Introduction
Why Farm Worms?
Farming at Home
Money from Worms?
About the Worms
Traditional Worm Farming
Make Your own Farm
The Right Environment
Vermiculture Pests
Dictionary: Worm Terms
Reproduction
Worm Tea

Worm Terms

THE WORM DICTIONARY AND VERMICULTURE REFERENCE CENTER

This page is to be a combination of vermi-dictionary, glossary and  mini worm encyclopaedia. It is intended to be the first point of reference for all vermiculture terms and  definitions and as such will probably never be completed, as it is to be updated regularly. As you can see, the cupboard is still a little bare, but be patient - it is filling up nicely.

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

 

A


Acidity:
The optimum condition for a worm farm is to have a balanced or neutral pH  of 7. A common problem is that over a period, the environment becomes acidic, with a low pH value, especially if the environment is too wet. The worm farmer should always avoid  feeding with acidic (sour) fruits such as citrus and pineapple. The needles of coniferous trees such as pines are also acidic. Mites are believed to be promoted by acidic conditions (pH less than 7).  

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African Nightcrawlers:
Latin name: Eudrilus Eugeniae. These worms are much larger than Eisenia Fetida (Red Wigglers) and are commonly over six inches long. Good compost worms and great for fishing, because of their size and as they are lively on the hook and have a firm skin. They prefer temperatures of around 75ºF- 85ºF , but can tolerate 45ºF- 90ºF, cannot tolerate extreme cold and dislike disruption of environment and handling. Weight: 175 to 200 worms per pound.  

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Anecic Worm Species.
These are the deep burrowing earthworms, such as Lumbricus Terrestris. They are not suitable for vermiculture as they are not compost worms - however in nature, they are extremely beneficial in improving the overall soil condition. Usually greyish brown, they are excellent diggers and their burrows, are semi permanent and may extend to six feet below the surface – these burrows are lined with mucus and help aerate the soil and improve water retention. The worms feed near the surface and pull down organic material deep into the ground, putting the nutriments in the worm castings exactly where the plant roots can best use them. They block the mouths of their burrows with plugs of soil and castings, to keep out unwanted pests. 

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B

Bait worms
See Fishing Bait.
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Bedding:  
This is the medium placed at the bottom of the layers of the worm farm to provide a habitat for the worms. It may be of coconut coir, carpet undefelt, partly composted straw, crumpled cardboard or torn up paper - in fact almost any fibrous organic material. The food (kitchen waste etc.) is placed on top of the bedding, which will gradually be ingested and converted to worm casts ( the worm compost ). It is usual to cover the food and casts with a further layer of bedding material to excluse light and keep out flying pests.  As compost worms need a good supply of oxygen, the bedding must be gently fluffed up from time to time to prevent it becoming dense and matted.

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Bins:
This is the actual container that contains the vermiculture activity, they may be made of plastic , timber or any other non toxic material. A worm farm may consist  single or multiple bins. The most popular type of worm farms today would consist of several levels of nesting plastic bins. These worm farms are sold at retailers, garden nurseries or on-line merchantizers and are designed to make them easy to handle. They usually have legs and a tap for the worm tea incorporated in the bottom bin. The plastic bins they use are neat and easy to keep clean and secure from pests. For the DIY enthusiast, household plastic storage containers, bought from the local hardware store are easy to adapt for setting up a DIY worm farm as they are robust, cheap and usually supplied with a snap-fit lid. As they are tapered for empty stacking, they can be nested to set up a multi layered worm composter. The popular sizes are 45 litre (10 gallon) or 6o litre (15 gallon). For worm farms, they should preferably be black and never be clear, as compost worms hate light.

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Black Soldier Fly:
Latin Name: Hermetia illucens. This is a tropical fly originally from the Americas, that has now spread around the world. The larvae of the fly are a type of small maggots, that feed exclusively on putrescent material. They are often found in worm farm bins, but although unsightly are not a real threat to the worms, as they do not attack them and may in fact complement the compost worm's activities, rather than compete with them for food. Like the worms their faeces makes excellent compost and the maggots are useful  as a high protein fish or poultry feed and may be used either live or dried, as a processed meal. These remarkable creatures, unlike the common housefly, do not spread bacteria or disease - in fact the larvae ingest potentially pathogenic material and disease-causing organisms and thus render them harmless. Moreover black soldier flies exude an odour, which positively discourages houseflies and certain other flying pests. When the larvae reach maturity they  leave the feeding area  to pupate, preferably  in a shady bush or tree. After turning into an adult fly, the female lives a further 5-8 days and produces almost 1000 eggs. The adult fly is nocturnal and characterised by very fast and rather clumsy flight. It has no mouth and cannot bite or sting. There is a growing interest in using Black Soldier Fly for commercial processing of sewage waste and even for private composting/ waste disposal.

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C

Casings:
See Cocoons.

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Clitellum Band:
A band around the worms upper body, of lighter coloured flesh, found a centimetre or so behind the front of sexually mature worms. It is from the clitellum that the egg casings (cocoons) form as rings before slipping off the worm's bady, containing both the eggs and sperm from the earlier mating. 

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Cocoons:
The worm cocoons or  egg casings start to be seen in the bedding as soon as the  worms become sexually mature at the age of about 8 to 10 weeks after hatching. Shortly after hermaphrodite mating has taken place, the light coloured clitellum band near the front of the worm secretes a mucous cocoon ring, which slips off the worm. As it slips free, it receives the worm’s eggs, together with the sperm from the other worm. The cocoon or casing curls into a ball  around the eggs. The cocoons are about the size of bb gun pellets or grape pips and are pale yellowish brown to grey at first, becoming darker and mahogany coloured as they get near to hatching at about seven weeks. Each casing yields several tiny pale coloured baby worms.  

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D

Detritivorous:
Literally "eater of trash"  - Detritus is the polite Latin name for plant trash and animal dung that is found lying on the surface of the soil. Detritivorous  creatures, such as wood lice, black soldier fly and notably the epigeic (composting) worm species, such as Eisenia fetidae  (red wigglers) all eat decomposing organic matter and, in association with beneficial bacteria, convert this waste into useful plant nutriments.

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E

Egg Casings:
See Cocoons.  

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Eisenia Andreia:
Usually called the Tiger Worm, because of alternate bands of darker and lighter red colour. Often confused with Eisenia Fetida (Foetida) and to make things worse they are also known as Red Worms. Like Fetidae They are quick breeders and productive in vermicomposting and good fishing worms. They are between 2 to 3 inches long and weigh in at 900 to 1000 worms per pound. They are found throughout the world and as such are no threat to the environment if they escape. Temp range – Extremes: 38ºF-88ºF/Optimum 70ºF -80ºF.  

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Eisenia Fetida (Foetida):
Commonest compost worm used in worm farming and easy to obtain. Usually called Red Wigglers, but also known as Red Worms, Red Wrigglers, Compost Worms, Manure Worms and Brandling Worms. They got their name of red wiggler because as fishing worms as they are active on the hook and stay alive in water for some time, although they are a bit small for this purpose. They are between 2 to 3 inches long and weigh in at 900 to 1000 worms per pound. They are quick breeders and productive in vermicomposting. They are found throughout the world and as such are no threat to the environment if they escape. Temp range – Extremes: 38ºF-88ºF / Optimum 70ºF -80ºF  

 INDEX .

Eisenia Hortensis:
Common name: European Nightcrawler also commonly called Redworm, it is much bigger than Eisenia Fetida (foetida). It is a quick breeder and a good composter (makes plenty of castings). Much sought after for fishing bait, as it can tolerate near freezing water and is one of the few “earthworms” suitable for salt water fishing. These worms can grow up to 7 inches in length, but usually are between 3 to 4 inches. 300 to 400 worms per pound.  

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Endogeic Worm Species:
These are the upper soil worm species of earthworm, and are geophages as they feed on humified soil with high organic content such as found around grass roots. They make temporary burrows, which become filled with their castings and this brings nutriments to plant roots and their burrowing improves the aeration and moisture retention.  

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Epigeic Worm Species:
These are the surface dwellers ,such as compost worms. They include the smaller red/ brown worm species, that are to be found naturally just below the surface in rotting leaves, dung heaps and other plant litter. They are called detritivourous in that they eat detritus (waste material). They can handle cycles of variable moisture, but will not survive long in soil, unless it has been well loosened and mixed with compost or manure as they are poor diggers and need plenty of organic matter around them and must have good aeration. Their natural home is within the plant trash itself . 

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Eudrilus Eugeniae:
Common name: African Nightcrawlers. These worms are much larger than Eisenia Fetida (Red Wigglers) and are commonly over six inches long. Good compost worms and great for fishing, because of their size and as they are lively on the hook and have a firm skin. They prefer temperatures of around 75ºF- 85ºF , but can tolerate 45ºF- 90ºF, cannot tolerate extreme cold and dislike disruption of environment and handling. Weight: 175 to 200 worms per pound.

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European Nightcrawler:
Latin name: Eisenia Hortensis also commonly called Belgian worm and Carolina crawler and sometimes Redworm, it is much bigger than Eisenia Fetida (foetida). It is a quick breeder and a good composter (makes plenty of castings). Much sought after for fishing bait as it can tolerate near freezing water and is one of the few “earthworms” suitable for salt water fishing. These worms can grow up to 7 inches in length, but usually are between 3 to 4 inches long and weigh in at 300 to 400 worms per pound.

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F

Fishing Bait:
There is a large industry involved in producing bait worms. The common earthworm, such as Lumbricus terrestris, although can be dug up easily enough, is not suitable for commercial production as are the red compost worms as it is a soil dwelling species and is not productive in worm farming. Red wigglers, (Eisenia fetida) are commonly used , but, although lively on the hook are rather on the small side. Lumbricus Rubellus (also called red wriggler or red worm) are larger, more robust and can even be used for saltwater fishing. Other popular bait worms are Eisenia Hortensis - the European nightcrawler, which can come up to seven inches and tolerate near freezing conditions and  the large African nightcrawler Eudrilus Eugeniae for warmer waters.

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G

Geophages:
Fauna, such as earthworms, termites and other small species that consume humus soil which has a degree of organic content.

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H

Hermaphrodite:
Having both male and female genitalia (from greek). Worms such as earthworms and compost worms are hermaphrodite and in a single "sexual encounter" each partner produces both eggs and sperm.

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Hermetia illucens:
See Black Soldier Fly.

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I

Indian Blue Worm:
Latin name : Perionyx excavatus. This species has a distinctive iridescent blue sheen to its skin. It is a tropical worm and does not tolerate cold or much handling or environmental disruption. Although small, it is suitable for vermiculture as it is a prolific breeder and matures quickly. It has one major drawback though - it is known for staging mass escapes from the worm farm, for no apparent reason and is somewhat unpopular for this reason. Temperature range – Extremes: 45ºF - 90ºF / Optimum 70ºF - 80ºF.

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J

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K

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L

Lime:
Agriculural lime is Calcium Carbonate CaCo3 (usually finely ground up  limestone or chalk). Ground up sea shells, egshells or even marble all contain Calcium Carbonate and are safe to use with your worms in small quantities. Never use quick lime, Calcium Oxide (CaO), which is highly corrosive with a pH of 14, nor should you use the milder, but still highly alkaline Calcium Hydroxide Ca(OH)2 - known as builders (slaked) lime.  

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Lumbricus rubellus:
A species of European worm, the driftworm, also known as Red wriggler. It is actually an burrowing earthworm and not a true compost worm, but in nature is Endogeic and feeds close to the surface.  It  is a large worm of average length 4 inches and is commonly used in vermiculture, as it is very productive at cooler temperatures. The optimum temperature is around 50ºF and it only stops breeding around 40º. Rubellus is also attractive as a bait worm as it is large, lively, robust and is even suitable for salt water fishing. However there is real concern that Lumbricus rubellus, as an exotic, could become a problem invasive species in North America and there are claims that it is spreading into the northern woods and causing damage to  native forests. This is because it tolerates lower temperatures and wetter conditions than most compost worms. It causes damage by breaking down the plant subterranean trash that protects the surface roots of trees. Because it can burrow deeply, it can overwinter when the surface becomes frozen, unlike most compost worms such as Eisenia fetida. So before you start your worm composting – it is important that you check local requirements and choose the right worms for your area and never throw unused bait into the forest.  

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Lumbricus terrestris:    
Common earthworm species, sometimes called nightcrawlers . They are not suitable for vermiculture as they are a deep burrowing species (Anecic). Their burrows, are semi permanent and may extend to six feet below the surface – these burrows are lined with mucus and help aerate the soil and improve water retention.

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M

Microbes:
Tiny living organisms, only visible with a microscope, such as bacteria, protozoa, some fungi and viruses. They are also known as micro-organism. They may be pathogenic, causing disease and damage to plants, animals and humans (pathogenic microbes are commonly called germs) or beneficial such as the bacteria that promote yeast fermentation and the aerobic microbes that break down decomposing waste and improve soil fertility. Some beneficial micro-organisms actively attack pathogenic bacteria and decrease the risk of disease. Micro-organisms associated with vermiculture are especially good for the garden, as working inside the worm's gut they promote the digestion process and breakdown complex chemical compounds into simpler elements that are more easily utilised by plants, when excreted. By "fixing" the essential elements into simple compounds, minerals, hormones and enzymes they hugely increase the accessible plant nutrient load in the soil (up to 20 times) and as they remain active in the faeces (castings) they are also available to "innoculate " the soil against disease. In the aerobic breakdown of organic matter by bacteria some carbon dioxide (CO2) is released, but this is far less damaging to the atmosphere than the methane (CH4) that would be released otherwise by anerobic decomposition. On the plus side, other bacteria also create conditions for fixing some of this CO2 in the soil, for use by plants..  

 INDEX 

Micro-organisms:
See Microbes.

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N

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O

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P

Perionyx excavatus:
Common name : Indian blue worm. This species has a distinctive iridescent blue sheen to its skin. It is a tropical worm and does not tolerate cold or much handling or environmental disruption. Although small, it is suitable for vermiculture as it is a prolific breeder and matures quickly. It has one major drawback though - it is known for staging mass escapes from the worm farm, for no apparent reason and is somewhat unpopular for this reason. Temperature range – Extremes: 45ºF - 90ºF / Optimum 70ºF - 80ºF.  

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pH Value:
pH: A scientific scale from 1 - 14 that is used as a measure of the acidity / alkalinity of a substance. A pH rating of 7 indicates a neutral or balanced rating, that is neither acidic nor alkaline. The lower the pH number, the more acidic the substance will be and vice versa, the higher the pH number - the more alkaline. pH meters or testing kits are available from garden suppliers (for soil testing).

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Q

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R

Red Wiggler:    
Latin name: Eisenia foetida (fetida) This is the commonest compost worm used in worm farming and is easy to obtain. Also known as Red Worms, Red Wrigglers, Compost Worms, Manure Worms and Brandling Worms. They got their name of red wiggler because as fishing worms as they are active on the hook and stay alive in water for some time. They are between  2 to 3 inches long They are found throughout the world and as such are no threat to the environment if they escape. Temperature tolerance – Extremes: 38ºF - 88ºF / Optimum 70ºF - 80ºF. They weigh in at 900 to 1000 per pound. They are quick breeders and can tolerate some handling and disturbance to their environment and they are productive in vermicomposting.  

 INDEX 

Red Worm:    
Several compost worms are known by this name, although due to their popularity for vermiculture, it is usually applied to Eisenia fetida (foetida) a.k.a - Red Wrigglers, Compost Worms, Manure Worms and Brandling Worms and the name is also applied to Eisenia foetida’s close cousin  Eisenia andreia (andreii) a.k.a Tiger worms, as both worm species are virtually indistinguishable and have similar environmental preferences. They are both between  2 to 3 inches long and weigh in at 900 to 1000 worms per pound. They are quick breeders and productive in vermicomposting. They are tolerant to handling and disruption of their environment. They are both found throughout the world and as such are no threat to the environment if they escape. Temperature tolerance – Extremes: 38ºF - 88ºF / Optimum 70ºF - 80ºF.

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S

Stacked Bin Worm Farm:
The stacked bin worm farm usually consists of a stack of nesting  plastic containers to hold the worms, either circular or rectangular shaped. The lowest container usually has a tap for the leachate (worm tea) and possibly legs. The upper containers of the stack have perforated bases and small air holes for ventilation and there would be a lid to close the topbin. For a small operation 3 layers would be sufficient, but stacking towers up to 7 levels are known for farms at restaurants and hotels. The Stacked bin system can be bought "ready-to-go" from a merchant or made up inexpensively by the DIY enthusiast. Other materials such as wood or fibre board, could also be used.

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Stacked Tire Worm Farm:
An old way of breeding worms for fishing, especially popular on agricultural farms and smallholdings. Used tires are stacked up one above the other to make a worm farm. Can also be used for general vermiculture, as a very cheap alternative for the stacked bin system - especially in poor countries. The compost is removed, by pulling out the lower tire from the stack (usually with the help of crowbars, due to the weight of the tires).

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T

Tiger Worms:
Latin name: Eisenia andreia gets the name Tiger Worm, because of alternate bands of darker and lighter red colour. Often confused with Eisenia foetida (fetida) and to make things worse it is also known as Red Worm. Like fetida, they are quick breeders and productive in vermicomposting and good fishing worms. They are between  2 to 3 inches long and weigh in at 900 to 1000 worms per pound. They are quick breeders and productive in vermicomposting. They are tolerant of handling and disruption of their environment. They are found throughout the world and as such are no threat to the environment if they escape. Temperature tolerance – Extremes: 38ºF - 88ºF / Optimum 70ºF - 80ºF.
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U

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V

Vermi:    
Latin word for worm, as used as a prefix in vermiculture, vermicompost, vermitea etc..  

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Vermicompost:    
This is the highly nutritious plant food that is the product of worm farming. It is actually the worm castings or faecal matter remaining after waste organic material such as kitchen scraps have passed through the gut of the compost worms. It has typically around twenty times the nutritional load of good quality garden soil and contains many minerals and race elements necessary for healthy plant growth. Vermicompost is also accompanied with a load of beneficial bacteria, which promotes healthy soil conditions and has the ability to remove pathogens and various unwanted organisms from the garden soil.  

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Vermiculture:
A slightly broader term than worm farming, in that it that places equal weight on three aspects of the process. a) the environmentally important aim of getting rid of waste products; b) on generating useful plant compost from the worm castings and c) on the breeding of  worms themselves. They may be used as fishing bait or even as a source of high protein poultry, fish  or animal fodder.

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Vermitea:
This is the popular term for the dark highly nutritious leachate or liquid fertilizer associated with the worm composting process. It is excreted by the worms, together with the worm castings in the process of breaking down organic material that has some degree of moisture content. It is usually tapped off from the underside of the worm farm into a watering can then diluted for pouring directly around the roots of garden plants. Vermiteais is also accompanied with a load of beneficial bacteria, which promotes healthy soil conditions and has the ability to remove pathogens and various unwanted organisms from the garden soil. 

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W

Worm Farm:
A worm farm is essentially a protected environment, set up for the nurturing of either earthworms, or more commonly, compost worms. The aim of the worm farm may be simply to produce worms for fishing bait, or it may have the wider aims of vermiculture, which are to produce good quality, highly nutritious plant compost (organic ferilizer) from waste organic matter, together with the worm production, thereby benefitting the environment, by  replacing the need for inorganic fertilizers and cutting the environmental costs of waste collection to landfill.

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X

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Y

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Z

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