Blog Category:

What To Not Feed Worms

meat scrapsIf you’re looking for another reason to eat fresh and eat healthy, this may be it! Worms can eat pretty much any organic matter that was once living, which encompasses a lot of healthy food such as fruits, vegetables and grains! That’s a pretty good incentive to buy fruits and vegetables more often. Not only is it great for your health, it provides food for your small wiggly friends as well.

One small problem some people run into is not having the appropriate food for their worms and trying to feed them food scraps 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 red 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 one that is vegetarian! This isn’t to say that people should avoid meats or dairy, or yummy desserts for that matter, but worms love organic food scraps so it’s always good to have a little on hand, and most people do.
The more fresh fruits and veggies scraps you’re able to feed your worms, the better. Otherwise, your worms will have to settle for a steady diet of coffee grounds, dead flowers, newspaper and cardboard. That doesn’t sound too appetizing does it?
We’d like to quickly go over some of the food scraps that should NOT be fed to worms. Familiarize yourself with them and you’ll quickly gain a good sense of what types of foods worms like and what types they don’t. Worms are like men, you see, the quickest way to their heart is through their stomach. But, you have to know what kind of food they like in order to do that!

What To Not Feed Worms

Worms live in a condensed, confined area so it’s important to keep their environment free of certain types of food that they don’t like to eat or can harm them. For instance, the pH levels of the bin cannot become too acidic or it will harm the worms. Also, worms must breathe through their skin and certain types of food will irritate that process. Other foods will stink up real bad when thrown into a composter and that can attract 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:
  • Meats, bones, fat and anything oily or greasy.
  • Dairy products including butter, sour cream, milk, whole eggs (egg shells are ok) and cheese.
  • Canned sauces, peanut butter and other processed food.
  • Citrus foods like lemons, limes and oranges.
  • Onions and garlic.
  • Spicy foods such as hot peppers.
  • Yard trimmings that have been treated with pesticides.
  • Plastic, metals, glass or other non-biodegradable items.
  • Soap
  • Paper that has a glossy finish or colored ink
  • Poison ivy, oak or sumac or other poisonous plants.
If you have a worm farm, and especially if you have a larger-scale vermicomposting system such as the worm ranch, then buying plenty of fresh fruits and veggies will do you AND your worms a lot of good! Always remember your worms when shopping at the grocery store!

61 comments on “What To Not Feed Worms

  • No onions, garlic, peppers? Why not? I would like some validated and vetted research reason. I eat LOTS of peppers, and of course most pepper dishes include onions and garlic, too. I understand the citrus/acid stuff. But tell me, are you saying they can’t eat spicy foods? They don’t have taste buds or stomachs like ours, so why not? Or was this just gleaned from some “mother earth” forum influenced by personal orientation more that scientific fact? Not meaning to be a jerk here, but really want to know the scientific reason behind some of these comments. p.s…my red wigglers are thriving and I have been feeding them pepper, onion, and garlic scraps for over a year.

    Reply
    • All of my food I compost except for meats and cheese, allowing it to break down until it’s very earthy and then I feed them it and that includes red peppers onions garlic and citrus. My worms have never had a problem with this process.

      Reply
        • A two step process is wonderful for breaking everything down so the worms can finish the job with their special magic. the Bacteria from their digestion system is what takes compost to another level.

          Onions, garlic, tomatoes as well as spicy is too strong for their skin and the compost breakes it down for the worms to process it.

          Reply
    • I’ve never known anyone to become so defensive over worms….

      I haven’t been composting long, but literally every resource I’ve used has agreed with this page that onions, citrus and hot peppers are a no-go. This includes a large composting facility in the area.

      From another site: the natural chemicals and acidity in citrus peels and onions can kill worms and other microorganisms, which can slow down the decomposition in your pile. Unless you chop them into tiny bits, citrus peels take forever to break down which will delay how soon you can use your compost.

      Reply
      • Marky Morel says:

        Smell the compost after garlic and onions have been added. The smell lingers a very, very long time. I am new to worm composting, but not regular composting. If I add the onions and garlic to my pile it won’t go away so I can understand why worms won’t like it. On the other hand it doesn’t sound like it will kill them so try it if you want. My pile with the onions I am thinking of spreading it around my lettuce plants to see if it will help deter slugs. Might be a nice natural solution.

        Reply
    • Josh Luther says:

      I know this is a late response, but I believe the reason they can eat onions, peppers, or garlic is because they are oily and/or greasy. They must not be able to digeste things that are like that.

      Reply
  • I am going on my 7th year of composting. The amount of food waste that is broken down is no more than a 4×2 wood box and this is what I have been feeding my worms for the last year and I am continuously adding food waste to this box.

    Reply
  • Bob Phillips says:

    Is it safe to used pulverized unsalted peanut shells in the 360? I have looked on the website some sites say yes other sites say no so I thought I would ask the experts thank you

    Reply
    • They will take peanut shells but it takes time. They are ok with it if crushed or better still put through a blender (with water). I think the issue is getting water into it and getting a very large surface area allowing bacteria to get to the material (the worms eat the bacteria).

      Reply
    • Christina says:

      Grab a handful. If it is dripping wet, it is too wet. Add newspaper. If you squeeze the soil and no water comes out, it is too dry. Add water.

      Reply
    • They can eat meat, but it takes a long time for the meat to decompose enough that they can eat it. While decomposing, the meat stinks and attracts vermin.

      Reply
    • Meat requires a different set of animals and bacteria to break down – the most common being flies and blue bottles (and maggots).

      Reply
  • Question from Perth, West Australia, worm farmer – how much sugary fruit do worms tolerate. Got a lot of over ripe grapes on my vines. Thought my red wrigglers would like an “aged chardonnay ” squashed grape skin or three in their regular meal of kitchen scraps, peelings etc. Cheers, Ken M

    Reply
    • Examples of Worm Food

      Fruit: apples, pears, banana peels, strawberries, peaches and all melons

      Vegetables: beans, cabbage, celery, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, all greens, corn, corncobs and squash

      Cereals and grains: oatmeal, pasta, rice, non–sugared breakfast cereals, corn meal, pancakes

      worms eat eggshells and tea bags
      Miscellaneous: coffee filter paper, tea bags, eggshells, dead flowers

      Other food/bedding: newspaper (no shiny or coated paper), cardboard, paperboard, paper egg cartons, brown leaves

      Reply
        • I’m helping to manage a composting station at work and I incubated a set of worm cocoons about 2 months ago, which have grown into full adult size worms. I have used different sets of combinations of veggies, in various states of decomposition. I found that if the item is moldy, its fine, I either work it in with some extra lettuce, or something else the mold can help deteriorate or I check the soil in my bin to see if its too moist. If it is I add some more soil, or some peat moss into the existing soil (after separating some from the bin as not to dry out the worms’ skin) to reduce the water content of the soil and balance out the moisture from the rotting vegetables. I have had a new set of worm cocoons which leads me to believe that my experiment is working. I agree with the lists above as far as the veggies and fruits to give. They LOVE cantaloupe, or honeydew melon. You can tell if you notice how quickly (providing the soil temps are right) the worms go through a few pounds of food. They can be voracious little ones. Its definitely very cool to watch them grow and flourish.

          Reply
  • Derek divall says:

    I’ve been feeding my worms onions, garlic, chilli and citrus and they are thriving so I don’t get this info. Does it effect it’s output because and face value there is nothing fruit or vegetable that they don’t like

    Reply
  • Hi, I am wondering if composting worms will eat geotextile fabric?, I am building above ground vegie beds and am going to line the bottom with geotextile fabric, and make a nice cosy corne in the vegie bed for the worms with access to the soil in the vegie bed, and I thought that maybe the worms might eat the geotextile fabric and be able to escape through the bottom of the box after chewing their way through

    Reply
    • I wouldn’t feed it to my girls, I would put ginger in the too spicy department along with chilli and horseradish.

      Reply
  • On the topic of ‘what NOT to feed”…..I know tomato greens can be bad for human and animals to eat, but since they are a plant are they ok for the worms?

    Reply
  • I have a jar of sauerkraut which I won’t eat, it is fresh. Can I feed it to the worms, or will it be too salty?

    Reply
    • Keith Wilson says:

      I would think it’s more the vinegar in the the sauerkraut than the salt. Vinegar is an acid, and that’s probably far to caustic for worms’ skin.

      Reply
  • Keith Wilson says:

    The “do not feed” list pretty much kills it all for me. Almost ALL newspapers have colored print throughout. I use a lot of citrus, garlic, onion and some spicy peppers with almost every meal.

    To parse this stuff out will make too much work for it to be worth it. My time is valuable, and when I invest in a worm farm I did it for convenience sake.

    Reply
  • David Mista says:

    We use a grain grinder to grind down a lot of foods into meal. but i was curious. Would worms have an issue eating dried beans? Like pinto beans that we have crushed down with our grain grinder in to a powder. Similar consistency to powdered commercial worm food.

    Reply
  • Can I feed my worms mushroom bits ? We eat tons of mushrooms and there is always some small pieces leftover from the prepping.

    Reply
  • Been doing composting since the early 70s. Lots of temporary screw-ups (trying to compost all-grass or adding weeds that have already gone to seed or stem/branch parts that haven’t fully dried out so re-root — like Forsythia stems or many kinds of vines) and tons of successes.
    Try adding small amounts of wood ashes to the citrus and allium family detritus and a general scattering of it every so often through the year. It neutralizes the acids. Sugary fruits OK if lots of the carbon materials (egg cartons, paper product rolls, used tissues, cotton-only dryer lint, non-shiny non-colored newspaper, worn out paper bags, bare cardboard, oak tag “single layer un-coated cardboard, hair trimmings and hair brush collections, etc. torn/cut up into relative small pieces) added at the same time and mixed in well. Also, tree leaves in the fall do very well as the carbon component, too.
    Egg shells I no longer add directly. Instead, I let them air dry in an empty metal can and when the can has a dozen or two empty shell sets I place it in an hot oven after baking or roasting and the heat has been turned off. Once the oven is cold, I remove the can and shells and use an empty beer bottle or wine bottle to use like a mortar and pestle to grind them into small bits. These then get sprinkled onto the vegetable growing areas, especially the tomato and pepper ones, as bio-available calcium that doesn’t alter the soil Ph but does prevent blossom end rot. (The heating makes the remaining proteins in and on the shells very brittle and the bits of shell more usable in a short time by the plants.)
    If you have a lot of seeds from seeding or preparing fresh fruits or seedy vegs, try residual oven heat to make them non-sprouting, thus keeping them from becoming weeds themselves. Strawberries don’t count.
    The most important things to keep out are salt, animal fats, dairy and meats from land animals. Un-salted, un-smoked fish remains are very welcome. Just bury them under a few inches of already working material.
    Oh, and one more thing:
    NEVER USE THE POOP OR PEE OF CARNIVOROUS PETS! Or in-house birds. NOT IN THE COMPOST OR THE GARDEN ITSELF. There are parasites present that you do NOT want to breed or ingest or expose wildlife to.

    Reply
  • I use quite a lot of vinegar for cleaning including in the toilet. We have a worm septic. Will the vinegar kill the worms. Do worms dislike vinegar, as it’s an acid? Thanks.

    Reply
  • Jennifer N. says:

    I need to know if and how soap is a problem for earthworms??? I use eco-friendly dish soap, then water my herb garden pots with the run-off. But I am concerned it may harm my earthworms. It certainly harms pests–aphids, mealybugs, etc–on my plants. Please LMK how it affects earthworms ASAP.
    My population has decreased over the last 6 months. Given it’s been very dry here in SoCal.

    Reply
    • Jennifer, sorry for a late reply, it’s my first time on the site. Almost all soaps and cleaning products have sodium. Very bad for plants. I have a large garden with a total grey water system, except toilets, and have searched long and hard for no/low sodium cleaners. The Ecos… line are good, very little sodium. Smart & Final is the best source. I buy unscented Castille soap, potassium based/no sodium, from Bulk Apothecary in gallons online at a third the cost of Dr. Bronners. Don’t use household bleach. Use hydrogen peroxide. Again, Smart & Final by the gallon. Happy gardening!
      Greg Y.

      Reply
  • Can compost worms eat raisins? I get too many in my breakfast muesli and throw some away. It wouldn’t be a lot… maybe a small handful 3 times a week. Is it too much sugar or do raisins take too long to decompose to make it worthwhile?

    Thanks

    Reply
  • I’m in my 60’s and have been gardening with earthworm composting since my teens. My Dad had an earthworm farm and gave me a pound that I added to my compost pile. Only way to go! I only restrict raw meats from the pile. With a gray water system, I channel greasy kitchen waste to the worms. I also include a lot of citrus, even whole grapefruit from my garden that don’t make the grade. These guys chew through everything in no time. I constantly add chipped garden waste, cardboard, paper and kitchen scraps. They are never more than 2″ below the surface within a few days; a beautiful writhing mass. Just my experience, maybe because of the total high volume of high carbohydrate waste they get. Happy worming!

    Reply
  • Susanne Lowe says:

    I’ve been composting with worms for over 10 years now so have a fair bit of experience. I feed them everything that has been in my kitchen along with the contents of my vacuum cleaner and 100% cotton kitchen cloths, hair, dog fur etc. I often put scraps through a blender first, especially citrus and onion scraps. When I blend I will add a little bokashi bran to the mix and if lots of citrus lime too. I also have bokashi bins where some of my scraps and my little dogs poop goes. Once fermented (about 2+ weeks) I feed that to my worms too. The bokashi includes occasional cooked meat and ground fish and chicken bones too. I do add worm pellets, lime etc every now and then to keep the acidity levels at bay and my worms thrive. None of what I do is no more time consuming than taking it all to the food recycling box that the council then take away. I also feed my worms my kombucha scrobies and excess kefir grains. My point to all this is I feed my worms everything and don’t fuss too much as long as they are munching I figure they’re happy. I did double check a while back with a “professional” worm breaded/farmer and the advice was worms eat everything. For those who claim using worm castings which contain dog poop is wrong consider the following. Is your garden free of neighbouring cats who use anyone’s but their own garden to defecate in? If you have vegetable or fruit patches I can guarantee they have peep and pooped there! If your doggie poop has been pickled in the bokashi bucket first and then fed to the worms it will be a lot less toxic than any soil already present in your garden. An interesting read is http://www.carryoncomposting.com. Something else I always do is shred all my cardboard through my paper shredder rather than tearing it up into little pieces but you need a shredder that can cope with several sheets of paper at the same time.

    Reply
  • John Spencer says:

    I have several jars of bee pollen, from a failed experiment adding it to my dog’s food, he suffers with allergies. It seems that this high protein source would be ideal for my worms, but I can find no mention of it on line. Anyone have any experience?

    Reply
  • Nancy LaPointe says:

    Please help – I have some ecoli infected lettuce – recent store warning – I hate to waste it – but not sure about giving it to my compost worms – can’t find any info .. please let me know what you think … Thank you

    Reply
  • Brock Ryan says:

    I just put in clipping from my herb garden (LOTS OF THEM) and they suddenly are fleeing the bin. Basic stuff: mints, cilantro, sage,, chives (all the herbs LOL). Maybe they are just too fragrant as they are so fresh. I mixed it up hoping that as they dry the worms will be more affectionate.

    Reply
  • Roy L. Hunt says:

    I saw a video on YouTube, after harvesting about half the worms from his wormbin, he put in a large chunk of cow shit & covered it with several Sunday Newspapers, soaked in water for a week. He then put a lid on it & said it’s good, just keep the newspapers wet.

    Reply
  • How do hot peppers effect worms. Capsaicin which is what makes hot peppers oil is an oil that mammals sense as heat. It is a fake heat. Worms are not a mammal. I don’t believe that they have receptors the sense the heat from capsaicin. I have fed my worms ghost pepper scraps. I have seen tomato horn worms munching on pods from my hottest pods.

    Reply
  • James Dickey says:

    I’ve been putting rabbit manure in newspaper cat litter (with baking soda) in my compost, and the worms have disappeared. Could it be the baking soda is toxic to the worms? If so, is there a litter which would not harm the worms? How about pine litter?

    Reply
  • Worms love the string algae from my ponds btw in case you compost with worms and have a pond. All citrus leftovers from the orchard such as lemons, grapefruit, tangerine go to the compost bins with worms. They seem to love it as they produce perfect compost very fast. Worms love paper bags from the grocery stores. Never had any issues and produce bins and bins of compost with worms for the banana plantation. Old banana trees go back into the compost as well. All good! 😉

    Reply
  • Thuy Nguyen says:

    Can you bring your theater popcorn and put it uneaten popped corn and kernels into the worm compost housing?

    Reply
  • Susan Scott says:

    I see a comment about using human hair cut up for browns. Can I use fur from my Ragdoll cat? I groom him every day and get tons on the brush.
    Also, are dry Podocarpus leaves toxic to worms?
    I also have lots of redwood needles but those are toxic, right?

    Reply
  • Mirek Lamparski says:

    I added quite a bit of radishes greens. The worms hated it and it smelled very bad! Had to remove the lot and clean the container…

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>