“So far I’ve fed my worms carrots, apples and bananas which I’ve put through a food processor first. They seem to be doing all right. I had the wormery in a red dustbin as a Christmas present, but I worry that I’m not giving them any protein. Advice would be appreciated.” ~ Anne Hill
This is a good question.
If we only feed worms with vegetable and fruit peelings, where do the worms get their protein from?
In fact, some worm farmers feed only paper to the worms, how do the worms even obtain enough energy to survive at all?
The answer is that worms do not feed on the waste material alone.
It’s actually other organisms and micro-organisms, which do a lot of the breaking down of the waste, that the worms mainly feed on. That is why keeping a high varied eco-system in a worm system is important. Worms feed on smaller particles of the waste (which has been partially broken down) as well as feeding on the micro-organisms.
There is evidence that worms enjoy feeding from protozoa. They are single celled micro-organisms and are small in size (50µm to 1mm), high in protein and low in fat making them a great treat for worms.
How do protozoan grow?
Different types feed differently on different sources and many of them absorb their food from their surroundings. Some directly absorb nutrients around them while some feed on bacteria themselves. That is also one of the reasons why high microbial life in a worm system is important.
You may have come across some worm farmers adding extra protein supplements (such as alphaalpha pellets) into a wormery system in the hope to bulk up the mass of the worms for them to fetch premium prices.
This is perfectly fine, and it does work!
For those who are more interested in knowing how to bulk up the mass of their worms here is a recipe you can try. You should start seeing results in a 6-10 weeks.
5 parts chicken layer pellets or chick starter 2 parts wheat or rice bran 2 parts alfalfa pellets 1 part whole wheat flour 1 part agricultural lime 1 part powdered milk
Add this recipe together with the food waste you usually use to feed. The lime is used to balance back the acidity. Although through this you will get fatter worms, please be aware that your cost will go up too. It is a great recipe when you if you have a high demand for fat worms for fishing!
I have been using grits exclusively, and recently large amounts. To my surprise my worms are perfect for fishing.
I am currently trying the mixture recipe, will let you know how it goes.
So I have used the above mixture for protein this season and have not supplemented with bedding. What this equaled to was a very pungent smelling bin and way too moist. I attempted to add cottonseed meal (a 50lb bag) to my largest bin. Unfortunately, all worms were burned up. So I won’t use that mixture without adding shredded cardboard from now on. I did not wet the cottonseed meal before adding. Came back the next day and it was so hot I soaked it down, but by the next night all worms were dead and stinking up the house. We live and learn.
I live in the subtropics and have different food sources available. I put all my components into a shredder then a cement mixer and mix with the appropriate amount of water.. voila .. a months supply of food. Smaller amounts can be done by hand of course.. My worms are kept in 25 x 5 gallon buckets.. I find I prefer teh bucket farms over any other.
FYI: My ingredients are:
one flour sac of shredded Cardboard,
two sac of shredded brown leaves and jungle refuge,
one sac of shredded seaweed (I live in the jungle but only an hour from the beach),
one sac of dried cow pies (from a local village),
one sac of well healed compost from vegetable refuge
20 lbs of chicken mash (ensure no antibiotics are in mash)
once mixed, one has to wait a minimum of one week to allow that mix to “Compost” heating to a very high degree. otherwise it will compost with the worms in the mix and cook them alive, as Luke experience..
Luke: the problem is not what you used, but not letting it compost itself out and cool back down before adding it to the worms or the worms to it.
I remove my worms and eggs when the bins are apporx 75 % castings, leaving 25 % undigested.. The keeps my casting with with roughage for the micro organisms to continue feeding on until I get the castings into what ever finished product I want them for.
I find this receipe is the best that I have been able to find in the past year of raising worms.