The Burrow Presents...


How To Breed, Raise, and Maintain A 100-Pound Stock of Worms in a Single Room


Part 3


Sooo....the time has come to jump ahead to the heart of the matter. As I stated earlier, the materials we covered in parts 1 and 2 are important in order to understand the particulars of what is to come, and now there is another point that must be made. A quick point to be sure, but one that is certainly significant!

The concept of raising worms for your own personal use as fishing bait, or vermicomposters, etc., and the concept of raising worms for sale to other people, for whatever use they have in mind, are two entirely different ideas, and require two completely different methods. You could certainly do both at the same time, but to achieve top efficiency and productivity at the least possible cost (in both money and time), the two batches of worms will have to be maintained in very different manners. The system I am outlining in this series of articles is designed as a method of raising and maintaining a large population of worms, in a minimal amount of space, with the purpose of resale in mind. If this is what you are after, then take a tip from me and tuck any books you already possess on the art of raising red worms on a very high shelf, since much of what is to follow will be in total disagreement with what you have already been reading.

To help you to understand what I'm getting at, let's look at my current situation as a supplier of red worms. When I moved here to Saskatoon to attend university (I'm a late bloomer), I was very limited in the amount of personal belongings which I could bring with me. Moving from an entire house of my own into a small, but comfortable basement suite, meant leaving my large worm bed (18 square feet) behind. What I actually brought with me consisted of 12 small RubberMaid containers, each measuring roughly 10 inches by 14 inches, and approximately 6-8 inches deep. There was a worm population in each of those, and in addition, I brought one larger container, somewhere in the area of 16 inches by 22 inches, and 12-14 inches deep. This also contained a population of worms. I brought a couple sacks of the "bog soil" which I have been using for bedding, and some 1-gallon ice-cream buckets which I use for many different things. That was my entire inventory of vermiculturing equipment, and I had no problem finding room for any of it. (I also brought several hundred pages of information about red worms which I have compiled over the years, and of course, my own personal notes.)

Since that time, I have supplied 8-9 people, each with a starter system composed of one of those smaller containers, bedding, and roughly 1 pound of red worms (Lumbricus Rubellus), which is certainly not very impressive. (Between school and maintaining this page, I have very little time for actual attention to the business of selling worms.) The fact that I have just as many worms now as I did in the beginning might be a little more impressive (though not much.) But maybe I can get your attention by telling you that right at this moment, I am fully prepared to supply to anyone who wishes, the equivalent of 100, or even 200 pounds of healthy red worms, and I have only 3 requirements that have to be met.

  1. You must place the order at least two weeks before the full weight is required.
  2. You must have the necessary amount of food, bedding, and containers to maintain the full amount of worms, available for immediate use. And...
  3. You must follow the directions I give you implicitly.

As long as these three conditions are met (it would also be nice to get paid) I have no problem in supplying you with the worms. Furthermore, I could probably do it again almost immediately. And again...and again...etc...etc. The whole trick is contained in one single word...equivalent. It is, however, a big word when used in this context, and it requires a certain amount of explanation. This explanation will necessarily move around a lot, and keeping in mind that worms are visually impaired, I hope you'll forgive this explanation for all the old ideas that are about to get knocked over. Let's start with the concept of population density. (From the viewpoint of both the worm grower, and the worm.)

It appears to be generally accepted by worm growers (myself not included) that the average pound of red worms offered for sale will consist of:

Please don't misunderstand me now, these estimates are pretty accurate, and most reputable dealers will even throw in extras to make sure the customer is getting what they paid for. My problem does not lie with these formulas themselves, but with the entire idea of selling "a pound" of worms which actually weighs a pound. The problem as I see it is contained in the fact that in order to keep 100 pounds of red worms available for sale, a grower using the old method will not only require 100 square feet of bin-space to contain the worms in (one pound of worms to one square-foot of bedding is the usually-accepted ratio), but he will also have to provide for feeding and maintaining all these worms and worm-beds until the actual sale is made. Furthermore, in the event that a sale for 100 pounds of red worms can be acquired, the breeder may be left in the situation of having to raise a new population before another similar sale can be made. There is a much easier (dare I say, more sensible) method of achieving the same results, in less than half the space, using a fraction of the material, though at times requiring just as much effort (I never promised a life of leisure.)

(Thought I was taking a break didn't you?)

W..a..y..y..y back in part 1, under the heading "Facts and Figures...Thoughts and Things", it was mentioned that another way to make up 1 pound of red worms is by using over 100,000 spawn. (It would require as many as 450,000 if they were freshly hatched, but I keep saying 100,000 for a reason which I will eventually get to.) In regards to what we are discussing, however, this could present a few problems.

The answer to all the problems mentioned above is the same. First of all, you don't even attempt to produce a bin of strictly spawn (though it would be quite the biological miracle.) What you do want to produce, however, is a bin which is full of sexually-mature adult worms which just happen to be....temporarily reduced to the size of spawn (the key word being temporarily.)Just think of the benefits. In the same space where you previously maintained possibly 4000 worms, you will now be able to maintain roughly 25 times as many. Even with all these extra worms, the amount of food required to support them will remain the same (actually less, but I haven't come to that yet.) Due to the number of worms you will have on hand, there will not be an order large enough to cause you any problem in the area of running out, and the return for the worms in question, from miniature to regular size, takes only two weeks or so, and they are capable of breeding throughout the entire process (much more prolifically than at regular size.)

Now, I realize there may appear to be some rather extravagant claims in the previous paragraph, but only if you have never seen this process at work. It is not a magical procedure, or some remarkable "invention" of my own. There are good, solid reasons which help explain each step along the way. (The tremendous adaptability of the worm is the main agent at work here, and a few simple methods which I came across as a result of being curious.) For now, I'll leave you to mull these things over, while I gather together the notes which I will use in the next installment to hopefully illustrate my points. Because the very nature of some of the techniques I will explain may strike you as strange (to say the least), I will need to offer some pretty detailed evidence of what I am saying, and maybe even outline a test or two which you can try at home on a sample population of worms.

Until that time.... don't eat any flies.

To be continued...

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Copyright 1995, D. Brian Paley
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