If you plan to keep Earthworms for any length of time, whether your goal is to grow them out for fishing bait, educational purposes, for food for your exotic pet, for composting purposes, or for simply releasing them into the garden or lawn, they all have some basic needs.
Earthworms need these 5 basic needs to be met:
* A source of food *
* Water / Moisture *
* Darkness *
* Warmth *
* Oxygen *
It kind of goes without saying, but worms need food to live. Beyond that obvious statement, it's important to know what to feed, and what not to feed Earthworms.
The vegetable and fruit scraps, and other organic waste you provide for the the worms to feed on breeds microorganisms, which the worms in turn eat. There are several types of foods you should probably avoid feeding your worms. In some cases, it's not good for the worms themselves, while in others it's like putting a grand opening sign on Maggots R Us. In other words, you do not want to invite the wrong creature into your worm bin!
The do not feed list includes meats or any animal product, dairy, anything greasy or fried, and acidic items like lemons or other citrus fruits.
Foods that are generally good to place in your worm bin include most non-citrus fruits, most vegetables, grass clippings, leaves, coffee grounds and filters, tea bags, paper towels and napkins, eggshells and aged horse cow or rabbit manure. Whichever animal is providing the manure, make sure they haven't been wormed recently. Small amounts of pasta, bread and cooked beans are also appropriate. To help avoid fruit flies and odors, we suggest that you bury the food just below the surface of the bedding.
It also helps your worms if you cut up the food scraps you are giving them into smaller pieces. This helps increase the surface area (for more microorganisms) and it prevents your worm bin from going anaerobic and becoming malodorous.
Unlike your dog, you don't need to put a bowl of water in your worm bin! Simply put, your worms need some moisture in their bedding material. Without it they will eventually die. If you ever have an escapee at night, you will probably find him dead a foot or two away from your worm bin the next day. This is because the worm lost his moisture when he escaped the bin, and in essence, he dried up and died.
Earthworms breath through their skin, but they do not have gills like fish. An over-saturated (100% moisture) worm bin will cut off the oxygen and the weight of the water will pack all of the small air spaces in the bedding. Earthworms are mainly surface feeders and it is the top three or four inches of your bin that needs to be at about 60-80% moisture.
If you are using a plastic worm bin as discussed on the Composting Information page, you will probably have to water your bedding a few times when you are just starting out so it has adequate moisture. Generally speaking, it should be consistently and uniformly damp, with a consistency like a wrung out sponge. Many food scraps will add their own moisture, but you will want to monitor moisture levels and make sure it's adequate to sustain your Earthworms . A common rule of thumb is that if you squeeze a handful of bedding, only a few drops of water should come out.
Worms do not like light. It's in their DNA. This causes them to burrow into the soil to avoid it. For this reason, it can be a good idea to put a light on above your worm bin for the first night or two. This will encourage the worms dig into more deeply into the bedding. Hopefully, this also discourages any escape attempt. Keep the lid on your worm bin to prevent escapees, and to give a darkened effect. This is best for the health and effectiveness of your worms.
The Red Worm (Eisenia Fetida) and European Nightcrawler (Eisenia hortensis) are both very temperature tolerant. They can generally withstand worm bin temps as low as 40 Degrees, and as high as 90 Degrees. For short periods, they might be able to withstand extremes outside of those ranges, but it's certainly not a good idea.
On the cooler side of the spectrum, the worms will likely be slower to eat and will not reproduce as quickly as they would if they were warmer. So, for folks in colder climates, consider making some accommodations to keep them warmer during harsh winter conditions. Heat lamps are but one idea to keep them warm.
Due to their heritage in west Africa and Asia respectively, the African Nightcrawler (Eudrillus Eugeniae) needs to be kept at warmer temperatures and will die if their environment becomes to cold. Keep the African at temperatures 60F and above.
Like all living organisms, Earthworms need oxygen to breath. Shredded cardboard or paper is a good way to help get air circulating through your worm bin. This same air flow will prevent your worm bin from going anaerobic which will cause acid to be produced along with foul odors.
Add air vents on the sides and bottom of the worm bin. Earthworms require a lot of oxygen to be healthy. This is accomplished by allowing the air to pass from the very bottom of the bin through the bedding. Placing your bin on some bricks, small wood blocks, etc. will help achieve air flow from the bottom. There is a detailed discussion on this topic on the Composting Information page.
As the worms break down the bedding and it becomes more compact it will reduce the volume of bedding in your bin, and oxygen levels go down. We suggesting fluffing up the bedding from time to time by hand. In addition we suggest adding about 1/2 inch of fresh bedding to the surface of the worm bin weekly.
A Final Note
Your worms will (and should) have some friendly visitors and they will not be the only decomposing organism found in your worm bin. Tiny white worms called Echytraeids eat decomposing material, and are not a problem. Springtails in a bin will look like a sprinkling of hundreds of tiny white creatures. They eat molds and are producers of humus. Millipedes, sow bugs, slugs, snails, pill bugs, and beetles are other common beneficial decomposers found in worm bins. Do not attempt to kill or remove these beneficial creatures.
Ready to order your Red Worms, European Night Crawlers, or African Night Crawlers? Head over to our Worms Superstore page for all four varieties of worms. Choose the one that's right for you and place your order.
Not sure which species best suits your needs? Take a look at the Earthworm Varieties page or look at each of the four species we offer in the Worms Superstore page and find the one that best matches your needs and the environment you have. Once you select your worm species, add the amount you desire to the cart, check out and pay, and we'll get them to your door asap! Thanks for visiting and good luck raising Earthworms!