What are worms favorite food

gregstepNovember 11, 2005

Yes,dose anyone knows, what best favorite food is for worms?,,,,,,Thanks greg

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newbie314(Z9 CA)

Supposedly no favourite.
But mine love Watermelon, oh yeah
High sugar, lots of water, they love it.

I guess it's like us swimming in a pool of pudding :-P

They clean those rinds easily in 2 weeks. I can't even tell what they are, but at least I keep a log to keep track.

Have fun. No meat, diary usually, but mine has handled a peanut butter sandwich (not cut up either).

    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 2:13AM
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Kelly_Slocum(sw WA state)

A worms favorite food is actually protozoa, which are, largely, predators of bacteria. Following protozoa they like microscopic fungi and algae, and they enjoy a few bacteria on the side.

What? You thought they were getting their nutrients from the veggie peels and melon rinds? Well, you're not alone in that belief, but nope, that's not actually correct.

Worms ingest organic materials once they have become biologically active, meaning once they have begun to rot. Microscopic decomposers begin to soften and fragment organic materials so they can be drawn in to the tiny worm mouth. The tiny OM fragments, which are covered with millions of these microscopic decomposers pass into the worm digestive system where it is the microorganisms that are selected by the worm gut processes as the source of nutrient. So, the worms INGEST the OM, but it is the mmicrobes decaying that OM that become the major source of nutrient.

Why, then, do worms show a definite preference for succulent, sugary fruits and veggies over, say, corn cobs? Because succulent sugary veggies support orders of magnitude greater communities of microbes than do corn cobs, and because they are more readily fragmented and softened, thus easier to ingest with their load of microbes treats.

So, in terms of OM, what materials tend to support the massive biological blooms that maximize worm activity with the least amount of management on the part of the human operating the system? That tends to be sugary fruits and succulent veggie scraps. Livestock manure is also an excellent and natural choice. Keep in mind, however, that anything that is biologically active is a source of nutrition for worms.

Make sense?


    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 1:03PM
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Every single time I have the perfect answer, both clinically and factually, for a fellow poster, damned if Kelly hasn't already put in her two cents...er, million bucks, worth of information before I get a chance to compose mine. And her answer is ALWAYS exactly what I was gonna say.

That being said, all the more reason to LOVE BSF larva, which (who?) don't worry about decomposition to start. They are precomposters for my worms. You gotta love em. However, since I've moved several bins into the garage, my wife has noticed "these little armadillo-looking BUGS crawling around" in the house...not many, just a few. "WHAT ARE THESE THINGS", she demanded!!!!. "Damned if I know", I said.

Worming indoors at my house makes necessary a certain amount of bald-faced lying most of the time. The rest of the time requires generous amounts of creative explanation.
Also critter lookout at all times before she might find something foreign to her idea of a safe and secure civilized environment.


    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 5:51PM
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sqh1(z7 NC)

chuckiebtoo..I have been thinking..uh oh..because I too have many indoor bins and those BSF's will leave the bins looking for a dry, dark place to pupate. Can we come up with,perhaps,a collection bin, below the working bin that the BSF's would find acceptable. That collection bin could be emptied somewhere more desirable, (ie: not inside). I have read somewhere that the larvae have difficulty going in, I think, a vertical direction. I have had them indoors for years now, during winter. I think I get all of the larvae, as I see them on the floor, but I am always very wrong. When things warm, there are always 4-5 every day flying around. This invention would be a great thing. Soon as your wife stops getting ready for the tra la la holidays, perhaps you could help me think of a way to work this out, (or anyone else reading this post).

    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 6:19PM
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newbie314(Z9 CA)

the funniest thing I have every read on this site.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 6:56PM
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Thanks,so much,,,,,Great imformation....I was thinking about using alfalfa tea.3 cups to a 5 gallon bucket...and let it set for 2 day.I have heard that worms are crazy over alfalfa tea,,,,,,greg

    Bookmark   November 12, 2005 at 9:10PM
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priswell(9 CA)

That being said, all the more reason to LOVE BSF larva

You can't make me like them. Nope. Can't. Make. Me. ;-)

    Bookmark   November 13, 2005 at 12:43AM
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What would you do with the tea?

    Bookmark   November 17, 2005 at 4:40PM
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I was going to say anything really soft and watery, but that doesnt mean they wont eat other things but they get through salad scraps like lettuce very quick, but I would have to say that pears have been my worms favourite, if I stick an overripe pear on top, the next time I visit the bin they are just clustered underneath it, they love their pears :)

    Bookmark   November 18, 2005 at 12:05AM
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I am also curious about the tea. It would be buying alfalfa to add, which is not necessary. If you think it will help the microbe load, it might? I dont know, but unless youre just barely misting it, you could get the bin too wet, which will make it stinky.

If you just have crumbled grain foods or moist/chopped fruit and veg scraps on occasion, your bin should get an added kick without buying any additional items.

Worms have been doing this much longer than us.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2005 at 3:02PM
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tumbleweed56(z9 CA)

What Kelly said makes a lot of sense, but, how come the worms love coffee grounds so much. Do the protozoa go after coffee grounds just as fast as they would a watermelon?

    Bookmark   November 19, 2005 at 12:59AM
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jason_mackenna(Dallas TX)

I'd asked this on another thread -- but if worms eat the bacteria, protozoa, mold & fungi, then why no meat or dairy products. Dairy molds up like crazy, and meat is chock full o' bacteria after a few days in a nice worm bin. It would seem that this high bacteria food would be WONDERFUL for worms.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2005 at 2:24PM
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vmpalmerton(z8 OR)

First of all don't put corn cobs, banana peels, orange peels, any meats or dairy products in your worm bins. Not unless you grind it up first, but you're still better off not to put any animal products in it. Save anything from your kitchen and throw it into the bin. I keep a short shovel and make sure I just break everything up when I put it into the bins. They really love coffee grounds if you can collect them from a coffee house. They'll usually give them to you for free.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2005 at 11:40PM
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Kelly_Slocum(sw WA state)

First, regarding tea; Garnetmoth is spot on, tea is not going to amplify system biology beyond what can be supported by the food resources present. An environment of decomposing organic matter has a finite amount of food resources that will ultimately limit the number of organisms, both macro and micro, it can support (though this limited population will still exceed several million organisms per gram). Tea is an innoculum of micororganisms, but very little food resource, thus you are adding microbes to the bin, but nothing on which they can live for an extended period of time. The result is typically a temporary spike in biological enumeration that fairly quickly returns to the levels supported by the system prior to tea application. There is no valid research demonstrating that adding tea to a well run worm bin will amplify the biological activity among either the microbes or the worms.

Neither, however, is it likely to harm anything in the bin to add good tea, and there are many people who do so and swear that it makes their bins operate more efficiently. So, if it feels right to you, go for it!

Tumbleweed, yes, bacteria like coffee grounds because coffee grounds have lots of surface area by virtue of their somewhat small particle size, have a nice balance of carbon and nitrogen, and are damp but chunky, meaning lots of moisture in the presence of lots of air. Huge populations of bacteria will grow in the grounds, attracting and supporting huge populations of the protozoa that prey on bacteria. A few fungal species generally join the party along with the odd rotifer (algae) that also appreciates the moisture and you can see that coffee grounds are a lovely substrate for supporting worm activity!

Jason, the prohibition against meat and dairy products has nothing to do with their being problematic for worms (despite the erroneous claims one can read on the internet and in some books that worms are vegetarians), rather it is we humans who find such feedstocks potentially challenging. Because the worm cannot ingest meat or dairy until it rots, and because the smell of rotting meat and dairy is distasteful to humans but highly attractive to vermin and houseflies, the inclusion of these materials can cause problems with bins kept in or near human living spaces. While these challenges CAN be managed, and some folks do include some meat, fats and cheeses in their bins, the general statement is to avoid these materials to ensure the bin is user friendly.

Grinding feedstock can certainly decrease decompostion time in the bin provided the ground material does not become compacted and anaerobic. Many people swear by this practice, but many more add bananas, orange peels and corn cobs whole or in large chunks and find they are very effectively, if more slowly, processed. Both of these options are frequently used and very effective!


    Bookmark   November 20, 2005 at 1:34AM
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newbie314(Z9 CA)

No problem with Bananas. They love them.
I freeze them sometime.
Put a PB&J sandwich in once.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2005 at 3:38AM
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Kelly_Slocum(sw WA state)

::giggling over the menatl image of newbie314's worms with peanut butter stuck to the roofs of their little mouths::


    Bookmark   November 20, 2005 at 10:34AM
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AbbeysDad(z5 CNY)

Based on this thread and that we just happened to have some old watermellon and cantelope, I chopped it up, and put it in a trench across the middle of the bin and lightly covered it.
By the next day or so it was warm as toast and just beneath it was full of worms. I wasn't really expecting the slight temperature increase although it signals biological activity. The mass is small enough I think where this shouldn't be an issue, especially since the worms could retreat if they felt the need. But right now it seems they're all at the party and who knows what all is going on since all the chaparones are drunk on sugar laden protazoas.
It's clear to me that decomposing fruit seems like a popular food.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2005 at 9:47AM
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newbie314(Z9 CA)

When I bury watermelon, I stack the rinds so they create lots of air pockets.
Can tell from the surface the watermelon is being consumed by the sinking of that area of the bin.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2005 at 5:18PM
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I'm still a little confused as to exactly what the worms are eating. I need an elementary school explanation! LOL!

Would it be correct to say that worms eat microscopic organisms (protozoa, fungi and algae) and also the kitchen scraps, etc. once they have begun to decompose?

    Bookmark   November 25, 2005 at 4:00PM
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AbbeysDad(z5 CNY)

Perhaps more precisely, (as Kelly wrote) the worms ingest the decaying organic matter in order to extract nutrition from the bacteria, protozoa, fungi, etc. that feed on the organic matter.

Worms are like ALF looking at the decaying organic (salad) matter..."that's not food, thats what food eats!"

"Here kitty kitty"


    Bookmark   November 26, 2005 at 8:53AM
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This page says that worms do not like acidic things to eat:


So I wonder why they like coffee grounds? They would be extremely acidic! I just put a bunch of sliced tomatoes into my veggie row's soil and now I wonder if they are too acidic for a worm to eat:(


    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 4:27PM
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"These worms tend to avoid citrus peels, onions and garlic, hot peppers and foods high in acid, which may poison them or cause digestive problems."

My worms loved citrus peels, they like onion peels well enough, and they loved tomatoes. They liked coffee grounds after they had a chance to go moldy.

I think we make far too much of the "acidic" issue. In practice, I have never seen it be a problem.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 4:57PM
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I think mine like watermelon the best. Put it in the bin and stand back! :)

I haven't had any problems with onions, curry or salsa. My worms seem to love tomatoes; BFF had a load of nasty ones from his garden and I've been chucking them into the bin. Might be a varietal thing?

I do think a load of strawberries is what kicked my bin into anaerobic conditions, but because of the moisture not the acidity. Coffee grounds seem to be ignored, but tea bags go quickly.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 5:36PM
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people seem to give theirs a bunch of fruits and they love them.

i am sure water melon is one of the top fruits as it's water which worms as also and it's sweet and sugary. i have given my millipedes water melon before they alone loved it. i have heard/seen cantaloup never tried it.

but really they will eat just about anything organic. they don't seem picky. i feed mine a mixture of rotten banana's, lettuce, bread, spices from spice rack that are old, old vegetables basically and loads of it. they eat it and don't seem to mind it.

only problem i do have is my bin heats up when i feed them for the first couple days even when the food is pre rotted so i try to only feed one side so the other side is cool/cold.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2012 at 10:17PM
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Lori_NY: If you search the forum you'll find lots on coffee grounds. Grounds seem to be only mildly acidic and to get even less so under composting conditions. Coffee grounds are about 1/4 of my vermicompost inputs by volume.




As Kelly Slocum points out upthread the worms are only the top feeder, so to speak, after a lot of other organisms have had a go and transformed the inputs in various ways. Sbryce, just above, is absolutely right. Just dump stuff in and let it rot. It will be fine. People way over-worry this.

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 12:47AM
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Colin and others,

Thanks for the wonderful links and info:) I work in a restaurant and will start bringing them home tomorrow.


    Bookmark   October 22, 2012 at 9:25AM
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I'll second what sbryce said. The acid isn't a big deal. Besides, if you are throwing in some crushed egg shells the calcium carbonate will buffer any of the occasional acidy things you toss in.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2012 at 1:40AM
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i had a bad experience with some tomatoes and lemon rinds one winter.

overly acidic environments will inhibit bacteria growth and encourage molds.

coupled with an excess of moisture from the tomatoes and coffee grounds...well lets just say i never, ever want to be scraping worms off a cement floor again.

i was in a hurry and missed a few lemon rinds/tomatoes. this and i didn't attend to my bins for almost two weeks. while i was away the bin turned white with mold. it was bad! i felt terrible!

worms are very forgiving but i failed them on a few different levels. i don't mean to be contradictory only to offer this anecdote as a cautionary tale.


    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 7:14PM
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Cautionary tales are fine. Every bin is different. If your experience is different than mine, then someone else's will be too. It is good to see both sides, then make your best decision for your own bin. Anything new to your bin should be approached with caution until your worms adjust.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 11:19AM
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Things I feed my worms: Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Avocado, Strawberries, Peppers (not Hot Peppers), Cucumbers, Grapes, Dates, Kiwi, Pumpkin, Bananas, Oranges and Grapefruit (on occasion), Apples, Pears, Coffee Grounds.


    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 8:31AM
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Shaul: Tell me it is the scraps or cuttings or kitchen waste of these items you are using for vermicomposing. That is the benefit of vermicomposting is it uses waste. Old, outdated whole produce would be a benefit to reuse. Everything has a best use, humans. a secondary use animals or chickens, and a final use, compost for everything. The key is to use everything for its highest use.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 5:01AM
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buckstarchaser(5 MI)

Being winter, I'm catching a lot of mice in traps. They go straight into the bin with whatever urine I have with me. Since it is cold outside, I only want to feed higher energy things and not water them with low food value water that will only cool them down. The more biological heating I can get, the more active my worms will be over the winter and the more worm dirt and large worms I'll have in the spring. I hope to start the process of shrinking them this next year so that I can have an unstoppable worm army of my own.

I just dug around in the bin and I could not find any mice in there. There are worms and fur in the area though, and it didn't smell like urine, ammonia, or dead mice (I used to raise mice for pet stores... dead ones have an unforgettable smell).

The food chain in my house usually dictates that my dog gets food that I don't want to eat, but for anything I wouldn't even feed my dog... That's the worm's "favorite food"... or they can shut up and eat their cardboard.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 2:42PM
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Hi Equinox;

Of course it's the peels, cores, and other (possibly) rotting fruits and vegetables that go into the bins. Occasionally, if I see something on sale and knowing it's a favorite, I may actually buy it fresh. Whatever else we generate, like meat, dairy, onions, garlic, chili peppers, and citrus peels (in quantity), goes to the city compost recycling program.


    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 3:43PM
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steander57(Tropical Cairns Australia)

Hi all,
Good reading in the above posts, but I have not seen any mention of paper. i have been lead to believe shredded newspaper is fine to put into the worm bins, and office printing paper is not fine to put in as there are extra chemicals from the manufacturing process which could be harmful to the worms.
Can anyone confirm that i am correct, or can i put in any paper or cardboard if it is shredded.


    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 6:09PM
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I have used any paper that has no gloss/shiny side to it or color. The less ink the better, I think. but black ink in moderation seems to be okay. I've only been doing this for a bit over 3 months but a layer of shredded paper, mixed with cut up heavier stuff like egg cartons, toilet paper and paper towel roll centers, plain brown paper bags (especially after being used a couple times to store mushrooms for some reason) all seem to work well to soak up moisture and keep worms happily eating and squirming around.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 7:24PM
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buckstarchaser(5 MI)

I use all papers that don't appear to have waterproofing or excessive preservatives in them. Shiny, colored, newspaper, printer paper, bills, food boxes, and corrugated cardboard. If it will absorb water then it is a generally good paper to me and my worms. I do avoid packaging that was used to hold metal parts with machine oil on them though.

My worms seem to respond well to wood chips whether they are freshly ground by me or the small, dark chips I get from the local hardware store. The wood won't compact, holds water, nutrients and air very well, and I read a while back that the lignins in wood (and paper) are one of worm's preferred foods. Supposedly the worms produce a chemical that stimulates plants to produce more lignin too. That means that the presence of worms has a technical reason for making plants grow more.

I think a lot of people are unaware of what 'horrible' things they pay good money to put on their gardens while throwing much milder things in the trash to keep it out of the dirt they are making to dump on the dirt in the 'garden'. An immaculately kept garden is absolutely not cleaner or less toxic than the funny pages with their colored newspaper ink.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 1:15AM
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Thanks for all the info.

My worms have been in the bin for 5 days now. But I've noticed when I was digging around they were eating the old moldy onions, but they did not eat the citrus peels so I've picked those out.

We're a college level education program and we produce about 20 pounds of food waste per day. I'm hoping to get the worms eating it all.

We're composting now but it takes months for the stuff to break down, too much vegetable mass not enough green mass.

I've chucked in a couple shovel fulls of our compost and a lot of shredded cardboard. They are still 'exploring' the area but only a few rogues here and there now.

I'm concrened about the long term heat problems, we're in zone 13a I think. It's the cool season and it's still above 80 every day.

I'm gonna try to maybe ice down the bin as needed, at least a couple big pieces of ice broken up when it's really hot. But for now all seems well.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 2:43PM
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Hmm, buckstarchaser, that's food for thought. I have avoided colors on paper because, with the exception of my local newspaper, I have no way of knowing if they are petroleum based or soy/veggie based, and I don't want petroleum based stuff in my garden or in my food. (I'm not strictly organic, just trying to stay healthy.)

This is probably a topic for a different thread, so I'll just say that my worms get salad like leftover/gone bad lettuce, radish, tomato, cucumber, plus beans, summer squash, fruit leftovers, some different veggies that I buy to try and if I don't like them the worms will.



    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 5:56PM
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buckstarchaser(5 MI)

Lynn: There is petroleum in all newspaper inks that I'm aware of. The soy based inks use paraffin to set the ink. Paraffin and mineral oil are petroleum based and are common machine lubes in the food industry and very commonly found on food as a coating to prevent moisture from being gained or lost with the environment, as well as in home canning (directly in contact with food). Mineral oil is also a common baby laxative. I don't suggest that newspaper ink is printed with any food-grade petroleum products, but rather suggest that the air you are breathing contains more petroleum products per ounce than compost made with newspapers. Also note that if you spray anything on your plants that can be described as horticultural oil or soap... you're almost certainly applying petroleum products directly to your food.

Islandschool: Orange peels may break down slowly by default because they come from from a tropical environment where biology is in overdrive. They have a natural waxy coating to seal the fruit from drying quickly and are filled with a harsh oil to help prevent being eaten before the seeds develop. They are high in the antioxidant vitamin-C which guards them against cellular damage that could be capitalized upon by rot organisms. Store-bought oranges often are coated with additional BHT or paraffin wax to extend their moisture retention. I have not experimented with orange peels to find out a way to quickly rot them as I live in zone 5 and they are not plentiful here. If I had to guess how to compost them, I would think to mix them with things that are good at absorbing oil, such as paper and cardboard. Grinding them will expose more oil to be absorbed away, and heat will help liquify the oils and waxes. The acidity could be negated with dolomite lime (which seems to be good for plants and worms anyway) or even water that had ashes soaking in it... I searched for how to compost orange peels and came up with a thread on it for you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Orange peels - composting.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 7:56AM
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Thanks, we've got them segregated out of the compost but in the same big bin just not where I'd scoop them up for the worm. I'll give them a try in a separate bucket when I can fish one out of somewhere.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 10:21AM
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