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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Comments

  1. 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

  2. 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?

    • norah
    • January 6, 2010

    Go ahead with the coffee grounds they love them.

    • Bentley
    • January 8, 2010

    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)

    • Bentley
    • January 8, 2010

    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

  3. 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?

    • Jesse Biffle
    • January 9, 2010

    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

  4. 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

    • Meredith from NH
    • January 11, 2010

    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

    • Jeanne Northrop
    • January 13, 2010

    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?

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

    • Jeanne Northrop
    • January 18, 2010

    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

    • norah
    • January 18, 2010

    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!

    • Bentley
    • January 19, 2010

    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.

    • Bentley
    • January 19, 2010

    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.

    • Jeanne Northrop
    • January 26, 2010

    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

  6. 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.

    • Jeanne Northrop
    • February 15, 2010

    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.

    • Bentley
    • February 16, 2010

    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.

  7. 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

    • Matt
    • February 26, 2010

    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?

    • Bentley
    • February 26, 2010

    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)

  8. Thanks guys much appreciated!

    George

  9. 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….

    • norah
    • February 26, 2010

    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!

    • Matt
    • March 2, 2010

    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?

    • Matt
    • March 4, 2010

    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

  10. 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

    • Jeanne Northrop
    • March 8, 2010

    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

  11. 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

    • Don
    • March 9, 2010

    What the heck is “bokashi”

    • norah
    • March 10, 2010

    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!

    • norah
    • March 10, 2010

    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.

    • norah
    • March 10, 2010

    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.

    • Don
    • March 10, 2010

    Nora

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

    • norah
    • March 10, 2010

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

    • Bentley
    • March 11, 2010

    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

  12. 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?

    • Bentley
    • March 15, 2010

    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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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. 😛 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!

    • Bentley
    • March 21, 2010

    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.
    ————————–
    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.

    • Paul
    • March 27, 2010

    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.

    • Paul
    • March 29, 2010

    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.

    • Paul
    • March 29, 2010

    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.

    • norah
    • March 30, 2010

    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)

    • ASN
    • April 3, 2010

    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?

    • Brad
    • April 3, 2010

    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.

    • EJ
    • April 6, 2010

    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

    • Roberta
    • April 18, 2010

    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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