Composting Worm Population Growth Rate

Worm Composting...

“I have 1000 worms. How long does it take for that amount to double?” ~ Clayre Roberts

Hi Clayre, the reproduction of worms and growth rate of your overall colony depend on two main things. How many worms are active mature breeders. These are mature worms that are capable of reproducing and laying egg capsules.

Secondly it also depends on the environmental conditions of your worm bin or bed.

That is if their environment is favorable (temperature, PH levels, moisture content), if there is enough room available to allow the colony to expand, and if there is enough food supply available to meet the growth rate.

In very general terms, a worm population can double in number approximately every 60 to 90 days. From the time of hatching, a worm will reach maturity (becoming capable of breeding and reproducing) within that time frame (although a worm is not a full grown adult until around 12 months). You can identify the mature breeders by the distinctive ring shaped band swelling around their bodies.

Under favorable conditions each mature breeder worm will produce an average of four to five capsules (cocoons) per month, with each capsule containing an average of six individual worm eggs. Capsules can contain as many as twenty individual eggs however the average seems to be around six. Those capsules will take around 21-30 days to hatch from the time they were laid in the bedding.

This time frame can increase dramatically if temperatures are much lower. This will slow down capsule development and in some instances postpone it entirely until temperatures become more favorable. Studies and experiments have shown that egg capsules can actually be refrigerated and lay dormant for as much as 18 months before hatching when reintroduced to the bedding. In addition, dry beds can also slow down development and hatching if moisture levels are not correct.

Worm colonies themselves are largely self regulating.

That is they will regulate their own population based on the available space in their environment and the available food supply.

A worm is capable of consuming up to its own weight in food every day, and as such, 1kg of worms will consume between 500gms and 1kg of food material every day. This needs to be taken into consideration. As the population grows, more feed will need to be provided to ensure continued colony growth. In addition, the temperature of the bed should be maintained as close to 24 degrees Celsius (70 degrees F) as possible to keep conditions favorable.

As you can see, it’s not really a simple answer because environmental conditions are always going to vary to some degree (unless totally regulated and maintained – not usually for the hobby worm farmer), which is why we use the 60-90 day mark when talking about doubling the population.

For those readers whom have yet to purchase their initial bin or bed stock, it is recommended that they begin by purchasing only breeder worms to ensure their worm farms become more productive as soon as possible. Generally these come at a slightly greater cost than mixed worms as there is a cost associated with the seller separating the breeder worms from the rest of the colony.

However it will ensure every one of your initial stock is already capable of breeding and reproducing in your own farm.

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Leave a reply

  1. Hi Clayre,

    I recently came across a great book that covers this subject, if not at length certainly with depth and clarity. It is called Worm Farm Management by Eric Wilson I believe. You may discover that it is rather hard to get your hands on a copy. I procured one through my library.

    All the best,

  2. I did an experiment with garbage and 4 different types of bedding; Black ink newspaper, colored ink news paper, junk mail, and copy paper. They were all given the same amount of bedding and garbage. The bedding had a significant effect on the population after one year with the black ink news paper have the highest population, followed by colored ink newspaper, junk mail, and last copy paper which had a substantial population reduction. (possibly due to the whitening chemicals in the paper. However, the junk mail did not have as significant effect). Also, the average food consumption from all four beddings was about 40% of their weight every day. The red worms do not eat half nor their full weight of kitchen garbage every day! However, other feed stocks may be different.

  3. Hi
    I presently got approx 10,000 composting worms , I have them in 2 x 44 gall plastic drums that have been sliced lenght ways whith grating under the bedding , right now their main diet iss a mixture of horse , cow manure mixed with composted grass clippings . Is there any extra things i should add to there diet to stimulate their growth and hopefully breeding activity? also is there any ideal temperature range to maintain as i have these in a closed in area , due to the fact of it being winter here now in Queensland Aust tthe temp is hovering around the 5 deg to 12 degrees in the shed , just am concerned also when summer comes if the temp is going to climb to high for them as well , so i would like to know if any person has any suggestions on an ideal temp to keep them at their most active range for feeding and reproduction .
    Trevor Maddock

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