Worms are fascinating creatures that play a vital role in composting and soil health and are more than happy to get food waste off your hands, provide you with some “black gold,” and help you reduce your carbon footprint.
Worms are like people, you see; the quickest way to their hearts is through their stomachs. But hold on! Before you start tossing any food scraps into your compost bin, you need to know what NOT to feed worms to keep them healthy and happy. Just like humans, they have their preferences when it comes to food.
It’s time to dive into the do’s and don’ts of worm cuisine! Familiarize yourself with the list of foods worms should not be fed, and you’ll gain valuable insights into what types of treats worms love and what makes their “ew” list so that you can have a thriving worm population and rich soil. Get ready to tantalize your taste buds with some surprising insights on what not to put in your worm farm!
What Can’t Worms Eat? A Comprehensive List of Composting Worm Feeding Don’ts
Composting worms live in a condensed, confined area of a worm bin, so it’s important to keep their environment free of certain types of food that they don’t like or that can harm them. For instance, the pH levels of the bin cannot become too acidic, or it will create a toxic environment and harm the worms, which is the case when feeding them acidic food and food scraps with high sugar content.
Also, since worms breathe through their skin, certain food will irritate that process. Other foods will stink up really bad when thrown into a composter, and, on top of that, the bad smell can attract unwanted guests such as fruit flies, rats, and other vermin. These are just some of the reasons you should avoid putting the following food scraps into your worm composting bin or worm farm.
So, what can’t worms eat? What can you not feed worms?
- Fatty foods and oily foods, such as meats, bones, fat, and other greasy food and animal products
- Dairy products and starchy food, including butter, sour cream, milk, cheese, and whole eggs (crushed egg shells are OK)
- Canned sauces, peanut butter, and other processed food or cooked foods containing these
- Citrus fruit like lemons, limes, oranges, pineapples, and other highly acidic fruit
- Onions, garlic, and other allium plants (onion skins are fine in moderation)
- Salty and spicy foods such as hot peppers
- Rotten food filled with harmful bacteria
- Yard trimmings that have been treated with pesticides
- Plastic, metals, glass, or other non-biodegradable items
- Shiny paper that has a glossy finish or colored ink
- Poison ivy, oak or sumac, or other poisonous plants.
If you’re a worm farmer, and especially if you have a larger-scale vermicomposting system such as outdoor composting worm bins or a worm ranch, then buying plenty of fresh fruits and veggies will do you and your compost worms a lot of good. Always keep your squirmy pals in mind when shopping at the grocery store, and avoid these food items at all costs!
Bonus Feeding Tips: Dice It Down & Keep an Eye on Water Content
Simply knowing what not to feed worms and what not to put in worm farms won’t cut it. Anaerobic conditions and toxic environments are bad for compost worms, so you need to be careful and balance the moisture levels in your worm bin, too, especially when adding wet food.
Always cover the food with bedding – add a layer of soil on top of exposed worm food when feeding to minimize bad odors and keep any pests and insects away, especially if you have an indoor bin. Help your critters chow on and digest their snacks more easily by giving them soft food or cutting it into small pieces to help the decomposition process. You can simply give it a spin in a food processor.
And, be careful about how often you feed your population of worms as well as the amounts of food you treat them with – keep their tummies full, but don’t go overboard! In general, worms can eat up to half their weight in food a day. So, a pound of worms will eat about half a pound of food scraps per day.
The Ideal Worm Diet: What Is the Best Food for Worms?
So, what can worms eat? If you’re looking for another reason to eat healthier, your wiggly pals may be it! Worms can eat almost any organic matter that was once living, from brown matter to green matter, which includes many healthy foods such as dry grains, fruits, and vegetable scraps! That’s a pretty good incentive to buy some fruits and veggies – their favorite food – more often. It’s great for your health and also makes great worm food for your small wiggly friends. It’s a win-win!
One small problem some people run into is choosing the wrong food for their worms and trying to feed them wor food on the non-approved list! If your eating habits include more processed food than organic food, then you may find some difficulty in coming up with enough organic matter to feed your live worms. We’d be talking about meats, dairy foods, and processed foods of epic proportions here, and an almost utter absence of fruits and veggies, so you probably don’t fall into this category!
Perhaps the household in which a worm farm would thrive the most and find the greatest abundance of food is a vegetarian one! This isn’t to say that people should avoid meats, dairy, or even yummy desserts, but worms love organic materials, so it’s always good to have a little on hand, and most people do. After all, their natural diet mainly consists of organic waste and organic food sources.
So, what to feed worms? The more fresh fruits and vegetable waste you feed your worms, the better. They prefer a diverse diet that includes a mix of different organic materials. Otherwise, your worms will have to settle for a steady diet of coffee grounds, dead plants, dry leaves, newspaper, and egg cartons.
And, although these wiggly wonders do love nibbling on shredded paper bags, shredded cardboard boxes, and even vacuum cleaner dust from time to time, as they are a great source of carbon, that doesn’t sound too appetizing in the long run, does it?
Compost with Confidence Knowing What Not to Feed Your Worms
A carefully balanced diet is the key to healthy common composting worms and nutrient-rich, organic compost – the natural, organic fertilizer for your garden. And you know what this means – a thriving oasis! So, now that you know what not to feed worms and what not to put in a worm farm, do your best to avoid tossing in these food items to your little wigglers.
Keep the junk food out of their compost bin and let them dine in style on the good stuff. After all, a well-fed, happy worm is a composting hero. Happy vermicomposting! Want to learn more? Check out our wide selection of composting books to master the art of vermiculture.
Ah, the mysteries of vermicomposting! Let’s dig in and explore these common questions about what not to feed worms and what makes the perfect diet for our wriggly friends.
What Are the Best Things to Feed Worms?
When dwelling on what to feed worms, it’s best to go for a balanced diet of juicy fruits, vegetables and their peels, squash, crushed eggshells, coffee grounds, tea bags and tea leaves, grains, and aged lawn clippings (avoid fresh lawn clippings, unless you want a hot mess in your bin!). Bon appétit, worms!
Why Can’t Worms Eat Dairy?
Well, it’s not that worms are lactose intolerant or anything of that sort. Dairy products tend to be high in fats and proteins, which can be difficult for our humble worms to digest. You see, worms have a delicate digestive system that thrives on a balanced diet of organic matter, like fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based scraps.
Dairy, on the other hand, can be a bit too rich for their little tummies to handle. So, dairy products should be on your “what not to feed worms” list while you stick to more worm-friendly options.
Do Worms Eat Plants?
Yes, worms are known to feast on organic matter, including plant material. However, they prefer decaying plant tissues – from dead roots and seeds to dry leaves and animal manure. It’s the circle of life in action, as these composting gourmets turn nature’s leftovers into soil-enriching treasure.
Do Worms Eat Grass?
Absolutely, worms definitely like munching on aged, dry grass. Freshly cut grass clippings may raise the temperature in their bin to uncomfortable levels, so it’s best to let it mature and dry out before serving it up to your wormy pals.
Is Rice Bad for Worms?
While rice may seem harmless, you should avoid feeding it to your compost worms. Uncooked rice can expand and harden in a worm’s gut, causing discomfort and potentially obstructing its digestive tract. Cooked rice, on the other hand, can become too starchy and can create a gooey mess in the worm bin, which can lead to unpleasant odors and even attract unwanted pests.
So, it’s best to avoid feeding your worms rice altogether or only sparingly provide them with small amounts of cooked rice.
Can I Feed My Worms Every Day?
No, you shouldn’t. Worms are pretty hardy creatures, but they do have their limits. Overfeeding your worms can lead to a buildup of uneaten food, which can create an imbalanced environment in their habitat.
Worms eat at their own pace, so it’s best to feed your worms in moderation, giving them enough time to process the food before adding more. A general rule of thumb is adding more food once the previous batch has been mostly consumed, which usually takes about a week.