Let’s talk wigglers!!!

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OK everyone I’d like this to be a place for questions and answers. Feel free to ask away.

47 thoughts on “Let’s talk wigglers!!!

  1. Hi Jim, Sorry it’s taken awhile to get back to you. Red wigglers are a composting or manure worm. So naturally they do best in compost or manure. Composted manure is even better…lol. I prefer to compost all material that I feed my worms. My back-up supply or wigglers comes from a manure pile where the worms seem to thrive w/out any maintenance whatsoever. They also grow to fishing size as long as proper moisture levels are present. Sometimes in the spring things get a little wet and the worms stay small.

    Here’s what I would do Jim:

    Fill up a 35 gallon bin (I believe that’s what you are using) with horse manure. Wet it down if necessary. Take a handful of the wet material and squeeze…only a drop or two of water should come out. This is important. Too wet = small worms. In a couple days stick your hand into the center of the bin…if it’s hot don’t use it. If it’s cool screen out the worms from your other bin and add them to the new manure bin. Start w/ the new bin about 1/4 full at first. Every week you can add an 1” or two layer of manure or material from the old bin. 1/4 cup of chicken scratch or any ground up grain (barley, wheat, oat, etc.) once a week will also keep them nice and happy. Place a couple layers of cardboard over the surface of your bin. An occasional spritz of water from a spray bottle is all you will likely need in your Rubbermaid bin set up. Additional watering may not be necessary at all.

    I’m going to leave it this simple for now on purpose. This a great place to start from. My only other advice is to have patience. Don’t dig around in your worm bins…just leave them be.

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  2. Hey Jim, I’ve also created a ‘library of resources’ page that should be helpful if you’d like to do some reading. There are some other pages I am also trying to get started. Feel free to take a look.

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  3. Jim, After seeing my reply from yesterday I would like to provide an alternative to my previous advice. Simply leave your bins alone for awhile until everything is consumed. This may take two months or more. I have left a wormbin alone for an entire year and still had some live worms. After they consume everything really well, start adding horse manure in 1-2” layers. You’ll know when to add more when it disappears. Hope this helps.

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  4. Patience is often the best thing for worms. You must be getting at least some worms that are growing to fishing size? I’m just starting to raise European Nightcrawlers. African Nightcrawlers have been on my list too. The Africans it seems would do very well in your climate. Have you thought of raising anything other than Red Wigglers?

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  5. how long does it take horse meure to cure out. i got 5 gals from a friend out of her pile behine stables it iw mixed with straw. i lade it out on some cement in the back yard and have been trying to flaten it our it has been wet down a timw or two woth rain.

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  6. Jim, I posted a picture at the top of the page. If that’s what you are seeing: then they are pot worms. These are usually caused by overfeeding or acidic conditions. In your case I am almost certain you are overfeeding them.

    Here is what I want you to do:

    Take an entire wormbin and dump it on the edge of your friends horse manure pile. You will thank me later. I am not kidding. Most of my worms have come from rancher’s manure piles. It is possible to find them occuring naturally in these situations.

    Check my posts above about horse manure. As long as it doesnt’ heat things up it’s OK. But potworms are an indication of overfeeding so Jim…seriously….leave them alone!

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  7. one problem with that they just wormed the horses and she told me to get the manue before she did that because the med would kill the worms.. i can put the canter on the five gal i have in back yard on cement pile but wnt they comsume that in a short time and move off in the yard.

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  8. Well, fortunately for you Jim, your friend is wrong about this. There is actually very little to worry about regarding dewormers (usually Ivermectin) and Red Wigglers being killed. Read here:
    http://bouldervermicomposting.mooreds.com/2009/07/vermicomposting-horse-manure/

    Here’s an excerpt:

    “The most common wormer used is known by the brand name Ivermectin® made by the Merial Company. Merial’s research shows that the active chemicals in Ivermectin® are deactivated when manure is exposed to sunlight. Equine studies show that 95 percent of the active chemicals in Ivermectin® are deactivated in the horse before being passed in the feces. Leading experts in vermicomposting believe that the concentration of Ivermectin® in the horse manure is not high enough to seriously injure Eisenia.”

    Here’s another read: http://www.santacruzwire.com/index.php/maria-gaura/162-is-horse-manure-safe-for-organic-gardens.html

    Excerpt:

    “Fortunately for gardeners and animal owners, most research to date indicates that Ivermectin, the vermicide most frequently given to horses, cattle and sheep, breaks down quickly once it is excreted. Several studies have shown that Ivermectin degrades rapidly when manure is hot-composted or exposed to sunlight, and somewhat less rapidly when manure is simply piled up and left to decompose.

    Many horse stables give away manure for free
    A study of Ivermectin-treated sheep found the half-life of the chemical in sheep manure to range from seven to ten days. Because of quick decomposition, Ivermectin preparations given to animals have not been found to build up in manure-amended soil.”

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    • if i just do nothing with the beds will the white worms leave or do i need to dump every thing and star you are talking about over 3000 worms all together.

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  9. Hi Jim, The potworms are an indication of overfeeding or acidic conditions. I’m assuming it looks like the picture at the top of this page?

    When I had them around they simply disappeared by just leaving the bin alone. Raising larger Red wigglers for fishing in smaller containers is a difficult thing to accomplish Jim. Even just tossing a handful of worms in the older portion of your friends manure pile will go a long way.

    Any manure that you use in your bin should be aged for at least 2-3 months. Preferably composted.

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  10. what would happen if i racked the horse manure over to one side dump the bed at the edge of it and as the manure starts bieng eaten add more old manure from the friends beside. will the worms stay there or go underground. i raised the cardboard on one od the beds and they were comsuming the cardboard on the bottom side.

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  11. Jim,

    Unless you have at least a yard of horse manure at your place I wouldn’t try it in a small pile. It would work better if you had 30-40 5gallon buckets in a pile and wet down really well. The manure does not have to be old if done this way. The larger the pile the better this will work. By spring it’s possible you could have 20lbs of worms or more. The big fat fishing Wigglers you’re looking for.

    Both the bins I have pictures of here would work really well for you as well. You could add your bins to one side and fresh or aged horse manure to the other. Pallets could be cut in half and used to make bins with nothing more than a little bailing wire.

    In your small bins if the manure heats them up the worms have no place to escape to. Outside in a pile the worms can escape to the edge of the pile and wait for the center to cool down.

    I’m assuming you are talking about the cardboard placed on top of the bedding in your bin. This is a very normal thing to occur. Wigglers seem to breed very well in cardboard. It is also good to add to your bin if it gets too wet. I only use it on top of my bedding and occasionally it just needs to be replaced.

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  12. you still haven’t given me a price on the wigglers you just started working with. use to find them every where around here inwoods with lots of leave coverage. right now they have gone under groung because of the like of moisture in the leave pills.

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  13. Jim, Are you talking about the European Nightcrawlers? I won’t have any for sale until spring more than likely. It is very unlikely you are finding this species in your Native woods. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of different species of earthworms. I had never bought worms in my life until I purchased some ENC cocoons lately.

    They were shipped through the standard U.S mail. I was supposed to receive two cups of bedding, cocoons, and a few worms. It was a 70F degree day when they arrived. All worms were dead. The bedding was simply peat moss and newspaper. It was far too wet. Smelled horrible. Not something I would be happy about shipping to my customers. Regardless, the cocoons are now hatching and I hope to have them available by spring.

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    • fine they are a lot of night crawlers around here at times in the woods and where leaves are most rack back the leaves and they are a lot of them wight now it is to dry and they have gone unde r groung.. just let me know but if i can find some of the ones around here i will try to raise them

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  14. I suppose you could try and raise whatever local worms are in your area. Whenever I’ve added Canadian Nightcrawlers to my bins they simply don’t survive. Let us know how it works out for you.

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  15. I suppose everyone sells Red Wigglers for fishing bait Jim because people like yourself will buy them to use for fishing. I am an avid fisherman myself and I have never used a Red Wiggler to fish with. I posted a picture of a few ‘average’ sized wigglers that could easily be used for fishing. I could certainly grow them larger if that was my intent. The San Juan Worm is probably the most effective artificial worm for catching trout in the western United States. As you can see in the picture it is tiny compared to the red wigglers. I have caught many trout the size of the one I pictured on a San Juan Worm. Hope this answers your question.

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  16. Hey Jim,

    I’m curious how your worms are doing? Did you end up adding any to the horse manure pile? How is feeding them the aged manure going in your bins?

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    • i took off the cardboard the other day and i didn’t see any food so i got a some horse manure and put some in all my binds so we will go from there most of the worms were real small.

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  17. Sorry to hear that you are struggling to get the worms big enough Jim. I’m starting to think that your bins are probably too wet. Any chance your worms look a little bit yellow compared to mine pictured above?

    I don’t usually advocate this but I want you to dig out one corner/ or one half of your bin. I want to know what the material in the bottom 3-4” of your bin smells like. It should smell earthy and pleasant. If it smells foul, swampy, or rancid it has become anaerobic. This is quite common after overfeeding and is common to Rubbermaid bins in general. Especially so in your case because the humidity is much higher than mine here in the Rockies.

    If this is the case Jim, I would add some dry shredded cardboard to your bins throughout the material in your bin. Adding 10-20% lava rock or pumice or even perlite to your bin will also help aerate your bin and keep the material from becoming anaerobic, foul, and nasty. Which ultimately will mean bigger worms for you. If you do use perlite wet it down with water before dumping it out of the bag. This will prevent you from inhaling the dust which is toxic to your lungs.

    I’m about halfway through building another horizontal flow through bin and I will post pictures of the building process soon. I am also trying to find a plugin or some way my customers can post pictures here which will make it easier for me to help w/ any problems or just a fun way to share!

    Anyhow, thanks for sticking w/ it Jim. Eventually we will get you some big, fat Red Wigglers!

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  18. Hey Jim, I’m curious if you taken a look at your bins and what they were like on the bottom. Any foul smells? Did the material seem really mucky and swampy?

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  19. been seem to be dry worms small , about to the point in dumping all in my tomato beds and let them do what ever. try to get some bigger variety and go from that.

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  20. Hey Jim,

    I’m a little confused. Dry worms = dead worms in my world!

    Good to know that you have tomato beds. We have now found a purpose for your Red Wigglers. The castings that your worms produce will certainly help with any gardening that you are doing. I would keep raising them in your bins and use the castings in your garden beds. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

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  21. Hey Jim, Since you live in South Carolina I imagine you only see light frosts very occasionally and nothing below 32F that will last more than a day or two. Your worms will most likely survive in the bin. To insure that they will live you can dig a hole and place the worm bin in the hole. Stacking straw bales around the bin and on top would also work well in your area. (You don’t even need a bin for this method and it’s easier than digging.

    Really what I’d like to suggest is buying some Eisenia Hortensis or European Night Crawlers. In my area they can be found at Wal-Mart for fisherman. What they are selling are baby European Crawlers and I think they would be easier for you to raise as a fishing worm. You can add them to your Red Wiggler bins and have worms for fishing and compost for your garden beds. With more experience you may even be able to raise some big Red Wigglers. Or like I mentioned before I can send you some Euros in 2-3 months for free.

    It gets even better. If you do nothing at all to your worm bins and for some reason it gets too cold and all the worms die….it doesn’t matter. The cocoons that are remaining in the bin will hatch in the spring when the weather warms. I wouldn’t dump your bins out for all of these reasons. And, I just happen to love raising worms!

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  22. i found it listed will try to order some next week when i get paid. the dry worms you were reffering was about my worm bed the bed was dry. you told me to dig down in bed and smell the dirt to see if it was bad. i should have put a period ..

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    • Hey Jim, I missed you last post somehow. Sounds like the trouble you are having with your bin is exactly the opposite of what I thought was going on. You may need to water your bin some, I would do so lightly and carefully. Remember we want the material wet enough so that when you squeeze a handful only a drop or two of water comes out. If you should happen to over water then you can add some shredded cardboard to help soak up excess moisture. Red Wigglers will reproduce quickly when temps are 60-65F so you have that to look forward to as winter approaches.

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      • I WILL BE ORDERING THE NEW FOOD ITEM YOU LISTED ON EBAY NEXT FRIDAY WHEN I GET PAID. I ALSO NOTICED THAT NOW I HAVE SEVERAL ROLL WORMS AS WELL IN MY BEDS. I THING I GOT THEM FROM THE GAY/HORSE MENUE.

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  23. Just ordered my starter supply from you & am looking forward to receiving it next week.

    I’m glad you explained your eBay review situation. It’s a shame there isn’t a fix for that. You sound like a passionate & honest fellow and I’m happy to do business with you.

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  24. Hi Priscilla,

    Thank you for the kind words. I’m glad you’ve decided to get some worms from me! I really am just having fun with the worm business. A little extra spending money for me and I am able to help others enjoy and raise some worms.

    Honestly, I only use newspaper in tiny amounts for my shipping process. The only reason I do this is so the newspaper can absorb excess moisture or humidity which can occur while being shipped. The end result from using this technique is that my customers are not receiving worms which are only alive, but they are usually healthy and active from the moment you open the box. I do prefer to use only the black and white newsprint.

    What are your intentions for raising worms? If vermicompost is your answer, then newspaper is a very poor choice to be using as a food stock. Even shredded cardboard would be a better choice. Let me know why you are raising the worms and what food sources you may have access to and I should be able to help you come up with a plan.

    Thanks,
    Tony

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    • Hey Tony. My aims are to “upcycle” my kitchen scraps and produce some black gold for compost tea & potted plants.

      As a single woman who cooks daily, I expect my scraps along with newspaper, cardboard, with some peat bedding, will be a good environment for my worms.

      I’m doing this indoors on my back mudporch, using a well-
      ventilated tote within a tote.

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      • Hi Priscilla, This sounds like a good plan to me. Make sure to add a handful of sand or some type of grit (rock dust etc.) to your bin as it helps the worms digest their food. Even a little native soil should do the trick. Also adding biodynamic nutrient accumulators to your bin and/or other native plants to your bin will really increase the quality of your vermicompost…and make your worms happy. Dandelions, stinging nettles, alfalfa, yarrow, comfrey, borage, are all examples of biodynamic nutrient accumulators. Which basically means these plants are very good at pulling up nutrients and trace elements from deep down in the soil. When these plants are placed in a worm bin and composted these nutrients are for the most part captured within the vermicompost and the cycle continues. Anyhow I hope all this helps!

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  25. I just wanted to add a little saying I’ve heard (and live by) regarding making a high quality vermicompost. GIGO…garbage in = garbage out.

    A vermicompost that is made of peat moss, newspaper, and Purina Worm Chow will be incredibly inferior to a vermicompost that is made of composted horse manure, used coffee grounds, straw, sawdust, yard and kitchen waste, etc. etc.

    The vermicompost that is made with composted materials will have higher microbial activity, cation exchange capacity (CEC), and nutrient content. Not to mention leaving out harmful chemicals found in Purina Worm Chow.

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    • send me some of that worm chow you made up. send me a email of cost and i will pay pal you the payment . i an’t on ebay so i don’t have to pay them.

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