By Ray Hansen, content specialist, AgMRC, Iowa State University, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Revised July 2015
“Earthworm production is an enterprise that could be suitable for many small land owners. An operation with one or two worm beds requires only minimal setup costs, maintenance, and labor. A small enterprise can be handled with family labor. If you live on a farm, you may already have much of the materials required for constructing the worm beds and feeding the worms.” (Pennsylvania State Extension)
According to Pennsylvania State Extension, 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.
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 huge 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.
One pound of red earthworms sells for around $30 in a commercial market. Prices in a local market will vary depending on demand.
Attached is a sample budget for worm production from Pennsylvania State Extension.
EarthWorms – The Vermicomposting Specialists.
- Composting With Red Wiggler Worms, City Farmer, Office of Urban Agriculture, Canada.
- Home Worm Production, Texas A&M University - Describes vermicomposting, which includes raising worms, producing compost that is very beneficial for plants and disposing of kitchen waste all in one.
- Vermicomposting: Composting with Worms, University of Nebraska.
- Vermicomposting: Indoor Composting with Earthworms, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
- Vermiculture or Worm Composting, Washington State University.
- Vermiculture (Worms), North Carolina Cooperative Extension - Provides a directory of companies and individuals who are involved in the vermiculture or vermicomposting industry.
- Worm Farming Secrets - A commercial site that offers a newsletter and worm supplies.
- Worms for Bait or Waste Processing (Vermicomposting), ATTRA, NCAT, 2010.