Worm Facts

Composting with Worms is an easy and rapid way to recycle food scraps, waste paper, and other organic materials into a nutrient dense bio-active fertilizer.  This process is also referred to as Vermicomposting.

  • Vermi-composting: is composting with large amounts of earthworms amongst many other micro and macro organisms.
  • Vermi-Culture: is the breeding of worms.

 

Benefits of Earthworms:

  • In a controlled composting system Red Wigglers will consume their weight in food every two days, rapidly transforming your table scraps and vegetable waste into beautiful nutrient rich compost and castings for your soils and home brewed teas.
  • Worms shred plant debris to smaller particles making them more digestible to other organisms.
  • Increase porosity, water-holding capacity, fertility, and organic matter content of soil.
  • Worms provide aeration to the soil, breakup hard clay soils, create root paths, and help to bind soil particles together, and are responsible for the movement of organic matter, nutrients, and micro-organisms throughout the soil. 
  • The mucus produced on the skin of worms forms a protective layer against pathogenic bacteria.
  • Vermicompost containing the cast (worm poop) are 50% higher in organic matter than soil not processed by worms.
  • The digestive enzymes produced by the bacteria in the worm’s digestive system unlock many of the chemical bonds of the organic matter into plant available nutrients, a process known as chelation.
  • Vermicompost is known to be as much as seven times richer in phosphate, ten times the available potash; five times the available nitrogen; three times the available magnesium; and one and a half times higher in calcium than soil not processed by worms.  These nutrients are bound to the organic matter from the worms waste or castings.
  • A healthy worm population is an excellent sign of a diverse soil food web community.  This is a good sign of organic matter, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, and nematodes; all of which are necessary to support a healthy worm population.
  • Healthy garden soil should contain 10 - 50 earthworms per square foot or  2 to 3 million earthworms per acre.
  • By practicing no till gardening methods, cover cropping, and mulching soils we can provide a healthy environment for worms to work providing your plants and soils with a sustainable source of nutrients without the addition of synthetic fertilizers.


How Worms Eat:

 Worms do not consume food waste directly, but rely upon a host of other composting organisms, large and small, to break down the organic materials into a more digestible size.  Worms have no teeth but have an extremely muscular mouth called a prostomium.  The mouth looks like and extended lip.  Worms use their mouth and their pharynx (or part of the throat) to pull food into its body where it is mixed with saliva and ground.

  • Food is passed thru the worms esophagus and into a crop (or a storage compartment)
  • Food is then travels into the worms gizzard.  The gizzard is a very strong muscle that contains sand, grit, and tiny rock particles.  These particles serve as the worms teeth.  The gizzard expands and contracts processing the organic materials into a size capable of passing thru the worms intestine.   
  • Prior to passing into the intestines the ground organic materials are mixed with a liquid calcium carbonate.
  • Earthworms have a rudimentary digestive system and lack necessary digestive enzymes in their intestines.  Worms must depend upon bacteria and enzymes to digest the organic materials they consume.  It is the digesting of the organic food particles in the worms digestive system by the bacteria and enzymes that nourishes the worms.  The Bacteria convert the available nutrients into forms that are absorbed into the worms bloodstream.   
  • The undigested waste is known as the worms cast or manure.  A nutrient rich particle full of beneficial bacteria and enzymes.

 

Worm Diet:

  • Worms are some of the many shredders co-existing within the soil food web.  Worms shred plant debris to smaller particles making them more digestible to other organisms.
  • Worms primarily eat small particles of organic matter that contain, bacteria, fungi, nematodes, and protozoa.
  • Worms process food within their toothless bodies in a gizzard that contracts and grinds the organic matter into small enough pieces to pass through their intestine. 
  • Worms mix their food particles with a liquid calcium carbonate prior to entering their intestine.
  • Worms do not posses the necessary enzymes to digest the organic matter they ingest.  The bacteria consumed by the worms digest the finely ground organic matter in the worms intestine.  The nutrients produced by the bacteria can then be absorbed into the worm’s bloodstream.  Undigested organic matter is the waste of the worm known as the cast.
  • Soils heavily populated with worm are usually bacterially dominated and well suited for most annuals, perennials, and vegetable crops.

 

Physiology:

  • Earthworms are externally segmented creatures with corresponding internal segments and have no skeleton.  
  • Worms are designed as a "tube within a tube" - the digestive tract runs the length of the body from mouth to back end.  The organs of reproduction, respiration, moisture control, and nervous system control lying between the two tubes.  
  • Strong sets of muscles make up much of each of the inner and outer "tubes".   A blood-like fluid fills the rest of the space between the two tubes.  On their exterior they have a thin colored cuticle bearing tiny bristles.
  • Earthworms have no eyes and are very sensitive to light.  They have sensory cells in their skin.  Most earthworm species are photonegative to strong sources of light and photopositive to weak sources of light.

 

Reproduction:

  • RedWorms are hermaphroditic, as all adults contain both sets of reproductive organs.
  • Some species of worms are capable of single parent reproduction.  Red Worms reproduce bi-parentally (by exchanging genetic material with another worm of the same species only).  Both worms will then produce cocoons (or egg capsules).
  • The swollen band, girdle, or saddle found on worms is known as the clitellum and contains the worms reproductive organs.  A worms clitellum is a sign of sexual maturity and is only visible during the reproductive process.
  • Each Earthworm cocoon can contain 15 or more baby worms.  Normally each cocoon produces 2 or 3 worms (Red worms can produce as many as 11 worms per cocoon).  Under favorable conditions, cocoons can generally hatch out in 2-4 weeks time.  These young worms will usually mature enough to breed in 3 - 4 months.