Some nice comments, and an interesting question from Mary:
“…I would like to add my grateful thanks to you for your sensible blog which has kept me from panicking and happily maintaining a healthy environment for my now burgeoning population of red worms. Now what do I do with them? . I’m sure you will soon answer this question as you have answered all of my others so well. Thank you for your efforts. They are appreciated.”
You are among a surprising number of people wondering what to do with all their extra worms, so thanks for giving me the opportunity to publicly address this here on the blog (your kind words are of course appreciated as well).
First and foremost, I like to think of this potential (abundance of worms) situation as a “good problem” to have! It demonstrates that you can vermicompost successfully, and that you have (more than likely) made it past some of the early challenges that cause many newcomers to throw in the towel before witnessing the true “power” of the process. So congrats – feel free to pat yourself on the back!
There is also one thing I really want to make clear for all those who are actually concerned about their thriving, expanding herd of composting worms. Some people have a misconception about “overcrowding” – fearing that a worm population will continue to grow and grow and GROW, perhaps causing their system to eventually explode – sending worm shrapnel in every direction? Or maybe imagining a seething mass of worms getting closer and closer to the upper rim of the bin before overflowing and sending in a big gooey mass of worms down onto their floor…eventually filling their entire house, and surrounding neighborhood.
Ok, I am obviously getting silly here – but I DO know there are people that worry about a population getting “too big”. Well, the good news is that neither of the silly scenarios I described (or anything remotely similar) will happen once your population reaches critical mass. Yes, the habitat quality in the bin will eventually deteriorate. Yes you may see a greater incidence of roaming worms as a result of this deterioration, and just generally due to the overcrowding itself. But, like most organisms, a Red Worms can regulate their population size. As it grows and resources dwindle, reproduction will slow down a great deal (there may be more cocoons being laid, but likely fewer and fewer baby worms hatching out).
Now moving on to what you can do with a burgeoning population of composting worms.
1) Expanding the Herd – this an obvious option, but not likely the preferred choice of those who make these inquiries. I figured I would just include it for all those who have the space and desire to continue building up their Red Worm population. A very simple strategy would involve splitting the contents of your bins every few months (i.e. create “new” systems that contain half worm-rich material, half brand new bedding and food). Of course you could also simply expand out into larger systems as well.
2) Spreading the Worm – maybe your immediate family has no interest in dabbling in the vermiculture arts, but you likely have at least one or two friends/family members who would be open to the idea, if not downright excited about the notion of keeping gobs of slimy worms in their house (especially if that’s how you describe it! lol).
Even if you DON’T personally know anyone you can pass the vermi-torch on to, there are certainly plenty of strangers who would happily take some worms off your hands. Get in touch with local public schools, put up flyers on college campuses, post ads in Craigslist. Etc etc etc
People pay good money for composting worms, so they’ll certainly take them for free.
Speaking of paying good money, you may also want to consider…
3) Selling Them – if you have some entrepreneurial spirit, perhaps the idea of making a bit of extra money from your worm herd will be appealing. As I’ve discovered first-hand, you definitely don’t need “pounds of worms” in order to have a valuable product. Sell some sort of “worm culture” mix – basically worm-rich material from thriving vermicomposting systems – to those looking to get into vermicomposting. In some ways, mixes like this can be BETTER suited for starting up a new system than “gobs” of worms in peat moss are. You get all that worm-friendly habitat material (containing loads of beneficial organisms), lots of young worms and cocoons, and nice healthy adult worms at densities that will encourage rapid expansion once they are added to a new system and have lots of space and food to take advantage of!
If after reading this (and trying some of my suggestions) you are STILL stumped, please drop me a line! I will happily help you find someone to take worms off your hands (via the Facebook Page and/or other RWC communication channels)!
Hope this helps, Mary!