Worm Farming / Product Questions
Yes worms do eat dog poo and cat poo and kitty litter as long as it is a paper or timber based product.
Recent research by us and a Vet in the USA has shown that modern animal worm medications do not harm compost worms. Therefore recently wormed animal poo is safe to use in your worm farm as a worm food.
Add plenty of high carbon material with dog poo, material such as shredded cardboard, dry leaves, aged compost, peat moss or coco coir. Ironically these high carbon materials are called “browns”, yet dog poo is considered a “green” food because it is high in nitrogen😊.
The ideal worm farm for feeding dog and cat poo to is our own Little Rotter. They are simple, safe and easy to use. Check them out in our “Store” page.
We recommend that you initially buy 1000 compost worms for each member of your household. Therefore, if you have 4 members in your household, your worm farm would work best if you ordered 4000 compost worms. You can buy 1000 mature worms in our Bag O Worms and make up the remainder with our Compost Worm Bombs which have smaller worms and eggs and are therefore much cheaper. Your worm farm will still work with less worms, but it will be much slower in converting waste.
Compost worms will eat most things that have been living, but are now dead and rotting. They actually prefer to eat the micro-organisms that are causing the organic matter to rot. Worms have no teeth, so rely on other organisms to break down their food first. Kitchen scraps are a good food source for worms. Other household wastes that are good for worms include paper, cardboard, lawn clippings, animal poo, leaves etc. If you don’t like maggots, don’t feed your worms meat. Remember that worms do NOT have teeth, so chop, shred or mush the worm food first. Also remember that worms like a varied diet, just like all animals. So mix your food up and try to vary it as much as possible. Everything in moderation.
It has been said that Compost worms will eat up to half their body weight per day. In our experience, this figure varies tremendously. We have fed our compost worms from as little as 1/100th of their body weight per day (bran) to as much as 10 times their body weight per day (mill mud/filter press). It all depends on the type of food, what particle size it is, what its nutrient content is etc etc. If you mainly feed your worms kitchen scraps and you chop or mush them up, you can expect 1000 worms to eat 1/2 a cupful (125 ml) per day.
No, compost worms have a natural mechanism that stops them from breeding when they get to a maximum food/volume density. This means that the worms will self-regulate their population depending on the amount of food you give them and the space in which they are kept.
You can add both compost worms and native worms to your garden beds.
Different types of worms will perform different functions in the soil. For example, compost worms will add fertility and disease resistance to your soil, whereas native worms will structure your soil to give it excellent water and nutrient holding ability.
When adding worms to your soil, you need to ensure you have constant adequate moisture in the soil and a constant layer of mulch over the soil. Adding ruminant animal manure on a regular basis will also help to feed the worms.
Another way to go is to use our Little Rotter Worm Farm which provides the perfect environment with food and moisture for the worms.
Your best bet is to establish a worm farm directly in your garden beds. All varieties of common composting worms will work the soil and help to break up the clay. It’s a common fallacy that compost worms don’t live in soil, where else did they evolve then😊?
What the compost worms need is a regular supply of food, moisture and shelter.
I designed our Little Rotter worm farms specifically so that worms live in the soil and only come up to the Little Rotters to eat. They then leave again through the holes in the bottom and deposit their casts throughout the garden soil, doing all the work for you. You just have to add mulch to your garden for the shelter and keep it regularly watered for the moisture.
The worm cast that the worms will spread through your soil will break up the clay through the process of adding humus (another word for worm cast). Humus is a much more effective method of breaking up clay than gypsum.
No, at present we do not supply the worm blankets. In our experience, worm blankets are not a necessity for a worm farm. The blankets can help keep moisture in and keep the food dark so that worms can eat 24 hours a day. Damp newspaper, cardboard or carpet will do the same job. The Tumbleweed worm blankets are available from most Bunnings stores.
The base on the Little Rotter is very important from a rodent perspective. If the in ground based worm farm does not have a base, then it is very prone to rodents (rats and mice) digging their way in from underneath and not only eating the food scraps, but eating the worms as well. This was a major problem when we were doing testing on the Little Rotter prototypes.
The final design that we came up with was a bin with a base, but with 9 small holes drilled in the base which allows the worms easy access, but restricts the rodents from getting in.
It is not a good idea to dig the Little Rotter (and for that matter any other style of worm farm) into the ground. The worms have a natural tendency to level any organic matter/food to the surrounding soil level. So, if you dig a Little Rotter in the ground, the worms will FILL it to the surrounding soil level. If you place the Little Rotter on top of the ground, then the worms will continuously EMPTY it for you.
To hide the Little Rotter in your garden it is possible to place light fluffy mulch up around it. Something like cane fibre mulch available from Bunnings or any other good quality mulch. We actually encourage the use of mulch around the garden to help protect the worms from the elements.
Compost worms in the garden do appear to assist in attracting soil worms. Soil worms are generally deeper dwelling worms that create “structured” soil. Structured soil helps to hold plant roots down and stopping the trees from toppling over, they hold nutrients and water really well and have many small worm tunnels that assist in letting air down into the soils to help the soils to breath and hence be healthier.
Compost worms add nutrients to the soil with their worm cast. They are generally surface-dwelling worms which make a fine granular worm cast that is nutrient rich, but lacks “structure”.
Ants hate water. Simply spray your Worm Farm lightly with the hose or watering can and the ants will retreat. You will probably need to repeat this, keeping the bedding moist but not soaked and the ants should stay away.
If your worm farm is on legs, place the legs into tubs of water to prevent the ants from getting back in.
Our Little Rotter’s in a garden bed are more forgiving with water and you can just pour a bucket of water straight onto the ants. Again, you will probably need to repeat this several times until the ants get the message and move out.
During rain events or when there is a large variation in air pressure, the worms may start to climb the sides of a worm farm searching for higher ground. They can sense the change in air pressure and will look for higher ground to escape the upcoming rain event. Some worm varieties are more sensitive to air pressure fluctuations than others. They will even climb the walls of a worm farm kept indoors, as it’s the change in air pressure that they can sense. Leave them alone and they will settle on their own after the rain event is over.
If the worms don’t settle back down for a week or more after a rain event, then other factors could be at play such as inadequate ventilation or over heating in your worm farm.
Please DO NOT use bokashi compost nor the bokashi starting culture in a worm farm. It is very acidic and will kill worms in larger amounts.
Bokashi and worm composting are two very different processes and are NOT compatible with each other. Bokashi is a without air or an anaerobic process and worm composting is with air or an aerobic process.
Please follow the instructions that came with your Bokashi kit and dispose of the Bokashi compost by burying it in the ground. Eventually soil micro-organisms will break it down into soil.
I personally do not see the purpose of using a Bokashi kit. Why bury your kitchen waste after processing with Bokashi, when you can bury it unprocessed and without the hassle and cost of fermenting first with Bokashi?
Worms do everything that Bokashi does, just quicker, easier and more efficiently and you get a very useful by-product with the worm casts.
The maggots are most likely Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL). They won’t harm the worms however large numbers of BSFL will heat a bin up to 50 degrees C, which will kill the worms, and they also tend to outcompete for food – so they need to be removed.
Remove as many as you can by hand and try baiting the BSFL with bread soaked in milk or other high protein sources like meat or fish. Remove the bedding all around your baits every day when the BSFL are swarming around the bait, until most of them are gone.
The trick to keeping BSFL out of a worm farm is to get rid of the smell of rotting and fermenting food. The flies are attracted to the smell within the worm farm and will continue to lay their eggs through the tiny holes in the lid or under the rim of the lid, as long as they can smell the worm food inside.
So, when you get back to feeding your worms, either:
1/ Bury the worm food in alternative areas around your worm farm, covering the food with a good few centimetres of worm cast. This will remove all smell from your worm farm, as worm cast is an excellent deodorant.
2/ Securely wrap the worm food in a brown paper bag or newspaper into a parcel and drop it into your worm farm. The bottom part of the bag will get moist and the worms will eat their way into the parcel to get at the food. This stops the worm food from smelling and thereby attracting the Black Soldier Flies.
3/ After every feed of vegetable matter lay a thick matt of shredded cardboard or dry leaves or dry brown lawn clippings or peat moss or coco coir or other “brown” high carbon bedding material, over your worm food. Enough browns to block the smell of rotting veggies. This is the most beneficial method of feeding worms out of the 3 suggestions here, as it balances the carbon to nitrogen ratio and also absorbs excess liquids making your worm castings lighter and fluffier.
Yes, mites can explode in numbers very quickly in a worm farm.
The reasons can be many, but generally what the mite population explosion means is that the conditions in your worm farm have become just right for them, ie: weather, moisture, food, pH etc. As the conditions change in your worm farm, so will the mite population. This means that as the weather changes, the mite population will reduce naturally.
To reduce the mite numbers quickly can be tricky, as we don’t really know which conditions they prefer. If your worm farm is on the dry side, try adding more water to make it wetter. Conversely, if your worm farm is on the wet side, try adding more dry shredded cardboard or other dry organic matter like leaves etc. to dry out your worm bedding.
Some people say that mites prefer acidic conditions, but this is only a generality and can vary from worm farm to worm farm. Nevertheless, it may be worthwhile to give the surface of your worm farm a regular (daily at first and then weekly) dusting of agricultural lime – calcium carbonate. This will slowly reduce the acidity and MAY reduce the mite numbers.
We use Diatomaceous Earth – DE, to control many different exoskeleton (hard body) insects. DE can be hard to find, but it works well when dusted on a dry surface of a worm bed. DE has to be dry to work effectively. DE is non-toxic, but care should be used not to inhale the dust as it can be abrasive.
If you are not concerned with the use of poisons, then a heavy spray over the surface of your worm bed with a fly spray is also quite effective against mites. Fly spray does not harm worms, but ensure that you don’t spray the worms directly on their skin as it will irritate them.
If they are little flies hovering around inside your worm bed, then they are commonly called vinegar flies. They are attracted to the smell of rotting vegetable matter.
The best way to get rid of them is to remove the smell of the rotting veggies. This can be achieved in a number of ways.
You can wrap the food for the worms in a brown paper bag or a sheet of newspaper and then drop it into your worm farm. The bottom of the paper will get wet and the worms will eat their way through the paper into the bag and then eat the contents with no smells being released.
Or, you can bury your worm food in different locations around your worm farm. Again this will remove the smell of rotting veggies.
It’s also a good idea to use a worm blanket or just a thick layer of shredded cardboard or paper on top of the worm bedding, then add worm food underneath this thick layer. This helps balance your carbon to nitrogen ratio as well.
Your best bet to grow large worms for bait, is to have a separate container exclusively for your bait worms.
A good container is a polystyrene box.
Bait worms need two basic requirements to grow out into large worms. Lots of space, particularly surface area and NO baby worms.
Half fill your bait worm box with your normal worm bedding, making sure it is totally free of worm eggs and small worms. Pick out a hundred or so of your larger worms from your worm farm and add them to your bait box. Now feed your bait worms with your favourite worm food, moist chicken pellets are good. When the bait worms are large enough, remove all the worms and dispose of all the bedding. Start again from scratch.
We have done our own testing on worming medications in manure and have come to the conclusion that the common worm medications such as Ivermectin and Praziquantel, do not harm earthworms. These worming medications are designed to kill parasitic worms, which come from a completely different animal family to earthworms.
Our results are in agreement with the work done by a US based vet – Erin May, in which she actually fed the medications direct to her compost worms with no detrimental effect.
I will add one major proviso to the above statement on worming medication. We trialled modern worming medications only, those that are currently legal to be sold. However, we are aware that some horse keepers still use older, banned worming medications including real nasties such as DDT, Dieldrin etc and a whole swag that were banned in the 1990’s. These older chemicals WILL kill earthworms, as well as just about anything else that comes in contact with them.
If you are unsure which medications have been used in your manure, just trial a small amount (handful or two) on small parts of your beds. If the worms are into it within a couple of days and no signs of dead worms, then it is safe to use. Wet the manure down first to allow the worms to get straight into it.
All the worms are placed in the bottom “WORKING” tray in a multi stacking worm farm like the Worm Café, CanOWorms or Maze Worm Farm. The working tray sits above the drainage tray at the bottom.
You then feed this working tray with the worms in it until it fills with worm cast to the correct line.
You then add the second working tray on top of the first working tray and start to feed the second working tray. The worm cast in the first working tray must be touching the bottom of the second working tray so that the worms can easily crawl up into the second working tray through the holes.
Then repeat for the third working tray. To fill all your working trays normally takes months and months. In the meantime, you have several working trays that are not being used and should be stored away from your worm farm until required.
Keep your worm farm in permanent, heavy shade. Even a tiny amount of sunlight during summer, can turn the inside of your worm farm into an oven.
You could also drape a large sheet of cotton or hessian over your existing worm farm and dunk the bottom of the sheet into a bucket or tub of water. The sheet will “wick” the water up and the heat will cause the water to evaporate, leaving much cooler air underneath it. This is called evaporative cooling or the “Coolgardie Safe” effect. Air temps can be up to 10 degrees cooler under this sheet.
Or you could place a sealed bottle of frozen water on top of the worm bedding. Replace it when the water melts.
Do NOT add water to the worm bedding during hot weather. Water transmits heat much better than dry bedding and will rapidly heat up to the ambient air temp. Keep your worm bedding on the dry side during hot weather.
Or, you could try our Little Rotter worms farms. We designed them specifically to be almost completely weather proof. They sit on the ground and the worms migrate in and out of them as they wish, living in the soil underneath them. The soil is the worms natural environment and provides the buffer needed by worms from the extremes of air temperatures.
By worm wee/juice/tea/liquid, I presume you are referring to the leachate that comes out of the bottom of a Can O Worms or Worm Café, type of worm farm?
Leachate is a highly variable product because the quality depends on how long you have had the worm farm running and the quality of your worm food. In the early stages of starting a worm farm, the leachate is basically rotten veggie liquid and is therefore potentially harmful to plants, and should be discarded. Also, if this rotten veggie liquid is left too long in the collection tray it can become anaerobic ie: without air, and this can lead to the build up of bag bugs or pathogens. 90% plus of all pathogens live in anaerobic conditions.
Most leachate in a worm farm comes from the water in wet veggies such as tomato’s, lettuce, watermelon etc. Some people add water to a worm farm to get more leachate. Worms do not “wee” and therefore do not produce a liquid themselves. As the worm farm matures (3-6 months) and the worms build up the amount of worm cast, the leachate becomes diluted worm cast liquid. This diluted worm cast liquid can be quite beneficial to plants.
The simple method to know whether your leachate is good or bad, is by smelling it. A bad smell indicates it is bad for plants. A pleasant earthy smell indicates that the leachate is probably Ok for plants.
Leachate should never have a lid placed on the bottle if it is to be bottled. It needs to stay aerated to keep the beneficial micro-organisms alive. If the leachate is sealed in a bottle, then the air gets consumed by the biology very quickly, 24-48 hours and the beneficial micro-organisms die. What you are left with is the anaerobic or without air micro-organisms, and these anaerobes tend to be the “bad” or pathogenic bugs. They also release Sulphur compounds and give the leachate the “bad” smell.
If your leachate has been sealed in a bottle and still does not smell bad after more than 48 hours, it usually means that it had rather low levels of beneficial micro-organisms to start off with and is therefore a very weak product. It can still be ok for plants, but would have to be used in much higher concentrations.
A good quality worm cast leachate can be diluted by 10:1 with water before using on plants. A weak worm leachate may not need to be diluted at all.
My preferred method for making liquid worm cast, is to grab a handful of fully converted worm cast and dissolve it in a bucket or watering can full of water. Use immediately.
If worms have died in transit, you will definitely know about it because they will stink to high heaven. If there was no smell, then they definitely have not died.
We are 100% certain that we pack the correct number of worms per bag. We have extensive quality procedures and double checks to ensure that we never undersupply the numbers of worms.
Therefore, I will assume that the worms are still there in your pack, but perhaps just difficult to see. 90% of the worms will be substantially smaller than the easy to see large worms. The worms vary in size from about 10mm long to 100mm long, so that’s a big variation in size. We also pack the worms on the drier side for transit, but this can result in the bedding sticking to the worms and making them rather hard to see.
I would suggest you still set up your worm farm and add these worms in and then monitor them for the next few weeks to see how they are eating the food. The worms will start eating the food from underneath, so you may need to pick the food up gently every few days to monitor how many there are.
A worm farm should NEVER be run so wet that it has leachate dripping into the bottom tray. This is a MAJOR design flaw and misinformation with these types of worm farms. Excess moisture not only leads to muddy and hard to handle worm cast, but can lead to anaerobic – without air conditions, and this can lead to the breeding of pathogens.
To keep your worm farm at the correct moisture level, add dry “browns” at equal amounts to your wet “greens”. Dry browns can be anything like shredded cardboard, dried leaves, coconut coir (same as your bedding block), peat moss etc. This will absorb excess water and keep your worm bedding loose and friable.
A simple test to check for the correct amount of moisture in a worm bed, is the squeeze test. Take a handful of worm bedding and give it a tight squeeze, you should get 1-2 drops of water. Many drops of water and it’s too wet, no water at all and it’s too dry. Allow a fair bit of leniency with the squeeze test, moisture levels do fluctuate a fair bit over time. Adjust moisture levels with your “browns”, not with water, add more browns if it’s too wet, don’t add any browns if it’s too dry.
I would not recommend adding worms to pot plants.
Worms need to be fed regularly and in a pot plant, feeding the worms is difficult to achieve. You will most likely find that the worms will eventually eat all of your potting media and then either die or leave. The potting media will then lose it’s loose porosity structure and get too compacted when watered.
Your better option is to buy or make yourself, a stand-alone worm farm and add worms to it. Then when you get castings from your worm farm you can either add the castings directly to your pot plants or liquify the castings into a worm cast tea and water it into your pot plants.
The easiest and quickest way to harvest worm cast from a bathtub worm farm is to first feed the worms with a favourite food at one end of the bathtub only. Feed for several days ONLY on this one end.
Then, when most of the worms have migrated across to the food end, dig out the worm cast from about half the bathtub at the opposite end to where the food and worms are. Place fresh bedding in this dug out area and now feed ONLY this new bedding end. When the majority of worms have moved across to the fresh bedding and food end, dig out the older other end.
Don’t worry about being pedantic in trying to remove 100% of the worms, it’s a waste of time and effort. Your remaining worms will breed up very rapidly in their new bedding to replace any worms that you may have dug up.
I presume you are referring to a multi tray worm farm like a Worm Café or Can O Worms.
These types of worm farms will rarely have 100% of worms move upwards to a new tray. So some stragglers are virtually unavoidable.
However, to minimise the number of worms left behind in lower trays you need to stop feeding the lower tray a week or so before adding the next tray. This allows time for the worms to eat all of the food in the lower tray. Then add your next tray and feed it with some of the worms favourite food, like rockmelon, watermelon, avocado, coffee grinds, ruminant animal manure etc. This will encourage more worms to move up into this fresh food tray.
Worm Towers, in my opinion are next to useless simply because they are buried beneath the surface of the soil. Worms have a natural tendency to level out the surface of the ground. Therefore, they will fill any holes (like Worm Towers) and disperse any mounds above ground level – like our Little Rotters. The diameter of the container is nowhere near as important as the fact that it MUST sit ON TOP of the ground and NOT below the surface.
I would dispose of the Worm Tower and put in an above ground worm farm like our Little Rotters.
Generally speaking, no it is not safe to add worms to Compost Bins (especially the tumbler design) because they’re normally designed to heat up through the process of ‘composting’, which will kill the worms.
If your compost bin or pile has a bare earth base, then it may be possible to add worms to the edges, IF IT’S COOL ENOUGH, and they will naturally seek shelter in the earth if the temperatures get too hot. Please be very cautious with this approach though as they may not wish to venture back up into the compost to feed on top – a dedicated Worm Farm or our Little Rotter style worm farm is preferred.
Ordering / Shipping Questions
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Unless you specifically request ATL, all parcels require a signature on delivery – You must ensure you have a safe area which is protected from direct sunlight at all times, and is safely accessible by your postal contractor. If your designated area is not fully shaded, nor safely accessible, please don’t request ATL.
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A complete guide to composting with worms - Everything you need to know to get started
This Complete Guide to worm farming is different to everything else you can find on the web. It is an original guide written by George who has over 25 years of worm farming experience. It debunks many of the myths surrounding using worms to recycle your kitchen, garden and pet wastes.