Worms are often known as “underworld engineers” because they play a vital role in the soil ecosystem by remarkably modifying its properties. They’re also part of a network of organisms that recycle organic materials into nutrients to increase nutrient availability and soil structure.
While they provide essential rich food sources for predators like birds, hedgehogs, and frogs, many gardeners are concerned about their food. So, what do worms eat? Let’s delve deeper into the article to find out the answer.
What Do Worms Eat?
Worms are likely to eat a wide range of organic matter, such as dead plant matter and microorganisms like bacteria and fungi. While worms out in nature can find food on their own, they tend to be fed when confined to a worm bin.
Note that worms thrive on a balanced diet, so it is crucial to keep their food’s green and brown matter balanced when feeding worms.
Greens are materials that are rich in nitrogen or protein, including fruit and vegetable waste, eggshells, teabags, coffee grounds, and filters. Meanwhile, browns that are high in carbon include cardboard, paper, aged horse manure, newsprints, and leaves.
- Fruits and vegetable waste are excellent options to feed worms. For example, the worm’s favorite meals are banana peels, apple cores, potato skins, and other fruit trimmings that we often throw away.
- Coffee grounds and filters contain the valuable nutrients that worms need to stay healthy.
- Paper tea bags, cardboards, papers, newsprints, and organic eggshells are rich food sources that provide calcium – a vital mineral to maintain strength. Additionally, this reduces acidity in the bin and avoids high acid conditions that cause harm to the worms.
- Animal manures such as that of horses can be used to feed worms. These materials are incredibly rich in microorganisms that provide nutrition for worms.
- Decaying, dead, and fallen leaves are the perfect food for worms. By munching on leaves, worms can reduce mounds of matter and return carbon to the ground, thus enriching the soil.
As a general rule, since worms do not have teeth, feed them materials that break down into worm-sized bites and spread evenly on the soil surface.
What To Not Feed Worms?
Certain food scraps are not encouraged to feed worms because they are acidic, processed, and slow to biodegrade.
- Acidic fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables such as orange, lemon, lime, papaya, and pineapple high in acid levels can disrupt the worm’s PH levels and burn its skin.
- Meat and bones: Aside from attracting pests that invade the worm’s dwelling, animal protein also takes longer to break down. Therefore, prevent providing meat and bones to worms at all costs to protect their health.
- Salty and spicy food: Salt and spicy food are irritants that cause a sense of pain in worms. Also, spicy food like hot pepper can
- Grass: Besides being toxic due to chemical treatments, grasses also release heat as they break down, which puts the lives of the worms at risk.
- Dry grains: Worms don’t have teeth, so they’re not able to munch on hard, dry grains.
- Dairy and oily food: Dairy products including butter, sour cream, milk, cheese, and oily food can become rancid and pollute the environment.
How Do Worms Eat?
When food enters the worm’s mouth, the muscular pharynx (also known as the throat) acts as a pump to push the food down the esophagus into the crop.
Then, the food is crushed and ground apart in the worm’s gizzard, which contains hard particles to grind ingested food completely. After that, the food moves into the intestine, broken down further by digestive enzymes.
Lastly, some digested food is absorbed in the bloodstream, while the rest passes out the anus as castings.
- Esophagus: A muscular tube that takes food from the mouth to the stomach.
- Intestine: A long, continuous tube running from the stomach to the anus. It’s where most of the absorption of the nutrients from food takes place.
When To Feed Worms?
Feeding frequency will depend on how fast your worms consume food. Hence, it’s better to examine the area where you last fed the worms.
However, since worms prefer to eat when their food begins to decompose, feed them once a week or every two days following a tight schedule. Also, waiting until the food runs out in the bin can starve worms because they have to wait for the food to break down before eating.
Tip: Cut the food substances into small pieces and feed the worms in small amounts first before adding.
What Do Worms Need To Live?
As mentioned above, worms are capable of finding food for themselves in natural environments. But when they’re kept in a worm bin, several factors may affect their independence.
For example, limited space of the worm bin can obstruct the migration of worms from one location to another, which prevents them from seeking potential food sources.
Furthermore, worms need other favorable factors to ensure their survival besides food. Some essential factors include temperature, PH levels, soil moisture, and other aspects.
The process of composting often results in increased heat during biodegradation. Hence, it’s crucial to manage the temperature of the worm bin often.
The ideal temperature for a worm bin ranges from 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit (°F). Going above 95°F can boil the worms to death or leave them in a mass exit, while at below 40°F, they will start to die off.
As said, adding unhygienic and inappropriate food to the worm farm can put your worms in danger. In particular, some acidic fruits and vegetables like orange or pineapple should not be thrown into the worm bin due to the unbalanced PH levels. As a result, those produce are likely to cause rotten and earthy smells over the bin.
Since all worms breathe through their skin, they need water to absorb oxygen and breathe. However, adding over water consumption could slow down their oxygen intake. As a result, worms become bewildered and struggle to find their way back to the soil, which endangers their life at some points.
As a general rule, worms tend to consume food equal to their body weight each day. Hence, overfeeding or underfeeding worms is not ideal for keeping worms healthy.
Notably, overfeeding the worms can cause the food to rot, resulting in excessive souring and protein poisoning. On the other hand, having less food is likely to hinder the worm’s growth and productivity.
Adding wrong foods can facilitate pests like earwigs, rodents, fruit flies, and centipedes to grow.
After a while, it’s suggested to refresh and renew the soil to ensure harmful microbes do not have a chance to clog the bin.
This is the end of the article. You now probably grasped adequate information relating to the question “What do worms eat?”.
To summarize, worms thrive on organic matter such as dead plant materials, fruits and vegetable waste, dead and live microorganisms. Additionally, it’s vital to balance worms’ green and brown materials to ensure a balanced diet.
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