Worm Wrangling: Or, Why I Love Keeping Worms More Than Keeping Bees

| 4/7/2009 9:04:23 AM

When it comes to small livestock, I'd rather be a worm wrangler than a beekeeper any day. Especially if it’s a hot Georgia day. I used to gear up in canvas overalls, elbow-length leather gloves, a safari hat and a veil before tending the wooden supers heavy with honey and beeswax. The most effort I’ll expend for worms on any day is to tote a bowl of peach peelings to them in summer or spread leaves for a winter blanket. No heavy lifting. No armor required.

Oh, I know that our farm crops depend on bees. In fact I became a beekeeper because I wanted to do my part for these dwindling pollinators. But after three fretful years, I was relieved to see my hives go down the driveway with a family of homeschoolers.

It was good riddance to the jittery little drug addicts who had to stay on a diet of antibiotics and other chemicals to fend off mites, hive beetles, wax moths and other pests. My red wigglers, on the other hand, not only stay healthy without meds but they also recycle my kitchen garbage and waste paper into sweet black compost for my garden.

Bees are prima donnas. They require expensive houses, all exactly alike. Worms make themselves at home in discarded bureau drawers, old bathtubs or gas barbeque grills with the burners removed. Mine used to live in a plastic storage bin that cost less than $4. Today they just camp out in the garden.

Bees, who enjoy a reputation for community spirit, definitely have limits to their hospitality. If they get too crowded, about half of them will turn a commoner into a queen and swarm off to start a new colony. Worms? They congenially make room for one more ... or a thousand more. They know how to share, whether it's a piece of watermelon rind or their entire home.

Bees are delicate. They die if they get too cold or too hot. Worms, on the other hand, are flexible. I found out just how flexible when I gave them siftings from some homeground cornmeal. Thinking it would be comfy bedding, I poured about five pounds into their plastic condo. A few mornings later I removed the cover to find hundreds of worms clinging to the top four inches of the bin, lifting their tails (or maybe it was their heads) out of the bedding. The ground corn had heated their home into a working compost pile.

Lorraine Robison_2
7/6/2010 8:46:37 PM

I started a worm bin in the basement, what to do about the millions of fruit flies???????????? I open the box lid and get bombarded by the buggers. I put tacky fly strips up, they don't help at all, they multiply fast.

Monnie Sims
4/24/2009 11:23:00 PM

Thoroughly enjoyed your article and added pictures. My husband has retired and we're planning a new "Green Home." Living on 50 acres in a National Forest and 4 horses and other farm animals.....I just don't why we don't already a worm bin started. LOL But it's coming, really soon. ;)

4/14/2009 3:52:31 AM

Had a friend who started raising and selling worms a few years back. His first few shipments of worm came by U.S. Mail. He was surprised to get a phone call one day from the Postmaster, telling him to get up there immediately, to pick up his worms! Seems that the mail worker bringing the mail to the post office dropped the box containing 5000 worms a little too hard and all those worms were crawling all over her Post Office floor! She told him from then on...USE UPS! Which he did! lol

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