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How To Raise Worms in Winter

Winter time has it's own particular set of problems for the worm farmer or vermicomposter.  Read on and find out how to deal with these problems and keep your worms healthy and growing this winter.

Growing Worms in the Winter

At the time of this writing, we are experiencing one of the coldest winters in a very long time.  Here in North Central Florida, we've had several days of freezing weather that has the old-timers shaking their heads.

For those of us trying to maintain our worm population, this very cold weather is giving us extra concerns about our worm "herd".  Now is a good time to go over winter worm farm strategies that will serve us, not only this winter, but in all the winters to come.

The following list outlines how I handle my worm beds during cold temperatures.

1.  Reduce Worms' Food:

  • Drastically reduce the amount of worm feed you apply during periods when temperatures around your worm beds fall below 50.
     
  • Worms will slow down when temperatures fall below 60. They will eat less, therefore you must feed them less to avoid excess build up of uneaten food. This left-over food can be taken down into the bedding where it can create an acid condition in the bedding - a deadly situation for your worms.

  • Excess food can attract pests, like mites, and the bedding can heat up. Heating-up may sound like a good thing, but believe me, you don't want this to happen to your vermicompost bins or worm beds. You should never over-feed your worms, whether you are simply vermicomposting or raising worms to resell.

  • For vermicomposters, you may want to put your excess food scraps in a compost heap or freeze it for feeding to your worms later when the weather warms up.

  • For worm farmers, you want to limit the amount of commercial grain feeds you add to the beds. It's probably a good idea to only give your fattening beds the barest amount of the commercial feeds, and make sure they eat it all in 1-2 days before adding more.

2.  Move Worms To Warmer Location:

  • Move your worms to a warmer location, if possible, or supply some heat to keep the temperatures above 40 degrees, at least. You don't want your beds to reach freezing, as this will kill your worms. The deeper your bedding, however, the longer it takes for the bedding to freeze.

  • If your worm beds are indoors, remember to provide some ventilation.  Your worms need fresh air and plenty of oxygen.  Sometimes, when we are trying to keep them warm, they may not be getting enough air flow and will become sick.

3.  Leave On A Light Over Your Worms:

  • One of the biggest problems with your worms getting too cold is they will want to crawl. If you have a large number of worms, this can be a huge mess. It's a very good idea to keep bright lights on day and night during cold snaps.
     
  • Be ever watchful for worms grouping or balling up in the corners of your beds or composter. This is a sign they are planning an exodus, even though it will mean their certain death. They just want to move out, like snowbirds headed for Miami. Trouble is, they end up dead on the floor rather than sunburned on the beach. Not a pretty site (or odor, for that matter).

Cold weather can be a trying time to the worm farmer or vermicomposter.  But, with a few precautions and an ever watchful eye, you can keep your worms growing and breeding until spring.

Find many more worm-raising tips and how-to's in our new "Worm Farm Manual: A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Earthworms for Fun and Profit".

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