Pencil Shavings in Worm Bins?

This is an interesting question:

I have prepared my first worm bins in anticipation of receiving my first ever order of worms later this week. I am also now on the lookout for any and all items the worms might like. One item I haven’t found mentioned on your site: household amounts of pencil shavings?

Thank you for your excellent website.


Hi Justina,
Generally speaking, woody materials are not the best food/bedding for worm bins since they can take quite some time to fully break down (but they can simply be screened and added to new systems as a “living material” over and over again). That being said, shavings like that are certainly better than chunks of wood or even wood chips.

Although we still use the term “lead”, the actual metal lead probably hasn’t been used to write for hundreds of years (but I’m not a writing historian so don’t quote me on that! lol). The graphite that IS used is totally harmless (and whadya know – it’s a carbon source too!). I would imagine that the core of coloring pencils would be equally benign.

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    • John Duffy
    • January 1, 2016

    Aren’t most pencils made from cedar wood? Not sure worms would like it

    • Kirsty
    • January 1, 2016

    I have a worm farm in my classroom. It often gets fed pension shavings and the worms don’t seem to mind. Then again I am not looking for super fine castings but rather a way to recycle food waste and teach the children about worms!

    • Kirsty
    • January 1, 2016

    Oops! Pencil shavings. We do not, I repeat, do not shave pensions or pensioners!!

    • Kelly
    • January 27, 2016

    Kirsty, I stumbled across this site looking for information to help me start a bin in my classroom. Any tips? Thanks, the most!

    • Kirsty
    • February 3, 2016

    Hi Kelly, anything you need to know can be found on this website or the red worm composting Facebook page. The information on how to set up a tub style bin is a good start for a classroom. The most important thing will be to make sure the small people do not put too much food in. More worms have been killed by over feeding than any other mistake you can make. The kids love the worms in our room. They are ef’s and are pretty tolerant of the kids playing with them! With lots of bedding you can neglect them for a week or two so you do not have to take them home for holidays. Happy worm farming!

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