Earthworm Biology and Production
J. P. Martin, J. H. Black, and R. M. Hawthorne  

Cover Figure: Earthworm.

Many people are interested in raising earthworms (cover figure) as a hobby, for their own use, or as a source of income. Much interest in vermiculture (worm-raising) has been kindled by claims that earthworms:
  • Are a major factor in soil improvement.
  • Increase crop yields.
  • Can be raised with relatively little time, effort, and expense.
  • Are easily sold at high profits for a variety of uses.
  • Produce manure (castings) that can also be sold at a profit to florists, nurserymen, and home and organic gardeners.

In response to such claims, many people have entered the earthworm business in the last few years.

Despite extravagant claims of enormous potential markets for earthworms in agriculture, in large-scale waste disposal systems, and as a source of food for animals and even people, the major use of earthworms today is as bait for freshwater sport fishing. Some worms are also sold to home and organic gardening enthusiasts for soil improvement and composting of organic refuse. Although research and development activities relating to other uses for worms are underway in various places, the opening of new markets for worms and castings will be slow and somewhat uncertain. Thus, anyone interested in the earthworm business should explore the potential local markets carefully, particularly if a full-time occupation is contemplated.

Some earthworm wholesalers sell breeder stock to new growers and promise to buy the worms back from the grower at a "going wholesale price." These wholesalers then resell the worms to bait shops, home and organic gardeners, and other users. Such an arrangement could help a new grower market his produce, but his success would depend almost entirely on the wholesaler's honesty and ability to meet his obligations to the grower. Prospective growers considering such an arrangement should check carefully with their local Better Business Bureau and Chamber of Commerce, and also with the wholesaler's customers, to determine his reputation before entering into a contract.

Establishing an earthworm business should not be done on a trial and error basis. Earthworms are a form of livestock, and with any form of livestock there are certain minimum requirements of care that must be met on a regular schedule. Additionally, a production or control method effective in one geographic location may not work in another. New earthworm growers should also consider entering the business on a small scale and learn to raise worms successfully before attempting mass production. To help the potential new grower this publication describes the earthworm as a biological animal, discusses the earthworms' effect on soil improvement and fertility, and outlines proved worm-production methods and materials. All of the available information on these subjects cannot be covered herein, but readers interested in more detailed information are referred to the publications listed at the end of the text.


   Website designed by: 2001-2004, All Rights Reserved.