This msg comes from Chris, the worm-counting teacher ( and yet another e-mail bounce victim!) 😯
Our special education classroom has a pretty large
vermicomposting system in place. We have 5 large plastic sinks full
of worms and compost over 600 pounds of cafeteria waste over the
school year. One of the projects we have (besides composting and
bottling up the worm leachate) is selling our redworms for fishing
bait at a local gas station. Our problem is… after we count and
package our worms into a styrofoam container something happens to the
1. They stretch out and come to the top of the container.
2. They look as though they are “bleeding out” and soon die.
We have tried the following:
1. De-chlorinate the water we use to moisten the packaging dirt.
2. Use the dirt the worms are living in without adding any liquid.
3. Refridgerate the worms.
4. Don’t refrigerate the worms
5. Use distilled water when moistening the packaging dirt.
What is the best packaging material ?
Are the worms that sensitive to change of environment? How do the
bait producers figure this all out?
Help. I appreciate your suggestions. I have students who count on
the worms for their “jobs” during the school day.
Sorry to hear about your worms!
Your project sounds fantastic – getting kids involved with worm composting is awesome, but it’s even better when you can teach them about running a business at the same time.
I wonder if you styrofoam containers might contain something harmful? Have you tried cardboard cartons instead? I would imagine there would be some available from the food industry (portable soup bowls etc). A worm farming friend uses something like this for bait worm ‘cups’.
You mentioned using moistened ‘worm dirt’ as a bedding material – this may also be the cause of your problems. Worm castings are fantastic for your garden, but it’s important to remember that the material is a worm waste product, so it can be toxic in high concentrations – especially if it is water-logged (can go anaerobic). Not sure how much water you are adding, but just figured this might be a possibility.
You might try keeping them in well-washed peat most (it tends to be really acidic so it’s good to wash it in a mesh bag before use) – this is a standard material for the bait industry. It is NOT the most environmentally friendly option however – coconut coir might be a better choice (but costs more).
You can mix in some of your worm dirt or some very well-aged manure (should have an earthy odour) to add a little ‘biology’ into the mix as well.
All in all, worms are pretty tough creatures, so I suspect there is something specific causing their demise. I would imagine that over the years bait farmers have learned how to keep worms alive the longest via a lot of trial and error!
Anyway, I hope this helps!