The Q&A Archives: Which Worms?

Question: Which species of worms should I use to help aerate and fertilize my garden's soil? I read all the time about their effectiveness, but I've never seen a particular species mentioned, just "worms." My husband is currently building a wormery to supply me with a healthy population and himself with bait. Which species should we use? Where can we order them? (Or do we just get them from the local bait shop?)

Answer: The standard worms (Eisenia foetida) that are most beneficial, and most attracted to compost piles are red worms, sometimes called manure worms or red wigglers. These are the same worms sold in bait shops for fishermen. The other species of red worms (Lumbricus rubellus) are more of an earthworm; their natural habitat is in soils which contain a lot of organic matter. The worm to completely avoid in your new wormbed is Lumbricus terrestris, the nightcrawler. He's a benefical guy, as far as worms go, but he can't take the high temperatures that build up in decaying organic matter. These worms prefer to tunnel into the cool earth, and will sometimes tunnel to a depth of three feet. They're great for conditioning the soil, but they won't be happy in a wormbin. You can purchase worms locally, or visit a nearby farm and harvest a bucketful from a fresh manure pile. (Red worms just seem to appear in manure in a matter of a few days!)

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