How much will my worms eat?
This depends on how many worms you have. Worms can eat up to half their own body weight every day and can double their population every few months. If you start your Can-O-Worms with 250 grams of mature worms (identify mature worms by a distinct ring-shaped swelling around their body) they will consume up to half their weight of food waste per day. After a few months you should have double your worm population and you can feed them more. The baby worms, however, won't eat much and will take about 3 months to mature. As you become familiar with them you will learn their rate of food consumption.
How can I help the worms to eat more?
Worms will feed at a faster rate once they have adapted to any new food source. Worms will also eat more if food waste is mashed, blended or processed. Controlling temperature to around 24 deg C will improve the overall performance of your system. Worms will leave very acidic food, such as onions and orange peels, until after they have eaten their preferred foods. A handful of lime mix (or crushed oyster shells or ashes from a fire) every few weeks will help to balance the effect of acidic foods. The regular addition of worm treats or worm fattener will encourage stronger, fatter worms. Since they consume up to half their own body weight each day, the fatter they are the more wastes they will eat.
What shouldn't I feed my worms?
Be careful what you feed your worms particularly if you are unaware of its source. Manures, for example, from horses, cattle or dogs often has vermicides still active in it that were designed to kill parasitic worms in the animal. They can kill all your worms in one day. If you use animal manures make sure you know when worming is conducted and avoid using the manure for a few weeks.
Can I feed my worms garden refuse?
Not usually. The Can-O-Worms is designed to break down soft organic waste. Slow composting organic wastes such as garden refuse are best dealt with by conventional aerobic composting methods.
I've had my Can-O-Worms for a month now, but the worms don't seem to be eating?
The worms may be eating your bedding material if you have used manure or compost in addition to your Can-O-Worms Bedding Block. If that is the case the worms will eat through this before eating any introduced food. If just the bedding block is used the worms should readily eat introduced food waste even though they do also like to eat the coir fibre.
Should I add water to the Can-O-Worms?
Watering of the Can-O-Worms worm farm will enhance the production of liquid fertilizer. Food wastes are about 80% water which is released as the worms break them down. This will tend to stay in the bedding for a long time before eventually draining out. Any dry material such as old manure, newspaper or cardboard should be presoaked before being added. It is important to keep a moisture mat or similar over the freshly added food to encourage the worms to move up to the surface to feed. This will provide a dark damp shelter for them. If you pour a maximum of two litres of water over the scraps each week or two, and then place the empty bucket under the open tap, you will have a constant supply of liquid fertilizer. The sudden "flood" will not harm the worms.
Will I get too many worms ?
No, you can never have too many worms. They will regulate their population to the confines of available space and the amount of food you give them. Worm concentration should reach capacity (about 15,000 to 20,000 worms) after 2 - 5 years.
Can I put compost worms in the garden?
Only if you have a thick surface layer of mulch in your garden. Compost worms require moist conditions all year round because they don't tunnel deep like earthworkers to find moisture. If you cannot provide this environment in your garden, don't introduce compost worms into it.
Why aren't the worms moving up from the lower levels into the top working tray.
This situation can arise in two ways. First, you may be adding new food too soon before the worms can eat the previous food. This will result in a lot of uneaten wastes being distributed throughout the system and a general reluctance by the worms to migrate upwards while they can still access material lower in the system. Before adding new trays, stop feeding the worms for at least a week to ensure that all existing food in the lower tray has been eaten. Worms will then move up to eat from the surface as this is their natural behaviour pattern. Secondly, you may not have waited for the level of worm castings to pass the support ribs on the inside of the tray before adding the next tray. This will create a gap preventing the worms from reaching the top trays.
What about severe temperatures?
Worms will tolerate a wide temperature range from about 10- 30 deg C. If it gets much hotter than this, make sure the Can-O-Worms worm farm is in a shady cool position. Take the lid off and hose the whole unit down keeping the bottom drainage tap turned on so it doesn't flood. If it gets much colder and freezes, put your Can-O-Worms in the warmest possible position, an example being your basement, laundry room or shed. If it is on a balcony or out in the yard, cover the unit with a couple of old carpet pads or old blankets to keep some warmth in. Feed them a lot more food wastes which will create some warmth as they decompose.
It's raining and the worms seem to be gathering in the lid. What do I do?
What you are noticing is the worms' sensitivity to pressure changes in the weather. They will often go up into the lid even before it rains. In nature this takes them out of the soil to stop them flooding and drowning. Move the Can-O-Worms out of the rain. Take the worms out of the lid and replace them in the bedding.
Are the little white worms in my Can-O-Worms worm farm baby earthworms?
No, baby earthworms are not white, they are clear to opaque, before developing a reddish color. They are just visible at this stage. The â€˜white wormâ€™ you are noticing is a type of worm called entrachyadids. They will not hurt compost worms, but they do indicate acidic conditions, which can be overcome by the weekly addition of a handful of lime. By placing a piece of moist bread on your Can-O-Worms you can lure the white worms to a small area for easy removal. It is important to note that many organisms that may appear in your Can-O-Worms (such as large populations of minute red mites and large soldier fly larvae) are beneficial to the break down of organic material, so there is no need to remove them.
How do I keep ants out of my Can-O-Worms?
Ants will enter your Can-O-Worms if you have a lot of them in your backyard and particularly if you have let the bedding become too dry or acidic. Add water to raise the moisture level and add a liberal quantity of garden lime to where the ants are gathering. This should discourage them. If they persist remove them physically and smear some vaseline around the legs or place each leg in a container of water to isolate the system.
Will the Can-O-Worms attract flies?
No the Can-O-Worms is fly-proof against household flies. Sometimes the very small vinegar fly (often mistaken for the fruit fly) gets in, but these do no harm. However, very large numbers of the vinegar fly may indicate that you are feeding the Can-O-Worms too much and may be a prelude to problems such as offensive odors. To eradicate vinegar flies, slow your rate of feeding to what the worms will eat on a daily basis and ensure that freshly added wastes are covered by a moist burlap/hessian bag or newspaper.
What about maggots?
Should you experience any influx of maggots, it will most likely be the soldier fly or vinegar fly larvae. The soldier fly larvae grow up to an inch/2cm big starting out white but soon turning dark grey with distinct ribbing bands. Fishermen say they make great bait. The vinegar fly larvae are small, usually 6mm or less. Don't be too alarmed if they appear. They are actually beneficial to the waste breakdown. If you want to remove them though, do so by liberally applying lime, or placing bread soaked in milk on the surface of the compost. Larvae love bread and should infest it. Remove the bread after 2-3 days and dispose of it.
Will the Can-O-Worms smell?
The only smell associated with a well maintained Can-O-Worms worm farm is a pleasant rainforest odor. If your Can-O-Worms has an offensive smell, it is an indication that anaerobic bacteria have built up in the system in uneaten food wastes. Stop feeding the worms and stir the wastes in the top tray lightly with our handy grubber, adding garden lime as well. This aerates the organic material and allows worms to move through it more easily. Repeat this aeration procedure regularly to prevent recurrence. Start feeding again when all smells are gone.
What about holidays?
Leaving an established Can-O-Worms for 3-4 weeks without constantly adding food is not a problem. Just feed the worms a good quantity of food waste (1/3 of a tray full) before you leave. Make sure that you leave the unit in a cool place under cover and leave the tap open with a container under it. Putting a soaked newspaper on top of your burlap will give added protection against their bedding drying out.