Saturday, July 16, 2011

Do Not Feed Worms

Back to feeding worms....

What NOT To Feed Worms

We've talked a little bit about what TO feed worms. Now, let's discuss what foods are potentially harmful to your worms.

Avoid Feeding Worms:

  • Treated wood products.
    This would include pressure treated wood.  The active ingredient is cyanide, which is poison.  Remember, anything meant to kill pests also kills worms.
  • Any plant material treated with insecticides or weed killers.
    Once again, anything used to kill anything also kills your worms.
  • Paper containing toxic inks.
    Most colored inks, especially yellow, is toxic to people and worms. Carbon paper (does anybody use it anymore?) is also toxic.  Stick to black and white, paper and ink.
  • Salty foods.
    Doctor's orders, avoid salty foods. That goes for your worms, too. No, it won't raise their blood pressure, but salt is a no-no in raising earthworms. Soaking salt containing food stuffs in water before feeding it too your worms removes the excess.   Or, avoid salty foods altogether.
  • Manures from feed lots.
    Feed lot animals are fed huge quantities of salt before slaughter to bulk them up.   The salt remains their manure. These manures also contain a lot of urine. Adequate leeching removes most of the salt and urea acid, if you're industrious enough.  You can also compost the manure for a year. The rain leaches out these harmful substances.
  • Cat and dog feces.
    Don't use any meat-eating animal's poop. It may contain viral or bacterial toxins and just smells bad.
  • Excess citrus peels or pulp.
    You can feed a small amount of citrus, but too much creates acid bedding and that should be avoided at all costs. As a matter of fact, I don't feed citrus.
  • Vinegar.
    This includes vegetables covered with vinegar based salad dressings. Again, it's the acid.
  • Meats and meat by-products.
    Worms will eat it, but it's not pleasant.  Meat smells bad, attracts vermin, and can contain antibiotics and hormones.  Makes you want to become a vegetarian, doesn't it?
  • Green grass.
    Adding lots of fresh, green grass clippings heats up your bedding as it decomposes.  Pile up grass clippings somewhere and allow them to compost before feeding to your worms.
  • Alcohol.
    Very bad for your worms.  Make your worms teetotalers' and skip the booze. Now, "spent" grain is another matter - very good worm feed.
  • Fertilizers.
    Worms are by nature "organic". Avoid anything containing fertilizers. Some manufactures of peat moss add fertilizer to it. Stick to plain sphagnum peat moss for your bedding.
  • Diseased plants or animal waste.
    You don't want to spread anything around, so don't feed any materials from diseased plants or animals.
  • Fruit pits and seeds.
    Seeds have protective qualities that prevent them from being consumed. If worms could eat them, there would be no new plants sprouting in nature. Seeds won't hurt your worms, but they won't go anywhere either and just get passed long in the valuable vermi-compost byproduct you'll want to use or sell.  Keep your vermi-compost seed-free as possible.
  • Chlorine.
    Use non-chlorinated water to moisten your worm bedding and food-stuffs. If you don't have access to non-chlorinated water, simply fill a container with water and allow to sit overnight. The chlorine will dissipate.
For everything else: When considering a potential worm food,  ask yourself  "would I eat this?". If the answer is "no", then don't feed it to your worms.

Bon app├ętit !

Worm Farm Resources:

Get more worm feeding do's and don'ts from my comprehensive worm farming guide.  And a handy starter supply of red worms and European nightcrawlers puts you instantly in the worm farming business.


  1. Wondering why my nightcrawlers cant grow bigger?even i give them enough of food.

  2. Maybe their too crowded? Try some higher quality food like ground alfalfa or horse manure.