What to Do With All Your Extra Worms

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.”

Hi Mary,

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!

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    • Rosalinda
    • January 4, 2014

    I have a 10 gal. rubber bin for 1.5 years now. I’m beginning to see cluster of worms all wrapped up over each other. Is that the sign that I have too many worms and I can start splitting my system? They are consuming all of the kitchen scraps in two days! The last thing I want to see is a decline in the system. It’s still really difficult for me to find actually eggs but I do see smaller worms–I must have bad eyesight. Other than more roaming around, as you mentioned above, what other signs should I be looking for telling me my system needs splitting?

    • Greg
    • January 10, 2014

    Hi Mary/Bentley,

    I’m happy to see someone who has so many worms, they’re not sure what to do with them all.

    Since you’ve had such success, are there any tricks or special environment factors that really help propagation? (Or special worm aphrodisiac foods??!! 🙂 ) My 1lb of red-wigglers in a plastic tub are doing OK, and I’m following all the standard practices of not overfeeding, keeping things moist, but also aerated, dark, etc. However, I guess I expected to see them grow their population a bit more quickly.

    I do think they’re propagating at least some, because I’ve had the bin for several months and I see worms of different sizes. If they were dying out and not reproducing, I don’t think I would see small worms. I think I’ve seen a worm egg here and there.

    Does anyone have a rule of thumb for how quickly or how much a worm population should grow over a given period of time? Are my expectations just too high? 🙂

    (I apologize if this is a repeat question, but a search didn’t turn up anything related.)


    • Bentley
    • January 20, 2014

    Hi Greg – this post may help:

    You might think about starting up a couple of other bins and splitting the contents of the original bin between them. That should help your population expand quickly!

    • Greg
    • January 20, 2014

    Thanks Bentley! I appreciate the pointer to the post. I actually did split the population into two bins to give them more room. One of the comments on the post basically said that if it smells good and food is disappearing, then all signs point to good. So, I’ll take that as a good sign!

    Since the original post, I actually harvested some of the castings for some container plants (via a sifting method), and found multiple eggs and many tiny worms. I moved them into my two active bins. So great news!

    Thanks for a great website and responding to my post!


    • Tom Bergstrand
    • February 7, 2014

    Greg asked.”Since you’ve had such success, are there any tricks or special environment factors that really help propagation? (Or special worm aphrodisiac foods?)?”
    Well it has been said that a product known as “Laying Mash” , a chicken feed supplement sprinkled on top of the bin will help. It is said to NOT mix it in since it will spoil. Perhaps our esteemed Host can shed some light on this bit of information. How about it Bentley?

    • Vinny
    • April 9, 2014

    I used to screen each and every worm during the harvesting process. After wising up over time, I’ve realized that the worms come back from a fairly low starting population. I now just pick the biggest bunch of worms hiding under a layer of wet newspaper and drop them off to the new bin. Everything else goes into the garden.

    The upside of this is I have worms everywhere in my garden. I’ve mulched my mini orchard with 6 inches of wood chips and I see my worms everywhere I lift the mulch. I also did some trench composting in my raised beds and I drop some of the stragglers there as well.

    The downside of this is there are worms everywhere 🙂 They hide under pots and containers and stain the concrete. Worm casting stains don’t wash away that easily.

    • james freeman
    • April 25, 2014

    I built a horizontal migration bin 4x2x20 separated by a 1/2″ screen.my question is when the bedding and castings reach 16 to 18″ I will stop feeding that side and put down bedding and food on other side to entice the worms to migrate to the other side. if worms live in top 6″ of bed will the food be enough to make them move down 10 to 12″ to reach new bed and food. my plan is to wait about a month to harvest finished side giving babies time to hatch and move over to new side.this is my first time vermicomposting so it’s all new to me.i have about 4000 reds

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