Raising Red Worms – a simple way to recycle.
Red worms are also farmed commercially and can be geared to producing either castings or worms. Different stocking densities are used depending on the goal.
Commercial wormeries are often fed on a diet of manure (usually cow manure or composted horse manure) or other freely available waste product. There is even a farm that feeds their worms on cardboard boxes and pulp waste products.
When raising red worms (Eisenia Fetida or Foetida) remember that they are used for worm farming because they are best at composting organic material. Red worms perform much better than other species. Ordinary garden worms are not good composters.
These red worms are top-level worms living in the top 2 inches of the soil. This means that these worms will generally be found at the top of your worm farm, this is a good thing as it makes feeding them a lot easier
Red worms can convert up to their own body weight a day into worm castings. There are very few other species of worm that can perform like this. Read Compost Worms for more information.
Red worms like warmer temperatures. In winter they should preferably be kept above 10°C. In summer they should be kept cooler than 35°C. Ideally they should be kept between 15° and 30°C.
Another reason that raising red worms is easy is that they breed exponentially. In ideal conditions they will reach sexual maturity six weeks after hatching. Once mature they will reproduce every week producing a cocoon which will contain 3 to 7 worms. In a nutshell your population of worms will double every 6 to 8 weeks. A thousand red worms can easily reproduce to a quantity of over 1 million within two years. This would depend on them having enough food, space and good living conditions.
Raising Red worms can be done in windrows (if you have the space and want to farm on a large-scale) or in specially constructed worm composting bins or farms. There are four basic farm designs, these are:
Whichever type of system you choose to use you need good worm farm bedding. Studies have shown that red worms will do a lot better, reproduce faster and be much healthier if a suitable bedding material is used in the system.
It is very important to design your farm so that it has adequate ventilation. If your farm does not have enough air flow through it the whole farm will become anaerobic and rot. This will result in a slushy, rotting mess which will eventually kill your worms.
Raising red worms is easier than raising other types of worms as they are top dwellers and big eaters. When feeding a worm farm food is placed on the top of the farm or buried in a layer of bedding material. You should wait for the food to start disappearing before adding more.
One of the more common issues that the worm farm owners have when raising red worms is the invasion of pests. It is well worth noting that once your farm is established pests will not really be an issue, but especially in the initial stages pests can invade a farm. There are a number of things that you can do to get rid of your pests and we have a whole section on Worm Farm Pests.
Another quick way of losing a substantial amount of your worm population is through birds and other predators like rats, mice, insects and moles. All of these creatures love worms and steps must be taken to keep these out of your farm. A tight fitting lid will keep out insects, rats and other predators however not all farm designs allow for a lid, windrows notably are difficult to protect from pests when raising red worms.