Worms

By Ray Hansen, content specialist, AgMRC, Iowa State University, hansenr@iastate.edu

Revised July 2015

Introduction

Earthworm production is of growing interest to many land owners. Oftentimes a small earthworm enterprise is handled by family labor alone, making it a business with low start-up costs. Many rural land owners already own a majority of the materials needed for starting an earthworm enterprise. An operation with only a few worm beds requires minimal funds for start-up, maintenance, and labor.

Production

The primary bait worm grown in the United States is the red earthworm (Lumbricus rebellus), which can tolerate large concentrations of organic matter. Red earthworms will mature in approximately 180 days. They live for about 700 days. Other worm species grown include African night crawler, and the brandling worm. African night crawlers grow best in higher temperatures and will reach marketable size in eight to ten weeks under ideal temperatures. Their cocoons hatch in only 12 days. Brandling worms produce about 900 eggs per worm per year, and can live for four to five years. It is suggested that brandling worms are best suited for vermiculture systems. The worms have a tendency to create an allergic reaction in humans and will omit a bitter odor if handled roughly.

Marketing

Earthworms can be sold in two main markets. These markets include bait for fishing and worms for composting. They are both sizable markets with many opportunities. In the United States hobby fishing is a large industry with more than 30 million consumers spending in excess of $40 billion each year. Earthworm producers can also find a growing market for composting as more people and business try to be more environmentally sustainable.

Prices

One pound of red earthworms sells for around $30 in a commercial market. Prices in a local market will vary depending on location and demand.

Financials

Attached is a sample budget for worm production from Pennsylvania State Extension.

Sources

Pennsylvania State Extension
EarthWorms – The Vermicomposting Specialists

Other Links

Links checked August 2014.