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How to Raise African Nightcrawlers

By Kurt Schanaman

African nightcrawlers are copious producers of worm castings, which are body wastes used to enrich composts and soils for crop production. African nightcrawlers need the same care as any other worm genus, requiring five fundamental essentials: proper bedding, worm feedstock, moisture, aeration and controlled temperature.

Drill 20 to 50 eighth-inch holes around the top 4 inches of each 5-gallon bucket to provide plenty of aeration for your African nightcrawlers. The holes also will allow you to stack the buckets without cutting off oxygen to the worms, which breathe from the bedding through their skins.

Measure out 1 pound of peat moss on a kitchen scale and put it in one of the 5-gallon buckets. Sprinkle the peat moss layer with 1 pint of water. Allow the water to absorb into the layer for about 15 minutes.

Place 10 African nightcrawlers on the damp peat moss layer and then add another 1-pound layer of peat moss over the worms. Sprinkle this layer with another pint of water and allow it to absorb for about 15 minutes. Repeat Steps 1 through 3 for as many buckets as you need to contain all of your worms.

Write down the pounds of bedding you put in each bucket so you can calculate how much water to use for each bucket maintenance cycle. Also record the number of worms in each bucket to prepare for adding the feedstock.

Provide your worms a feedstock, either manure or okara, on top of the bedding in each bucket. Using a permanent black marker, draw a horizontal mark where the feedstock layer rests against the side of the bucket, and use this mark to plot your worms' rate of consumption. You generally will need to provide 1 cup of feedstock per 20 worms in each bucket. Sprinkle 1 qt. of water over the feedstock to start its absorption into the bedding.

Check the moisture level of your worms' bedding in each bucket twice a week. The bedding should clump together when you lightly squeeze it in your fist. If it doesn't clump, it's time to water. First check the feedstock level and if it's low, fill it to the line you drew. Maintain that level of feed consistently. Then sprinkle on the top layer 1 pint of water for every pound of bedding you placed in the bucket.

 

Things You Will Need

  • Drill and 1/8-inch bit
  • 5-gallon buckets (one bucket per 200 worms)
  • Kitchen scale
  • Peat moss, 1 pound per 10 worms
  • Ten-pound container of okara (tofu production waste) or animal manure (beef manure preferable)
  • Water supply
  • Permanent black marker

Tip

  • African nightcrawlers are resilient enough to handle temperatures from 38 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep your worms in a place away from more extreme temperatures for the healthiest and most active worms.

Warning

  • Never use feedstock that contains oils, grease or meats. These substances coat the skins of the worms, suffocating them.

About the Author

 

Kurt Schanaman has had several editorials printed by the Star-Herald Newspaper publication in Western Nebraska. He attended Western Nebraska Community College.