What exactly in FOOD?

Long Beach, CA

So I have read many things. Each complementing what another site said and the contradicting what yet another site said. I have questions. PLEASE, will someone answer them and not send me to another posting!?! I have a Rubber Maid bin. I drilled holes in it then placed screen over all of the hole to prevent “Escape form Vermitraz”.

1. We are warned not to over feed the worms. News paper is bedding but the worms eat it. Is news paper food?
2. Some say chicken poop and cow poop is bedding. Some say it is food. Which is it?
3. When I have put wrung out new paper in the bin the worms try to leave the bin. The bin is not wet, it is not moist, it is more “damp” now. The pH is correct. But at every stage some worms have left and are found on the ground crispy. How moist is moist?
4. Will the worms each the coir or peat I use as bedding and is it considered food?
5. To bury food or not bury food… that is the question?
6. When feeding the worms must the food be hydrated? Laugh if you will but I have a lot of dried herbs that can be food but are uber dry!

I just want happy worms… oh yah, and a cold beer!

Thumbnail by Rhapsody616
Long Beach, CA

Answer from eBay:

Dear rhapsody

I can see why you are confused as there is a lot of conflicting info out there. Let me answer your questions one by one for you:

1) The worms will eat the newspaper eventually, but I wouldn't (and others don't as well) consider it food. They don't get any energy or nutrition out of it, so we call it a bedding not a food.

2) Chicken poop and cow manure can be either food or bedding, let me explain :). If it is well composted (ie old and doesn't smell or look like manure anymore) then it is bedding. The composting process takes a lot of energy out of the material (that's why it gets hot). Since the worms don't get much nutrition out of it, we call it bedding. It is more used to absorb moisture and provide for an airy, less compacted bin. If it's fresh, the worms eat it as food and get energy from it, careful not to put too much in at once though or it could hot compost and kill the worms :).

3) You are probably fine with your moisture. Worms aren't really thrilled about paper just by itself. If you get some peat moss or coco-coir along with paper, you will probably have better results. Light can get through paper and paper can matte at the bottom and be tough for the worms. If you start your bin with coir or peat moss, then add paper as you go, you will probably have much better results. The reason you see paper advertised as bedding so much is to appeal to all the people raising worms for environmental reasons (which paper does work its just not the best).

4) Coir and peat are bedding, but the worms will eat it.

5) To bury! This will help keep away flies and other critters, just need a little covering that's all. You can always place food on top, then add another layer of paper on top each feeding too...

6) Food can be dehydrated, I might be careful with the herbs though. Sometimes worms are picky about strong foods like herbs, they'll probably get to it eventually but they might ignore it for a little bit. Best to just give them a little bit of it at a time.

- earthworms4sale

Long Beach, CA

Dear ecstaticearthessentials,

You are wonderful... thank you. I have a Rubbermaid bin. I thought it might be to wet so I took out the bedding and put the worms in a dry bed. Of course the worms came out with some of the mist cardboard and newspaper. I left them alone for 2 days. The new newspaper is moist (oddly so). The Lid has moister drops (so it rained in the bin). I was thinking maybe I should make the holes on the lib bigger to let more air in. What say you??

- rhapsody

Dear rhapsody

Hi Again,

Well, the airholes need to be bigger (maybe)... and you do need to make it moist in there. The newspaper is going to start breaking down first which will create moisture for sure. The other issue is... if you are suffocating your worms (not enough air) that means that they will end up decomposing with the newspaper creating even more moisture (but it will stink horribly - so you should be able to tell the difference). Either way, you do want to feed the worms something other than the newspaper so that they do not starve before it becomes edible. Grab some veggie scraps from the kitchen, coffee grounds, and/or crumpled eggshells and toss them in the bed with your worms (if you have a cover on the bed that is not touching the bedding) we suggest burying the scraps that you give, but don't give them too much or the bed will sour. Also, to ensure that they won't have to wait too long for everything to start breaking down you can give your veggie scraps a go around in the blender and that will speed up the breaking down process and get the worms food faster.

Again - let us know if you have any other questions...

Kind regards,

~ Ecstatic Earth ~

- ecstaticearthessentials

Long Beach, CA

Documenting answers given on eBay

Dear rhapsody

Hi There,

We can certainly understand the amount of confusion - there's a lot of information out there and everyone claims to be right! This is what we know from personal experience with our worms...

The best bedding is: A mixture of shredded newspaper (long thin strips, this acts as both bedding an a food source *not the primary source*), peat moss (make sure you remove the twigs and pieces of cedar that are sometimes present in a peat moss bale), and dirt - only about 1/2 cup to 1 cup per worm bed to ensure that the worms can digest the food (worms do not have teeth - the dirt acts as a digestive aid). To this mix we also add dried manure (horse mainly - make sure that the horse hasn't recently been wormed before you use the poo). All of these items are food to the worms as soon as they start breaking down as worms don't actually eat anything except bacteria that grows from the molding process. As soon as the bedding starts breaking down - the worms have food! They live in it AND can eat it. :)

Chicken poop - worms can certainly digest any kind of manure, though, I'm not sure if I would make this the main food source.

Moisture level - The bedding should be moist enough so that when you take a handful of the bedding, and squeeze (quite hard) a few droplets of water escape. FYI - this may grow mold; however, worms eat mold, so just turn the bedding if the bedding grows mold.

Coir - We're not the biggest fans of coir. We think it's fairly acidic and not good as a primary bedding or food source (A) it's expensive and (B) it has a tendency to run dry.

Burying food - it depends if you have something covering the top of the bed (literally ON TOP of the bedding as in the surface of where they live). If you do, you can go ahead and feed right on top underneath whatever is laying on the top of the bed. We use reflectix insulation material which is lain directly on top of the bedding. Worms like to feed right at the surface since it stays dark and moist. Food can also be buried, but if it is not consumed fast enough ... ie too much food, too few worms... then your bed can "sour" and potentially develop protein poisoning.

If you're going to feed the worms dried herbs, it would be better to soak the herbs so that they are moist. Again, this will speed the breaking down process of the herbs allowing the worms to consume the bacteria in the molding process.

Worms Leaving the bin.... :( ... It does happen. Usually it happens due to moisture content, over-crowding, or just not enough food. These guys are eaters and breeders - they need space and food to be happy. We would suggest laying something on top of the bedding and perhaps leaving a light on in the room with the worms (we leave a bulb on to ensure that they don't escape since they hate the light so much).

A happy worm stays healthy!! :)

Phew... I think I've answered all of your questions... if you can think of anything else, please let us know and we'll be sure to get back to you!!

Kind regards,

~ Ecstatic Earth ~

- ecstaticearthessentials

Long Beach, CA

Dear rhapsody

Well, maybe I can answer many of your questions without a direct answer.

If it will "sour" when wet, consider it food, if it will just slowly rot or do nothing than consider it bedding. Fresh manures will go through a heat and they are considered food until old and no longer heating, ie composting. After this they are more like bedding.

You don't wont your worm bin to go sour.

The worm feed can be dry, as its touching the worm bedding will moisten the bottom layer which the worms will eat.

- fourwheeldrivenut

Helena, MT

erthworms4sale gets an A+ in my book.

Long Beach, CA

mraider3~~~ earthworms4sale was so very helpful! They really broke it all down and made it make sense! I can not say enough good things about them. I belong to many groups and when I have asked this questions I either got no feedback or I was sent to yet another site. The truth is that so many sites call themselves the expert. Some sites say no meat... others say meat is ok. Some sites say oranges are ok... some say no Citrus. I just needed some clear guideline... I am a happy camper. So I posted this so everyone could benefit.

And thank you for your input. It was getting lonely out here!

Helena, MT

Well Rhapsody, things do slow down here from time to time, but along comes a newby like yourself and livens things up. My thoughts are definitely no meat in the indoor bins, and outdoor bins as well for a different reason. In indoor bins meat can go rancid quickly, and outdoors, the meat attracts animals which can make a mess of things. Oranges are great in vermicomposting in my opinion, however I don't use lemon or lime rinds which are more acedic in my opinion. Onions are out too, but I know of others who vermicompost them without a problem.

Long Beach, CA

mraider3- ypu are right. I am fairly new. Just renewed my subscription for another year! So you are stuck with me for another year at lest.

You say orange peels or ok but not lemon or lime... why is that? Are lemons and lime more acidic then oranges?
I am big on detail because once I grasp the ABC's I can make since of what I am doing after that... logical deduction.

Helena, MT

Actually I don't know if oranges are less acidic than lemons or limes, and quite frankly a few of the later might not be a problem. I simply use egg shells in my blended food for pH control and haven't had a problem as far as I know with pH. Not a good answer, but I seriously doubt that the pH of my media is any worse than the pH of the leaf pile I collected my worms from over 50 years ago. I do however, soak and drain my peat moss prior to adding it to the bins at feeding time. I add a large scoop or two to the troughs I dig for the blended food. The added media serves to replace that which I removed from the surface before digging the trench, and to soak up excess moisture if any. Usually I end up adding more liquid.

Frankly Rhapsody once you get the hang of it, it’s difficult to upset your system(s). The reason I don't try to quantify anything is because each bin is different in its own way and most of what I do is simply by feel. That may sound strange coming from a chemist, but it’s a lot like cooking which is just another form of chemistry. If you prepare a dish enough times, you don't bother to look at the recipe.

There is an old adage that worms will eat anything which was once living. The decision not to add certain foods like dairy, meat, onions or extremely acidic foods like lemon or lime to your indoor bin(s) is probably good advice if you want to keep your media in tiptop condition for reuse as well as making the worms happy. I place fish parts in large (4ft sq/2ft d) holes in my garden for my pumpkin plantings. Tossing in some red wigglers helps to decompose these fish parts.

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