Red wiggler worms, also called red worms, will happily reproduce if you provide optimal living conditions and expansion room. They usually take about three months after being introduced into new living quarters to breed and visibly increase in numbers. Breeding the worms requires no special effort past providing a comfortable bin and sufficient food and space. Healthy red worms attain sexual maturity in 40 to 60 days and can reproduce for about 16 months.
Things You'll Need
- Worm bin
- Compost or worm chow
- Worm bedding
- Garden cultivator
- Plastic container or wooden rectangle with screen
- Heat and light sources (for commercial growing)
Home Worm Bin
Set up a worm bin about a week before your red wigglers arrive, typically by mail order. Add a starter batch of kitchen scraps to the bin's bedding. This gives the compost time to begin to break down in the bin so the worms can eat it. Feed the worms two to three times a week thereafter.
Observe whether the worms are establishing themselves. Check for numerous worm tails popping below the surface of their bedding when you take the lid off their bin. Look to see if they are visible in good numbers and vigorous looking when you use an inexpensive garden cultivator to stir up the bin contents.
Add a second level of habitat after the worms establish themselves. Add either another plastic container or wooden rectangle with a screen bottom, building on the foundation of your existing worm bin. Red worms expand to the amount of habitat available.
Stack the bedding and food in the lower level high enough to touch the bottom of the higher level. Worms cannot travel through air and need to be able to crawl from one level to another.
Provide small amounts of compost in the top level. As the worms reproduce, you will notice the higher level attracting high numbers of red wigglers as well, and numerous small juveniles in the bottom level especially. Increase the amount of kitchen scraps gradually.
Experiment with withholding food for about a week every three months or so. Worm bin hobbyists note that red wigglers (Eisenia fetida) tend to go to the bottom of their bin to gather in clusters and lay cocoons when food is withheld.
Create two or more large-scale, exterior worm bins out of plywood, concrete or concrete blocks.
In cool climates, insulate and warm via hot water pipes or electric heating cables.
Augment free feed stocks such as manure and food scraps with commercial worm chow.
Consider nighttime lighting to keep the red wigglers from migrating away.
Periodically divide so that one worm bed becomes two. This reduces competition for space and food and encourages optimal growth and reproduction.
Tips & Warnings
- If your worm bin begins to appear crowded, harvest some worms by separating out the worms at the same time as you harvest the worm castings. Sell or give the worms away to others interested in vermiculture. Or, add a third level in your worm bin for your expanding population.
- Household scraps are not an ideal feedstock for commercially grown worms, resulting in lower reproductive rates and smaller worms, according to Wormdigest.org. Instead, use washed or composted manures, livestock chow pellets, grain meals and brewery wastes.
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