Grains for Worms

Here is an interesting question from Ruthie:

my husband and i are new to worm farming and have read just
about everything i can find regarding food for the worms; we have a
“cultured” nightcrawler which we are going to use for castings and
fish bait; i have seen the mention of grain feeding and would like to
know which grains would be best? what ratios to use etc. there has
been a mention of rye & barley?

would appreciate any information you can supply me with.

Hi Ruthie,
I’m not really an expert on this topic, but my hope is that by posting this on the blog we’ll get some comments from readers who do use a lot of grain foods for their worms.

I honestly think a lot of grain products would work well. I’ve heard that a lot of people use chicken ‘laying mash’ as a worm fattener, but have not tried this myself. I’ve used wheat bran mixed with food waste slurry (my homemade manure), but it’s hard to say how effective it was given the fact that it was mixed with a lot of other materials.

I’ve also used brewery wastes (which, according to some experts is an excellent material for worms) but actually found them very difficult to work with – they went anaerobic (and nasty) very easily and the worms didn’t seem to care for them at all.

You mentioned culturing ‘nightcrawlers’ successfully – I would be interested to learn what type of nightcrawlers you are referring to. I have yet to come across someone who has had a lot of success with soil nightcrawlers (such as the Canadian Nightcrawler – Lumbricus terrestris), given their requirements.


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    • Robert
    • March 2, 2009

    Hey Bentley,

    First, you have a great site! I especially appreciate the videos that you have posted. I can tell that you have put a lot of time and effort in putting all this information together. Your work is greatly appreciated!!

    I don’t have any worms yet. But, I plan to get some in the next couple of weeks. That will give me time to follow your recommendation to set up the bin and allow it to rot for a couple of weeks before adding worms.

    I don’t know what type of nightcrawlers Ruthie is referring to either. Like you, I’ve not met anyone who has been successful with soil nightcrawlers. But, I have read about a lot of success in raising two other nightcrawlers.

    The first is the African nightcrawler (eudrilus eugeniae). It is supposed to be a very prolific composting worm. And, I have read that it reaches sizes that are comparable to the Canadian nightcrawlers. One man claims to have seen one that was 15 inches in length! But, unlike the Canadian nightcrawlers, the Africans are very heat tolerant and very cold intolerant. They are supposedly at their very best when temps are above 70 degrees F.

    The second is the European nightcrawler (eisenia hortensis). They are cousins to the Red Worm (eisenia fetida). They look so much like an overgrown Red Worm that some call them Red Worms on steroids!! They are much, much bigger than the Red Worm. Yet, they are smaller than the Africans or the Canadians. From what I have read about them, they multiply slower and do not have the voracious appetite of the Red Worm. But, you raise them in the exact same way that you raise Red Worms. And, if their bedding gets a bit wet, it’s no problem. They actually tend to like more moisture than the Red Worms.

    Since I am wanting big worms to fish with, I intend to try both the African crawler and the European crawler.

    I hope this information was helpful to you and others. If you need any help locating any of these worms, you are welcome to email me and I will see if I can point you in the right direction!


    • Bentley
    • March 3, 2009

    Good points, Robert – you covered some ground that I didn’t.
    Actually reminds me of another Q&A article I posted awhile ago:

    Not sure if you are aware of this, but we actually sell Euros here.
    (nudge, nudge, wink, wink)

    • Robert
    • March 4, 2009

    Hi Bentley,

    Some way, some how, I either missed or forgot about (with me, one is just as likely as the other) your nightcrawler-question blog! Sorry about wasting your site’s space with my redundancy! :>)

    You know… if I didn’t know better, I’d think you were trying to sell me some worms!! LOL Yep, I already found the page where you have your worm prices and such. And, I have a couple of questions for you. But, I’ll send you an email with them.

    Thanks for your reply. You definately have a great site!!!!


    • Bentley
    • March 4, 2009

    Absolutely no worries, Robert!
    I didn’t mean to imply that your comment was unnecessary – most people wouldn’t even know about the other post. On a site like this there is definitely no such thing as redundancy, since information is scattered all over the place. Aside from that, repetition definitely helps the learning process.

    And, aside from that, repetition definitely helps the learning process!

    • John Augenstein
    • March 11, 2009

    All the way back up to Ruthie. I am growing red wrigglers (eisenia fetida) and European Night crawlers (eisenia hortensis). I feed a mix of pureed garden leftovers (1 Lb Freezer bag), one single hand full of peat moss, two single handfuls of poultry feed (pelleted) and add coffee and tea grounds (I have a good supply from a local restaurant) until it’s wet but no longer gooey. I tried out several different grains and feeds before settling on the poultry feed. It has calcium (usually finely ground oyster shell) added for egg shell strength, this is good worm health and bin Ph. 24 Hrs after I mix this up the pellets have softened so when I stir they break up into small particles that the worms seem to make short work of. A $7 bag is going to last me over a year. By the way, the above recipe gives me about 1/2 of a 3 gallon pail full at a time. I hope this is of some use. John

    • Bentley
    • March 13, 2009

    John – I just wanted to jump in here and thank you for all your contributions lately. LOADS of great information contained in your comments!

    • Andy
    • September 7, 2009

    I am not sure that anyone answered the question of what “cultured nightcrawlers” were. Here is a site from WI that is saying that they have the best of the red wigglers and a worm system that can actually keep track of inventory of worms and end product of castings. Take a look at the following site for the information about the worms. Tell me what you think. It looks like for under a $100 investment you would get access to a system and some worms. I would like to see if anyone else is using these.

    • Bentley
    • September 10, 2009

    Hi Andy,
    I’m not big on recommending turn-key systems like that provided by Unco. I’m not saying they are disreputable or it’s a waste of money – I have not tried any of their offerings – I just think it always works best when someone new to worm composting simply starts raising worms. It is very easy, and you certainly don’t need to pay that much to get started.
    The ‘cultured’ nightcrawlers they are referring to are likely European Nightcrawlers, since they are a larger version of the Red Worm, and as mentioned, they don’t need to be refrigerated.

    • Ed
    • March 1, 2013

    Just a note regarding my experiment with grain. I had a bunch of leftover popcorn kernels, so I ground them up and added a couple of cupfuls to my bin. Imagine my disappointment when, a couple of days later, I discovered the bin was “steaming” and the interior temperature was over 130 degrees. I lost over 90% of my worms 🙁 I’d like to try it again but need some advice on preventing the natural process of composting. Any hints?

    • Patrick Perry
    • June 30, 2013

    The “cultured nightcrawlers” are african nightcrawlers that grow best at 70 to 90 degrees f. They are available as eggs or adults throughout the southern US. The growing medium is naturally harvested partially rotted granulated peatmoss that looks like the castings. The feed is primarily cornmeal, oats and barley grains. The worms are grown in areated (holes drilled in sides at the top) 5 gallon buckets stacked in 4′ squares and covered with plywood, with more layers to the ceiling, requiring little space for lots of buckets. The finished product is not pure castings; it may contain 80% peatmoss granules. For separating, the castings and peatmoss pass through a 1/8 inch screen, the eggs through a 1/4 inch screen. The videos and operation are an investment ponzi scheme. All the supplies and equipment are overpriced and sold through UNICO, return shipping costs more to sell your products back to UNICO than they pay for them.

  1. On the popcorn, Ed, seems to me it would be just like manure, wait
    and let it cook and cool before you put it in the bin and it should be fine.
    Ha, and then i notice this posting was made in 2013 – EGADS!! Well, what th’ heck, cain’t hurt, can it?

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