Red worms are nature’s ultimate composting worm and a great pick for worm farms. Red worms go by many names. They’re often called red wigglers, tiger worms, manure worms, composting worms, and the trout worms. Whatever you call them they’re among the best composting worms available.
Both first time and experienced worm farmers choose the red worm for many reasons. These hardy composters are easy to care for, reproduce quickly, tolerate a wide range of temperatures, and of course can eat huge amounts of organic waste.
So whether it is composting, raising bait worms, producing worm castings, or simply enjoying an eco friendly hobby it’s hard to beat red worms when it comes to your worm farm. But before you go out and buy pounds of red worms there are some things you need to know. Our red worm facts page will tell you everything you need to know to successfully raise red worms.
Advantages of Redworms
Red worms have many properties which make them ideal for the compost bin. Of all the worms suitable for worm farming the red worm is the most adaptable and hearty. Red wigglers can withstand a wide range of environmental conditions and changes that would kill most other breeds.
Unlike common earthworms that borrow deep into the soil red worms thrive in the first several inches of topsoil directly beneath decomposing vegetative organic matter. It really doesn’t matter what the matter is red worms love it. Decaying leaves, grasses, wood, and animal manure are all favorites of red worms.
The red worm’s voracious appetite makes it the champion of the compost bin and a virtual worm casting (a.k.a. worm poop) machines. Red worms are fairly small, generally getting no larger than 5 inches. But don’t underestimate them. It is estimated that red worms eat nearly 3 times their weight each week.
Red worms like to live in colonies, often congregating into a writhing mass around a food source. Maintaining this close contact makes them prolific breeders and an ideal breed to raise in your worm farm. A 24″ x 24″ worm bin can easily house over 1000 red worms. However for those interested in raising bait worms it’s good to remember that crowded red worms will remain fairly skinny and short. When given more room red worms will plump up into excellent fishing worms.
Another advantage of red worms is their ability with stand a wide range of temperature extremes. Typically red wigglers thrive in temperatures between 65F and 80F (18 C – 27 C). When the temperature dips red worms need to be protected from freezing weather. Even red worms kept outside can easily survive the frigid temperatures of northern North America.
Of course you need to provide them with shelter and insulation. That can be as simple as keeping them in trench filled with aged manure and covered with straw or leaves. Similarly; when temperatures spike keep your worm farm cool. If your bedding gets over 85 degrees red worms will try to escape your bins for cooler areas. So provide them with shade or if possible move them into your basement.
Red worms are prolific breeders and 9 weeks after birth red worms are mature. Baby red worms hatch from small lemon shaped cocoons. So even your youngest red worms will be breeding within about 2 ½ months and producing their own cocoons. Each cocoon holds an average of five small red worms; typically three will ultimately hatch, emerge, and begin reproducing. So if you purchase 1 pound of red worms in about four month you will have 2 pounds, and in nine months 4 pounds. However these are just basic guidelines. Many factors influence reproduction of red worms. The bedding material you select, food sources, moisture conditions, and temperature all have an effect on how quickly or slowly your red worms will reproduce.
Red worms are content to remain working for you in conditions that are to their liking. Provide them food, moisture, and suitable bedding material and they will happily stay in their bins or outdoor colonies. However if their bedding gets dry or too acidic they will try to escape. If you don’t feed them they will go looking for food.
Like all worms red worms breathe oxygen through their skin. In order to breathe they require a moist, but not saturated bedding material. A moist environment also facilitates the breakdown of organic matter in their bedding material by microbial life forms. Since worms have no teeth it is this mushy mixture of decaying food and microbes that red worms feed on.