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Vermicomposting Worms

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Although the red wiggler is mistakenly considered to be the most common variety of worm sold and used for home vermicomposting, other varieties of worms can be suitable for worm composting. Red nightcrawlers are often raised as a fishing bait due to their larger size, while Indian blues are used as a commercially producing earthworm for its ability to create fine worm castings quickly. We use these species in our production because both can occupy the same worm bed and make ideal companions since the former tends to live very close to the surface, while the latter tends to prefer the increased moisture levels in the lower regions.

What are the different types of composting worms?

Eisenia fetida, (Also known as the red worm, red wiggler, manure worm, tiger worm, brandling worm) is the most common variety sold and used for home vermicomposting. These are a species of earthworm adapted to decaying organic material, they thrive in rotting vegetation, compost, and manure. Red wigglers are reddish-brown in color, have small rings around their body and have a yellowish tail. 

Eisenia hortensis (“European Nightcrawler”) variety can be used for worm composting as well, but due to its larger size it is often raised for use as a bait (or feeder) worm. The European nightcrawler is a medium-small earthworm averaging about 1.5 g when fully grown. Generally blueish, pink-grey in color with a banded or striped appearance, the tips of their tails are often cream or pale yellow. The species is usually found in deep woodland litter and garden soils that are rich in organic matter in European countries. E. hortensis is sold primarily as a baitworm, but its popularity as a composting worm is increasing.

Perionyx excavatus is a commercially produced earthworm. Popular names for this species include, blues or Indian blues. This species is marketed for its ability to create fine worm castings quickly. It has recently become more popular in America for composting purposes. This species belongs to the genus Perionyx and may have its origins in the Himalayan mountains. This species is suited for vermicomposting in tropical and subtropical regions.

Can I put composting worms in my garden?

Compost worms spend the majority of their lives above the soil in organic matter that falls on top of the soil. This leaves them very vulnerable to weather and predators. This means you'll have to meet certain environmental conditions for these worms to survive.  

Are all worm castings the same?

Depending on what the earthworm is fed will determine the quality of the castings. For example, if worms are fed only one ingredient, say lettuce, they can only process the nutrients and minerals that are found in lettuce. This is as opposed to worms that are fed a complete, well-balanced diet.

Bottom line: what goes in, is what comes out.

How long do worms live?

Studies have shown that composting worms can live 4 to 10 years when kept in a worm bin or laboratory. Out in nature, worms typically live only 1 or 2 years because of predators, temperature changes, and other potential dangers.

Do worms have teeth?

Composting worms do not have teeth. Worms cannot take a bite out of food, they need to wait until the food begins to rot or breakdown so that it is soft and wet enough for them to suck off with their very small mouths. Instead of chewing their food with teeth, they grind their food in very small gizzards.

Are there boy and girl worms?

Worms are hermaphrodites, which means all worms have both male and female reproductive organs.

Can worms mate with themselves?

A single worm can not reproduce by itself. Even though worms have male and female reproductive organs, they need another partner in order to reproduce.

How do worms make babies?

The reproductive act begins with two mature worms giving each other a hug. They line up their clitellum and then hold on to each other's bodies with tiny hairs called setae. During this hug, the worms swap reproductive seminal fluids. Next, the worms secrete mucus rings around both their bodies. The visual effect is that it makes the worms look like they are tied up with very fine fishing string. These mucus rings are the beginnings of the shell of the worm cocoon.

When the worms begin to separate, the mucus rings slide off each worm, collecting fertilized reproductive seminal fluids as the rings move along the worms' bodies. When the mucus rings get to the end of the worms, the ends of the mucus rings seal themselves, creating the cocoon that contains all the necessary reproductive material. The cocoon then separates from the worms to develop.

How quickly do worms reproduce?

It takes a baby worm only 9 weeks to reach maturity and start reproducing. Worms reproduce by creating small tan colored cocoons. Each cocoon holds 2 or 3 tiny baby worms. So, given ideal conditions, enough food, and enough space in the worm bin, you can expect your worm herd to double every 3 or 4 months.

How much can worms eat?

Worms are voracious eaters. Depending on the conditions in the worm bin, they can eat between 1/4 and 1/2 of their weight everyday. So, if you have one pound of worms (roughly 1000 worms), you can expect them to eat 1/4 lb. to 1/2 pound each day under ideal conditions.

How long does it take composting worms to make castings?

It will take around 2-3 months before you are able to harvest vermicompost for the first time. After that, you will be able to harvest a small amount every month or so depending on the size of your worm compost bin and your worm herd. Want vermicompost faster? Start with more composting worms!

How do you harvest castings?

Most of worm bins are ‘flow through’ worm bins where the worms are fed on top and the castings (worm poop) are harvested from the bottom. We use light and window screen to separate worms from the compost. Worms naturally move away from light, so spread your worm compost in a thin layer on a window screen placed on top of your open worm bin and shine a bright light on your worms. They will move away from the light, down through the screen, and back into your bin.

How many worms should I put in my worm compost bin?

We recommend starting a home worm bin with 1 pound of composting worms. The worms will multiply (remember one of their 3 jobs is to make babies). So, the amount of worms you start with really depends on how productive you want your homemade worm bin to be right away and how much you are willing to spend.

Does a worm composting bin attract bugs?

In your worm bin, you may find, rolly pollys (sow bugs), ants, centipedes, millipedes, earwigs, pot worms (very small white worms), slugs, and more. These other bugs won’t hurt your worms and are usually a sign of a healthy worm bin. If your outdoor worm bin is not maintained properly, it can attract pests that you don’t want like ants and flies. Correcting the maintenance issue and/or moving the worm bin inside usually corrects the issue.

Can I keep composting worms outside?

Sure, a worm composting bin can be kept outside. Just be sure to have a plan for controlling temperature so your worms don’t freeze or overheat. Worms like the same temperatures as we do. They are happiest between 60 and 80 degrees F, If it gets too cold or too hot your worms will die.

What temperature do worms prefer?

They can tolerate a fairly wide range of temperatures. Worms are most efficient (eating, pooping, making babies) at temperatures that we humans prefer, roughly 60 to 80 degrees F.

Why do they have to be in moist bedding?

All worms breathe through their skin. A worm’s skin must be moist to be able to breathe. If a worm’s skin dries out, it will die.

What should I use as worm bin bedding?

Almost any carbon source can be used as worm bin bedding, but some worm bedding material works better than others. Remember, your worm composting bin bedding material needs to be at about 80% moisture level.

What is the correct moisture level for a worm bin?

Worm composting bins should never be dry and should never have standing water in them. Ideally, the worm bedding should be at about 80% moisture. The bedding should definitely feel moist but when you squeeze it, no water should drip out. Also, when you squeeze it you should not hear crackling of dry paper or dry leaves. When your worm bin bedding is at the correct moisture level, it should remind you of laundry right when you take it from the washing machine. The clothes are thoroughly saturated with water but not dripping at all.

Vermicomposting Worms

Vermicomposting Worms

Our mixed bed run of worms are Red European Night Crawlers, (Eisenia hortensis) and Tropical Blues, (Perionyx excavatus). These are the same worms we use to make our premium worm castings.*

*To maintain the health and quality of the worms and to reduce the risk of dead deliveries, we normally ship on Mondays and Tuesdays. The order deadline for the upcoming Monday/Tuesday is on Friday afternoons.

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Although the red wiggler is mistakenly considered to be the most common variety of worm sold and used for home vermicomposting, other varieties of worms can be suitable for worm composting. Red nightcrawlers are often raised as a fishing bait due to their larger size, while Indian blues are used as a commercially producing earthworm for its ability to create fine worm castings quickly. We use these species in our production because both can occupy the same worm bed and make ideal companions since the former tends to live very close to the surface, while the latter tends to prefer the increased moisture levels in the lower regions.

Common Questions

What are the different types of composting worms?

Eisenia fetida, (Also known as the red worm, red wiggler, manure worm, tiger worm, brandling worm) is the most common variety sold and used for home vermicomposting. These are a species of earthworm adapted to decaying organic material, they thrive in rotting vegetation, compost, and manure. Red wigglers are reddish-brown in color, have small rings around their body and have a yellowish tail. 

Eisenia hortensis (“European Nightcrawler”) variety can be used for worm composting as well, but due to its larger size it is often raised for use as a bait (or feeder) worm. The European nightcrawler is a medium-small earthworm averaging about 1.5 g when fully grown. Generally blueish, pink-grey in color with a banded or striped appearance, the tips of their tails are often cream or pale yellow. The species is usually found in deep woodland litter and garden soils that are rich in organic matter in European countries. E. hortensis is sold primarily as a baitworm, but its popularity as a composting worm is increasing.

Perionyx excavatus is a commercially produced earthworm. Popular names for this species include, blues or Indian blues. This species is marketed for its ability to create fine worm castings quickly. It has recently become more popular in America for composting purposes. This species belongs to the genus Perionyx and may have its origins in the Himalayan mountains. This species is suited for vermicomposting in tropical and subtropical regions.

Can I put composting worms in my garden?

Compost worms spend the majority of their lives above the soil in organic matter that falls on top of the soil. This leaves them very vulnerable to weather and predators. This means you'll have to meet certain environmental conditions for these worms to survive.  

Are all worm castings the same?

Depending on what the earthworm is fed will determine the quality of the castings. For example, if worms are fed only one ingredient, say lettuce, they can only process the nutrients and minerals that are found in lettuce. This is as opposed to worms that are fed a complete, well-balanced diet.

Bottom line: what goes in, is what comes out.

How long do worms live?

Studies have shown that composting worms can live 4 to 10 years when kept in a worm bin or laboratory. Out in nature, worms typically live only 1 or 2 years because of predators, temperature changes, and other potential dangers.

Do worms have teeth?

Composting worms do not have teeth. Worms cannot take a bite out of food, they need to wait until the food begins to rot or breakdown so that it is soft and wet enough for them to suck off with their very small mouths. Instead of chewing their food with teeth, they grind their food in very small gizzards.

Are there boy and girl worms?

Worms are hermaphrodites, which means all worms have both male and female reproductive organs.

Can worms mate with themselves?

A single worm can not reproduce by itself. Even though worms have male and female reproductive organs, they need another partner in order to reproduce.

How do worms make babies?

The reproductive act begins with two mature worms giving each other a hug. They line up their clitellum and then hold on to each other's bodies with tiny hairs called setae. During this hug, the worms swap reproductive seminal fluids. Next, the worms secrete mucus rings around both their bodies. The visual effect is that it makes the worms look like they are tied up with very fine fishing string. These mucus rings are the beginnings of the shell of the worm cocoon.

When the worms begin to separate, the mucus rings slide off each worm, collecting fertilized reproductive seminal fluids as the rings move along the worms' bodies. When the mucus rings get to the end of the worms, the ends of the mucus rings seal themselves, creating the cocoon that contains all the necessary reproductive material. The cocoon then separates from the worms to develop.

How quickly do worms reproduce?

It takes a baby worm only 9 weeks to reach maturity and start reproducing. Worms reproduce by creating small tan colored cocoons. Each cocoon holds 2 or 3 tiny baby worms. So, given ideal conditions, enough food, and enough space in the worm bin, you can expect your worm herd to double every 3 or 4 months.

How much can worms eat?

Worms are voracious eaters. Depending on the conditions in the worm bin, they can eat between 1/4 and 1/2 of their weight everyday. So, if you have one pound of worms (roughly 1000 worms), you can expect them to eat 1/4 lb. to 1/2 pound each day under ideal conditions.

How long does it take composting worms to make castings?

It will take around 2-3 months before you are able to harvest vermicompost for the first time. After that, you will be able to harvest a small amount every month or so depending on the size of your worm compost bin and your worm herd. Want vermicompost faster? Start with more composting worms!

How do you harvest castings?

Most of worm bins are ‘flow through’ worm bins where the worms are fed on top and the castings (worm poop) are harvested from the bottom. We use light and window screen to separate worms from the compost. Worms naturally move away from light, so spread your worm compost in a thin layer on a window screen placed on top of your open worm bin and shine a bright light on your worms. They will move away from the light, down through the screen, and back into your bin.

How many worms should I put my worm compost bin?

We recommend starting a home worm bin with 1 pound of composting worms. The worms will multiply (remember one of their 3 jobs is to make babies). So, the amount of worms you start with really depends on how productive you want your homemade worm bin to be right away and how much you are willing to spend.

Does a worm composting bin attract bugs?

In your worm bin, you may find, rolly pollys (sow bugs), ants, centipedes, millipedes, earwigs, pot worms (very small white worms), slugs, and more. These other bugs won’t hurt your worms and are usually a sign of a healthy worm bin. If your outdoor worm bin is not maintained properly, it can attract pests that you don’t want like ants and flies. Correcting the maintenance issue and/or moving the worm bin inside usually corrects the issue.

Can I keep composting worms outside?

Sure, a worm composting bin can be kept outside. Just be sure to have a plan for controlling temperature so your worms don’t freeze or overheat. Worms like the same temperatures as we do. They are happiest between 60 and 80 degrees F, If it gets too cold or too hot your worms will die.

What temperature do worms prefer?

They can tolerate a fairly wide range of temperatures. Worms are most efficient (eating, pooping, making babies) at temperatures that we humans prefer, roughly 60 to 80 degrees F.

Why do they have to be in moist bedding?

All worms breathe through their skin. A worm’s skin must be moist to be able to breathe. If a worm’s skin dries out, it will die.

What should I use as worm bin bedding?

Almost any carbon source can be used as worm bin bedding, but some worm bedding material works better than others. Remember, your worm composting bin bedding material needs to be at about 80% moisture level.

What is the correct moisture level for a worm bin?

Worm composting bins should never be dry and should never have standing water in them. Ideally, the worm bedding should be at about 80% moisture. The bedding should definitely feel moist but when you squeeze it, no water should drip out. Also, when you squeeze it you should not hear crackling of dry paper or dry leaves. When your worm bin bedding is at the correct moisture level, it should remind you of laundry right when you take it from the washing machine. The clothes are thoroughly saturated with water but not dripping at all.