Composting with Red Wigglers and Night Crawlers

Posted by Marc at 03:02 pm on 08 January 2010

Earlier we’ve talked about the differences between compost bins and compost tumblers, and let you, our wonderful composting audience, decide for yourselves on what you thought would work better for your needs. Well, let’s put our differences aside and talk about worm composting, also known in the composting world as vermiculture or vermicomposting. There’s really not much to it, we use worms, right? Right, but not just any worms; red wiggler worms or night crawlers are the preferred types of worms to use. Why not earthworms, you ask? Well, I’ll explain that in a second, but let me first tell you why red wigglers and night crawlers are so beneficial to the composting process.

Red wiggler worms, also known as red worms and by their scientific name of Eisenia fetida, are recognized as the best kind of composting worm. Thriving in darkness and swearing off light, red worms are hardy workers and can eat half of their own weight. Additionally, they have hearty appetites and can live off of food scraps such as banana peels and chicken mash (a yummy mix of cornmeal and chicken meat, this is usually used only if you plan to raise your red worms as fish bait). Red worms also live well in damp places, and as fish bait, will wiggle around on the hook since they can survive in water for several days at a time.

Night crawlers which are popular amongst fishermen can also be used as composting worms. With the same performance level as red worms, they’re not really considered your number one composting worm. One reason may be that even though they thrive in cool, shady areas, they don’t seem to fare too well if there’s too much moisture; in fact, once they hit water they’ll pretty much just die. Unusually enough, fisherman seem to like using night crawlers as bait probably because they’re pretty big and fat.

Using earthworms such as the kind that show up when it starts raining is not recommended. Earthworms are great burrowers and excellent soil aerators, but they won’t digest the organic matter and leave behind worm castings, which is what you want. Your best bet is to stick with red wiggler worms. Though not necessary, mixing red wigglers with night crawlers is okay, but you’re fine with sticking to one or the other.

Vermicomposting can be a fun activity for families, classrooms, or even just solo. Just be sure to feed your worms and watch them as they do the work for you.

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