What do worms eat?
What do worms eat?
What DO worms eat, and what can you feed them?
We are a local worm farm in Arkansas that has been raising red wiggler worms for fishing and composting for the last two years. We started our worm compost bin in 2020 early on as hobby worm farmers, but are now worm farming in Arkansas as a business. There are unbelievable benefits to raising your own worms locally. We have seen improvements in our garden soil. More on that here.
What should you feed worms, you ask?
Worms like a diet that consists of many organic materials that you find locally. Many times you can feed worms for free without purchasing expensive materials. Some of our free favorites are cow manure, rabbit manure, and horse manure (especially horse manure). There are studies that have been done comparing types of manure and what worms prefer. We are currently conducting our own studies with this. More on that later. If the manure is not composted well beforehand, the worms can get too hot and may die.
An important note: It is important to pre-compost manure first to kill known pathogens. Always wear gloves. If you are immunocompromised, wearing a mask is also important. Check out all our worm bin safety tips here.
Worms need a bedding source so they are free to move around to get their food. If you do not have access to manure you can always start with something like peat moss. You can find peat moss at your local gardening store fairly easily. Many people consider this more sanitary and easier to control the worms’ environment.
In addition to composted manure, worms can eat:
- Kitchen scraps of unseasoned fruits and vegetables
- (Little to no citrus, no onions, no garlic, no dairy, no spicy foods or salt)
- (We’ve found feeding worms avocados in small quantities they go crazy for! Many sites say no to this but our worms love them)
- Cardboard (finely shredded)
- Paper (shredded)
- Straw (if finely chopped up)
- Leaves (they really like these as part of a light airy bedding)
- Pumpkins (also go crazy for these)
- Banana peels (they love these)
- Egg Shells (really helps balance the soil pH)
- Oats (throw your oatmeal leftovers straight in the bin)
- Coffee grounds and tea bags
- Hair and nail clippings
- Sawdust (no treated wood)
How to introduce a new food into your worm bin:
One way to learn a lot is to sprinkle a bit of the material on top of a test portion of the bed and observe your worms. Red wigglers eat best when the food is sprinkled onto the bed and lightly watered in. If you have something that the worms absolutely hate they will move away from the substance. It is important not to spread something to feed your worms that you are unsure about all over the top of the worm bin or they will decide to leave. Also if the worms have some “wiggle room” in the test portion it can help. If they are in a small container then there is little room for error. The more space the worms have the more forgiving they are with your mistakes.
Don’t have a worm bin yet? Check this out.
One way we learned at Ozark Worm Farms here in Searcy, Arkansas what our worms like was by observing.
Many people have moisture sensors and other fancy devices to measure the pH of their worm bins. These are good if they work for you, but one rule of thumb if you don’t have these is to simply observe everything while you get the hang of worm farming.
- Is the worm bin too wet or too dry?
- Where are the worms (crawling on the sides of the bin or relaxed in their bedding?)
- Do they favor one area of the bin more? Why?
- Are there certain types of foods they like?
- How do your worms look? Do the adult worms have a vibrant color or are they pale and small?
- Do you smell something? (too much food on the bin rotting?, anaerobic conditions that the worms don’t like?)
- Worm bins should not have an offensive odor. If they do you’ve got some troubleshooting to do.
The only way you are going to learn is by getting a feel for what the worms like in your worm bin. Many people will feed and then minimally disturb the worms, but for us learning early on is more important. It is important to note that there are many different species of worms and their care needs vary by type. The worms we farm here at our worm farm in Searcy, Arkansas are Eisenia fetida (or the red wiggler). These are hardy worms great for fishing and improving your soil.
Think about your purpose in raising the worms. Are you trying to produce vermicast (or worm compost) quickly for use in your garden? If so then you may not want to have large sticks in your bin. It is a good rule of thumb to keep the feeding materials in the worm bed a fine consistency if possible.
Once you have fed your worms for a number of weeks they make a rich material that many people use in their gardens. There are many other resources for how to use worm compost in your garden: link here.
We here at Ozark Worm Farms hope this brief introduction to what do worms eat has been helpful. If you’ve got a question about what to feed your worms you can always reach out to us on our contact page or follow us on all our social media platforms. Or just send us an email at email@example.com. If you would like to purchase your own red wiggler worms, please visit our store to get your very own from some Arkansas worm farmers today.