Gardeners and fishermen have long extolled the virtues of the common earthworm. Each day, its tiny body takes in one-half of its own weight in organic waste and processes it into the finest plant soil. Among earthworms, nightcrawlers stand out as efficient soil producers and, due to their large size, make excellent fishing worms. They are hardy worms that can survive a range of conditions and can be prolific breeders. The key to healthy nightcrawler breeding is building and maintaining a proper worm bin.
Things You'll Need
- Ruler or tape measure
- Roof or lid (optional)
Choose a secure container about 8 to 12 inches deep to use as the worm bin. An ideal container is opaque to provide darkness and help maintain a cool temperature. A plastic container is readily available and simple to clean, but a wood or rubber container is also suitable.
Drill holes in the bin's sides around the top edge to allow air flow. Make the holes 1/8 to 1/16 inch wide and about 2 inches apart.
Prepare bedding by soaking it in water. Acceptable bedding is shredded newspaper, cardboard, peat moss or non-sandy soil. Check the moisture level by scooping a handful of bedding and squeezing the material. A few drips should come out but not a stream of water. If you use newspaper or cardboard, add a handful of soil to the mixture; the worms need the grit to aid their digestion.
Add food to the bin. Worms can eat almost any plant matter, including fruit, vegetables, bread, cardboard and paper. Add the food to the top of the bin, or bury it 2 inches beneath the bedding surface.
Place the bin in a location out of direct sunlight. Nightcrawlers can survive temperatures from 45 to 80 F but breed best in temperatures from 60 to 70 F. If you place the bin outdoors, use a roof or lid to shelter it from rain.
Add worms to the bin. Because nightcrawlers make such good fishing worms, you can buy them at most bait shops. About 1,000 nightcrawlers can live in a space with 1 square foot of surface area. So gauge the number of worms you use based on the bin's size. Nightcrawlers breed fast; so the bin does not need to be full initially.
Maintain the worm bin. The bin requires just a little regular care. Check moisture levels frequently. For greater production, allow the top 2 inches of bedding to become mostly dry before re-wetting. Feed the worms only when all their previous food is mostly eaten. Too much food can create an odor and cause excess acidity, which can kill worms. About every two weeks, turn the bedding completely to allow air to reach all parts of the bin. Because nightcrawlers produce faster when not overcrowded, harvest worms every one to two months.
Tips & Warnings
- Young nightcrawlers are the hardiest breeders. When harvesting worms, remove the bigger worms and leave the smaller worms to maintain a healthy breeding-age population.
- Carolina Pet Supply LLC: Raising European Nightcrawlers
- Worm Man's Worm Farm: Raise European Nightcrawlers
- "Worms Can Eat My Garbage"; Mary Appelhof; 1982
- New York Worms: Earthworm Care and Feeding
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images
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