Compost worms are incredible creatures, capable of converting food and yard waste into nutrient-rich fertilizer for your garden! Did you know that a clew of worms can double their population in as little as 6 weeks? They can also eat up to half of their own body weight each day!
Before you add worms to your bin, it's important to understand which worms are right for the Hungry Bin. But worms are worms, right? Not exactly. Let's dive into which worms will thrive in your new Hungry Bin, and which to avoid.
What are Compost Worms?
Across the world, there are over 3,500 different species of worms, each with different characteristics, needs and living requirements. Two common groups of worms are compost worms and native earthworms—and these two groups look and behave very differently from one another.
Earthworms are often reddish-brown in color and grow up to be 6 inches in length. They prefer to burrow deep into the ground and soil, living solitary lives in less nutrient-rich areas. As you dig deep into the soil in the your yard, you are likely to encounter a lonely earthworm from time to time.
While earthworms thrive at aerating and draining the soil, they are not used in vermicomposting, and should not be placed in your Hungry Bin. They also reproduce at a much slower pace.
On the other hand, composting worms live in organic material at or near the surface—the top 12 inches of soil. They efficiently break down and feed on organic waste, reproducing at a high rate as their diet dictates. Since food waste is added to the top layer of the Hungry Bin, these worms are ideal for converting waste into castings and liquid gold.
Compost worms are also typically much smaller than earthworms, growing 2-3 inches in length. They prefer to live in dense clews (or groups), so you'll often see them gathered in large ball-like formations near the surface.
Species of Compost Worms
Among the thousands of species of earthworms, there are roughly 7 species that excel as composting worms. In the USA, the most commonly available and used composting worms are as follows:
- Tiger worms, aka Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida)
- Red worms (Lumbricus rubellus)
- Indian or Malaysian Blue Worms (Perionyx excavatus)
Any of the the above species will thrive in your Hungry Bin. However, when considering cost, performance, and environmental tolerance, the red wiggler species stands above the rest.
This smaller species, which often has a yellow tail, reproduces quickly and efficiently, thrives in a wider range of temperatures (55-95°F), and is more readily available and cheaper to purchase than many others. Purchasing worms in large quantities can be costly, so the reproductive nature and cheaper cost is a huge benefit.
How Many Composting Worms?
When first starting out, there is no set number of worms that must be added to achieve success. However, the faster you start, the quicker the results will come. We recommend that you begin with a minimum of 2,000 adult worms, or roughly 500 grams.
As mentioned above, your compost worms are masters of reproduction, so your population will steadily grow if fed appropriately. Underfeeding could slow this growth. At steady state, your bin population should reach roughly 12,000 adult worms, though getting there could take roughly 6-7 months.
Feeling crazy or anxious to reap the benefits? Start with a larger quantity of worms. But regardless of the starting quantity, feeding your bin the correct types and right amounts of food will accelerate the process.
Where To Buy Worms
A number of online and local retailers sell suitable composting worms. If ordering online, be sure to order from a retailer that offers expedited shipping (air shipping), as worms do not fair well if shipping takes more than 2-3 days. Many retailers refrain from shipping on Thursdays and Fridays for this reason. This will prevent worms from sitting in idle warehouses or shipping vehicles on weekends.
We recommend purchasing worms from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm, where they specialize in red wigglers. In our experiences, worms arrive on time and fully alive. Use discount code SproutRite10 for 10% off your order!
We hope this article is helpful in helping you select the right worms for your vermicomposting bin. If you have additional questions or feedback for our team, please reach out to us by Chat, Phone, or Email, and we will work WITH you to help you succeed.