How To Raise Earthworms for Easy Money
Is There a Market For Earthworms?
Simply stated, YES! Earthworms are valuable. New markets open up regularly for worms because a worldwide shortage exists. Redworms are a very simple creature to raise and care for. Until recently, the earthworm market was mostly limited to the fishing industry, providing bait (literally billions of worms were dedicated to the job). Now, as ecological awareness grows, earthworms are also being used to compost organic waste. Our landfills worldwide are being helped by the worms' voracious appetite to compost. Universities and scientists alike are conducting studies to see just how helpful the effects of the worms can be. I would hazard to guess that the worm producing businesses that can support the quantity needed for these studies and larger composting markets will profit greatly from a monetary standpoint.
Worms Rebuild Old Soil
The agriculture industry thrives on the use of worms as a way of rebuilding over-worked soil in fields as well as home gardens. These soils have been treated by commercial fertilizers and pesticides in the past. Those chemicals can improve plant growth, but do nothing to enrich the much needed soil nutrients, making the soil decline in quality and usability.
Worms are little factories that produce high quality fertilizers from an organic waste load. You may want to raise earthworms for household or garden waste, producing organic fertilizer for your own use. You may be an avid fisher person who wants to use them as bait while selling them on a small or even large scale. Redworms can grow and reproduce under a wide array of conditions. You will have to find the method for you to use and then adapt it to what is practical for your situation.
Should I Raise Worms?
Know this: if you enjoy working with the natural things in life—if you have an interest in watching creatures grow and wouldn't mind putting a few bucks in your pocket while doing it—growing redworms is absolutely for you, Most worm farmers find it quite easy, even if you have to get your hands dirty once in a while. Be assured, if done correctly, raising worms is an undeniably easy and enormously rewarding business from a personal standpoint as well as a monetary one!
Where is the Money in Raising Earthworms?
Worms are prolific; they reproduce in rapid form when provided with a healthy environment. Literally millions and millions of dollars worth of earthworms are quietly sold every year by everyday people just like you. Growing redworms is a full time, profitable business for many folks. For others it is a nice supplemental income. Many situations begin as a redworm hobby for personal use; for fish bait, and for the sake of ecology and recycling food waste. Over time, these hobbyists realize the potential for a monetary venture and decide to grow the venture into a business with little to no trouble. Most commercial growers operate as independent business owners and work at a pace which makes them comfortable and happy.
A grower who learns how to grow good quality earthworms and deliver them reliably to customers in good condition, rarely has very far to look for new clients. More likely, he or she will have to determine how quickly they want to expand their business, and manage that expansion so they can continue to provide the same level of customer service. Customers will spread the word quickly when it comes to good service and quality earthworms, as worms are always in demand.
Who Buys Earthworms
Earthworms are sold in a variety of markets and used for a variety of purposes: fishing, soil improvement, and fertilizer production.
Any good business person will tell you that a consumable product is a profitable product. And earthworms are very consumable! As the world population grows, so does the need by anglers and gardeners to buy more worms. Even as new worm growers start growing each year, the supply is never enough to meet the demand (especially during the peak spring season). Bait and tackle stores that are far from worm farms will frequently buy the product via mail order. It is not unusual for a worm grower to have never met the customer he has been servicing for several years.
Worms for Fishing
The sport-fishing industry is a huge buyer of redworms world wide. Fishing with live bait is always a dependable and traditional way to catch a wide variety of fish. When an angler serves-up a juicy wiggly worm, it's impossible for a fish to resist (worms are a natural food choice for fish). If you look closely, even fisher people using artificial lures will have a cup of worms as a back-up plan, guaranteeing their 'catch of the day' fishing reputation.
A Large Market For Redworms: Breeding Stock
A large market for redworms is found among those who are looking for "breeding stock." The end customer may be a new grower stocking new beds or an established grower restocking old beds. Many times a wholesaler will buy the worms (never to grow a single worm of their own) and put them in cups so he can sell to his local market.
Worms as Producers of Compost and Fertilizer
Gardening and seed and flower magazines often run articles raving about the attributes of worms in the garden and using them as compost machines. Earthworm growers often find a grand bit of business by running ads within these plant, garden and composting style publications. More frequently then not, after advertising a few times, their customer base is established and the worm growers never have to advertise again. They end up with ALL of the customers they can supply.
Earthworms are the farmers best friend, so a market to sell to these agricultural endeavors is very big, because the worms rebuild soil quality. Worm castings (that is, worm poo) enhance the soil quality with an enormous amount of nutrients. Unlike regular fertilizers, worm castings won't burn your plants, yet they contain five to ten times the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and other nutrients of regular gardening soil. The majority of elements in the worm castings are water soluble and are introduced easily to your plants, for example in the form of worm tea.
Collecting Worm Tea from a Small Backyard Worm Bin
What is Worm Tea?
Worm tea is a by-product of the organic worm composting process. Worms break down organic matter into castings that enrich soil, reduce waste build-up, and enhance plant growth, while helping to control diseases that attack those plants, and much more. The water that has been used to keep the worm bins moist or to harvest castings gets collected by the worm grower's strategically placed containers. This water has diluted castings in it, making it a rich source of plant and garden nutrients.
Using worm tea on potted plants requires adding an equal part of fresh water to dilute the solution (it is VERY concentrated nutrition). The liquid has a revitalizing effect on old potting soils. If you choose to use the worm tea on plants in the ground, using it full strength is fine. You will find that your sick or weak plants will benefit significantly from a drink or two of worm tea. Roots of stressed plants have shown a real increase in vigor when treated with worm tea. Drench plants with worm tea or use during your standard feeding agenda.
Easy Worm Farming For Your Garden
Are You Going to Make Your Worm Business Big or Small?
How to Start A Worm Farm Business
You can grow worms just about anywhere, from Styrofoam ice chests to old refrigerators to large bins in outdoor buildings. Worm farming is said to be the fastest-growing agricultural industry in the country, making millionaires overnight; that may be an exaggeration, but there are a lot of true stories being told about easy money being made from the worm farming business.
Once you decide to start a worm farm business, you will need to get the things required to get things rolling right off-of-the-bat. The following is a general list that will work for most worm growers (vermiculturists). Your worm business may or may not need everything listed, or in some cases may need more.
Commercial Worm Farming Can Be a Sleek Sight
What You Need For Your Worm Farm
- Read, read, read—Consume every bit of data you can find on the subject. Bookmark this article! Get a really good idea of what you are getting ready to undertake.
- Decide how big you want your business to be. Are you more comfortable starting small and then growing up your worm farm? Is there room in your backyard for a large operation? If your business blooms, is your property zoned to accommodate the growth?
- Decide where to place your worms on your property; near a water source, near electricity, or maybe in a shed. What is the best place considering the climate fluctuation in your area? Where will the beds be easy for you to tend, considering your back health and height)?
- Find a supplier that can provide enough bedding and stock for an operation of your size. Do you have a horse ranch or paper Mill close to you? Be aware that when acquiring manure you must ask what if any de-worming medications are given to the providing animals. These medications can and will also kill your worms.
- Get the proper tools; a pitchfork, pH meter, compost thermometer, hand claw garden tool, and a shovel. A paper shredder will prove convenient if you decide to use paper as your bedding source.
- Redworms require one square foot of surface area for every pound of worms. Most worm growers estimate there are approximately 1,000 adult redworms in a pound. But, this isn't a figure you need to know, because commercial worm growers only sell their worms by the pound.
- You will need to build or buy commercial bins, or build windrows, to accommodate the quantity of worms you decide to grow. Windrows are worm beds that are in the ground. Many worm growers prefer this type of bed because they feel it produces a better, bigger and healthier worm. These beds generally have very good drainage and aeration, and the food is in good supply. And if the conditions get out of control, the worms can migrate to another location within the bed until the proper conditions are available again.
- Get ahold of the bedding and feedstock: the organic material that is fed to worms. Take care of any preparation of that material that is necessary. Are you shredding newspaper or leaching manure?
- Buy your worms. Make certain that everything is prepared for the worms before they arrive! Know the scientific name of the worms you have decided to grow. This article is mostly about redworms, Lumbricus rubellus.
When And Where to Raise Your Earthworms
Redworms grow best in moderate temperatures (from 59ºF to 77ºF). So spring generally seems to be the best season to get things started. Redworms will mate throughout spring and again in the fall, depending on outside conditions. But, if you can control the environmental temperature, using shade, cool cellar space, fans, sheds, and so on), any time of year is the perfect time of year to begin your worm-growing business. Worms who are kept where it is constantly warm can continue to reproduce year round.
Keep in mind, when you put together your worm bins and growing system, that most worm growers will agree on one important thing: temperatures under 50ºF or above 86ºF can be quite harmful to your worms.
Keep the Worm Bed Location Convenient
As well as finding the right temperature for your worms, keep in mind where you place your beds, after all, you want the beds to be convenient for you to work around and to tend. Large worm bins require water frequently, so place them where you can easily access a water source. Small bins can be sprinkled with a watering can.
Keeping a light on outdoor worm beds at night is helpful to discourage the worms from migrating out and away from your housing bins. So, it may be a good idea to place them near an electrical outlet, just in case. Worms tend to move away from light. To them it represents the sun, a worm's worst nightmare.
Worms and Vibration
NOTE: Never place a worm bin next to a refrigerator or anything that vibrates. Earthworms don't like a lot of movement around them so they will not do very well under these circumstances.
Controlling Temperature in Outdoor Worm Beds or Bins
Worm bins outside might require extra insulation in the winter or summer months, depending on the extremes of the climate where you live. (Remember the important parameters of 50ºF to 86ºF for the best worm health.) Here are a few ways that many worm growers today use to insulate their outside bins:
- Cover the worm bin with Styrofoam or thermal insulation. However, be aware that these products do not breathe, so be sure to leave ventilation spaces so your worms get enough air.
- Stack hay bales on and around the bins or beds. You will have to move the bales when you go to tend to the worm beds.
- Locate the bin in a shady tree-laden area. Often this idea gets forgotten but it can help keep your earthworms cooler when the weather gets too hot.
- Place wet towels over the bins on very hot days. The evaporation will help to cool the bed. Add a fan if you need more air flow.
- To raise the temperature, place a low-wattage night-light inside the box. Be sure it is grounded so you don't give your worms an uncomfortable zap.
- Add a bit of fresh green waste to the bin to warm it. Don't use too much: the thermogenic bacteria in the early (fresh) composting process can really heat things up. Place the green waste on one side of the bin, so if it gets too hot, the worms have room to move to the opposing side to chill out.
- Heaters made for reptiles and bird baths can also be used. Check your pet store for one that can be kept safely in a moist place. Some offer adjustable thermostats that are very helpful.
The Redworm (Lumbricus rubellus)
Lumbricus rubellus is a very active wiggler when it is in the light. Sport fishing experts say this worm is irresistible to fish and is in fact, the perfect bait. The worms expel an amino acid that the fish lack, causing the fish to impetuously race to the dangling wiggly redworm. It makes a good compost worm. Like nightcrawlers, they aerate and mix up the soil. They can be found in soils that have a rich organic make-up, doing best in ranch pastures and compost bins or piles.
Anatomy of a Redworm
- Common names: Red worm, Blood worm, Red wiggler
- Color: Slightly iridescent on top, dark red to maroon. Lacks stripes between segments and is light yellow on its underside.
- Adult length: Up to 3" and has 90 to 120 segments
- Habitat: Prefers the top 6" to 12" of soil
- Food preference: Rich compost and decaying plant and animal material
- Temperatures: 64ºF to 72ºF (18ºC to 23ºC) Cocoon hatching: 12 to 16 weeks
Basic Worm Biology
What Is a Worm?
Most scientists agree that earthworms have been on earth for at least 120 million years. Earthworms have developed into a very specialized critter that has perfected the management and transformation of those things we consider waste, into some of the most useful stuff. They have no eyes, ears or nose, yet they do have senses. No jaws or teeth can be found within their tiny mouths, yet they munch their food at a significant rate. Every worm is both boy and girl—yet it still takes two earthworms to create baby earthworms. Describing an earthworm to someone who has never looked upon the squirmy creature, is like speaking of an imagined being that is far too good to be true. But, fortunately for us, earthworms most certainly do exist!
Can Earthworms "Hear," "Smell," and "See"?
The answer is both yes and no. As do snakes, earthworms sense vibrations, thus "hearing" their surrounding; they use their setae, slender, bristly and springy hairlike organ. The surface wall of the worm's body has several nerve receptors that taste chemical changes, thus "smelling" the surroundings. Other nerve receptors can determine the light concentration, thus "seeing" their environment. A bit of worm trivia is that earthworms can't detect (or "see") the color red.
Boy Meets Girl Earthworm?
The most fascinating fact regarding redworms has to do with the concept of boys and girls. Our friend the earthworm has been created with both male and female reproductive organs, making them hermaphroditic. In Lumbricus, we find two male segments and one female segment.
Three to six weeks after hatching your earthworms will mature enough to complete three mature worm tasks; forming the clitellum to produce mucus for copulation, to discharge the wall of the cocoon, and to secrete albumin, in which the eggs are deposited inside the cocoon. In the clitellum there are three layers of glands that do these three separate functions. When this state of maturation is completed, pairs of worms will line up head to toe to begin the breeding cycle.
Earthworm Mating Cycle
After Worms Breed
A few days following mating, the worm secretes a cocoon where the eggs will be deposited. A cocoon can contain any number of eggs, ranging from one to twenty, depending on the species of worm. Lumbricus will usually have only one or two eggs that will actually hatch from the cocoon. However, adult worms may mate and produce cocoons continually every three or four days all through the spring and again when fall comes around. And as noted above, if you can provide constant warm temperatures for your worms, they can reproduce year round. They are very prolific critters who never sleep, don't watch T.V., and have no hobbies, leaving breeding the main thing to do, and very frequently.
You will start to see tiny yellow debris among your worm beds once your earthworms begin to mate. These are actually the new yellowish lemon-looking tiny cocoons, with your next generation of worms growing within. They darken as the embryo grows, feeding on the albumin that was deposited inside each cocoon. In time, the young worms hatch from the ends of the cocoon. This time span varies widely from species to species and also depends on the climatic conditions. Our friend the Lumbricus' cocoons will hatch from 12 to 16 weeks after conception.