The red worm, also known as the red wiggler, tiger worm, manure worm or red hybrid worm (scientific name Eisenia foetida), is widely regarded as the best worm for worm farming or vermicomposting. It is easy to identify by its reddish colour and has different feeding habits than the common field worm. The latter feeds on soil and bacteria and so is less suitable for composting household waste.
Red worms can be a great way to recycle your kitchen waste. You can feed them all your fruit and vegetable scraps, stale bread, left over rice and pasta. You can also feed them teabags, coffee grounds and eggshells, though you shouldn’t overdo these. The only foods to avoid are onions and garlic, meat and bones (though they can tolerate a very small amount of these), citrus fruits and dairy. Red worms can eat up to their bodyweight each day, though you should expect them to only eat half that – so each pound of earthworms will eat about half a pound of garbage each day. How many worms you will require depends on how much waste your household produces.
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As well as being a great way to reduce household waste, red worms are also a wonderful source of garden fertilizer. The worms eat the waste and produce rich castings (worm manure) which can be used to give your garden a boost.
Red worms can be kept in a commercial worm farm, composting bin or in raised beds outside. They can’t be kept in a regular garden bed because they need an environment which is constantly damp and rich in decaying organic matter. They will quickly die if added to your garden bed. Kept in the right conditions, red worms will reproduce quickly, giving you an ongoing population. You will know this is happening if you see small white cocoons in the worms’ bedding. It will take about six weeks for the young to hatch and grow to adulthood.
Red worms can be brought over the internet, or direct from commercial worm farms. They are a cheap, environmentally responsible and very useful pet.
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