Common questions people ask about worms and worm farming

Written by Matthew on June 15th, 2010

Here are a list of emails that I have received and answered that I thought contained valuable information.

Question: Does the same rules apply to your night crawlers [as to red wigglers]?  And can they co-exist with the wigglers I would really like to start my own small worm farm for fishing. So I will need to get everything I need from you to get started. There is no were around us to get the small wigglers (for my grandkids to catch sunfish) and even night crawlers are hard to come buy. I will have to do a little studying and order some nice worms from you ASAP.

Answer: Yes they will do great together in the same habitat. I think they do better together actually than separate as they have different favorite foods and the one eats what the other leaves behind. Also euros will clean up any food that gets mixed into the bedding the red wigglers only eat on the surface and will not.

Red wigglers may be small but I have even caught large-mouth bass on them:-) Have you checked my webpage out for buying worms bedding and food for the worms. For a bin you can use a rubbermaid tub or something similar. Also small amounts of banana peels, lettuce etc for food to supplement the worm chow is good. Its nice to have both together you just grab a handful and carry it in a small tub then you can have your choice from real small to big adult worm!

Question: If you had to guess, how many worms are there in a pound? Also how well do they take the heat if they are keeped under the house when the outside temp gets over 100. I have an old fridge that I could use as well what would be a good temp to keep them at?

Answer: There are about 1000 red wiggler worms per pound and about 380 or so euros. The can tolerate heat well if managed properly, but sudden heat is the worst and ground contact seems to help stabilize the temperature well as would an old fridge. They like about 65-75 but can take it much hotter if it heats up real slowly.

Question: Why do you not offer worms by count instead of weight? The instructions that came with my worm composter said that I needed 1000-2000 worms. How many pounds is that?

Answer: Worm farms used to have cheap labor pick and count the worms from the beds by hand, however with increased demand for worms counting by hand is now an impractical worm farming method. If worms had to be picked and counted by hand the price would be much higher. However some worm farmers still sell red wigglers by the count. They do not actually count the worms by hand but instead weigh them and then estimate the number of worms. The worms are first harvested mechanically, then we use light to run them down and remove the remaining bedding. They are as clean as spaghetti noodles before we weigh them out.

In my mind it seems more honest to sell worms by the actual method used to quantify them than to do an estimation.

Here is one example of why I recommend that people do not order worms by the pound.

Hi Matt,
Thank you for getting back to me, I did order red wrigglers from a supplier other than you in my home state, they arrived today, I ordered 2000 red wrigglers. I am very interested in worms for my yard and garden. Unfortunately I ordered prior to getting your email.  In the future, I am not sure I will use this supplier again.  The worms are very small net weight was 12.6 ounces.  Not only that I had to call to check on shipping, turns out they forgot to ship my worms, although they did make good and shipped them immediately.
Thank you for taking the time out to answer my inquiry.

Question: hey Matthew,
I am very much interested in worm composting.  I did put a composter (Exaco Trading Co. Thermoquick 110 Gal. Composter ) in my yard, open bottom sits on the ground with plenty of ventilation, problem is I do not have any worms in my yard!  I want to add worms right into my composter  to aid in well composting.  I found your website thru ebay.  Any suggestions.  I would like to have a worm that can take the cold winters in PA, if I read correctly that would be the European red worm?
Thank you so much
Brenda

Answer: I would provably go with the red wiggler or a mix of the two. The reason being not because of cold tolerance but because of its ability to bounce back even after a harsh winter. Even if winter killed all your worms (not likely) the red wigglers would be back going strong 90 or so days after thawing. Their eggs can survive freezing and then when warmed they hatch. The same is true with the euro but they take 40 days to hatch and 140 days or longer to grow out to start laying eggs. So if you don’t have 200 or so days of warm weather you might have a problem.

Question: …in my worm bin that several of the worms were at the top of the bin and looked like they might be trying to escape.  They have plenty to eat.  I have had this worm bin since the first of April and it has been doing great up until now.  My guess is that because of the heat, it may be stressing them. I thought to run water through the hose and when it got colder to wet the worm bin good to lower the temperature.
Do you have any other advice or suggestions?

Answer: You might try brushing a salt solution around the rim of the container they will provably not cross it. Worms crawl if the bedding gets above 82 Deg so you need to cool it down if it gets above this. They will also stop eating at some temperature around this. Continued feeding could cause problems if they have stopped. Use smell as a guide. Earthy smell and everything is provably ok. Any off smell, then hold up on the food. The heat will not kill the worms by itself, but sometimes heat will lead to problems that will, such as overfeeding or sour bins.

Question:

Hello Mr. Wilson,
Thank you for your prompt shipments of my worm castings teabags!  I have a few questions.  Perhaps you can answer them or send me to the correct site on the internet.

1.  How should I store my teabags?  I probably should have asked this before I ordered but I just assumed that I would not have to use all of the teabags at once but could use them over the course of several weeks.  Also, can they be reused and if so how may times before switching to a new bag?

2.  Do you have a recipe for worm castings tea?  I have seen several on various sites online but I am confused about whether or not to use the aeration method involving a pump or just let the tea bag brew in de-chlorinated water for 12 hours.  I hope to use the tea on my container planted vegetables and summer annuals.

Thank you for any help you can provide.

Answer:

Hello,
The tea bags need no special storage. They will keep for quite a while without any problems. They may tend to dry out but that is not a real big problem. I would put the tea bags in a 5 gallon bucket and let them steep for about 6 hours the first use. The bags will look kind of funky but are still good. You can reuse them till they seem to not be working well enough or changing the water color. About 5 uses. Increase the brew time each use as well.

The aeration method may give you more bang for your buck, but is not at all necessary. Be sure to place spent castings on a favorite outdoor plant, like a rose, as it will still increase plant vigor.

I plan to be writing a paper to go with the tea bags but have not got around to it yet. When I do I will email you a copy when it is finished.

Question: Just received the order of redworms, arrived in good shape.  Would like your comments on what to use for bedding.  In  the past I have used 1/2 & 1/2 peat moss and ground up leaves.  Is that considered good  bedding or would just straight peat moss be better?  Would it be proper to just have two feeding ares, one on each end of the bin, and leave the rest alone, except when I harvest worms for fishing?

Answer: I think it is much better to use leaves and the peat together. Peat is acidic and leaves are basic so together they are neutral. I do like to have feeding area and wait to the feed is cleaned up before re-feeding, and feed in a dollop every 3 feet or so when using concentrated feeds. Do not  let feed get stirred into bedding when harvesting. Sounds like you are doing a great job.

Happy farming!

Also see

http://compostermom.blogspot.com/

 

18 Comments so far ↓

  1. walter block says:

    I am confused about bedding.where does a person put the beding?I have not a clue.

  2. Brad says:

    Can you mix Euro and African nightcrawlers in the same bins?
    Can you also add in red wigglers?
    Don’t want any squalls.

    I put two bins on top of each other, following directions I received at our San Diego county fair. There are 1/4″ holes in the bottoms and 1/16″ holes in the sides of both. I put in nightcrawlers (type unknown) and std red worms. I have found a few night crawlers in the bottom bin (it’s empty for now), and even in the containter that is to catch the tea below that. They went back to the bed. Used shredded newspaper and dirt for the bedding to start. Are my worms unhappy and leaving? There are still plenty in the top bin, eating away, and not too wet. Any advice is appreciated.
    Really enjoy worm farming!

  3. Brad says:

    sorry about that, didn’t mean to comment – I was trying to ask a few questions… I’m new at this :O)

  4. Jimmy Koonce says:

    I have started a worm bed there is a lot of white worms or they look like maggots I use a lot of garbage will they hurt my worms. Thanks Jimmy

  5. Matthew says:

    Hmm, maybe soilder fly larvae? Provably just slow up on the feeding and it will take care of itself. No I do not think the will hurt the worms.

  6. Matthew says:

    Brad,
    No problem in mixing them, but you got to keep the African Nightcrawlers warm. They won’t fight or anything :)

    The African nightcrawlers tend to crawl anyhow. And they don’t like being overfed, but they love paper products.

  7. Matthew says:

    Jimmy,
    Should not hurt the worms. Maybe ease up on the garbage and let the worms catch up. Also adding some used paper or other bedding material may help.

  8. Shira Pyron says:

    I am very thankful to this topic because it really gives great information “.’

  9. ChrisF says:

    Just got my worm bin going — I built the whole thing myself — and saw the worms the first few days crawling around and trying to make a break for it.
    Now nothing. I don’t see the worms, even when I fluff the bedding and place water and food in there.
    I’m using some coir as bedding so they don’t really ‘stick’ out. Could it be that this is normal and I’m just missing the little guys or could it be that they’re gonners?

  10. Matthew says:

    Yes it is possible that they have flown the coop. Worms tend to crawl more when they are new to a worm bin. It is best to keep a close watch on them and put a light on them for the first few nights. Usually they will settle down, but if not it could be to much or to little moisture, to little or to much food, salt in the coconut coir or a few other potential problems.

  11. Joyce says:

    I want to buy worms and just let them roam around in my veggie /flower garden. Do I dig holes and deposit them or put them on top amd let them find their way?

  12. mike says:

    I get brown cardboard boxes from dumpsters (without printing) and shred it soak it until thoroughly wet mix with peat moss and leaves to use as bedding. The core from the cardboard helps airate the bedding. As it starts to breakdown they appear to feed off surface decomp just as with the leaves. Less problem with gnats as better airated.

  13. Kak B. says:

    Matthew, I have had my worm bin for a few years. It has been great. My question is this: there are ALWAYS a few or a lot of non-worm looking creatures that are about 1/2 inch long. They look like larvae of some sort, that wiggle and look segmented. They are not white like maggots, and are always busy munching on stuff. What in the world could they be? What do baby worms look like? These things are a little on the creepy side. thanks.

  14. Kak B. says:

    i found the answer. they are soldier fly larvae! thanks anyway….

  15. Matthew says:

    Yep those are black soldier fly larvae. They are a little creepy looking, but are harmless and many use them to compost with anyway.

  16. Matthew says:

    Make sure you have plenty of organic matter for them to eat on. I don’t personally recommend adding them directly to your garden, but instead use them to compost with and then place the compost in the garden. However some people find good results doing so.

  17. Bill Rusher says:

    How many european worms hatch from an egg, and how often is an egg produced? How long before a newly hatched worms are large enough for fishing? Bill

  18. Matthew says:

    Bill,

    1-3 euros per egg capsule. I have recently learned about a third of the egg capsules may never hatch. Adult worms under good conditions will lay 1 a week or so. It takes about 30 days to hatch and about 90 days or so to become good fishing size.

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