- Attracting Compost Worms in Your Backyard
- Garden Worms
- Adding Worms To A Compost Pile – How To Attract Earthworms
- Where Do I Get Earthworms for Garden Use
- How to Attract Earthworms
- Crazy Worms in Maine
- What are Crazy Worms?
- History in Maine
- Why are Crazy Worms a Problem?
- Crazy Worm Identification
- What can you do?
Attracting Compost Worms in Your Backyard
Here is a question from Francisco:
I am learning about worm bins and have been trying to start one just
by catching them in the backyard. Your blog is great and I have spent
so many hours reading the old posts.
I am not sure if the worms I catch are even good for composting.
Unlike what some people have done, I don’t just go outside after it
rains to try to find them. I have been putting wet cardboards in
shady/wet areas of my yard that have a lot of old dead leafs. I would
move the leafs and lay down the cardboards. To my surprise, I am
catching a couple of them every time I left up the cardboard. The
worms are fairly red, very thin and about 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch long.
Since they are coming up to eat the cardboard, is it safe to assume
they are composting worms?
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Keep up the good work on the blog, I know I will definitely be
Thanks for the email – that is a really great question, and this is certainly a topic in general that quite a few people have inquired about. Unfortunately, there seems to be a very common misconception that any old type of worm can be used for worm composting – which as you obviously know, is not the case. To compound this issue, the first worms people usually think of are the ones that come out after a heavy rain and/or those ones encountered when digging around in the garden. More often than not, these are exclusively soil-based worms – NOT those species adapted for life in rich organic matter (such as that found in a compost heap or worm bin)!
There are three basic groupings of earthworms – 1) ‘Anecic‘, 2) ‘Endogeic‘, and 3) ‘Epigeic‘. The anecic worms, such as the large ‘Canadian Nightcrawlers’ (aka ‘Dew Worms’ – Lumbricus terrestris) build deep burrows, typically extending down to the mineral soil layers. They live a relatively solitary life (coming up the the surface for feeding, mating, and to escape from flooded burrows), and generally thrive at cooler temperatures than those worms in the other two groups.
Endogeic worms are basically the intermediates between the other two groups. They are still soil worms, but are typically located closer to the soil surface. Unlike the anecic worms, they often create horizontal (rather than vertical) burrows.
The last group, the epigeic earthworms, are of course the ones we are most interested in from a composting stand-point. This group generally lives at or above the soil surface – typically associated with concentrations of rich organic matter (eg. leaf litter, manure etc). They also tend to be much more tolerant of crowded conditions and wider fluctuations in temperature. Because they live in these potentially harsh/challenging environments, epigeic worms also tend to grow and reproduce much more quickly than the other groups of worms (helping to ensure the success of future generations).
You are certainly on the right track with your approach, Francisco. If there ARE any epigeic species of worms located on or near your property, there is a decent chance you will be able to attract them to an area where you have added organic matter on the soil surface. Whether or not you will attract the best species and/or enough worms to make your efforts worthwhile, is another matter altogether.
I know that if I did the same thing in my own yard, I would end up with lots of Red Worms (Eisenia fetida) concentrated in the organic-material-rich-zones. As an illustration, I recently left a few (freshly harvested) zucchinis on my lawn for a day or two. When I went to collect them, I discovered a handful of small Red Worms underneath each of them! I can only imagine how quickly I could populate a heap of aged manure if I dumped it on my lawn!
If one of your neighbors happens to be composting with worms, or if they have found their way into the area via some other means, you may be in luck! More than likely though, you will end up with a mix of epigeic and endogeic species that just happen to be living close by.
The fact that you’ve found some small reddish worms could be a good sign, but the only way you will know for sure if they will work is to put them to the test in a worm bin. As for them coming up under your cardboard – this is pretty common for most types of earthworms. Leave just about anything to sit out on your lawn for long enough, and you’ll likely end up with quite a few worms congregating underneath.
Hope this helps!
If you’ve never seen a dew worm, do I have a mental picture to paint for you. Imagine the cute little red wrigglers in your garden, only reaching nightmarish proportions. Dew worms are worms the size of snakes, with their greasy, gummy bodies ranging from 10-30 cm long.
While worms are excellent to have in the yard for their ability to aerate the soil, dew worms (or night-crawlers), are far too much of a good thing. Active at night and early morning, when the lawn is wet (hence the name), they can churn a healthy lawn into a chaotic jumble of castings mounds and deep tunnels.
The Damage They Do
Dew worms thrive in old lawns, especially those with decades of accumulated thatch. Besides age, dew worms love shaded, sheltered, well watered lawns.
When you walk across your lawn in bare feet, does the ground under the grass feel like a miniature Western Front, complete with shell-holes and tossed mounds of earth? If so, you’ve probably got dew worms.
The mounds, which can be irritating both to walk on and mow over, are castings pushed up from the worms’ burrowing. While the worms won’t kill your lawn, severe infestations will make it almost impossible to walk and play on; they will effectively evict you from your yard.
Dealing with Them
Underneath the casting mounds, dew worms’ extensive tunnels can dip several meters below the surface. This inaccessibility, combined with their creepy size, makes them very hard to kill.
If you won’t be satisfied until every one of them is dead, you have a frustrating road ahead. My recommendation is to focus on controlling their numbers, and the damage they do, by keeping them underground. They’re also highly mobile and tend to populate blocks of houses at a time, often in older neighborhoods, so if you use chemicals to eliminate them, you are really only created a vacuum and encouraging others to move in. If you use cultural, preventative controls, you will make your yard less appealing on the long run.
Aerate your lawn in the spring and fall, and rake it out well. This will reduce the thatch and make the surface less appealing to worms overall. There are many companies offering the service or you can simply rent an aerator.
Don’t water your lawn in the evening, and only water it when needed. In a normal rainfall year, a healthy lawn actually needs little or no supplemental watering. If your lawn is patchy, top dress with fresh grass seed or, if it’s very unhealthy, consider tearing it up and starting again with fresh turf.
As with all slimy bellied creatures, dew worms hate crawling over abrasive surfaces (which is why they love wet grass at night). Sprinkle a generous layer of sharp sand over the affected lawn. While nonlethal, it will make them think twice about venturing to the surface.
If you insist on using chemicals, the active ingredient carbaryl is approved for use against dew worms. Most products containing carbaryl have, wisely, been banned, and the last product with it is called Sevin. Sevin will reduce your dew worm numbers, but even it won’t eliminate them. It is definitely not safe for animals, children, or pregnant women.
Please regard using Sevin as an absolute last resort (I don’t recommend it in any resort). You will effectively wipe out the entire ecosystem of beneficial bugs, fungus, and bacteria that have built up in your yard. If you use Sevin, expect a host of other pests to spring up, like aphids, because you’ve just nuked all their predators.
What’s Eating my Spruce Tree: Budworm & Sawfly
Summer Lawn Care
A worm is a worm is a worm. Or not! You may not have thought about it, but there are lots of types of worms out there. Here at Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm, we sell three main types of worms: Red Wigglers for composting; Super Reds for composting, releasing into the soil and fishing; and live Mealworms for animal feed. How do you choose which type of worm to buy? Well, it depends on what you want do with them.
Choose Red Wigglers for Composting
If you are composting, you should be thinking about buying Uncle Jim’s Red Wigglers. Red wigglers are Uncle Jim’s flagship worm–a small but mighty powerhouse when it comes to chewing through your compostable waste. Red wigglers are only about 1-3 inches long and the diameter of a pencil lead, but they can easily turn piles of vegetable scraps into excellent garden fertilizer.
Red Wigglers don’t tend to dig deep–they are adapted to chewing up vegetable matter and animal manure in the top layer of soil. So being in a compost bin where their bedding and food scraps are only a few inches deep doesn’t offend them. They are also right at home processing bedding and manure from herbivores, such as rabbits.
If you are composting indoors, Red Wigglers are highly recommended. If your compost bin or pile is outdoors, Red Wigglers are also superior; however, you may need to make a little extra effort to keep them healthy in extreme temperatures. This is because they stay in the top layer of soil. Red Wigglers are not able to survive extreme temperatures. So be sure you have some way to protect these mighty little composters from both intense heat and freezing cold. See tips for protecting composting worms from hot and cold. Worse case, they usually lay hearty eggs before snuffing out.
Red wigglers can be used for trout bait as well.
Choose Super Reds for Lawn Aeration, In-Garden Aeration and Composting, Outdoor Composting and Fishing
Super Red European Night Crawlers belong outside. They are treasured for their power to aerate and fertilize lawns and gardens. Some people elect to use Super Reds for outdoor composting because they can survive temperature extremes better than Red Wigglers.
Super Reds are the big brother to our Red Wigglers. They grow 4-5 inches long and are very active. They will work on compost, but their claim to fame is all those wonderful tunnels they make. They will burrow through many feet of soil, and these tunnels aerate your lawn and garden. They also generate and distribute their own natural fertilizer.
Because Super Reds move through more levels of soil than Red Wigglers, they are more resistant to heat and cold. In addition, European night crawlers breed quickly and make excellent fishing bait.
If fishing bait is your main reason for being interested in worms, have a look at our cupped bait. These 12-ounce cups of worms are all packed up and ready to be used or sold. They will last 3-5 weeks on the shelf with no refrigeration needed.
If you need worms for your lawn, garden, outdoor composter, or to use for fishing, then you should be looking at our Super Red European Night Crawlers.
Technically, mealworms are not really worms: they are the larvae stage of the Darkling Beetle.
High in protein and fat, mealworms are a favorite treat for birds and reptiles! Chickens and lizards love them. So if you are looking for treats for your feathered or scaled pet, you should consider Uncle Jim’s mealworms.
Unlike some other suppliers, Uncle Jim’s sells live mealworms, not dried ones. Depending on the level of moisture, feed and temperature, these mealworms can last up to nine months. We guarantee them to arrive alive, and we include simple instructions with each order.
Whether you need worms for indoor composting, outdoor garden use, fishing, or pet food, Uncle Jim has the worms for you! We’ve been breeding worms for more than 40 years, so we know our stuff! You can count on high-quality worms, guaranteed to arrive alive.
HOW YOUR ORDER WILL WIGGLE IT’S WAY TO YOU.
All our orders are now despatched from our farm here in Herefordshire and so we’ve made a few changes. All orders will be sent out on the same day that you order whenever possible as long as you order before 1pm.
Wiggly Standard Delivery (3 – 5 day delivery) £3.95
If you don’t mind when your order arrives… (within reason of course) Choose standard delivery and we will despatch your order with the best option for us. This may be DPD or Royal Mail. You need to allow 2 – 5 days for delivery, and we can post to anywhere in mainland Britain.
Next Day Delivery for £5.95
We aim to despatch all orders on the same day if you order arrives before 1pm but if you need it guaranteed next day delivery, select this option, you must order before 1PM the day before.
Highlands and Islands
Please choose the standard option as there is no guaranteed service for next day on the following postcodes:
IV1-IV99, KA27-KA28, KW1-K17, AB31-AB38, AB41-AB56, FK17-FK21, PH15-PH50, HS1-HS9, ZE1-ZE3 PA20–PA80
we are not able to offer a next day DPD service (it will take longer).
Overseas – Not Available.
Saturday Delivery – Not Available.
Email us at [email protected] if you need any further information, or you can phone us on 01981 500391 phones open between Mon-Fri 10am – 1pm
Adding Worms To A Compost Pile – How To Attract Earthworms
Earthworm activities and waste are beneficial to the garden. Attracting earthworms provides the organisms that loosen soil and add important nutrients for better plant growth. Learn how to attract earthworms for the optimum plant health and porosity.
The organic and natural gardener may wonder, “Where do I get earthworms for garden health?” Outdoor vermicomposting can produce some of these important creatures and scores more can be encouraged to make your garden their home with specific cultivation practices. Let’s learn more about adding worms to a compost pile.
Where Do I Get Earthworms for Garden Use
Unless your landscape is in a location devoid of organic matter or in sand or dense clay, you already have a supply of worms. The healthiest gardens will have the largest number of these animals, which live deep in burrows and bring up soil as they move through the medium. Their castings are the feces of earthworms and contain compounds that increase plant growth. Outdoor vermicomposting will provide food for earthworms and increase the population.
Vermicomposting is the practice of providing bedding and a home for worms and feeding them. This is done in special containers or boxes and the resulting castings are collected and added to soil.
Use no-till soil management and other cultivation practices for attracting earthworms to large areas of the garden. You can also purchase earthworms from garden supply stores or even bait shops and spread them around your yard.
How to Attract Earthworms
Earthworms feed on decaying organic matter. When attracting earthworms, you should provide plenty of food for these beneficial animals. Work in compost, leaf litter and other organic material into soil. Many worms live within the top 12 inches of soil, so just a shallow incorporation of nutrients will provide them with necessary food.
You can simply lay a mulch of organic material on the surface of the soil, too. Thick layers of mulch will protect the moisture in the soil and encourage worm activity. This will also prevent you from disturbing earthworm burrows. You don’t want to disturb the soil further than 12 inches, as the larger night crawlers live in permanent burrows that are several feet below the soil surface.
Do not use any pesticides in your garden, which can kill earthworms. These would include Malthion, Benomyl and Sevin, all of which can adversely affect worm populations.
If you keep chickens, let them feed in areas where you aren’t trying to encourage worm populations. If you are bringing in earthworms, settle them on a cloudy day, under organic material in a warm, moist area as summer’s heat can drive earthworms deep into the earth or even away from your garden. To attract them to an area, water the soil so that it is deeply moisturized. This mimics the rainy days that bring earthworms to the surface of soils.
A high worm population in your garden is beneficial to wildlife, soil conditions and the health of plants. Attracting and adding worms to a compost pile creates the equivalent of 1/3 pound of high quality fertilizer for your plants.
Crazy Worms in Maine
- On this page:
- What are Crazy Worms?
- History in Maine
- Why are Crazy Worms a problem?
- Crazy Worm Identification
- What can you do?
Crazy Worm and Nightcrawler, Photo courtesy Wisconsin DNR
What are Crazy Worms?
Due to our history of glaciation, there are no native earthworms in Maine. Non-native earthworms from Europe (such as nightcrawlers) have become well established here through early colonial trading. Though they are beneficial to our gardens, earthworms can have destructive effects on our forests.
Crazy worms are a type of earthworm native to East Asia. They are smaller than nightcrawlers, reproduce rapidly, are much more active, and have a more voracious appetite. This rapid life cycle and ability to reproduce asexually gives them a competitive edge over native organisms, and even over nightcrawlers. When disturbed, crazy worms jump and thrash about, behaving like a threatened snake.
Crazy worms are known and sold for bait and composting under a variety of names including snake worms, Alabama jumper, jumping worms, Asian crazy worm. They are in the genus Amynthas, and distinguishing between the several species in the genus can be difficult. All species in this genus are considered invasive in Maine. It is illegal to import them into Maine (or to propagate or possess them) without a wildlife importation permit from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW). For more information, visit MDIFW’s Fish & Wildlife in Captivity webpage.
History in Maine
Crazy worms are native to Korea and Japan, and are now found in the United States from Maine to South Carolina and west to Wisconsin. Crazy worms were first collected from a Maine greenhouse in 1899, though an established population of this active and damaging pest was not discovered here until about 2014 when two populations were discovered in Augusta (one at the Viles Arboretum) and two populations were found in Portland. They have also been found in a rhododendron display at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay. We believe that crazy worms are not yet widespread in Maine, but they have been discovered in some new locations since 2014, including nursery settings. If allowed to spread, crazy worms could cause serious damage to horticultural crops and the forest ecosystem in Maine.
Why are Crazy Worms a Problem?
Crazy worms change the soil by accelerating the decomposition of leaf litter on the forest floor. They turn good soil into grainy, dry worm castings (aka poop) that cannot support the native understory plants of our forests. Other native plants, fungi, invertebrates, and vertebrates may decline because the forest and its soils can no longer support them. As native species decline, invasive plants may take their place and further exacerbate the loss of species diversity.
Crazy Worm clitellum, Photo courtesy University of Illinois
In nurseries and greenhouses, crazy worms reduce the functionality of soils and planting media and cause severe drought symptoms. After irrigating or rains, you may find these worms under pots. These worms may be inadvertently moved to new areas with nursery stock, or in soil, mulch, or compost.
Many of Maine’s forests are already under pressure from invasive insect pests, invasive plants, pathogens, and diseases. Crazy worms may cause long-term effects on our forests.
Crazy Worm Identification
- When handled, they act crazy, jump and thrash about, behaving more like a threatened snake than a nightcrawler, Video of jumping worm wriggling
- May shed their tail when handled, Video of jumping worm tail detachment
- Clitellum (the band around their body) is milky white, smooth, and flat to their body
- Often found in groups
- Soil looks very grainy at the surface, like coffee grounds
- Can reproduce by parthenogenisis (asexually), maturing in 60 days, allowing two hatches per season
- Annual species, but tiny cocoons overwinter in the soil
- Best time to find them is late June to mid-October
- In nurseries, they can often be found underneath pots that are sitting on the ground or on landscape fabric
- In forests, they tend to be near the surface, just under accumulations of slash or duff
What can you do?
Crazy Worm cocoon at yellow arrow, in granular castings, Photo by Marie Johnston, courtesy University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum
- Do not buy or use crazy worms for composting, vermicomposting, gardening, or bait
- Do not discard live worms in the wild, but rather dispose of them (preferably dead) in the trash
- Check your plantings-know what you are purchasing and look at the soil
- Buy bare root stock when possible
- Be careful when sharing or moving plantings, cocoons may be in the soil
- Map it! Please visit the DACF iMap Invasives web page for more information
- Questions? Call Gary Fish 207-287-7545 or email [email protected]