What happened to the red wigglers? (Eisenia fetida)

Written by Matthew on August 25th, 2015

Dear customer,

I am excited to announce that after many years of worm farming and experimentation that the european red worm has proven to be a great composting worm. It tolerates wide temperature variations better than the red wiggler, compost and breeds faster as well. It can deal compacted soils better than the red wiggler and many more advantages.

Due to these traits we have decided to specialize in the european red worm (Eisenia hortensis). We can ship this worm year round in all weather conditions without worry. By only offering this worm we can serve you better and faster.

 

The 411 On Separating Worms From Castings

Written by Jo Lynch on March 24th, 2015

A worm’s value can be equated to what their castings are being used for.  Worm castings could be coined as a gardener’s “black gold” and is one of natures most potent fertilizers.  When composting with worms it is always prudent to maintain the bedding in which the worms are living.  By separating the worms from the castings not only are you gathering this fertilizer for use in the garden or flower bed, but at the same time you can place the worms in fresh bedding.  Keeping the worms in fresh bedding is a key element to their health and productivity.  The tricky part is how to separate the worms from the castings and this can be accomplished in many different ways, but today we will focus on what I have found to be the top three methods.

  1. Screening:
    • This method is exactly as it sounds, using screens to separate the worms and the castings.  This method is very effective and is the quickest way out of our three methods.  In order to perform this method you will need a tub of worms, a 1/4 inch hand screen (Currently being sold on our website, check it out!), and at least two empty worm tubs.  Start by placing the tub of worms and the two empty tubs side by side on a work table.  Now it seems to work better if you mix your worms and the castings up a little by hand in the tub before proceeding.  Then take the hand screen and place it on top of the empty tubs, and scoop about two handfuls of worms and castings onto the hand screen.  Now shake the screen side to side over the middle empty tub, thus having your castings drop into this tub.  Once the worms are relatively clean, empty them out of the hand screen in the remaining empty tub.  Repeat this process until you have fully separated all the worms and castings (Note: there may be a few smaller worms that slip through the screen in with the castings, you may want to collect them or you can leave them depending on what the castings may be used for).  Now you should have a tub of castings and a tub of clean worms, be sure to immediately re-bed your worms in fresh bedding in order to maintain their health and productivity.  Besides the 1/4 inch screen, there also is a 1/8 inch screen available to separate worm eggs from the castings, this is accomplished by using the same method above using the castings just collected.                                                                                                                                                                                                 
  2. Light:
    • Using light is also a very effective at separating worms from castings.  This a more simple method, but takes a little more time and care.  To perform this method take your tub of worms and place them underneath direct light (Note: this can be artificial light or sunlight).  Worms are sensitive when it comes to any form of light and instinctively move deeper depending on how intense the light may be.  Once you decide your light source, place the worms there and using your hands gently clear the top layer of bedding and castings into an empty tub exposing the worms underneath (Note: if using sunlight, take care that the worms are not left for long periods of time causing overheating of the worms).  Repeat this process, driving the worms deeper and deeper until they are gathered at the bottom of the tub and you have the majority of the castings in another tub.  Immediately re-bed your worms in fresh bedding, this can’t be stressed enough.
  3. Migration:
    • This method isn’t just for the birds, but it is simple to perform.  To perform this method take your tub of worms and place food on one side of the tub and then you just simply wait.  How long you wait varies depending on the concentration of worms that may be in the tub and how hungry they may be.  A rule of thumb on when they may have migrated to where you want them to go, is watching for the food to be cleared from the top of the bedding.  It may actually take more than one feeding in this manner to draw the majority of the worms to the side that you want them to be.  The worms will migrate to the side that has the food, clearing the other side and allowing for you to collect castings from that side. This method works well, but may not be as effective as our first two methods.  After the removal of the castings, just add enough fresh bedding to the tub to replace the amount of castings that were gathered.

Now that we have discussed these three methods, go get some “black gold” and grow those gardens! 

 

Worms and Spring Fever

Written by Jo Lynch on March 9th, 2015

Spring is right around the corner and it couldn’t be soon enough!  Soon there will be green grass, leaves on the trees, blooming flowers, warmer weather and the list continues to no end.  For some of us it’s just the change of the seasons and we rarely give a second thought to all the factors that contribute to this amazing event.  Of course there are the major factors such as the pivot of Earth’s axis and Earth’s orbit in relation to the Sun, though common knowledge we never take the time to realize how complex of a process the seasonal change really is.  Out of sight, out of mind really holds true in our busy lives, how often do we think of what goes on in the background?  With family, children, work, television, extracurricular activities, hobbies, etc…we can loose sight of the world as it spins on by.  One may say, what does all this have to do with worms?

Lets consider just one factor that contributes to what makes spring possible.  Worms, yes worms!  Out of sight is an almost too perfect description for worms.  As you walk to your car on a daily basis, how often do you see that stray worm taking a leisurely stroll on the sidewalk or just lounging on that blade of grass having a cappuccino as you walk by?  I would venture to say never.  Hardly ever will we just run across a random worm out of the ground, but they are right below the surface doing what they do best.  Worms are Earth’s foremost authorities on the production of healthy soil.  From turning to naturally irrigating soil, worms are vital to the health of the soil they live in and this directly contributes to the health of the environment above ground.  Worms are nature’s recycling specialists and work to break down any organic matter that may be on the surface, from leaves to decomposing animals, bringing it down into the soil below.  As worms break down this organic matter they leave behind what is known as worm castings, a very potent fertilizer for the plants residing on the surface, thus making a complete circuit or circle in the process of life.

If you have ever ventured to garden or even just plant one flower or tree, healthy soil for the most part is easy to discern from lifeless soil.

Soil that is void of worms tends to be be compacted and barren to say the least:

But soil that has a healthy population of worms is not hard to miss:

       

As you can see in the pictures above, though they illustrate each point to the extreme, there is a very different appearance between the two.  Needless to say worms are so very important to the production of a healthy ecosystem and also to the season of spring!  Next time you walk outside, wether to get the mail, take a run, or to just sit on the front porch, take a moment and wonder at the marvel of all that is in the background of our busy lives.

 

 

 

Harvesting worms

Written by Matthew on August 1st, 2014


 

Look inside a worm egg!

Written by Matthew on July 18th, 2014


 

A trashy problem

Written by Matthew on June 16th, 2014
Post By Matthew Wilson

Post By Matthew Wilson

Throwing away food scraps creates many problems. First of all, it is wasteful. Food scraps can easily be recycled back into fertilizer which is used to make more food. Every year farmers dump thousands of tons of synthetic fertilizers on their farms. These synthetic fertilizers can be replaced with compost. This produces a closed and sustainable loop. Waste in garbage cans also has several practical problems. Trash stinks and attracts flies, rats and other pest. It takes a lot of time, effort and machinery to bag (plastic bags = more waste), transport, compact, transport again, and then dig a big hole to bury all that trash.  Furthermore organic waste produces methane (20 times more potent greenhouse gas than CO2) and fills up landfill space.

20% of trash is compostable, however only 8% of households compost. Restaurants, cafeterias, grocery stores and many other companies send thousands of tons of waste to the landfill every day. Traditional composting requires lots of time, land and heavy equipment to efficiently handle the organic waste. Furthermore, waste has to be separated at the source and transported to the composting facility. Due to the large land requirements, compost facilities are located many miles from the waste source.

Small scale on site vermicomposting of organic waste represents one of the best alternatives to landfill disposal. Vermicomposting is scalable and versatile. Vermicomposting can be done at home in a simple container or by using one of the many available worm bins. The Worm Factory 360 is an excellent example. Also vermicomposting can be done on a larger scale at places such as restaurants using worm bins like the Worm Wigwam. Furthermore, vermicomposting can be done on industrial scales such as that which is being done at Oregon Soil Company.

You can start composting your garbage at home today. It’s super easy and it can pay for itself with all natural organic fertilizer. If you garden it is a no brainier. The Worm Factory 360 and a pound of worms is the easiest complete kit for worm composting available. However, if you have some used containers laying around that you would like to re-purpose into a worm bin, that works as well. Most important is just to start somewhere and make a goal to send less to the dump and keep that good fertilizer for your garden!

 

 

Alabama jumper worm identification guide

Written by Matthew on March 8th, 2014

Alabama Jumpers

aj-alabama-jumpers-detailAlabama Jumpers are great worms that are hard to grow commercially, but do really well in the garden.

This post is part of a series on worm identification. Click here to see first page.

Alabama Jumper worms  can be monsters in size.  They commonly reach 6-9 inches long and about 1/4 inch in diameter. They are the muscular looking worms that can jump fairly aggressively. They have slightly metallic sheen which makes them easy to spot. They can be found in many parts of the US. Specifically zone 7 and warmer. They can survive cold conditions by burrowing very deep into the ground.

You can look for these worms in old leaf piles. Also you can attract them by placing wet cardboard on the ground. With any luck after a week or so you should be able to find a dozen or so underneath.

The anterior section tapers to a point giving them a pointed shape. I think this is also what makes them so adept to burrowing through very hard packed clay soils. This is one reason they are so great for gardens. They make tiny caves throughout the ground which enables water, air and nutrients to penetrate to plants roots. They also help soils to drain. They carry their castings deep underground and build canals that transport air, water, and nutrients deep underground helping plants grow.

They are difficult to grow in commercial quantities, but are frequently collected by professional worm “pickers” and resold. They are not quite as tolerant to shipping as red wigglers and european nightcrawlers. They make a good fishing worm, but are very costly due to the difficulties in growing and shipping them.

 

The European Nightcrawler. How to identify Eisenia hortensis. AKA European Red Wiggler

Written by Matthew on September 16th, 2013

european-worm-detailThis post is part of a series on worm identification. Click here to see first page.

The european red wiggler worm, Eisenia hortensis, formerly know as; Dendrobaena veneta is a red worm that averages 3-5″ long when full grown. The worms size depends largely upon the conditions that it is grown in. They average about 1.5 gram per worm (.05 ounce), but can weigh as much as 7 grams each (1/4 ounce).

Immature european nightcrawlers are commonly sold as red wigglers, but it is not the red wiggler worm. This causes some confusion when purchasing worms. Also the eruopean nightcrawler is commonly differentiated from the red wiggler by calling it the “big reds” and the red wiggler “little reds.” Both worms are technically red worms.

The european nightcrawler is a good composting worm. It is especially suited to composting fibrous materials.

Due to it’s larger size it is favored by fisherman. It does well in a garden and can survive with less organic matter than the red wiggler. It is also able to dig in semi compacted ground, but not very hard packed.
European Red Worms 300X300

 

 

euro-top-of-cup700

 

Red wiggler worm identification. What red wiggler worms look like.

Written by Matthew on September 9th, 2013

red-wigglers-detailThis post is part of a series on worm identification. Click here to see first page.

Eisenia fetida is the common red wiggler. It is the most common worm sold for composting.

Physical description of red wiggler

It is smaller is size 3-4 inches long is average length for an adult red wiggler worm. They have alternating bands of darker and lighter red. This coloration is lighter between the bands. They have a slightly flat bottom. with the rest of the body being round. The tail is sometimes a lighter color often with a yellow tip. This coloration comes and goes depending upon what they are fed.

Red wiggler live cycle and characteristics

The red wiggler worm is great for composting for many reasons

  • It likes to stay put
  • Reproduces fast
  • Not picky about temperature
  • Not picky about food
  • Adapts to change of environment quickly
  • Consumes food at a fast rate
  • Stays near surface
  • The red wiggler prefers temperatures around 70 F
  • Lays small egg cocoons pictured above. Each cocoon can hatch 3-4 live worms in about 30 days. Adult worms can lay one or two cocoons per week.
  • It takes about 45 days for the red wiggler to reach sexual maturity
  • Each worm is hermaphroditic

Eisenia fetida

Eisenia fetida


 

What type of worm is this? Worm identification guide.

Written by Matthew on September 4th, 2013

Ever saw a worm and wondered “what type of worm is that? Over the next few weeks I will be completing a worm identification guide.

The following list will eventually be links going to pages about that type of worm.

Commercially grown worms

  • Eisenia fetida AKA: Red Wiggler Worm,Tiger Worm, Trout Worm
  • Eisenia andrei AKA: Red Wiggler Worm, Tiger Worm, Trout Worm (cannot be distinguished from E fetida without a microscope, as such they are considered by worm farmers to be the same)
  • Eisenia hortensis AKA: European Red Worm, European Red Worm, Red Worm, Jumbo Red, Dendrobaena veneta (Old scientific name) **Update now I think they changed this worms scientific name again. Eisenia venta is the new proper name best as I can tell. If you know for sure let me know.**
  • Amynthas gracilus AKA: Alabama Jumper, Pheretima Hawayana (Old scientific name)
  • Eudrilus eugeniae AKA: African Nightcrawler
  • Lumbricus terrestris AKA:Canadian Nightcrawler, Dew Worm
  • Perionyx excavatus AkA: (not readily available and many worm farmers consider it to be a pest)