What to use as worm bedding

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Different articles that describe worm bedding. What works well and keeps worms happy

 

Harvesting and Shipping Live Composting Worms

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

Shipping live worms is tricky business, especially when the temperatures are extreme, but with lots of experimentation, we have got it down to a science. Composting worms are hardy creatures and can take the rigors of harvesting and shipping well, but it is still important to keep them as stress free as possible. It is in many ways miraculous that this is possible at all. Over 1000 living worms in a box only 7x7x6 shipped across the country and arrive at your door in 2-3 days. Its amazingly convenient and the worms don’t seem to mind.

Worm Harvester

Worm Harvester

The shipping process begins several days before the actual shipping day. The first step is to remove the worms from the large beds that they were grown in through a process we call harvesting. The harvesting takes place a couple days before shipping, because we like to let the worms rest awhile after harvesting and before shipping. Harvesting begins using pitchforks and good old fashion muscle to deliver them into the harvester. The harvester turns and is covered in screen which lets the majority of the bedding fall through but not the worms. The worms are collected at the end of the harvester in a tray, roughly ten pounds of worms per tray. After all the worms that we estimate will be needed for shipping are harvested they are carried into the shipping room and allowed to rest. There is a fair amount of bedding left on the worms that the harvester does not remove, but this is not a problem and the extra bedding will be removed on shipping day. A couple days later the worms are placed under bright lights early in the morning and allowed to go to the bottom of the harvesting tray. The bedding and remaining castings are cleaned off the top of the worms until they are “Clean as spaghetti.” They are now moved to the bagging table where they are weighed, mixed with clean soilless bedding and then bagged into a breathable cloth bag. The bag is then ready to be boxed and shipped.

Handful of worms and bedding straight from the bed

Red Wigglers Straight From The Worm Bed

A packing fill, specifically suited to the temperature, is added to the box and then the bag of worms is added on top. Then the invoice, and an information sheet are added, the box is taped and the shipping label attached. The words, “Live Worms” and optionally either, “Keep Cool” or “Protect from Freezing” may be written on the box. Due to regulations shipping worms to Hawaii is illegal, but we have shipped both european and red wiggler worms to Alaska and Puerto Rico without problems.

Fedex and UPS both allow the shipping of live worms by certified shippers only. I did go through the certification process and Worms Etc is certified by both carriers to ship live worms, but I have found that Priority Mail and Express Mail via the United States Postal Service to be the best and most reliable options. The reason I think the USPS has better luck shipping the live worms is the fact that USPS has post offices within every city in the country, whereas UPS and FedEx both have less warehouses and shipping hubs. This means that when shipping through USPS the worms spend less time in a carrier car which tend to be cold in the winter and hot in the summer.

It is extremely rare to have worms die in shipping, but in the rare case when it does happen we reship the worms. I have kept a log of every time a shipping problem arises and have each time changed something to lessen the chance of it happening again. This is why I think that I vary often get comments from my customers that my worms are far better than any others that they have ever ordered. Once I received a box of worms that where returned to me because of a bad address in California. Seems that they tried to deliver them several times before sending them back to me in South Carolina. It had been over 3 weeks since I mailed them. I opened the box and cut open the bag and dumped them into a container. They were all alive, not even one worm was dead. The peat moss that they were shipped in had partly been turned into castings, showing that the worms were even eating during shipping. Clearly shipping is not a problem for worms.

What do I use for a red worm bin.

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

What makes a good worm bin or worm composter? How do I construct a worm bin or farm? Continue reading “What do I use for a red worm bin.” »

Worm Bin Bedding. A worm needs sleep too you know.

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Shredded paper potential beddingstockphoto.com/pali rao

Bedding has a huge impact upon how quickly worms grow and ultimately upon the maximum size that they will obtain. Also it plays an important role in reproduction rates and has a practical impact upon the manageability of a worm system. It helps to prevent smells from forming in the worm farm or bin by providing carbon, without which the system would sour. Also the proper bedding will be forgiving and help keep worms healthy even when the worm bin is accidentally over or under fed or watered. Continue reading “Worm Bin Bedding. A worm needs sleep too you know.” »

10 bin worm experiment.

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010
worm bins set up for experiment

getting the experiment set up

I have started an experiment to find out which foods, bedding, and worm density combinations produce the highest reproduction rates in red wigglers.

Continue reading “10 bin worm experiment.” »

Cardboard and worms and effect on reproduction rates

Monday, December 7th, 2009

One might say that as a worm farmer you see treasure where others see trash. Cardboard is one treasure that is very plentiful and easy to find but the problem is that in its raw state it is very unmanageable in a worm bin.

For example if you were to wet cardboard boxes and place them into a worm bin they would eventually be consumed and turned into castings but this would take a long time. Also until the boxes broke down they would be in the way of adding new foods, taking up lots of space, and make sorting or separating of the worms difficult.

Cardboard Worm Bedding

Hammer Milled Bedding

However when cardboard is first pulverized it makes an excellent bedding and the worms do seem to get some nutrition from it. I have tried raising worms on straight pulped cardboard and though the worms do survive and even multiply a little it seems that they do best when another food source is used and the cardboard is treated as a bedding. I have even seen that the red wiggler reproduction rates can be increased by the worms growing in cardboard. As far as the actual pulping of the cardboard is concerned it can be very labor intensive.

Lately I have been finding pre-shredded cardboard coming from companies that do lots of shipping. They use specialized cardboard shredding machines make a sort of packaging material from old cardboard boxes. The great part about this stuff is that it is already in a fairly use-able form for the worms. Also, the paper fibers are now cut to short and it cannot be recycled so there is no better use for it. This stuff kind of looks like a fish net made from cardboard and the worms love it so keep your eyes peeled for that bit of worm treasure.

If you happen to have access to a hammer mill than you are in good shape. That is what we use to make our bedding with.

Matthew Wilson

Falling in love with the fallen fall leaves

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Pardon the pun but I personally leave my leaves where they fall in the fall. However many of my neighbors rake up their leaves and put the to the curb. It just makes my day day when I see this resource the others are giving up. I ask them I may have them and of course they are always glad to get rid of them quickly.

Brightly colored fall leaves

Leaves on our pond at Worms Etc

My worm bins are raised off the ground by about a foot. They are under cover of a roofed building but this building has open sides. So my bins need protection from the cold. These bagged leaves are perfect for this I just place the bags under the bottom of my bins and they both insulate and block drafts. In the spring when the insulation is no longer needed they get added to the top of the bins where the worms eat them.

I also know of a guy who piles the leaves up over their dog houses to provide insulation for them. In the spring he turns them into compost and then adds them to his garden later.

Bright fall leaves on pond water surface

Leaves on pond surface

Most anyone can get tons of this valuable resource for free. So just look around and also see if you can come up with some creative uses for the leaves.