Raising Worms

It doesn’t matter if you are raising Red wigglers, African nightcrawlers or European nightcrawlers, they all have the same basic needs:

1) Food
2) Water
3) Darkness
4) Warmth
5) Air

Food

Worms need food to live. The waste food you provide for the worms allows microorganisms to breed, which the worms in turn eat. There are several types of foods you should probably avoid feeding.

Off the menu: Meat, Dairy, Acidic foods like lemons or greasy foods.

While worms can handle some of these things, they may leave some of the food uneaten which is an open invitation for unwanted insects.

On the menu: Fruits and Veggies, grass clippings, leaves, SOME animal manures (from animals that haven’t been wormed recently). For example; rabbit, horse and cow are all good. If you have any question please refer to the Q&A page.

It also helps your worms if you cut up the food scraps you are giving them into smaller pieces. This will increase the surface area (for more microorganisms) and prevent your bin from going anaerobic (see Air) and getting smelly. It also helps if you freeze the food scraps first. This will kill insects, their eggs and help break down the scraps more quickly.

Water

Your worms won’t need a water bowl, but they do need moisture. Without it they will die. If a worm ever escapes your bin, you will usually find them shriveled up a foot or two away from their bin the next day. This is because they need moisture. You should inspect your bin frequently (using a moisture meter) to evaluate the moisture level. A common rule of thumb is that if you squeeze a handful of bedding, only a few drops of water should come out.

Darkness

Worms shy away from light. In fact, I recommend that people who just ordered worms to leave the light on over the bin for the first couple of nights. Most of the time this will encourage the worms to dig into the bedding and not try to escape.

Warmth

The Red wigglers (Eisenia Fetida) and European nightcrawlers (Eisenia hortensis) are very tolerant of both heat and cold. These two types of worms can survive temperatures of approximately  34 -90 degrees. Having said that, while the worms may be able to survive in the previously mentioned temperature range, they prosper at temperatures between 65-78 degrees.

Worms need oxygen to breath. A good bedding material like shredded cardboard is good to help air flow through your bin. Air also prevents your bin from going anaerobic which would cause acid to be produced along with foul odors.

Air

Air throughout the bedding is important. The worms need it to survive. This can be accomplished by using peat moss, coconut core or small wood chips. These choices will create small air pockets throughout their environment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What type of worm is right for me?
    Dennis Brown30-04-2021

    Depends on your needs. Here is a basic overview of all of our worms and their most common uses:

    Red worms:

    Are mainly used for composting and some fishing, they are number one for composting, but if you have fishing in mind, you may want to go with the Europeans.

    European Nightcrawlers:

    Very similar to red worms except bigger. They are the perfect balance for the fisherman or composter. Only downside is they reproduce slightly slower than red worms and consume compost slightly slower.

  • What can I feed my worms?
    Dennis Brown30-04-2021

    Worms will eat anything that ever lived (organic). With that being said, there are a few things you should probably avoid. Meat and dairy are a bad idea since they will start to smell very quickly and attract maggots and other critters you don’t want. Leaves, grass, fruit and veggie peels are all great ideas for worm food.

  • My worms are trying to escape what did I do wrong?
    Dennis Brown30-04-2021

    You are probably doing at least 1 of 3 things wrong:
    1) Too much food. The worms can only handle so much. If they haven’t started to eat what you last fed them, wait until you feed them more.
    2) Too much/not enough water. Plastic bins hold moisture very well, most other bins do not. If you have a wooden bin, or a bin with an open top, you will probably have to add water much more frequently.
    3) The worms are just getting settled. If you just received your worms it is natural for some of your worms to try to escape. They are in a strange new habitat and just need time to get used to your home. This should just last a few days. Leave the light on and they will be much less likely to try to escape (they don’t like light).

  • My bin smells bad, what am I doing wrong?
    Dennis Brown30-04-2021

    The bad smell is due to anaerobic bacteria. This means there is not enough air flowing through your bin. This is usually due to the bin being too wet. To fix the problem, leave the lid off the bin and mix in some dry coconut coir, cardboard or paper.

  • My bin is growing mold, will this harm my worms?
    Dennis Brown30-04-2021

    No, the worms don’t mind the mold at all. It may be a sign that you are feeding your worms too much though. Either take some food out or let the worms catch up. I’ve heard that puffballs (type of fungus) can release millions of spores which can be harmful to humans, so if you have those, try to get rid of them.

  • How to Make a Worm Bin
    Dennis Brown30-04-2021

    What you need

    • Rubbermaid Bin
    • Shredded Cardboard/Paper(or other bedding)
    • Food Scraps
    • Drill
    • Worms
    • Spray bottle

    Rubbermaid Bin:

    Step 1) Drill 1/8″ holes around the sides and on the lid. 10 holes on the sides and 10 on the lid will be enough. This provides ventilation for the worms.

            2) Drill approx. 5 1/8″ holes in the bottom of the bin for drainage. Add a second bin underneath to catch the liquid.

            3) Rip-up cardboard and paper and put it into the bin. Making the pieces small will be better. Fill bin about half-way full.

            4) Moisten the Cardboard and Paper with your spray bottle. It should be thoroughly moist but not dripping wet.

            5) Add a layer of food scraps.

            6) Add another thin layer of dry paper and cardboard. Adding the dry layer near the top will help prevent the worms from trying to escape your bin.

            7) It is a good idea to let the bin sit for a few days before adding the worms. This allows the food scraps to start decomposing so the worms can eat it. Also try initially adding a handful of compost. This offers ‘grit’ for the worms as well as helpful bacteria.

       8) Add the worms! I recommend adding 1lb. of worms per square foot of surface area. Worms can eat half their weight a day in food. Use these two rules of thumbs to figure out the bin size and number of worms you need.  You can Contact us about any worm questions you may have.

  • Will a Red Worm Population Double in 3 Months?
    Dennis Brown30-04-2021

    One bizarre vermicomposting “fact” that has been floating around for years, and taken seriously by many newbie vermicomposters, is this idea of expecting your Red Worms to double in number in 3 months (or “90 Days”). It seems like a fairly reasonable claim on the surface – but if you really sit down and crunch the numbers you’ll realize pretty quickly just how utterly ridiculous it is!

    For starters – even regardless of any fun calculations you can make (something we’ll do in a minute) – it’s hugely important to remember that Red Worm reproduction and growth are both HIGHLY dependent on a wide range of different factors. Some of the most important include 1- temperature 2- moisture content 3- population size 4-food value and overall availability.

    But just for fun, let’s crunch the numbers anyway!

    For our little thought experiment, we are going to assume that we’re starting with
    100 adult Red Worms

    Some Other Important Assumptions

    – Fairly close to “ideal” conditions – 25C / 77F temps – good moisture, ample nutrition etc
    – 3 cocoons produced per adult worm per week.
    – 3 juvenile worms hatching from each cocoon.
    – 21 days incubation time until cocoons hatch.
    – 42 days to maturity.
    – 12 week period – with final tally being made at the END of these 12 weeks (still, technically a little less than 3 months)
    – For sake of simplicity we are basically assuming that all cocoons are dropped at the end of each week – so each cohort will hatch/mature at the same time. This is obviously not how it would happen (cocoons would be laid throughout week) so our final tallies are actually going to be lower than they should be.
    – There are NO worm mortalities during the 12 weeks.

    NOTE: What is listed under each week is what we’ll expect to be present at the beginning of that week.

     

    WEEK 1

    100 Adults

    WEEK 2

    100 Adults
    300 Cocoons (A)

    WEEK 3

    100 Adults
    300 Cocoons (A) – 7 days old
    300 Cocoons (B)

     

    WEEK 4

    100 Adults
    300 Cocoons (A) – 14 days old
    300 Cocoons (B) – 7 days old
    300 Cocoons (C)

    WEEK 5

    100 Adults
    900 Juveniles (A)
    300 Cocoons (B) – 14 days old
    300 Cocoons (C) – 7 days old
    300 Cocoons (D)

     

    WEEK 6

    100 Adults
    900 Juveniles (A) – 7 days old
    900 Juveniles (B)
    300 Cocoons (C) – 14 days old
    300 Cocoons (D) – 7 days old
    300 Cocoons (E)

    WEEK 7

    100 Adults
    900 Juveniles (A) – 14 days old
    900 Juveniles (B) – 7 days old
    900 Juveniles (C)
    300 Cocoons (D) – 14 days old
    300 Cocoons (E) – 7 days old
    300 Cocoons (F)

    WEEK 8

    100 Adults
    900 Juveniles (A) – 21 days old
    900 Juveniles (B) – 14 days old
    900 Juveniles (C) – 7 days old
    900 Juveniles (D)
    300 Cocoons (E) – 14 days old
    300 Cocoons (F) – 7 days old
    300 Cocoons (G)

    WEEK 9

    100 Adults
    900 Juveniles (A) – 28 days old
    900 Juveniles (B) – 21 days old
    900 Juveniles (C) – 14 days old
    900 Juveniles (D) – 7 days old
    900 Juveniles (E)
    300 Cocoons (F) – 14 days old
    300 Cocoons (G) – 7 days old
    300 Cocoons (H)

     

    WEEK 10

    100 Adults
    900 Juveniles (A) – 35 days old
    900 Juveniles (B) – 28 days old
    900 Juveniles (C) – 21 days old
    900 Juveniles (D) – 14 days old
    900 Juveniles (E) – 7 days old
    900 Juveniles (F)
    300 Cocoons (G) – 14 days old
    300 Cocoons (H) – 7 days old
    300 Cocoons (I)

    WEEK 11

    100 (original) Adults
    900 Adults (A)
    900 Juveniles (B) – 35 days old
    900 Juveniles (C) – 28 days old
    900 Juveniles (D) – 21 days old
    900 Juveniles (E) – 14 days old
    900 Juveniles (F) – 7 days old
    900 Juveniles (G)
    300 Cocoons (H) – 14 days old
    300 Cocoons (I) – 7 days old
    300 Cocoons (J)

    WEEK 12

    100 (original) Adults
    900 Adults (A)
    900 Adults (B)
    900 Juveniles (C) – 35 days old
    900 Juveniles (D) – 28 days old
    900 Juveniles (E) – 21 days old
    900 Juveniles (F) – 14 days old
    900 Juveniles (G) – 7 days old
    900 Juveniles (H)
    300 Cocoons (I) – 14 days old
    300 Cocoons (J) – 7 days old
    300 Cocoons (K)
    2700 Cocoons (A-1)

     

    FINAL TALLY (END of WEEK 12 | Beginning of WEEK 13)

    100 (original) Adults
    900 Adults (A)
    900 Adults (B)
    900 Adults (C)
    ——————————–
    900 Juveniles (D) – 35 days old
    900 Juveniles (E) – 28 days old
    900 Juveniles (F) – 21 days old
    900 Juveniles (G) – 14 days old
    900 Juveniles (H) – 7 days old
    900 Juveniles (I)
    ——————————–
    300 Cocoons (J) – 14 days old
    300 Cocoons (K) – 7 days old
    300 Cocoons (L)
    2700 Cocoons (A-1) – 7 days old
    2700 Cocoons (A-2)
    2700 Cocoons (B-1)
    —————————————————————–

    TOTALS

    2800 Adults
    5400 Juveniles
    9000 Cocoons

    SO…

    We’re looking at a potential 28-fold increase in the number of adults alone!

    Of course, a typical worm bin probably won’t see growth rates like the ones shown above since people often start with a fairly large quantity of worms in a relatively small container. BUT, it really does give you some idea of what’s potentially possible if you give the worms plenty of space to spread out in, and just generally take good care of them!

    Bottom-line – it’s safe to say that unless you are really messing up, you should definitely expect to see much more than “doubling” of your Red Worm population (especially if you are counting juveniles) within a few months!

    —————-

    Red Worms
    Cocoon Production – 3 per worm per week
    Incubation time (time to hatching) – 14-21 days
    Juveniles per viable cocoon – ~3
    Time to maturity – 42 days

    Euros
    Cocoon Production – 2 per worm per week
    Incubation time (time to hatching) – 21-28 days
    Juveniles per viable cocoon – ~1
    Time to maturity – 56 days

  • What are worm casting?
    Dennis Brown19-05-2021

    Worm Castings contain a highly active biological mixture of bacteria, enzymes, remnants of plant matter and animal manure, as well as earthworm cocoons (while damp). The castings are rich in water-soluble plant nutrients, and contain more than 50% more humus than what is normally found in topsoil.

    Worm Castings are packed with minerals that are essential for plant growth, such as concentrated nitrates, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium and calcium. It also contains manganese, copper, zinc, cobalt, borax, iron, carbon and nitrogen. However, the best of all is that these minerals are immediately available to the plant, without the risk of ever burning the plant. Remember that animal manure and chemical fertilizers have to be broken down in the soil before the plant can absorb them.

  • If a worm is cut in two, will it grow back?
    Dennis Brown27-07-2021

    It depends on where the cut took place. If a worm is cut at the posterior end, sometimes a new tail will grow back on. Sometimes a second tail will appear next to a damaged tail. However, the posterior half of the worm can not grow a new anterior (head.)

  • Do worms die in the bin?
    Dennis Brown27-07-2021

    Its hard to find dead worms in a worm box, but they do die in the box. Dead worm bodies decompose very quickly, because their bodies are between 75%-90% water.

    If you find many dead worms you should find out the cause. High heat (above 84 degrees) is fatal to them. Too much salt or acidic food waste can kill them.

    Its best to change the bedding with fresh materials to solve the problem. Sometimes, partially replacing bedding may solve the problem.

  • Do they have teeth?
    Dennis Brown27-07-2021

    Red Worms have no teeth for chewing food. They grind food in their gizzard by muscle action.

  • How do they grind food?
    Dennis Brown27-07-2021

    Worms can only take small particles in their small mouths. Microorganisms soften the food before worms will eat it. Compost Worms have a muscular gizzard. Small parts of food mixed with some grinding material such as sand, topsoil or limestone is ingested. The contractions from the muscles in the gizzard compress those particles against each other, mix it with fluid, and grind it to smaller pieces.

  • Why are my red wigglers turning yellow?
    Dennis Brown27-07-2021

    Sometime after the worms have separated, the clitellum secretes another substance called albumin. This material forms a cocoon in which the eggs are fertilized and baby worms hatch. Red worm cocoons are round shaped and small. They change color during their development, first white, becoming yellow, later brown.

  • Why are my red wigglers small?
    Dennis Brown27-07-2021

    So, why are your Red wigglers so small? If red wigglers are undersized, it is directly related to their environment. Causes of a red wiggler's small size include overcrowding or not enough moisture or food. In fact, worms' bodies are comprised mostly of water, so dehydration will cause them to shrink.

  • Can eggshells go in compost?
    Dennis Brown27-07-2021

    The answer to this is yes, you can. Adding eggshells to compost will help add calcium to the make up of your final compost. This important nutrient helps plants build cell walls. ... While you don't need to crush eggshells before composting them, doing so will speed up how fast the eggshells break down in the compost.

  • Do worm farms attract pests?
    Dennis Brown27-07-2021

    A well maintained worm farm should not stink, which is what attracts flies. Earwigs, beetles, millipedes, soldier flies, sow bugs & pill bugs – Do not worry about these – they are harmless.

  • How long does it take for a red worm to mature?
    Dennis Brown27-07-2021

    It takes 40-60 days for the juveniles to develop into an adult or a mature worm. It develops the genital markings clitellum. The clitellum contains their reproductive organ and can only be seen when red wigglers are ready to reproduce.

  • Can worms see?
    Dennis Brown27-07-2021

    No worms don't have eyes. However, they are very sensitive to light, and try to hide as soon as they are exposed to light.

  • How often do I harvest the castings?
    Dennis Brown27-07-2021

    The vermicomposting process takes three to six months. Two to four times annually. This depends a lot on how much you feed your worms and how many worms you have.

  • How do worms breed or reproduce?
    Dennis Brown27-07-2021

    Worms are hermaphrodites or intersexes, in that they are both male and female. The fertilized eggs are collected by a ring of mucous on the outside of the body called the clitellum. As the mucous slides off the tail end, it closes, forming a cocoon around the eggs. The eggs then go on to develop into baby worms. Each cocoon can contain up to 20 baby worms. However, the average is usually 5 or 6.

  • How do you dry-out a worm bin that has become too wet
    Dennis Brown27-07-2021

    leave the cover open and mix in something to absorb the extra moisture such as shredded paper (not colored or with color ink), shredded brown paper towels (the kind you used at school), or dry peat moss. We find that what works best for us is dry, shredded coconut coir.

  • Do worms rest?
    Dennis Brown27-07-2021

    If sleep is defined as a period of inactivity, then worms indeed sleep. If sleep is defined as a loss of consciousness, typical brain wave patterns consistent with “sleep” and closed eyes (which worms do not have), then worms do not sleep.

  • Are worms deaf?
    Dennis Brown27-07-2021

    “Worms do not possess any sense of hearing,” Darwin wrote. ... Darwin went on to say that worms, while stone-deaf, are very sensitive to vibrations and pulled back into their burrows when their pots were placed on top of the piano that was then played.

  • Do worms have brains?
    Dennis Brown27-07-2021

    Do worms have brains? Yes, although they are not particularly complex. Each worm's brain sits next to its other organs, and connects the nerves from the worm's skin and muscles, controlling how it feels and moves.