What Do I Do With All My Extra Worms??

I don’t have an actual question to quote for this ‘reader questions’ post, but I do want to tackle a topic that has come up in emails I’ve received (two very recently) – and a topic that never ceases to make me smile, I might add!

As a serious ‘Worm Head‘ and vermicomposting business owner, the notion of having “too many worms” is a completely foreign concept. There really is no such thing, in my mind.
🙂

Of course, it is important for me to alter my perspective in these situations, and put myself in the shoes of someone just getting into vermicomposting. Obviously not everyone wants to continue expanding their worm herd indefinitely, and with all the claims of worm population doubling speeds out there, the possibility of creating a thriving worm bin can probably seem almost a little scary! The thought of having one’s home overrun by worms doesn’t exactly give you the ‘warm and fuzzies’, after all. (might actually make for a good horror movie plot!)

Well, the good news is that worms will NEVER take over your home or expand their numbers to such an extent as to be a nuisance – without your assistance that is! Obviously, if you continue to expand your population to more and more bins, you will be creating potential heachaches in the form of space issues, spousal unrest, fruit fly nightmares etc.

But a single vermicomposting system will reach a maximum carrying capacity, resulting in a slow down of worm reproduction, and potentially even a reduction in the current population. Of course, you WILL still need to periodically clean out the system and start fresh – but there is no rule that states that you must either build a bigger system or start up multiple systems the second time around! You are more than welcome to simply use the same sized bin and continue on your merry way.

Now – let’s chat about WHY you might want to be supportive of your worm population’s desire to expand. Lots and lots of worms is not necessarily a bad thing – HONEST!
🙂

Here are some of the things you can do with more worms…

1) Compost more of your food waste – produce more vermicompost – promote the growth and health of more of your plants!

2) Sell them or give them away – there a LOTS of people out there more than willing to take composting worms off your hands. Trust me! Just put an add in one of the free online classified ad sites (eg Craigslist, Kijiji etc) and see what happens

3) Make an outdoor ‘in situ’ vermicomposting bed, like my vermicomposting trenches. These systems typically require a lot of worms to reach their maximum potential, so continuing to add all those extra worms from your indoor system(s) could be a good way to get them started.

4) Add them to your ‘regular’ backyard composter – composting worms can greatly enhance the processing time/efficiency of these systems, and create some pretty phenomenal compost while they are at it!

5) Feed them to your fish/chickens/turtles/frogs/snakes/lizards etc or go fishing more often! It kinda pains me to include this one since I’ve grown attached to my own worms (“Every Worm is Sacred, Every Worm is Great!” – any Monty Python fans out there might pick up on that one. haha).

6) Get your friends and family involved – help them set up their own vermicomposting systems


That’s just a handful of ideas – I’m sure there are other possibilities as well! As you can see, there is definitely nothing to worry about – producing lots and lots of worms can definitely be a good thing!

Hope this helps!
8)

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Comments

    • Kim from Milwaukee
    • January 28, 2009

    Bentley, don’t worms have an approximate year and a half lifespan?? I’ve noticed that every two years or so I have a new batch of babies, but not many adults still squirming around. This kinda keeps the numbers in check naturally, it seems.

    Or am I killing them prematurely?

    • vermiman
    • January 29, 2009

    Kim,

    It’s seems you are doing something to cause a total crash of worm population, leaving the egg capsules there to repopulate the bin.

    See worms lay egg capsules about every week. If their lifespan was a year and a half, once that year and a half time span was reached, you would have worms of various ages. Since worms reach maturity rather quickly, there should be a sustainable population of adult worms.

    • Nolan
    • January 31, 2009

    Could be that the younger generation is more prevalent up top.
    I’ve just started to harvest my one bin (Attempting the Garbage Bag solution down in the basement with a Pure White Florescent Bulb – Hope it works), and at first all I saw were the young’ns.

    Once i scooped the top 2-3 inches into the bag, I started to notice a HUGE population of Big’ums from what was remaining – all the way to the bottom. It was actually kinda scary seeing soooo many of them (I think I could fill 3/4s or more of a Ziploc Freezer bag with just the worms – 14Gallon Bin).

  1. When I had an excess of worms last year I gave them to my mum who put them in her compost heap.
    My mum says they are still in there doing their stuff!

    • Bentley
    • February 4, 2009

    Hi Kim,
    Sorry for the delay. That DOES sound a little odd. Like Vermiman (not to be confused with ‘Vermifan’ – haha) says, there should always be a variety of sizes given the continual reproduction of the worms.
    What sort of system are we talking about here? (indoor worm bin?)

    • Greg
    • November 23, 2013

    We’ve been composting since mid summer in a large Rubbermaid bin. We were told to use composting worms. A few questions:
    1. Can I just dump the worms in the bin?
    2. How many do I need? Container is about 40 gallons.
    3. Do I need to turn the compost over periodically or will the worm wriggling keep it aerated?
    4. Do the worms relocate if they run out of food in the bin?

    Thanks.

  2. My indoor vermicomposting project had to be transferred to our patio when worms started escaping from their 18-gallon plastic tote/worm bin. It was the red wiggler version of “The Great Escape”, but the escapees were quickly rounded-up and returned to confinement.
    To alleviate overcrowding, one 18-gallon tote… became two – and the herd was transferred to our patio. Being a newbie to worm farming, I thought I’d solved the housing/overcrowding issue. But, in just a few short months, there was another mass migration toward greener pastures.
    Following that 2nd recapture, I decided that I was done with those pesky redworms. I took both habitats and dumped them on the cattles’ manure/straw bedding pile. End of my worm farming venture… or so I thought!
    Fall and Winter came and went. In mid-Spring, one of my projects was to turn the manure/compost pile. Guess what I discovered by the thousands! Yep, greener pastures had helped create the ‘Hilton’ of habitats… that required no extra input from me.
    The worms’ survival, that first Winter, was purely accidental – and a result of heat from decomposing green matter in the pile. The red wigglers got lucky!
    Things have sure changed since that Spring. I’ve learned as much as I can about vermicomposting/worm farming – and also discovered that there is a lot of conflicting information out there. If you read enough, you formulate a “middle of the road” approach to raising worms – then time, mingled with trial and error, will fine-tune your worm farming technique. Since you’re wondering what to do with your extra worms… you’ve probably found a system that works for you, and your vermicomposting has been a success.
    I mentioned Trial and Error. I now have 6 worm habitats that range from 18-gallon totes to a 55-gallon plastic barrel (and am preparing a 2nd 55-gal drum so I can experiment with goat manure – supplied by a neighbor). I now raise rabbits and have a separate manure/compost pile for their bunny berries. I’ve discovered that bunny berries make for much fatter worms than those found in the cattle manure pile!
    Getting back to the original inquiry, “What Do I Do With All My Extra Worms??” I don’t know… I haven’t gotten to that point yet – though I have, on occasion, traded an 18-gal working habitat for 2 new empty 18-gallon totes – to help get others started in worm farming/vermicomposting.
    I like the way red wigglers break-down our manure/compost piles. I screen these piles (twice) before adding the fertilizer/compost to our vegetable and flower gardens. The red wigglers and material that doesn’t go through the 1/4″ screen go onto next year’s pile. The 1/4″ screenings are then shaken through an 1/8″ screen to capture the smaller worms and cocoons. What doesn’t go through the 1/8″ screen gets hand-sorted for worms before being added to the 1/8″ screenings and stored for garden use.
    I worry more about our limited annual requirement for garden fertilizer/compost – than I concern myself about having too many worms. Maybe next year… I’ll have to address the too many worms issue!
    Any suggestions would be appreciated.

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