Interesting question from Ben:
Hello there! I heard a rumour that worms only consume the first meal
they have tried after birth. So for example If they have tried food
waste they will only eat food waste for the end of their life. If they
have started with manure the same rule applies. So basically you can
only feed worms with one type of meal, and you can’t swap organic
waste with manure whenever you like. Is there any rational thought in
Your question definitely put a smile on my face (really interesting topic, though – so thanks for the submission)! Let me start by putting your mind at ease – the “rumour” is actually more like a MYTH (if not a “bald-faced lie”! haha). There is absolutely NO validity to that statement – and in fact, if that were the case, vermicomposting would be a much different kettle of fish (not nearly as beneficial as it is).
Apart from seeing proof that this is not the case (over and over and over again, when I’ve introduced worms to a new food and they’ve eagerly consumed it), when it comes down to it, composting worm suppliers would be in REAL trouble if their worms only ate what they fed them. Most serious worm farms use manure and/or various “secret” feed formulas (“worm chow” etc etc) to feed their worms. Many of these worms are then sold to typical home vermicomposters who proceed to feed them mainly food scraps (upon-which the worms happily feed).
Similarly, if you find yourself an old manure heap loaded with Red Worms and you toss in some food scraps, you’ll more than likely have a feeding frenzy on your hands in no time. If anything, worms are often MORE interested in these new food sources than they are in the run-of-the-mill stuff they’ve been feeding on up until that point.
Now, all that said, I should mention that there ARE some advantages of having worms grow up with a certain type of food, in a certain environment etc. There is scientific evidence to show that worms raised in a given environment are much better adapted to survive in that environment than those worms introduced into it.
One example that comes to mind was from a study that involved feeding Red Worms fish “manure”. Initially, the researchers were finding that the material was killing off ALL their worms (likely due to ammonia release). I can’t remember the exact details of what they did next, but basically they found that FAR more worms were surviving when they were actually born in the fish-waste-laden habitat.
This helps to explain how you can end up with a thriving Red Worm population in an environment that would seem to be pretty toxic. An example of my own would be when I filled a backyard composter with compostable kitty litter (containing cat urine and feces, and undoubtedly releasing LOTS of ammonia) – with the intention of letting it age for awhile before adding worms – only to then discover some time later that it was loaded with big, healthy looking Reds!
Bottom-line, you definitely don’t need to worry about feeding your worms different things, but if you ever do want to raise worms in an environment (on a particular kind of food etc) that’s less-than-ideal, you may want to try adding cocoons to see if you can get a new more-tolerant population established
Hope this helps clear things up. Thanks again for the great question!