are still aerobic organisms, thus it’s important to make sure your worm bin doesn’t go anaerobic on you. You need to be especially cautious when using plastic containers, since they do not ‘breathe’ the way some other materials (such as wood) do. If you are using a homemade plastic tub worm bin you should probably drill some holes in the top and sides (1/8″ drill bit should work well) – you don’t need to go too overboard though – obviously you don’t want the contents of the bin to dry out, or to let too much light in. If you have some sort of catch tray or lower reservoir (as shown in my ‘deluxe’ worm bin video), drilling some drain holes in the bottom of your bin (perhaps 2-4) will help alleviate the potential for water pooling in the bottom of your bin.

Another great way to encourage increased oxygenation is the use of bulky bedding materials like shredded cardboard, paper and leaves (although paper can sometimes become matted down, thus impeding air flow). This allows air to reach the inner zones of the composting mass, where the worms are typically hanging out. The choice of container for your worm bin is also an important consideration. You will want a container that has a high surface area to volume ratio. A relatively shallow Rubbermaid tub for example, is much better than a bucket since it encourages much greater air-flow throughout the materials contained inside.

The activity of the worms themselves will also aid in aerating the system, so unlike a hot composting pile, you won’t ever need to ‘turn’ your worm systems.


So there you have it! As you can see, successfully raising your worms depends on a small handful of important considerations. If you master these variables you’ll be amazed with the success of your worm population!
Once again, I will definitely be adding more to this page over time so be sure to check back periodically – or better yet, sign up for my newsletter and be kept up to date on all the new and exciting developments on the site!

REFERENCES
Edwards, C.A. 1988. Breakdown of animal, vegetable and industrial organic wastes by earthworms. In: Earthworms in waste and environmental management. Edwards, C.A. & Neuhauser, E.F. (eds). SPB Academic Publishing Co, The Hague, pp. 21-31.

Edwards, C.A. and P.J. Bohlen. 1996. The biology and ecology of earthworms (3rd Edition). Chapman & Hall, London, 426pp.

Reinecke, A.J., Viljoen, S.A. and R.J. Saayman. 1992. The suitability of Eudrilus eugeniae, Perionyx excavatus and Eisenia fetida (Oligochaeta) for vermicomposting in Southern Africa in terms of their temperature requirements. Soil Biology & Biochemistry 24(12): 1295-1307.


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151 comments

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Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Oscar Balser
#1. January 3rd, 2008, at 2:24 AM.

I thought article was great but it leaves me with a question. I just ordered african night crawlers and on inquirey as to their cold tolarence they emailed and said that they keep theirs out doors and the nights there are now below freezing and they have no problem.
You if we are talking of the same species will likly die at tempatures below 50F or 10 c. The scientific name of theirs is I think :Eudrillus Eugeniae. Which is right or are they both fight somehow? Oscar

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#2. January 3rd, 2008, at 8:39 PM.

Hi Oscar,
Thanks for stopping by.
I’d be interested to know what sort of system they are keeping their African Nightcrawlers in so as to avoid the dangers of cold temperatures. While I have never grown them myself (thus don’t have first hand experience), I’ve read of their cold intolerance in numerous different sources (scientific studies etc).
Anyway, this is really interesting, if they (suppliers) are indeed able to keep them outdoors.
Feel free to send me an email to discuss this further.
:-)

Cheers

Bentley

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Oscar Balser
#3. January 7th, 2008, at 2:39 AM.

To your first question:I think he keeps his worm bins under rabbit cages.I’m sure he is wrong on there cold tolerance but I wanted your comments on that.
I have another question:What is this worm: is it a good one to raise for bait:Pheretima Hawayanus Thank you Oscar

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jonathon Will
#4. January 7th, 2008, at 5:11 PM.

Hey Bently:

Just wanted to give you the nod on your video.

I have a background in biology(waste management). I live on a farm, and between the horses and the goats…well, you know what I have plenty of.

My wife runs a business out of her home office, and the amount of paper and cardboard generated here is surprising.

I was sitting on the porch a few days ago looking at all the landscaping I need to do(New house…been building a farm. Zero landscaping), and it clicked.

I need worms.

So thanks. I’ve got everything but the worms on hand.

How many(er, in weight I suppose) worms did you start out with in your deluxe worm farm video?

I’m going to play with that size with one more tub on the bottom for the tea.

I was thinking about putting some window screening over the holes on the tub above. Any thoughts?

Anyway, thanks.

JW

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#5. January 7th, 2008, at 5:18 PM.

Interesting, Oscar! One thing to keep in mind – even though African Nightcrawlers are supposed to be very intolerant to cold, if you can keep their system warm somehow I’m sure they could be kept outside in cooler weather. You mentioned them being situated below rabbit cages. Perhaps they receive enough nitrogen to stimulate heating (like ‘hot composting’) in the beds. This is how I keep my outdoor bin warm during winter weather (along with insulation).

Pheretima hawayanus is the ‘Alabama Jumper’, if I am not mistaken. It is another warmish climate worm that can be used for worm composting. There is not a great deal of information about this worm in the scientific literature unfortunately, so I don’t know all that much about it. I’m planning to put together a page on the site all about various species, and will be sure to include some info about it there.

B.

P.S. Have you considered raising European Nightcrawlers for bait? They are pretty well the ultimate bait worm – very easy to raise, good size, and last long on the hook even in cold water.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#6. January 7th, 2008, at 6:05 PM.

Hi Jonathon,
Thanks for the note. Sounds like you are indeed in an ideal situation for worm composting.

I split 1lb of European Nightcrawlers between the two bins (‘basic’ and ‘deluxe’ bins) made in the vids. The basic bin probably ended up with 3/4 of a lb and, as I wrote this morning, these worms have now been moved to a larger system.

In your case I would definitely recommend using multiple large Rubbermaid tubs, or even constructing some sort of large worm ‘bed’.

I would first mix the horse/goat manure with the paper/cardboard and heap it up to create a ‘hot composting’ pile. Composting the materials this way for a week or two will help stabilize it and kill off weed seeds etc. You’ll have less issues with ammonia (toxic to worms), and the worms should be able to process it much more quickly. It is especially important that they have a safe habitat to live in, so if you mix in manure with your bedding when preparing the system, be sure to let the mix age for awhile before adding worms.

If you have some old manure heaps on your property you should use this material since the worms will likely love it. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find a ‘wild’ population of Red Worms that you didn’t know about!

Your window screening idea is a good one. I’ve read that worms can actually squeeze through holes that small, but I think the likelihood is much less. Another possibility is landscaping cloth.

B.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Billy Ray Hook
#7. February 29th, 2008, at 4:51 AM.

I live on 75 acres in South Texas. I have an old barn with a cement floor. It is 30ft X 60Ft. I have acquired old wooden packing crates that are 12″ deep, 13″ wide and 10 foot long. I presently have about 25 of them with the promise of as many as I can use.no cost on this item. I put three of them side by side and elevate them on saw horses. I then have a two foot aisle between them. The cows produce all the manure that I could ever use. I shred old hay that has been trampled and beat down by the cows. My doctor’s office shreds a lot of paper and cardboard. They said come and get it.I also bought a shredder from
Walmart. The local coffee shop saves all of the used coffee and tea grounds and old papers and circulars. The reason I started was because I have three stock tanks stocked with bass, catfish and perch and I got tired of buying not only fish food, but worms to fish with out of my own ponds. I then put out the word that I needed old phone books and shredded paper. I got my bins completely set up and called the closest place that would sell worms. I then went and visited with Bruce from Decker Worm Sales. He has am excellent web-site and is eager to share information on how to do this type of project. I initially bought two pounds to see if I had the right situation. They started producing coccoons soon and they appeared to be healthy. During all of this I am on the internet reading and researching everything I could find. I am now all set up and called Bruce and we decided that I would get another ten pounds from him, put about two pounds in each of the first five or six bins and then just sit back. From all of the information I have read, if I wait another two months, I will have enough worms to start fishing with and by the end of the year I can start feeding the worms on a regular basis to the fish, and effectively eliminating my need to buy worms or fish food and also have castings for gardens and flowers. As the bins begin to multiply, I will pull from them and put worms in the now vacant bins. I would appreciate any and all comments, suggestions, and advice on worms. My e-mail address is bhook3115@Gmail.com

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com James Cargal
#8. April 22nd, 2008, at 4:09 PM.

Well Bentley I own a worm bin and in raising them I sometimes thought of: how do they taste?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Frank Tabor
#9. May 7th, 2008, at 3:30 AM.

Thanks for all the great worm info! I’m reading up on how to raise my own for my fishing. I have a question on shredded papers: Is there any issues with ink and/or color? I’ve heard some say newsprint is good, but not the colored comics. Also that typical computer printers papers should not be used because of the type of ink. Appreciate your comments. Thanks, Frank

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#10. May 7th, 2008, at 6:20 PM.

Hi Frank,
I will occasionally use coloured paper etc, but I never use anything that is glossy and coloured. I don’t know all the facts as far as danger of the chemicals in these inks goes, but I just don’t take chances with it. I’m pretty sure there are heavy metals in these inks which can accumulate in your worm system and your worms if continually used.

I also generally don’t use too much white office/printer paper (once in awhile though) since it can contain bleach and other chemicals. In moderation it is ok though.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Eve
#11. May 11th, 2008, at 5:17 AM.

Ok i couldn’t resist, just for James Cargal, I would think they taste wormie.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Camden
#12. June 23rd, 2008, at 4:18 PM.

Frank I have seen and heard the same things. So I never use any color just to be safe. I use some old six grade math books that I saw in the recycle bin. Yes I am a six soon to be seventh grader.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com sjyoung
#13. July 2nd, 2008, at 11:27 AM.

Hi,
i have wide open space with minimal shade. And I am in the Philippines a warm to hot country.
what is your suggested depth of the bins?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com BIG T
#14. July 10th, 2008, at 2:38 AM.

I am serious about raising worms , tired of buying them , I fish alot , there are large worms here in arkansas naturally , dont know what kind they are but they are real big ? I need info on starting a farm , tapes dvd’s books web sites , Any info will be helpful .Tank you sir . T ………..72904

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#15. July 13th, 2008, at 4:05 AM.

Hey Big T,
In my opinion the best all around worm to raise for bait is the European Nightcrawler. They are tough, easy to raise – and much larger than your typically Red Worm.
Anyway, feel free to drop me a line if you want to chat more about raising bait worms.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Toledo
#16. August 5th, 2008, at 6:32 PM.

I live in Arizona- very hot and my house temp is about 78 to 80. I bought a worm house to raise and compost in doors 4 tray worm house. I have shredded cardboard from shredding machine, placed the coconut block in water and rang them out with my hands placing in bottom tray and some in 2nd tray along with couple hand fulls of dirt out of my outside compost bin, and placed vegatable and fruit for food. I am waiting on my worms but does everything sound good? I am afraid the tempature might be to hot?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#17. August 7th, 2008, at 12:02 PM.

Hi Toledo,
78 to 80 actually isn’t too bad. It’s once you are up over 90 or 100 that you can start to see issues with the worms. That said, if it’s 70-80 in your house, it could very well be a fair bit warmer in the worm bin itself (due to microbial activities associated with breakdown of waste materials).

If I was setting up a stacking system I would simply start with the bottom tray, only adding more as the trays become filled with vermicompost.
If you have mixed everything (those materials described) up really well and are letting it sit before the worms arrive I think you should be in decent shape for their introduction into the system.

You might want to get yourself a compost thermometer, or even better yet a meat thermometer (given small size of worm bins) to see how hot it is in the bin. If you’ve added lots of food materials it could be very warm (especially given the temperature in your house).

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Toledo
#18. August 11th, 2008, at 6:28 PM.

Another question- I have a fire pit which basically I am wondering if the ashes from the wood are any good for the worm bin?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#19. August 12th, 2008, at 12:39 AM.

Hi Toledo,
I personally wouldn’t recommend adding that material to your worm bin. I’ve heard it can be added to normal ‘hot composting’ piles and to your garden in moderation, but I’d be concerned that it might harm the worms.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Toledo
#20. August 12th, 2008, at 7:07 PM.

Toledo here again, sorry for the questions. I just got my worms today they were very HOT when I opened up the package since the UPS guy left them outside. Few of them were wiggling around didn’t get chance to really look at them cause had come back to work. BUt my question is should I seperate the dirt/compost that came in package to what I have in the worm farm house? There was alot of dirt/compost

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#21. August 12th, 2008, at 7:37 PM.

Hi Toledo,
Interesting that you would get them so early in the week (Tues) – most suppliers (ours included) send them out early in the week to avoid having them sit at the depot over the weekend.

Anyway, I would definitely recommend keeping the material they are in – this can actually be very helpful as far as adjusting to the new system goes. Just be sure to spread the worms and material around and leave the lid off of your system for awhile to give them lots of air and a chance to cool down.
The worms should have been shipped in peat moss or something other inert bedding (eg coconut coir), not dirt – but perhaps that’s just what it looked like based on your quick assessment.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Toledo
#22. August 18th, 2008, at 5:50 PM.

Worried that worms are getting to hot. Just making sure if what I am doing is OK or harming the worms

I am utilizing all 4 trays on my worm bin because I read that if the worms feel to hot that they would move up and down the worm bin to there liking.

I put the cover on top which I check every morning parnoid. I notice pretty good amount of moisture on top of bin and sometimes worm up there which I think they are trying to escape, possible to hot. Also notice maggots and mites which trying to clean up.

So now what I am doing is taking top lid off during day time and placing it back at night.

I also have been checking the other trays below and there worms still down there pretty good amount. Of course I want lots of worms and if everything goes well I want start up Nightcrawler bin. I want be first AZ worm guy. So what you think is there anything I should be doing differantly? I know you mention to start them in 1 bin

Should I be checking the bins every day or should I back off some?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Kelley
#23. August 18th, 2008, at 7:34 PM.

I’m worried about my worm bin. My worms seem to be trying to crawl out. I just cleaned the bin out about 3 weeks ago and layered the bottom with shredded damp pine bedding. The kind you would buy for your hamster cage. I wet it down and it still feels moist. I put the worms and alot of casings back into the bin along with food. I am using a large tub with holes drill in the bottom for drainage and the top for air. They are in my garage where it is about 50 all of the time. Is it normal for them to crawl up the sides? I am new to this type of composting. Thank you for any comments.
Kelley

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#24. August 20th, 2008, at 3:20 AM.

Toledo – given your conditions, it probably isn’t a bad idea to check on the worms every day – just try to limit it to once or twice per day if you can. Leaving the lid off during the day is a good idea -this should really help with air flow and allow the system to cool down some. Finding a few worms up on the lid is not a big deal – some worms just seem to like exploring. If the bin overheats you will definitely see them down in the reservoir or up in the uppermost tray in huge abundance. I think your are on track.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#25. August 20th, 2008, at 3:28 AM.

Kelley – it is totally normal for them to crawl up the sides a little, but if there are a LOT on the sides and lid it likely indicates conditions not to their liking.
I’d be a little nervous about pine shavings – i would imagine that the resin in the wood could irritate the worms, but really it just comes down to how they respond – if they are suddenly trying to escape then it is likely the bedding causing the issues.
By the way, I’d definitely recommend shredded cardboard (corrugated or egg carton cardboard) or newsprint over wood chips, since they are much more absorbent and won’t take nearly as long to break down.

Keeping your worms in temperatures in the 50 (Celsius I assume) range can certainly explain some potential issues as well – this is way too hot for them.

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Toledo
#26. October 23rd, 2008, at 10:08 PM.

Well my worm bin is doing real well, thank you! But have question about egg shells. Is it vitally important to have egg shells and is it necessary to crush them? I have seen sample worm bins with egg shells not crushed. I have been using the arizona dirt for grout which does not seem to bother worm.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#27. October 24th, 2008, at 4:19 PM.

It is definitely not vitally important to have eggs shells. If you DO end up using them, crushing them helps to release calcium more quickly and decreases the time required before they disappear (which is a very long time in general).

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com ilana hicks
#28. October 29th, 2008, at 2:21 AM.

I have received 2 lbs of the red worms I ordered last week, look great, thank you.
My question is: how do you separate the worms from the last bit of unprocessed food in the lower tray? There are a few big pieces of food that I should have shredded first, apparently. Ilana

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#29. October 31st, 2008, at 4:13 PM.

Hi Ilana,
If you are using a stacking system (which I suspect you are), the worms should basically separate themselves by continuing to move upwards as you add new trays. If there were bulky food materials added to the first tray you may need to wait for the worms to fully process them -generally, I wouldn’t add even the second tray until the materials in the first tray are well on their way to being processed.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Kaplan
#30. November 20th, 2008, at 3:06 PM.

My school is doing a composting project and I was wondering if there were any examples of worm composting for a school of 300 kids?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#31. November 21st, 2008, at 5:39 PM.

Hi Kaplan,
I highly recommend that you check out ‘The Worm Cafe’, by Binet Payne. It describes a large-scale vermicomposting project started at a school, and I suspect it would be VERY applicable for your situation.
Here is a link to a site that sells it:
http://www.wormwoman.com/acatalog/Wormwoman_catalog_The_Worm_Cafe_4.html

Hope this helps

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Kevin Pearson
#32. November 28th, 2008, at 8:02 PM.

Bentley,

What do you suggest to harvest my castings? Right now I have a harvester from http://www.wackyworldsof.com. While this thing has greatly sped up my harvesting time, I am still looking for something to do the job a little faster. I am not ready to buy their commercial harvester but I would still like to lessen the time it takes me to go through my worm bins and harvest. Also, I am getting to the point where I can produce way more than I can use. Where is a good place to sell my extra castings?

Kevin Pearson

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#33. November 30th, 2008, at 1:14 PM.

Hey Kevin,
I’m not focusing too much on castings production at the moment. Any material separated from the worms is generally used again as a means of increasing the worm population in my beds/bins (since lots of cocoons and baby worms in it).

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#34. November 30th, 2008, at 1:18 PM.

By the way, Kevin – here are some posts that may be of interest to you:
http://www.redwormcomposting.com/reader-photos/johns-homemade-worm-harvester/
http://www.redwormcomposting.com/worm-composting/diy-worm-harvester/

As for selling castings – focusing on the regional market is definitely the best bet since castings cost a lot to ship. Are their any famer’s markets in your area? Maybe you could set up a table there. Selling online is also a good option.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Kevin Pearson
#35. December 1st, 2008, at 11:56 AM.

Thanks Bentley, that is pretty close to what I have already. Just the turning it by hand thing is getting old. I am thinking of rigging up some kind of motor to it that would turn the thing slowly for me while I loaded it. I’ll let you know if I can pull that project off.

Kevin Pearson

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Talina ( Quebec )
#36. December 9th, 2008, at 11:36 PM.

Hi there Bentley,

I decided to write to you here, i hope it is the place you were referring to in the email.

So, basicly what I did with my fruit fly problem was to take my bin into a small enclosed room, open it and vaccume up the cloud that issued forth.
It took some time and some courage, but all in all it was easier to do this than to sort through my bin again.
I checked on it today, repeating the process mentioned above, and to my pleasure there were dramaticly fewer fruit flies . Now I just have to take the vaccume to the stagglers.

I think I will continue this routine until I have concoured, and then maybe level it out to a weekly thing.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com scott
#37. December 12th, 2008, at 1:11 AM.

help? got these red worms out of florida in october…. stared at em every day for weeks…. pondering their reputed effectiveness at composting kitchen waste. I read they do better if you tend to not disturb them very often?….. so I leave them alone for a few weeks…. open them up tonight… kinda tip the containor around some and notice a fair amount of small white bugs in scattered groupes around the bin, then i see ,clear as a bell, a worm that is clearly weak and thin by comparrisson to most of the others (purchased a 1# pkg) and the rear half of this worm is covered with these bugs apparently? attacking this worm that the front half squirms when you touch it and the back looks dead…. are/do these bugs frequently kill worms? are they a help at composting or a pest attacking my worms?
-stearite 15 gal (uncovered… 40 watt grow light on the ceiling)
-primarily peat/news print bedding…..
-PH is 6.0-6.3 with a soil temp of 58.6 ( ph/temp probe for my salt water tank used in three seperate places…) basement location…. winter time in Michigan
low food scraps added in a month and a half 2#

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#38. December 15th, 2008, at 8:16 PM.

Hi Scott,
Those are almost certainly a very common species of white mite that appear in worm bins, often when conditions are declining. While it may look like they are worm predators, they are actually just cleaning up the carnage from some other problem in the bin – they often seem to get a little over-eager, feeding on the worms before they are completely dead! They very often appear after too much food has been added at once (something that can definitely cause issues in a worm bin, especially early on). You mentioned not adding much in the way of food, so I’m a little puzzled.
Did you rinse the peat before using it? It can be quite acidic so this could potentially cause some issues, although worms are quite resistant to acidic conditions (and your numbers don’t look bad at all).
I guess the main question would be – how many worms are dying??
It certainly isn’t uncommon to have the odd worm expire every now and again – it should only worry you if you see multiple dying worms, and any other indication of worm stress (coiled up together in a ball, trying to escape en mass etc).

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com scott
#39. December 15th, 2008, at 11:04 PM.

Thanks for the input….. I was wondering if I wasn’t feeding them enough…. the only thing still identifiable in the bin is a few granny smith apple skins, what looks like a soil covered banana and a few egg shells…. (I been picking some of the stuff out that seems to resist being eaten… i.e. coffee filters seem to take forever…).

some are looking weak today…. don’t move very much… others are fairy lively…. added a bit of new bedding…. news print and corr. cardboard, the temps?… cool in a michigan basement 58+- deg f. I took a few healthier looking youg worms and started them in a second bin… only a half a dozen ,hope that is not a needed back stop…

thought I had overfed initially, held off for a few weeks….. looks fairly thin as far as actual food goes…. they could eat their bedding if they had to….

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#40. December 16th, 2008, at 1:36 AM.

Hi Scott,
In my experience, it is SO much easier to kill worms by overfeeding than by underfeeding. When worms are neglected they simply shrink in size and feed on any organic matter that’s left in the bin. They can get really, really small – but should still be quite vigorous.

Out of curiosity – have you and I been having an exchange over at Vermicomposters.com as well? If so, and there is ANY chance you have PEs, I could see these lowish temps leading to some of this – although, based on what I’ve read, they generally don’t die until temps go below 10 C (50 F). Would love to see some pics if you have any.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Scott
#41. December 20th, 2008, at 6:00 PM.

Yes, we are possibly talking twice…. was looking for different inputs at diff. sites……. have since brought the worms upstairs (wifes not overly happy…) …. soil temps have increased…. 63 deg f +- the worms appear to have moved up towards the top surface instead of being so deep in the soil… they are supposed to be eisena fo…. for $24.80 out of florida, at least thats the

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Scott
#42. December 20th, 2008, at 6:01 PM.

oops…. stopped mid way there…. at least thats what the add said, and what we thought we were ordering

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com T.K.
#43. December 20th, 2008, at 6:24 PM.

Scott where r u from. To whom it may concern. I would like to know exactly what to feed worms. I use to have a worm bed and me and my son use to feed them leftover food, bread, cornmeal and etc.

We went out one day and dug over 3000 worms in about 2hrs and they just grew and grew. Now we live in another place and we just went in the woods and dug about 300. But we have them in a five gallon bucket.

I feed them cornmeal only. I would like to go and get more but don’t have the space to keep them. I live in Orlando, Florida and we just go anywhere and get them so easy. Most of them are wigglers.

If anyone have any suggestion r helpful hints for us please email us at
ginkygcart@aol.com.

Hope to hear from someone.

May god bless.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com scott
#44. December 20th, 2008, at 6:36 PM.

west michigan…..

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Quentin
#45. January 15th, 2009, at 12:47 AM.

Hi there,

I currently have one worm farm which has been going for about 9 months now, which I started with 2000 worms. My goal is to use the castings for the garden beds of my average sized block. Obviously I am not producing enough at the moment but was wondering if anyone could tell me roughly how many worms I would need (provided I took care of them) to produce enough castings to fill a 1/2 gallon (2 litre) container of castings once a week?

Thanks,

Quentin

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com james
#46. February 1st, 2009, at 3:20 PM.

hi i made me own worm farm but i dont no were to buy red worms from soo im useing garden worms.i wnted to no if i can mix red worms and earth worms in the same worm bin.also show quick do worms muiply.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#47. February 4th, 2009, at 3:24 PM.

Hi Quentin – just saw this comment now. Sorry about that.
Unfortunately I don’t really have an answer for you either. The thing about vermicomposting is that it is incredibly difficult to come up with set-in-stone rules since there are so many different variables at work. The type of waste you use, the temperature, moisture content, air flow etc etc are all really important factors. My suggestion would be to get started with a couple of pounds of worms and just go from there. The other thing to remember is that it is going to take some time before you will have castings, and be able to continually harvest them – during this ‘time’ the worms will increase in abundance, thus accelerating the process.
The type of system you use is also important – a flow-through system is definitely what you should be using if you want to continually harvest castings.

Hope this helps!
B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#48. February 4th, 2009, at 3:32 PM.

James,
I know I am a little biased (haha), but you can certainly buy worms from us. Just looked for the “Buy Worms” link above or the “I’ve got worms” banner over to the left.
:-)
Garden worms do not do well in a worm bin. They may survive for quite awhile, but your chances of having them reproduce are slim to none – the worm bin simply does not offer them their ideal habitat and living conditions. I would recommend keeping them (and garden soil) out of your red worm bin.
The reproduction times of red worms is highly variable, but one stat that is commonly used is ‘doubling every ninety days’ – keep in mind this definitely doesn’t mean you will have twice as many adults in 90 days – it simply refers to the total number of worms. Also, this is definitely not a set-in-stone fact – just an estimate. I conducted an experiment starting with 5 adult worms. Within 5 months I had at least 120 worms, BUT most of them were juveniles.

Hope this helps

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Amy in New Orleans
#49. February 22nd, 2009, at 5:54 AM.

Hello!

I love your site. I lived in a house in California years ago and set up a good sized worm bin I had bought through the city of Oakland. It was outside in the backyard and my E. foetida did very well. I also worked culturing an already-set-up colony of E. foetida for a while in my early 20s. So I thought I knew about composting worms, but I have a new worm bin and they are not happy.

I have not had composting worms for quite a number of years, and my friend here in New Orleans (where I’ve lived for 1.5 years) just split a starter box of redworms with me. This was just a few days ago. We probably only have about 100 worms each, so I set up a pretty small opaque plastic bin. (maybe 1 foot by 1 foot by 1 foot). The weather is so extreme here (chilly sometimes in winter, otherwise often extremely hot), I figure an indoor bin is my best bet.

For my new bin, At first I just drilled some holes in the top, put moist newspaper, a tiny bit of soil, and some crushed eggshells in there, along with a little bit of parsley in the bin. Everything seemed pretty good for a few days — no escapees. (Although my friend was having a lot of escapee problems at her house, we had none.) Then two days ago I noticed a few worms up near the top of the bin when I opened it. No escapees, but it made me concerned. I added some chopped up turnip greens and they seemed very happy, no escapees still, although still a couple up near the top. It seemed very humid in the bin with some condensation inside. No pooling exactly, but some condensation. I did some reading and decided 1) To move the bin because it was sharing a wall with the washing machine and dryer (in the next room), and was near a heating vent, and I read they don’t like vibration. 2) After reading your site, and seeing that many many people recommend a bin with drainage at the bottom, today we made a double-decker bin using your design. We transferred the worms into it this morning. I was a little worried about it because it was impossible not to get the food/soil/newspaper bedding/worms all mixed up when we put the worms in their new house. However, we got the worms into the new bin and put the new bin in a room with no vibration issues. Then we left home for about 6-7 hours. To our horror, when we got home there were maybe 15-20 escapees. The bin smells a bit funny, not sure how to describe it, it’s not methane or sulfur, the best I can describe it is “sharp.” I have done more reading and I wonder if the bin is a little too moist. There is no pooling moisture in the bin at all, but I added a little sprinkling of water this morning and maybe it’s a little too damp now? So, we did more research tonight and put some dry shredded newspaper in it mixed up with the damp bedding, plus a thin layer of dry shredded newspaper on top. Left the worms alone for a little while, maybe an hour. Just now I went back and peeped in and already some worms were up near the top again. I turned on the light and they went back under the bedding. So what we are doing tonight is keeping the bin lid open, covered with plastic wrap with holes poked in it for ventilation, with the light in the room on. I found the posting where the worm bin MacGuyver even put an LED nightlight in his bin, and although that seems a bit cruel to them, I am thinking of trying it.

So what do you think? Do the worms just need time to get used to their third new house within a week’s time? Too much change for the worms? Do you think it could be a little too damp in there for them? What do you think the sharp smell is? Should I just keep the lid off with the ventilated plastic wrap and the light on, to force them to stay in their new home? Or do you think there is a larger problem with the conditions in the bin? I know escapees are not uncommon in a new bin, but it really makes me sad when they get out. I feel like a bad worm caretaker. Should I try the LED night light in the bin?

Your advice would be welcomed.

Thanks, and happy Mardi Gras!
Amy in New Orleans

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Lonnie Goss
#50. February 22nd, 2009, at 9:06 PM.

Is it reasonable to feel a person can realize 20k or more in a period of a year plus or minus in sales by investing quality time and effort in this business. If so, how many years or months would it take? I am in the beginning of my retirement and this looks like an interesting field to consider.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#51. February 24th, 2009, at 3:59 PM.

Hi Amy – wow, that was an eyeful!
:lol:

Roaming worms is definitely one of those things that almost EVERYONE with a newly set up bin deals with. Worms almost invariably need some time to get used to their system, but of course (as you’ve suggested) it’s important not to make them live in environment that is harmful.

My suggestion is to leave the lid off (no plastic wrap) with a light over top for 24 hours or so – try turning it off for 5 or 10 minutes at a time during this period to see what the worms do. If they move up and try to escape very quickly you will know something more serious is going on.

Also take a look down below – are there worms that seem ok? Are they responsive – ie when you pull away the bedding do they dive down?

Where did you get the worms, by the way? (not specifics – I just mean ‘bait shop’, ‘worm dealer’, ‘friend’ etc). The only reason I ask is that 200 worms sounds like an odd number to start with

Anyway – hope this helps a little.
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#52. February 24th, 2009, at 4:05 PM.

Lonnie,
Setting up your own worm composting business can be an incredibly satisfying experience – especially if you are interested in this field. It DOES however take a LOT of work in order to generate the kind of revenue you are talking about. Really, it comes down to how badly you want to succeed with it, and how much work you are willing to put in. One thing I definitely wouldn’t recommend is paying thousands of dollars for a ‘worm business in a box’ type of product. In my humble opinion, it makes WAY more sense to ease yourself in – start up a bunch of worm bins/beds and see how you like it.
It is really important to be realistic as well. While you can certainly start a worm business on a small residential property (I speak from experience – haha), if you don’t have much else going for you in terms of vermicomposting experience, or business/promotion experience in general, this could be extremely challenging. Education and marketing are really important – most people have no clue what vermicomposting even is.

Anyway – I could write a lot more, but I’ll leave it at that for now. Hopefully that helps

Bentley

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Amy in New Orleans
#53. February 25th, 2009, at 4:24 PM.

Hi,

Thanks a lot for your quick response. Sorry my original post was so long.

I actually pretty much have done what you suggested already in the interim. We left the top off completely with a light on for a day or two. When we would put the lid on once in a while, maybe within 30 min or so, approx. four worms would be up near the top of the container. It wasn’t 100% clear whether they were trying to escape for just exploring. We now have the LED nightlight rigged up in the inside of the lid.

When I open up the bin an look under the bedding, most of the worms seem to be a good color, are wriggly and responsive, and most of them are on the very bottom of the container. There are a few worms hanging out in the middle — not on top not on bottom — who who seem a little more lethargic. I put some food in there a couple of days ago but I don’t think it’s ready for them to eat quite yet (turnip greens).

My concern is what I consider to be a slightly sharp, not very pleasant smell, and whether or not the bin has the right moisture content — I put some dry newspaper in there when I transferred them to their new bin because I was worried it was too wet. Maybe it’s too dry? I also wonder if the pH is off (the smell?).

My friend ordered the worms from, I believe, an online redworm supplier. She thinks there were about 250-300 worms in the original shipment, and we split them.

I think I’m going to try turning off the led nightlight and see what happens.
Any other ideas are helpful.
Thanks,
Amy in New Orleans

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Derwood mark
#54. February 28th, 2009, at 6:41 PM.

Hello you helped me with my worms before and the advice helped out a lot so I would like to help you with your worms. Your probably thinking how I can help when your the worm genius. I found out that when feeding your worms it takes some patients to get the gold but one way to accelerate the process is to put all the stuff you plan to give your worms into a blender and add just enough water to the blender help get everything in very small chunks and it seems to cut the time in half to get your black gold.

P.S.; you may do what ever you want with this information.
thank you
Darren Mark

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#55. February 28th, 2009, at 6:52 PM.

Amy – hard to say for sure what is causing the smell (without actually smelling it myself). As for moisture, as long as it feels fairly moist without pooling in the bottom you should be ok. A bin that’s too dry generally won’t cause worms to try and leave – they’ll probably just head further down in the bin and will eventually shrink in size and completely dry up (would take a while for this to happen).
Anyway – sounds like you are taking steps in the right direction.
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#56. February 28th, 2009, at 6:57 PM.

Hi Darren,
I am hardly a ‘worm genius’ – just a guy with unusually keen interest in vermicomposting. lol
Thanks for the tip – when I wrote this page originally I was not a blended food waste convert – I tended to think this approach was too risky (high potential for anaerobic conditions, overfeeding etc).
I did eventually come around though – be sure to check out my “homemade manure” posts:
http://www.redwormcomposting.com/worm-composting/homemade-manure/

http://www.redwormcomposting.com/worm-composting/homemade-manure-mania/

Glad to hear the blending approach is working so well for you!
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Brian Pearcy
#57. March 2nd, 2009, at 3:34 AM.

I live in Florida.

If I keep my worms outside in the summer, I’m afraid they’ll get too hot in my vertical bins. What are your thoughts?

My wife would rather them be outside, but it can average 95 degrees in the summer where I live. I think they might need to remain inside when it’s that hot.

How can I overcome that?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#58. March 3rd, 2009, at 6:36 PM.

Hi Brian,
I’d suggest that you try out some sort of in-ground system, like the ‘Worm Tower’:
http://www.redwormcomposting.com/worm-bins/worm-tower/

Only potential issue in your case might be predatory flatworms (which can wipe out a worm population pretty quickly). Perhaps if you lined the system with landscape fabric or something similar, this would provide protection.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com scott
#59. March 6th, 2009, at 12:41 AM.

when i first recieved my worms in october i had applied a “compost maker” from bonide, to help start the composting process …. to be clear … i have no interest in this company outside of personal use:)
however i got to wondering if this was good for e.f. worms?

the contents states… a blend of ocean kelp,fish and alalfa meals…. is this type of product harmful if sprinkled (top dressing) over a indoor 18 gallon rubber maid system?

by the way….excellant site….

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#60. March 9th, 2009, at 12:57 PM.

Hi Scott,
That sort of product, while certainly not necessary, shouldn’t create too many issues – although I guess it would depend on the salt content in the kelp. Worms are very sensitive to inorganic salts, so there COULD be some potential for issues there.

B

P.S. The alfalfa meal would likely be a great worm food, by the way.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jim Many
#61. April 6th, 2009, at 7:42 PM.

I’m raising some red wigglers in a bed under my rabbit cages. Any reason I can’t add some European nightcrawlers to the mix or do I need to keep them separated? Live in Mississippi.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com penny smith
#62. April 15th, 2009, at 2:15 AM.

If I put nightcrawlers from my yard in with my red worms will they cross breed and produce a larger red worm?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Kevin Pearson
#63. April 15th, 2009, at 8:57 AM.

Jim,

I too have rabbits and have lots of red wigglers under my rabbit cages. To my surprise when I was cleaning out under the cages the other day there was quite a few night crawlers under there with the reds. The night crawlers have voluntarily come over, I didn’t put them there. They didn’t seem to be hurting anything though. I am in Texas.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Keith Wagoner
#64. April 27th, 2009, at 5:23 AM.

When I was powerwashing my sidewalk the other day, I used a little bleach in the mixture. To my surprise, worms started popping out of the ground in droves. I picked them up and rinsed them with fresh water. Then I put them in my worm bin, but I think every one of them died within hours. Has anyone ever done any experiment to see if there is a level of dilution that will both drive them from the ground and NOT kill them?

This was not just a couple of worms coming to the surface due to water. These worms came screaming out of the ground in about 30-40 seconds after they were sprayed.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com nolan
#65. April 27th, 2009, at 10:23 PM.

what do you keep them in if you have about 200.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#66. April 28th, 2009, at 6:25 PM.

JIM – You can certainly mix the two worm species, but you might find that the Red Worms outcompete the Euros eventually.

————————

PENNY – You cannot interbreed worms, especially not soil species with composting worms. European Nightcrawlers (Eisenia hortensis) are closely related to Red Worms but you still can`t interbreed them successfully.

————————-

KEITH – that is pretty crazy. I remember when I was a kid someone told me that a mild mustard solution was a great way to get Dew Worms out of their holes. Looking back now it definitely seems pretty cruel, plus I`m not sure how dilute it would have to be to still be effective while not harming the worms at all (same goes for your bleach solution – I think it would need to be extremely dilute)

——————————

NOLAN – it depends on what type of worm you are talking about. If Red Worms you could simply make a small worm bin for them. If soil worms, just make up a bed of soil, maybe mixed with peat moss etc.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Mississippi
#67. May 2nd, 2009, at 3:32 PM.

You should use european nightcrawlers for raising bait, but use red wigglers for composting.

nolan:
Use a small plastic container with a lid (with holes) if you have a small amount of worms, but it will require more care.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bill Moris
#68. May 17th, 2009, at 8:00 AM.

Thank you for the info. I just was starting tonight so I can save them for fishing of coarse, I also hear they are good to eat for the protein. You ahve given me information that I’m sre will make me worms thrive. wha I was doing would have made a very smelly and not so tasty mess I thank you very much. people such as yourself are a blessing bot people like me may God be with you and may your worms grow to love you, that is until you put them on the hook so to speak, thanks again you were very hlpfull and I’m sure I will do well now. Your friend Bill

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com barbara manley
#69. May 26th, 2009, at 6:00 PM.

I have a compost tumbler. It always has lots of worms in it. In the summer months I see very tiny, tiny, white dots. About the size of a pin. Are these worm eggs? Or cocoons?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#70. May 28th, 2009, at 12:52 PM.

BILL – glad to help
——————————————————

BARBARA – those tiny white dots are almost certainly mites. These are extremely common in composting systems, and are so slow that they are often mistaken for some sort of egg

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Margaret Haddix
#71. May 29th, 2009, at 2:48 AM.

I have a worm factory. I got 400 Euro. nightcrawlers to begin and they seemed a good size for fishing. Now, 1 1/2 years later, I have many very small worms that are too small to put on a hook. They produce lots of “worm tea” and are active but way, way too small. I feed them shredded copy paper, bananas, oatmeal, leaves, apples, etc. They have all crawled up in the 2nd bin. What am I doing wrong?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com barbara manley
#72. May 29th, 2009, at 5:40 PM.

What do worm coccoons look like? I have very tiny white dots in my composter. The size of a pin head. Are these the baby worms?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com regina
#73. June 15th, 2009, at 8:21 PM.

I just bought 2 pounds of worms for my worm bin – they came in a large amount of dirt. should I seperate them or keep it all together? I have a 3 tray stacking composter and the entire amount fills 2 of the trays. I’ve tried seperating them by hand and it’s really a chore. Suggestions?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bill Ross
#74. June 19th, 2009, at 5:32 PM.

I have been successfully raising red wigglers for a few months now. I have quite a few night crawlers (or, I assume that is what they are) running wild in my chicken coop. I’m thinking I would like to start raising them in captivity in a bin. Do I treat them the same as I do the wigglers?

Thanks.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Deuce
#75. June 27th, 2009, at 10:22 AM.

Man….chicks are not impressed with my worm bed. How can I get chicks to love my worms.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Linda
#76. July 2nd, 2009, at 2:46 AM.

I’ve had worms for three lovely weeks and all has been going well. I had them in my carport in Atlanta where it has been very hot – 90 something each day. Yesterday I had a baguette of sourdough bread that I crumbled into the bin. This morning I made cold cucumber soup and put the peelings and some carrot tops into the bin. Tonight I opened the bin and there were clumps of worms all tangled together at the top of the bin and worms all up the sides.

I decided it is probably too hot in my carport so I moved them into the basement where the temp is probably around 68 – 70. They’ve been down there around an hour. I just checked and they are still all on the sides of the bin but now separated and not clumped together.

Help–I’m about to go out of town and don’t want them to all escape while I am gone.

Linda in Hotlanta

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#77. July 2nd, 2009, at 3:32 PM.

Hi Linda,
You definitely did the right thing – 90+ degrees is really hot for worms in enclosed systems. I think you should be ok leaving them at 68-70. If you are really worried, you might want to leave them under a bright light for the entire time you are away (fluorescents work well and suck up a lot less power).

B.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Linda
#78. July 2nd, 2009, at 6:04 PM.

Thanks, Bentley, It is now not quite 24 hours later and there are still worms all up on the sides of the bin – some are now down working, but I’m still worried. I added a layer of compost over the garbage in the bin. I tore up a few paper towels in case it might be too moist in there. I can hear them chewing but there are at least 100 worms on the sides – I’m scared to leave the top off for fear they will all leave the bin and crawl around my basement floor!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#79. July 2nd, 2009, at 6:50 PM.

Hear them chewing? lol
100 on the sides does sound like a LOT, that’s for sure.
What I would definitely suggest however – if you have time – do take the lid off and keep the bin in a brightly lit area. See what happens in 5, 10, 15, 20 etc minutes. If they all try to escape in the light there is definitely something wrong in the bin. If on the other hand they all go down into the bedding and stay put you may be ok.
If you are in a rush to leave, again I would simply suggest leaving the bin in a well-lit spot the entire time (with lid on as per usual).
One other thing to mention – having the lid off can actually really help improve conditions in the bin. It allows a LOT more air circulation and evaporation of excess moisture, so if you see that the worms are going down (without ever coming back up) with the lid off and the light shining in, you may want to consider leaving the lid off while you are gone. I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but as long as there is a light on them, they won’t likely go anywhere (and any iffy conditions down below should remedy themselves with the increase in oxygen).

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Linda T
#80. July 2nd, 2009, at 7:23 PM.

Well, I know I can’t hear them chewing but there is a noise as they are moving under everything and it is more obvious the more worms are active in the bin. I left the lid off and came back to work so they will be in the fluorescent light for about 4 hours before I’m back home. I leave tomorrow morning for 8 days so I don’t want to leave them in crisis. We’ll see how they are when I get home. Thanks for your help and if there’s a worm migration all over the basement floor when I get home, I’ll post again!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#81. July 3rd, 2009, at 5:39 PM.

Wow, Linda – you must have good hearing! haha
Anyway, best of luck – I’ll certainly be interested to find out how this goes for you!
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com jason
#82. July 11th, 2009, at 8:50 PM.

my earth worms keep dieing no matter what i do ?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Carrie
#83. July 20th, 2009, at 8:54 PM.

Hi!
When starting a worm bin, is it ok to use cardboard like ceral boxes? Or is it better to use brown cardboard with no printing on it?
Thanks,
Carrie

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#84. July 22nd, 2009, at 4:27 PM.

JASON – What exactly is it that you are doing? How do you set up your worm bin? What kind of worms are you using? What are you feeding them? I definitely need more info in order to provide assistance.
:-)

—–

CARRIE – I generally prefer not to use cardboard with glossy colors on it – the brown (or gray, in the case of egg carton cardboard) is definitely better.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com jeff
#85. July 24th, 2009, at 6:10 AM.

i plan on making a worm bin and i was wondering if i could use my glass aquarium to do so. all of the glass is painted so that no light can get in.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Melissa
#86. July 30th, 2009, at 2:49 AM.

Hi!

Have learned a lot about worms on your site. I am currently raising about 50 worms in a fish aquarium. I have rocks on the bottom to help the soil not sit in the water and sour and to help it stay moist. my question is Is the food supposed to grow mold?? I thought the worms would eat it before it started molding. I am keeping them in the house as a “science project” for my kids.

This is my first attempt at raising worms and any help would be extremely appreciated!!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Melissa
#87. July 30th, 2009, at 2:55 AM.

i have babies!! but i also have bugs!!! i think they are mites but not sure. they are brown/red. scared to leave lid off —- the bugs might escape into the house!!

PLEASE HELP!!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#88. July 30th, 2009, at 1:52 PM.

JEFF – I have made a worm bin using an aquarium, and while it can be great for keeping in moisture, it is NOT great for air circulation. I ended up adding aquarium air tubes in an effort to pump oxygen down into the lower regions. I was using a clear aquarium as well, so the poor worms were basically stuck in the middle of the material until it got dark, at which time you could see them coating the inside of the glass walls.
—–
MELISSA – Generally in a ‘normal’ worm bin with lots of bedding and lots of worms, you don’t get too much in the way of mold growth – although it depends on the type of food you add. Breads and cereals etc will grow mold much more readily than many other types of wastes (I recommend adding these in moderation since they can become an anaerobic mess as well). 50 worms in all honesty is not a lot – I am also curious to know what kind of worms they are – this is VERY important. Your regular ol’ garden variety of worms are not good for this type of system (although you mention “soil”, so perhaps you’ve created a system more ideal for soil worms than for composting worms).

The “babies” MAY be white worms – very common, especially when there is too much food and a lot of moisture. If the soil you added was from your garden, this might also explain how they got there. Same goes for the “bugs”. You are probably right about them being mites. Don’t worry about them being in your house though. Unless your home is warm, wet and dark, with lots of food lying around (haha) it won’t likely provide the habitat they are adapted for.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Melissa
#89. July 30th, 2009, at 11:35 PM.

thanks! They are red wigglers. I started trying to raise them when i was raising a baby mockingbird, but he has been released and i thought this would be a great experiment. i have tried to put cornmeal in there and it gets moldy very fast. they seem like they don’t like it either. the soil is moist peat moss that i had left over from my garden. i also put some shredded newspaper in with them. they seem to like this until it gets matted down. have some overripe tomatoes and squish i wanted to give them. should i mix this with soil and put outside for a while and then give it to them?? what about manure?? I have 2 horses and some goats. also have a deer that stays around so i have plenty of manure. whats the best way to use this?? should i let it dry out and then use it ??

Thanks!!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#90. July 31st, 2009, at 1:15 AM.

Wow – manure?
You should definitely add some of this – it works best if it has been sitting outside for a bit, and you might want to only add a small amount at a time just to be on the safe side. Horse manure is one of the best food materials for red worms.
Corn meal isn’t a great food material at all, but tomatoes (in moderation since pretty acidic) and ‘squish’ (haha) are great! Just keep an eye on the moisture content. Add lots of dry bedding at the same time.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com David
#91. September 7th, 2009, at 10:59 AM.

Bently,
After creating the worm bedding (from your Rubbermaid video), at what point do you add peat moss or coconut coir to the mix? I will be purchasing my worms in a week. Thanks.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#92. September 10th, 2009, at 1:53 PM.

Hi David,
It is not vitally important to ever add these materials. They can help to make your bedding a lot more absorbent, but I’ve had plenty of bins that didn’t have either (most of my systems over the years, in fact).

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com David
#93. September 11th, 2009, at 4:28 AM.

Bentley,

Thanks for the reply. Your latest email detailing the mature worm bin is so educational. A relative who works at a grocery store recently gave me a few boxes of ‘cutaway’ produce – I now have three worm beds cooking right now. A question I have is, are drain holes a requirement for ideal worm beds? I would think that the cardboard and other carbons will soak up the juices but if they don’t then will I have a stinky mess?

David

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#94. September 11th, 2009, at 6:38 PM.

Hi David,
Drainage isn’t a necessity, but making sure conditions don’t get too wet and anaerobic IS – so however you chose to do this (while keeping the needs of your worms in mind) is totally fine. My outdoor systems are all open-bottomed so they drain into the ground. My indoor systems on the other hand don’t have drainage (well, ok my Worm Inns technically do but they never drain anything), but they are either completely open system (and thus require moisture being added from time to time), or moisture is managed by adding dry bedding materials.
Wet, organic wastes with little oxygen will indeed create a nasty stinky mess.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Moss
#95. September 25th, 2009, at 12:01 PM.

Please help. I have had worms for a year now and everything has been going well until the last month when they started dying in their numbers. What i find also is that they all come up-the surface as if to leave the bin. I have loosened the soil to no avail, added lime and not helping. There are however other things concerning. I have used to the redlike small creatures that also occupy the bin, and suddenly also I observed the black insects like beetles. What is bothering my worms and what kills them. The other sign is that those about to die develop a bulgy bag, change in colour and the die.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#96. September 25th, 2009, at 2:23 PM.

Hi Moss – I suspect that you simply need to harvest the bin and start fresh. This sounds like what I refer to as ‘mature worm bin syndrome’. Worms are pretty tolerant, but if you don’t eventually give them a fresh home (assuming you are using plastic tub systems) their health and well being will eventually decline.
Start up a brand new bin, let it age for a bit, then move the worms over to it. Check out the “Hot Topics” page to get some suggestions for harvesting (Davids method is a great one to use).

Hope this helps
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Doug
#97. November 5th, 2009, at 2:28 PM.

I would like to start some earthworm bins. My intent is to raise earthworms to feed pond raised catfish, and possibly chickens. Can you estimate the approximate yield per year of worms if I start with 2 pounds of red wigglers, assuming I always retain 2 pounds of breeders?

Thanks

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#98. November 5th, 2009, at 8:45 PM.

DOUG – sounds like a fun plan. Unfortunately I can’t really provide you with an accurate estimate though – it will depend on a huge array of different factors. If you still want to come up with SOME sort of estimate, perhaps you can go with the ‘worm population doubling every 90 days’ notion that seems to get passed around a lot.
A bit more food for thought – a worm friend of mine told me she started with 1 lb of worms in a large system, and ended up with 10 lb a year later (so 10-fold increase in a year).
A couple more tidbits based on my own observations…
1) I conducted a breeding experiment in a bin that definitely was NOT optimized well at all. I started with 4 immature worms and after 5 months counted ~120 worms of all sizes (mostly small)
2) I did a ’50 cocoon’ experiment with a fairly normal worm bin – so 50 cocoons were added and I waited to see how long it would take for them to develop into adult worms. Within 5-6 weeks, I was finding adults

Moral of my msg – worms DO breed quickly, but don’t get too fixated on any particular growth estimates. It will really depend on how you keep the systems maintained etc.

Hope this helps

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com norah
#99. November 7th, 2009, at 5:09 AM.

Hi Bentley,
Love your site, very informative!
I have recently acquired a load of horse manure (apples as the lady called them!). They are dry but are still solid ‘apples’. Can I use them in a worm trench as is or do I have to convert them to a powdery mess? Will they decompose over the winter in a layered bed?
I have 3 raised beds that I layer each year but have not used horsey stuff before.
I’d rather not have to break them down as the work is hard and I am not young any more!
Thanks for your help.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#100. November 7th, 2009, at 7:06 PM.

Thanks Norah – I appreciate the kind words.
You can certainly add the ‘apples’ to your trench as is, but they will definitely need to be moistened well before the worms will want to have anything to do with them.
I’m sure if you simply added them without doing ANYTHING they would end up breaking down nicely over the winter. Maybe you have some sort of water-rich waste material (food waste etc) you could mix in?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jesse Biffle
#101. December 30th, 2009, at 2:01 AM.

Thanks for the information,Im thinking of starting to raise worms to sell to local markets and i was wondering what kind of worms would be best,or more profitable to start out with?I have plenty of room,I just need the info. needed to raise my odds of making this work.I appreciate your time,and info.Thank you very much, JESSE

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Ursula Freer
#102. January 1st, 2010, at 3:36 AM.

I have just ordered the worms for my three tray composter.
Is it safe to add coffee grounds (2 Tblsp. a day)to the veggie scraps?
would this be too acidic? The soil I’ll be adding to the bedding is very
alkaline.
Isn’t the cardboard or newspaper acidic too?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com norah
#103. January 6th, 2010, at 7:05 PM.

Go ahead with the coffee grounds they love them.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#104. January 8th, 2010, at 4:19 AM.

Hi Jesse,
There are multiple approaches you can take with that venture. I’m pretty biased towards Red Worms and European Nightcrawlers so I will refer to them in this response.
Each definitely has its own set of advantages (and disadvantages) so it’s hard to say which one is best. If Euros were able to grow/reproduce as quickly as Red Worms the choice would be clear, since they are not only a great composting worm, but they have the size to offer more potential as a bait worm. Plus, they are not as readily available as Red Worms and tend to be more valuable in general. Red Worms are probably your best all around choice since they are very easy to raise and they offer a lot of potential in terms of producing castings and being well suited for home vermicomposting.
You COULD always start with both – just make sure to keep them well separated, since the Reds will likely end up taking over otherwise.

Hope this helps a little (and sorry for the delay responding)
8)

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#105. January 8th, 2010, at 4:23 AM.

Hi Ursula – finally getting around to responding to comments (sorry for delay). I definitely wouldn’t worry about that quantity of grounds and I certainly wouldn’t worry about bedding materials. Composting worms naturally prefer a somewhat acidic pH anyway, and are quite tolerant of low pH in general, so unless you are going overboard with acidic materials (citrus/pineapple etc) you should be ok!

B

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Ursula Freer
#106. January 8th, 2010, at 7:04 PM.

I got my worms from Bentley a few days ago. They came really fast! There is lots of bedding material that came with the bin plus what came with the worms. I added veggie scraps that were aged a few days, about 3 lbs. total. How can I tell when it’s safe to add more food?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jesse Biffle
#107. January 9th, 2010, at 6:43 AM.

Hey, I really appriciated your info on red or night crawlers to start out raising.. I have 1 more question for you ,if you have the time to reply ,it will be greatly appriciated ..We have a huge barn ,2 level, half of the bottom section is under ground.I was wondering when I could start my farm? We live in Alabama ,and temp. here is 14 degrees..What would be the optimum date to put the worms in? Spring, summer, what temp should be? This will be my first attempt at this and I would hate to screw it up,as we will not really have the money to start over. Soil is exellent, here..Any advice that you could share with us will be invaluble as I tend to make a go of this if all goes rite.. Thank you so much for your time,and info you sent last requested… how many worms should i put in each box? Boxes i plan on constructing will be about the size of a door from side to side,how deep do I need to build them? If you have the time ,any futher info. will greatly help!!!!!! God bless, Jesse Biffle

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Mark from Kansas
#108. January 10th, 2010, at 11:34 PM.

Jesse,
Well I am certainly am not a “pro”. For me this started out as a hobby, I work in health care and I needed something to de-stress myself.
Turns out, I seem to be doing well. I am totally into the whole vermicomposting, waste management, soil amendment thing. I was told that if I could keep 1 pound of worms alive for four seasons, then I may be doing something right.
I bought 1 pound and then I think I bought three more pounds, I don’t remember. I started small, a pound of worms is not cheap.
Everything I learned, I got from this website.
Best Always
Mark

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Meredith from NH
#109. January 11th, 2010, at 4:09 PM.

After reading one comment on European Nightcrawlers being good to raise for fishing, I have a question. Can these worms also good composters?

Also, does anyone have any advice on getting rid of TONS of springtails in their bin?
Thanks!
Meredith

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jeanne Northrop
#110. January 13th, 2010, at 2:16 PM.

Just moved back to New Orleans after 20 years spent mostly in the country. Have a very small yard for a container and vertical garden. In researching composting I find that worms might be my best bet. Sime I am only one person my plan is to recruit some neighbors with lidded pails and the promise of veggies to come. One of my best gardens ever was a number of years ago in midcity, in containers. Any suggestions, any worm groups out there?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Mark from Kansas
#111. January 15th, 2010, at 12:43 AM.

Jeanne,
“Worms MIGHT be my best bet” MIGHT! Jeanne it is the best bet.
Suggestion: start small
Mark

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jeanne Northrop
#112. January 18th, 2010, at 1:25 PM.

Thanks for your reply. I am really excited about this and have already started saving my own coffee grounds and veggie ends. I have a rather unique question that the cat composting part might answer. But, I have three elderly (2 are 17) dogs who generally go outside to do their business. BUT, I am sometimes gone for long periods of time and put newspapers by the back door in case they can’t wait. Needless to say, I have some damp newspapers. I don’t want to dry them out and reuse them in the house, but could I use them in the compost? I love this site where people naturally talk about the not pretty part of ecology. Jeanne

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com norah
#113. January 18th, 2010, at 10:06 PM.

Sure you can. in fact human urine is good for the compost too. At one point I had my husband using a pee bottle and putting it in the compost bin and it really heats things up quickly!
I let him off doing it for the winter, we’ll start again in the warmer weather!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#114. January 19th, 2010, at 5:23 PM.

Jesse – Red Worms and European Nightcrawlers are pretty tolerant of cold temps. If you make the beds big enough they should actually generate a fair bit of heat on their own anyway. Just make sure you are not putting these worms into straight soil. I would recommend some sort of vermi-trench (see the “hot topics” page to learn more) or pit.
Just so you can take the time to learn more about all of this, you might want to wait until March or April before getting your venture started. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me via email.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#115. January 19th, 2010, at 5:27 PM.

Norah and others – urine can be useful for nitrogen (and is pretty sterile stuff), but don’t forget about the salt content if you are keeping worms in your composting systems! They tend to be pretty sensitive to salts.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jeanne Northrop
#116. January 26th, 2010, at 11:06 PM.

Hi, I love this site, but quite frankly I have not had time to read all the postings. I’m wondering if anyone can recommend a good, short book that I can order from amazon that might keep my worms alive until I can read all this site.

I am planning to order a wooden 3 drawer worm house because I live in a very small area and want something that looks nice and that will breath so that the worms don’t roast.

I already have a dish bin full of worm food and am not sure how many worms I should get initially.

Thanks.
Jeanne

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Kevin Pearson
#117. January 27th, 2010, at 12:56 PM.

If you start out with a pound of worms and they are fed well and have good living conditions they will multiply very fast. I started out a little over a year ago with a pound of worms in a rubbermaid bin and now have two bins plus worms under my rabbit cages and in several flower beds. As for as feeding food scraps I don’t about that. We feed ours rabbit waste and they love it.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jeanne Northrop
#118. February 15th, 2010, at 7:05 PM.

So thankful for Mardi Gras. I can catch up on reading. I do have one consideration and that is smell. It has been cold here so my ever growing bin on vegetable ends.cpffee grounds and filters, and egg shells is fine right now and my growing stack of dog urine wet newspapers also does not smell much, but I am wondering about the summer when it is humid. I intend to get my work house, get it all nice ans snug and then get the worms when it gets a little warmer and I actually have some garden space out there. I do live in neighborhood, though and since I realize the worms must be kept moist I was wondering about smell. Thanks and Happy Mardi Gras.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#119. February 16th, 2010, at 7:50 PM.

Hi Jeanne,
Scrap storage can create some smells, but it really helps to mix the food waste with a lot of absorbent bedding (shredded cardboard etc – make sure to at least have a nice thick layer down at the bottom of your scrap holding container). If you happen to have some coarse vermicompost material, leaf litter and/or backyard compost, these can all be excellent materials for suppressing odors.
As for the worm composting system itself, assuming you don’t overfeed, the worms should be able to keep odors to a minimum.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com George
#120. February 25th, 2010, at 7:21 AM.

Hello,
So if I am using a Rubbermaid container is it better if I don’t use the top cover?

Also, how often should I water the bedding and what is the best way in doing so?

Thanks,
George

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Matt
#121. February 26th, 2010, at 4:32 AM.

Just read all these wonderful comments. Just thought I would write in an experiment that I have been conducting on my bins. I have a large abundant source of spinach waste (my farms packing facility). I am adding spinach plus paper/cardboard waste, plus precomposted paper waste (with spinach of course). Its been 4 weeks now. Any ideas if I continue this what problems may I run into?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#122. February 26th, 2010, at 3:54 PM.

GEORGE – In my humble opinion, open systems are definitely more effective than enclosed ones – just make sure you are burying foods well and keeping a lot of bedding in the system. As for watering, you will have to determine this for yourself (based on where you put the bin and how quickly it dries out). Aim for keeping things nice and moist, without any pooling in the bottom. Small amounts on a regular basis will be MUCH better than a lot every so often.
——————————–
MATT – Keep us posted on your progress. Sounds like a good mix to me. As long as you are continuing to add the bedding as well, I don’t foresee any major issues.
8)

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com George
#123. February 26th, 2010, at 4:20 PM.

Thanks guys much appreciated!

George

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Ursula Freer
#124. February 26th, 2010, at 6:12 PM.

What is the purpose of the bedding? I received coir (coconut husk) with the worm bin
and with the worms. It all looks like what the worms produce, black and crumbly.
How do I know when to add the torn paper bedding?
I thought you only had to do that when starting a new tray….

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com norah
#125. February 26th, 2010, at 8:32 PM.

Bentley,
I have never heard of having a worm bin without a lid except for an outdoor windrow. would you please comment more on this.
Also can I make my own chicken feed and how? I try not to purchase anything for the worms as that defeats my recycling efforts.
Am going to try your ‘homemade ‘manure, I too run all my scraps through a food processor. The worms love it but it is time consuming. I also make my own bokashi so would that be ok for the worms.
Thanks for a great site, love all your different ideas just don’t have enough time!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Matt
#126. March 2nd, 2010, at 12:53 PM.

Question: I think I have succeeded in making some of my worms uncomfortable. Some (10-15 in a Can-O Worms) are doing more exploring than before. I dont think this is from the spinach per se. Saturday I added 2 inches plus or minus of a ground mixture of pumpkin (2 pie pumpkins), banana, corn cob, potato and carrots. The bin is now around 85 degrees. I was falling behind in this bin adding just paper and spinach since the population is just exploding. Now I wonder if I added too much Nitrogen. Thing is the worms are still in the outlying areas munching happily. My other bin is just fine. I have been putting 1/2 gallon container spinach plus 2 cups partially composted paper 3 times per week plus. It is really amazing how much food these creatures will consume on a weekly/daily basis. Do you think I should be adding more carbon, ie cardboard or paper?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Matt
#127. March 4th, 2010, at 1:02 PM.

Added some egg cartons mixed with waste paper and voila temps are down to 81 and worms have again moved into the mixture. The worms are sensitive to temperature. I had no idea that they were that sensative.

I have heard a little about nitrogen poisoning. What is this?

Thanks

Matt

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Mark from Kansas
#128. March 5th, 2010, at 2:55 AM.

Hi Matt,
It has been my experience that keeping my bin at about 80 degrees F, my worms do well. To me Nitrogen can be friend or foe depending on the season (my bin is in my unheated garage).
I have heard of protein poisoning and have seen it up close and personal,
gas can build up in the worms and they will expand to the point that they will rupture and that is like a horror movie, you will know if it happens. Worms can’t burp or fart. This is not something to get over worried about so long as you follow the basic principles of vermicomposting.
Mark

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Jeanne Northrop
#129. March 8th, 2010, at 11:03 PM.

Help, I found a wooden worm bin on ebay a couple of months ago but was not ready yet to buy one. Now I am and I “feel” that here in Louisiana I will be better able to monitor temperature with a wooden bin, not to mention that the aesthetics are better than plastic. Now, I can’t find it. I think the bins were made in Texas and they weren’t really expensive. Anybody out there know where I can find these again?
Thanks,
Jeanne
PS I also have to order worms

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Ursula Freer
#130. March 9th, 2010, at 1:56 AM.

Jeanne,
Quite a while ago (year or months) I remember Bentley mentioning some problem
with his wooden bin. I’m pretty sure the plastic works much better. When I joined
this list I went back to the very beginning of the posts, I am only half way through
them all. You may consider doing the same as there is important information
throughout.

Ursula

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Don
#131. March 9th, 2010, at 8:50 PM.

What the heck is “bokashi”

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com norah
#132. March 10th, 2010, at 8:25 PM.

Bokashi is a mix of wheat bran, molasses, and EM’s – the efficient microorganisms that make compost go faster.
I use it in an indoor bucket in the winter rather than traipse out through the snow to my outdoor bin. I also feed a little to my worms fromtime to time.
You can buy bokashi but I mix my own. Google it there’s lots of info out there!

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com norah
#133. March 10th, 2010, at 8:27 PM.

I have a wooden bin about the size and look of a toybox with a hinged lid. It works fine, have been using it for 3 years now.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com norah
#134. March 10th, 2010, at 8:46 PM.

I have had a wooden box for 3 years and it works fine. It’s about 3′x2′x2′, like a toybox with a hinged lid. At present I am using half the box and move them to the other side about every 2-3 months. I may fill the box for the summer.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Don
#135. March 10th, 2010, at 10:41 PM.

Nora

Thanks,was just reading the web page and saw the term 2-3 times and drew a blank.Thanks for the education.
Don

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com norah
#136. March 10th, 2010, at 10:48 PM.

Don,
I’m not sure what you are referring to by “2-3 times”. What web page were you at?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#137. March 11th, 2010, at 2:32 PM.

Man oh man – this page is becoming its own discussion forum! Great to see all the interaction (and thanks to those who have been picking up the slack during my response delays!). Here are some general thoughts based on what’s been discussed recently

**Bedding**
Materials referred to as “bedding” are generally carbon-rich, and absorbent. They are VERY important since they help to soak up excess moisture, balance the C:N ratio, and generally provide some habitat structure. This stuff is basically a long-term food source as well, and will gradually be converted into vermicompost. In a stacking system you may be able to get away with adding it only when starting a new tray, but in a deeper system I recommend keeping a thick layer of it up top at all times, or adding some when you feed (not necessarily every time, but fairly often anyway).

**Open Systems**
Using bins without lids can work very well since it greatly improves air flow and encourages evaporation. In a sense you are getting the best of both worlds (assuming you are using some sort of plastic tub), since it should stay reasonably moist if you are feeding it regularly, but you won’t end up with the excessively wet conditions that can occur in enclosed plastic systems (without drainage). It will also be more difficult to “overfeed” a system like this, again since you are getting so much air flow.

**Poultry Feed**
I use this when I want something nutritious, uniform in composition, and specifically when the aim is vermiculture (growing worms) not vermicomposting (using worms to process “waste”). For the average hobbyist worm composter, it probably won’t make much sense to purchase materials like this since, as Norah pointed out, it does kinda defeat the purpose of actual worm composting. Since I am also in the business of selling my own worms up here in Canada (those sold on this site are provided by a US supplier), it makes a lot more sense for me to spend a little money to help my worms grow.

**Wooden Bins**
I love wooden worm composting systems, and in general actually prefer them to plastic bins since they are more “breathable”, and thus easier to work with (similar benefits to the open systems mentioned above). I think what you are referring to, Ursula, is the wooden stacking system I used for my first “four worm reproduction challenge”. The trays were far too shallow, and the system was a bit TOO breathable for my liking. In the case of a stacking system, I would probably lean more towards a plastic bin. That being said, I’m not that big a fan of stacking systems in general, and prefer to go with the K.I.S.S. approach

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Joseph Beauvais
#138. March 14th, 2010, at 6:00 PM.

I live in South Florida, Cape Coral 33904. I have a plastic 55 gallon drum on its side. 6 1″ drain holes on the sides and one on the bottom. all are screened. Plus a one foot door covered and screened (removable) to keep out roaches. It is kept in the shade but Fl gets hot. What is the best worms for this system?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#139. March 15th, 2010, at 7:56 PM.

Hi Joseph,
Given the temps in your region you might be better off working with African Nightcrawlers (Eudrilus eugeniae) or Blue Worms (Perionyx excavatus), rather than Red Worms (Eisenia fetida), since they (the first two) are adapted for hot semi-tropical and tropical environments.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Ursula Freer
#140. March 16th, 2010, at 1:15 AM.

What happens to worms when they die? Is it best to leave the food on top or mix
it in well? I must be killing some when mixing stuff in.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com ToilingAnt
#141. March 16th, 2010, at 5:28 PM.

I have been raising worms in a Rubbermaid bin (according to your specs!) for about 5 months; originally it was indoors, but the fruit flies/gnats/whatever got to be a real pain so I moved it to the porch. The worms have done just fine all through the winter; I generally brought the bin inside on nights that were below freezing.

The worms themselves look GREAT– energetic, fat, and plentiful– BUT. Ants have taken up residence in the bin as well, obviously thinking they’ve struck a food-scrap gold mine. They do not seem to be bothering the worms one bit, but *I* don’t want them around. :-P Not sure if you’re familiar with southern Fire Ants, but they’re awfully bothersome!

I’m trying to figure out first how to separate the live worms from the VC/remaining veggie scraps/ants (sift them out with some wire screen?) and then secondly, how to deal with the ants. Boiling water comes to mind, but will that destroy all the good bacteria left in the VC? Help!

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#142. March 21st, 2010, at 9:44 PM.

URSULA – Worms decompose very quickly, and assuming there aren’t a bunch dying off at once (definitely not something you want to have happen since it can cause a nasty chain reaction) you won’t really notice that they’ve died.
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TOILINGANT – That’s a tough predicament, and something I’m actually not all that familiar with. Ants don’t cause much of an issue around here. Any time I see them in my outdoor systems I generally water heavily since the ants like it a lot drier than the worms. Trying to separate everything sounds like a nightmare to me. I would likely stop feeding altogether and remove any excess food. The ants won’t stick around if there isn’t any good food.
Moving forward you might want to put the bin up on pedestals in a reservoir of water (or a small reservoir for each pedestal). Ants won’t want to swim to reach the bin.
Also, you might try setting up honey + borax traps close to the bin.

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#143. March 27th, 2010, at 4:59 AM.

Hey Bentley, thanks for all the info you’ve provided! What a resource! I’ve been reading for a few weeks now, and I’m still not through it all.

I have a question though. I set up a home made wooden bin recently, and added my red wigglers tonight. I pretty much dug a hole in the bedding and plopped them in there, so if the bedding isn’t to their liking at least they can retreat to the peat/compost mix they came in. I’m a bit worried about a component of my bedding (the worm’s not mine!) after reading the comments above. I had added about a quarter cup of the sawdust I made from the construction of the bin in a layer of the bedding. The rest is a mix of corrugated and egg carton cardboard, and shredded newspaper. I made the bin out of pallet material, I think it’s spruce. Think they’ll be ok with that sawdust?
It’s only been 5 hours, and so far they’re not trying to run away, the top is open under grow lights. I uncovered them to look and they were checking out a banana and coffee filter next to their original peat, but quickly retreated to the peat when the light hit them. I already have other cool critters too. I saw white worms and some kind of mite. They look like walking mini droplets the size of a grain of salt. I can’t see their legs but their antennae wave around alot. They’ve started munching on a few dead worms that were obviously injured in handling that didn’t even crawl out of the light.

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#144. March 29th, 2010, at 4:42 AM.

Today I peeked in and noticed they’ve moved through the bedding a bit to munch on some previously frozen lettuce that’s good and mushy now. One fell through the screen on the bottom and looked in bad shape. A bit of natural selection I suppose. Lid on and lights out tonight, nobody else is trying to get out yet.

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#145. March 29th, 2010, at 11:06 PM.

Sorry to be peppering you with questions Bentley, but I was wondering what sort of screen is appropriate on the bottom of a vertical stacking system tray. I have made mine with a 1/4″ screen, but I’ve read elsewhere that plain old window screen would work fine too. Can they really squeeze through that when they’re full size?
I have a load of screen in my garage since I upgraded the windows last year and saved the old stuff, so it wouldn’t be a big deal to swap out. Good to know now as I’m only using 1 of the 4 tiers I made so far.

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#146. March 30th, 2010, at 5:22 AM.

Just want to run something by everyone…..
I put all my worm food through a food processor first then spread it on top of the worm bedding. The worms love it and it disappears very fast.
Lately I have come by a source of ‘horse apples’ already dried. I add some to the processor and mix some with the bedding. The result is :
1) it keeps the bin warm at a good temp around 70°. I’m in N Colorado and we’ve had a hard winter. I also have a nightlight on for about 6-8 hrs at night although it is becoming less necessary as the weather improves.
2) the worms multiply at a great rate!
They seem very happy and chomp away all the food with gusto.

Happy worming all!
Norah (who’s off to feed the pets)

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#147. April 3rd, 2010, at 6:26 AM.

Hey Bentley, thanks a lot for information. I am trying to raise african nightcrawler. I give them well decomposed compost in 5 gallon buckets 6-8 inches deep. I have 150 worms per bucket. My problem it that I find four or five worms come up on the top of bedding and die everyday. They kind of loose ability to go back in bedding. I am not able to figure out why this is happening?

I have second source of compost which is made from plant leaves, grass clippings, tree twigs. My worms refused to eat it and sink in it. I do not have any obvious reason for this, can you please explain why is it so? What is wrong with compost which makes it not be liked by african nightcrawlers.

I also notices bunch of small mites which lay eggs on dead worms. Are they killing my worms? How to kill these little monsters?

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#148. April 3rd, 2010, at 9:34 PM.

You have soo much info…thanks. My question is.. I have converted a large area of lawn into garden. Would I be throwing away money if I bought worm to release in the garden? I live in coastal Mississippi. I have an endless supply of veggies and cardboard and fruit compost. Does this seem lke a good combo? Having loads of worms would eleviate having to till the garden.

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#149. April 6th, 2010, at 3:23 AM.

Hi,
just wanted to add that within my research of vermicomposting, and worm raising I discovered someones previous research on magnetism. Worms bins and farms everywhere can be influenced by the south pole of a magnet, to increase worm size, activity, voracity, and reproduction. I believe the south pole of a magnet can also influence plant growth and reproduction.. I encourage everyone to check it out!

Search – “South pole magnet and worm breeding” – Albert Roy Davis

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#150. April 18th, 2010, at 12:11 AM.

I’m dizzied by all of this information. . .here are my questions: we are acquiring 6 chicks May 17th and I would like to start raising worms in preparation for winter feeding (of the chickens). The questions are how many do I start with (worms) if I want to harvest every week over the winter, and what kind of a rotation system might I need to keep up the population.
Thank you

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#151. April 22nd, 2010, at 2:53 PM.

**IMPORTANT UPDATE** – I have decided to shut down comments on this page (along with some of the other older pages as well) since it’s becoming more difficult to respond to all these various comments on the site, and I’d rather direct question-askers elsewhere. I apologize to all of you who have gone unanswered – PLEASE do email me if you still have questions (always the best way to get my help).
One thing I really enjoy doing is responding to questions on the blog since this helps others, it helps add more content to the site, and it also puts the questions in a more prominent location – SO, please don’t hesitate to send me an email anytime! Of course, if you really don’t want me to respond to your question publicly (FYI, I only use first names, but can also just say “a reader”), simply let me know in your email and I’ll be sure to reply directly instead (and there are plenty of cases where I’ll do this anyway).

Thanks!

Bentley

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