Biggest composting worms?

melenkoleeDecember 2, 2009

We started our worm bin for several reasons, the original being to meet a requirement for my son's gardening merit badge for boy scouts. The deal was he'd manage it for the required 90 days, and then it would become "my" bin for composting kitchen waste, producing castings for the plants and most importantly, a constant free food source for our box turtle. Things have been rolling along nicely - my son has met his requirement but is still interested enough to open the lid on the bin every few days and "help" any worms that have decided to try and make a break for it :). We have at best guess about 1000 worms at this point in the game, and are starting to see cocoons and babies. The thing is, my box turtle will eat on average 12-15 fat canadian nightcrawlers a week...and our wigglers are considerably smaller than that so he would really make a dent in the population of the bin. I was thinking about adding another type of worm in there and wonder which ones you guys think would be best? They'd have to get along with the wigglers, be prolific and fast growing, and as big as we can get 'em.

We actually do have some canadians in the turtle habitat who escaped becoming supper that seem to be reproducing, but we (including the turtle) only see them when we stir the substrate every other week. Depending on how many we find I tend to leave a few adults and all babies, and the extras go in the fridge...but it's not enough to sustain his diet and I'm still buying worms all the time. And now that winter has arrived, our supply of slugs, outside worms and pill bugs has dried up.

I'm leaning towards european nightcrawlers but wonder if there's another option that may suit our needs better?

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I have euro's and I think they would serve your purpose very well. Mine get big and fat, reproduce fairly well, and are good about staying put. If I were you I would start a separate bin for them. That way you could easily see if the population was keeping up with the feeding of the turtle. I got mine from trinity ranch in Missouri and they arrived very fat and lively. Bob gives you a good, running over measure of worms with good service. I don't know how late in the winter he can ship but I was very satisfied with his worms. Good luck with your turtle and above all: Happy worming! steve

    Bookmark   December 2, 2009 at 2:37PM
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If you have the space, it might be a good idea to have a compost bin in your backyard and start putting things in there. If there are worms in your garden, they will come to your composter and slugs, pill bugs and other "pests" too. It has been around -1C for several nights where I live but I still have slugs and pill bugs in my composter. Also worms. I just have that square black plastic omposter about 24x24 and 30" tall.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2009 at 3:29PM
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otis, that's a great idea! I have a compost bin we made by drilling holes in a plastic trash bin, but i have it on the porch..maybe sticking it near the garden will help. I used to find pill bugs and slugs under it all the time, but haven't tried digging around in there yet (kinda scared to, who knows WHAT has taken up residence in there, lol)

Steve, I am definitely leaning in that wigglers are in an 18 gallon bin but maybe starting with a few euros in a 1 gallon coffee container (or 2 or 3 containers :) would be a better way to test things. Frankly I don't have space for another 18 gallon bin!

I read that africans can get even bigger...are there any pros or cons for using them rather than euros?

    Bookmark   December 2, 2009 at 3:37PM
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melenkolee: How cold does it get where you live? Do you think your trash bin can freeze solid?
All these critters I mentioned are in the centre of my composter because it is sort of still warm there. I have been "rummaging" in it today and found worms further toward the outside. They didn't look too well, probably too cold. I don't understand why they didn't move to the centre. Dummies!

You know, you can keep different worm species in the same bin. They will not interbreed. The guys from have efs, euros and africans in the same bin and apparently the worms are doing great. They have it in a Gusanito Worm Bin which is smaller than your 18 gal. bin. I'm sure they won't mind if you contact them with questions regarding the mixed bin.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2009 at 11:50PM
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African's need warm temperatures. Euro's like the same temps as red worms, can tolerate 32-90+. Canadians have to be kept very cool. Euro's are much easier to keep and are tougher. Red worms can get pretty big, you know.

Here is a link that might be useful: Vermicomposting with European Nightcrawelrs

    Bookmark   December 3, 2009 at 10:51AM
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I'm in east tennessee. The winters are mild, but we do get cold enough that i think the bin would probably freeze at some point. However, it's worth poking around in there to see what I can find - I like to keep a variety in Sheldon's diet and free turtle food is my favorite kind :)

I did a lot of reading about worms yesterday, thinking there may be a way to breed the canadians, but it looks like that is pretty much impossible. It definitely looks like Euros are the way to go, and I'll likely just mix them into my current bin - if the wigglers are happy the euros should be too.

Here's my next stumbling block though - we're getting temps in the 30's and 40's around here it safe for the worms to be shipped in this weather? I'd hate to pay a lot of money for worm-sicles...

Thanks for all the great advice!

    Bookmark   December 3, 2009 at 1:02PM
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Interesting problem.

I seeded my outdoor compost bin with about 60 EF's almost a year ago, and now, I have taken some out, 100's at a time to seed freshly made 10 gallin tubs (5 of), and there are still plenty left in the compost (200lt bin, half full).

Conclusion, if you can wait 5 months, you will be able to reproduce something like 1 lb of ef's a week. I doubt you're turtle will out-eat a couple of 10 gallon bin type worm farms.


PS If you like, I can email you a worm breeding calculator I made (excel spreadsheet) just to get an idea of how fast they can multiply (so far my trials match the calcultor pretty well) if you can wait 5 months, they'll out breed you're requirement (ie, the cocoons can hatch, then start breeding in less than 20 weeks, all being well)

    Bookmark   December 12, 2009 at 1:02AM
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