Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How Do Worms Reproduce?

Mature earthworm banded and able to reproduce

The Birds and The Bees of Earthworm Reproduction

In the world of worm farming, there's no such thing as too much information.  The more you know, the fewer problems you will face and the more worms you can grow.

So, in the name of higher education, it's time to discuss the reproductive habits of earthworms.   (If you're under 18, please leave the room.)

Here are some earthworm reproduction facts:
  • Earthworms are hermaphrodites, meaning each individual worm possesses both male and female reproduction "equipment".
  • This remarkable capability means each worm may produce offspring from a single close encounter.
  • Even more remarkable and astounding (though I'll admit rare): it is possible for a single worm to fertilize itself.

No wonder earthworms have survived for so long.

When earthworms become mature, they become banded.  The clitellum is part of this band and is where worm babies come from, so to speak.

Without going into a complete worm biology lecture, there are a few things you should know and look out for and be careful about when it comes to facilitating the successful results of earthworm romance.  At any time of day or night (worms aren't too particular) you may come across this sight in your worm bed:

Worms reproducing.

Take a look at the picture above.  If you ever see this in your worm bed, please leave them alone.  If you have to be in the worm bed for some reason, be very careful when handling worms in this... uhh... formation.

When earthworms are breeding, they are very vulnerable to damage, particularity the clitellum.  If the clitellum  is damaged, the worms will probably die and/or won't be able to reproduce.

Next time....what happens and what comes next.

Worm Farming Resources:

One of the secrets of successful worm farming is worm reproduction. Discover other secrets to worm farming as well as many tips and how-to's necessary for growing earthworms successfully in my step-by-step Worm 
Farm Manual.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Worm Bed Profit, Continued

European night crawlers cupped as bait
Discover other worm growing tips and how-to's: Worm Farm Manual

Selling Bait Worms At Retail

Back the our hypothetical worm bed.  The sale of bait-sized European Nighcrawlers has the highest profit potential of all the worm markets. Selling bait worms retail is the highest price you can get.  Let's say you're near a lake  and the traffic to the lake goes right by your worm farm.  Hallelujah!  You have a gold mine.

Once you sell to even one fisherman, there will be a deep and well worn path to your door from other fishermen coming to the lake.  You can sell your worms cupped or better yet, fill  their containers, at a price that is very good for you but still better than any bait shop could possible offer.

But even if you don't have this prime location, if you're anywhere near a good fishing area  it's still possible to sell to this market.  It's just not the "sit-in-your-rocking-chair-and-rake-in-the-money" situation.  You'll have to put out just a little more effort to reach your market.

So, whatever your proximity to the fishing holes are, you have a ready market for your bait sized worms. Let's say bait shops in your area are lucky enough to have a source of European Nightcrawlers, the best bait worm on the planet, and they sell them at $4.oo a cup.  You could sell your worms at $3.50 per cup.

Usually, you put 24-30 worms per cup. One pound of good sized bait European night crawlers makes about 10 cups, so you would be getting $35 dollars per pound.  with your 180 pounds of worms per bed per year, you could get $6300 per bed .
  • Bottom line:
    One 3'x8'x1' bed of European night crawlers, sold as retail cupped bait, can produce $6300 per bed per year or $262.50 per square foot per year.
From these figures, you could put in 10 beds (which is very doable and rather small scale).  These ten worm beds, stocked with European night crawlers and sold retail as cupped bait, ....well....you do the math.

Worm Farm Resources:

Find out how to get the maximum growth and production from your European night crawler bait worm beds.  My Worm Farm Manual walks you through setting up your beds, feeding your worms, harvesting your worms, and selling your worms.

Grow European night crawlers, the best darn bait worm on the planet.

Monday, July 21, 2014

How Much Money Can You Make Per Worm Bed?

How To Make Money Growing Worms: Worm Farm Manual

Let's look at another question I've received quite often:

Q: How much money can I expect to earn per worm bed?

A: That depends.  How big is your worm bed? How many worms is it stocked with?  Are you selling as retailer, wholesaler,  or "grower"?

To simplify, let's take a hypothetical situation and put some numbers out there.

Worm Bed Size

To begin, let's take one worm bed with the dimensions of 3 feet wide, 8 feet long, and at least 12 inches deep.  This 24 square foot bed is fully stocked to the maximum capacity to achieve optimum breeding with 4,000 bed run worms or 1000 mature breeder worms per square foot or about 100 pounds of worms for the entire bed.

Now, this amount of worms is considered crowded growing conditions.  Which is why a bed so stocked must be harvested of mature worms at least every 30 days.  (To grow your business, you can divided as well as harvest on a 60 to 90 day cycle.  Build additional beds, each of which could produce the yields of our worm bed under discussion here).

Worm Bed Production

You should expect to harvest about 180 pounds of earthworms from the above hypothetical worm bed per year.  You are also stocking new worm beds as the year goes along.  Once these new beds are filled, you can receive the same production from each bed. Each of these new worm beds will produce and refill other beds and so on until you run out of room and/or time.  At this point, you can buy more land, hire more people, or keep it small enough to handle yourself and sell off the excess worms to other aspiring or established worm farmers.

Next:  Selling your 180 pounds of worms. The most profitable worm market is.....

Worm Farming Resources:

Find out how to maximize your worm growing profits and reduce your worm farm expenses.  Save money by not making costly mistakes.  Tips, how-to's, troubleshooting:
Worm Farm Manual: A Step-By-Step Guide to Raising Earthworms for Fun and Profit.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Worm Farming Secret To Bigger Worms

Other Secrets, How-To's, and Troubleshooting: Worm Farm Manual

Can you convince worms to grow bigger?  Can you trick them to be as big as they can be? Answer: You bet. So what's the secret?

Grow Bigger Worms

You're feeding your worms all they can eat.  You're checking the moisture, temperatures, air flow, and ph of your worm beds excessively.  You are HOVERING.  Yet, your worms only seem to grow to a certain size and that's it.

Well, take heart.  Here's a simple, easy-to-do tip for making your worms grow bigger, all other things being equal.  Buy, beg, borrow or steal a small number of the biggest worms you can find.  Larger worms are usually a night crawler of some kind: native night crawler, European or African.  Or, you may have a breeder bed or other bed that you have a good number of larger worms.

Take the big boys and put them in with your puny boys (and girls).  Something will happen that is almost magical. In about 2-3 weeks, the smaller worms will grow as big as the biggest worms in the bed.  This naturally occurring mechanism is called  "homomorphous development".

In Nature, many life forms can grow as large as the largest in order to compete for food and space.  Worms have this ability and  has given rise to the myth of "hybrid worms".  The California Striper, Red Gold Hybrids, Red Hybrids, Egyptian Reds, Super Worm, and other so called "hybrid worms" you see advertised are just some basic earthworm like the manure worm or red worm that has been "super-sized" by throwing them in with some monsters.

Try this easy trick and see if you can't create your own monsters.

Resources For Growing Bigger Earthworms

Find other worm growing tips and how-to's in my Worm Farm Manual: A Step-by-Step Gude to Raising Earthworms for Fun and Profit.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Worm Breeding Boxes

Find more worm breeding tips: Worm Farm Manual

While we're on the subject of how many worms to stock into your worm beds, let's talk  about "propagation" boxes or worm breeding beds.  You want to stock your worm breeding beds differently than your worm growing beds.

Worm Breeding Boxes

If you want to accelerate your worm farm production quickly with less cost, you should get starting breeding your own worms right away.  You could just let nature take it's course and let the worms do their own thing at their on pace, but you can speed things up.

There a several good reason for encouraging your worms to produce more egg capsules:
  • you won't have to buy so many worms from another worm farmer, 
  • you'll be selling worms yourself much sooner, 
  • and it will have a positive effect on your bottom line.

Breeding boxes can be built out of wood or they can be plastic bins.  They should be approximately 14 inches wide, 18 inches long, and 6 inches deep.  If you have several breeding boxes, you can stack them to save space.  Just make sure there is a space for air to circulate around each bed.

For ease of handling, I built shelves that I could slide the trays in and out without having to pick them up and move them about, sort of like a chest of drawers.  Believe me, you want to make this as easy as possible because you will be working these beds daily and you don't want to have a system that requires a lot of stacking and un-stacking.  The inexpensive plastic shelving from home building stores are good for storing your worm boxes, too.

Worm Breeding Box Bedding

The best material that meets all the requirements for worm bedding is horse manure, properly aged beyond the heating up stage.  It is loose, porous and has the lowest possibility of causing "protein poisoning". It great for breeding boxes as well as growing beds.

Now, everyone may not have access to this wonderful stuff (and to the wonderful creatures who produce it), so there are alternatives.

A good option is plain Sphagnum peat moss.   It's clean, is holds moisture, and it stays loose.  But because peat moss has an acid ph when dry, you must moisten it moss 24-36 hours before introducing any worms.  This moistening will reduce the acid to the correct level. The downside is peat moss bedding is it must be changed out every 14 days. 

Once you have 500-600 (about two pounds) mature breeding earthworms, you can pull them out of the growing beds and place them into the breeding boxes.  (Breeding earthworms are "banded" and at least 6 months to 1 year old.)

Caring For Your Earthworm Breeding Boxes

For the best results, follow this DAILY regime:
  • Check the bedding moisture closely.  The shallow boxes will dry out quicker.
  • Feed a highly nutritious commercial worm food (like FRM Cricket and Worm Food).  Important: Feed only as much as the worms will eat in a day.  Clean off any uneaten food before adding more or before turning the bedding.
  • Turn the bedding frequently to keep the bedding loose and fluffy.
  • Maintain a constant temperature of between 60-70 degrees.

Harvesting Your Worm Breeding Boxes

In 21-30 days, dump your boxes out on a smooth table, harvest the mature worms out (there are several harvesting methods which I describe in my Worm Farm Manual).  Put the egg capsules and baby worms back into a new bed with more bedding.  Place the mature worms back into the breeding box with fresh bedding  and begin the whole process again

Keep the new bed of capsules and babies undisturbed except for watering and occasional feeding as needed.  In about 90 days it will be full of maturing earthworms.  When it get crowded, divide it, pull out any mature breeders, or put it into a bigger growing bed.

Follow this worm breeding plan and you'll soon have more worms than you can shake a stick at.

Worm Breeding and Growing

Find many more tips and how-to's on growing earthworms in my Worm Farm Manual.

Buy Now:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How Many Worms?

This is another worm farming question that comes up often: How many worms can I put in my worm bed?  The answer: Well, it depends.

  1. How big is your worm bed.
  2. Do you want to start growing worms to sell, or
  3. Do you want to make vermicompost  -  fast.

How Big Is Your Worm Bed

First, measure your worm bed(s) and get the square footage  (for the mathematically challenged, length times width). Your growing beds should be at least 18" deep. (More on "propagation" boxes later.) Generally, you don't want more than one pound worms per square foot .  Go by poundage rather than count, because who can count worms?  Who wants to? Who has the time?  

Poundage is more accurate and meaningful, anyway.  Larger worms weight more, so there are fewer worms per pound. Smaller worms weight less, so there are more worms  per pound.  A pound of worms is a pound of worms so far as how much food is consumed and how much space is taken up with worm bodies.

Growing Worms To Sell

If you're raising worms to sell as fish bait,  you'll want to stock your bed with enough worms so that they can find each other and make babies. If you have too few worms, they could wander about aimlessly forever and never find true love.  Bottom line: keep them close enough to reproduce.

To be continued.....

Learn a whole lot more and then some on this subject and other worm growing tips:  Worm Farm Manual - A Step-By-Step Gude to Raising Earthworms for Fun and Profit.   Emphasis on profit.  That makes it fun.