If you are new to worm composting, the main question you must have is where to get some of these special worms. The short simple answer is that you can order them from us. The longer answer begins with “they are everywhere.” But, the reason “everywhere” doesn’t include your compost bin is likely that enough time has not past to allow the right worm to find its new home and enough time hasn’t past to allow a small population of worms to grow in numbers to adequately process all the food you want to provide. What worm suppliers like us do is allow you to take a short cut to having a fully functioning worm composter. That being said, there are other ways to get started raising worms:
First, try your local craigslist. There are people who are happy to share the gospel of worm composting and pass on their extra worms for a decent price. You’ve hit the jackpot if you find someone who wants you to take away composted horse manure — it is usually full of red wiggler worms.
Also, if you have a friend that worm composts, they should be happy to give you some compost from their system and this compost will almost certainly have worms and cocoons in it. Introduce this compost to your bin and in a few months you will be on your way to a suitable population of worms. If you have a good friend, they may be willing to divide out a substantial number of worms from their own supply so that your bin can become operational sooner. But, remember that if you take worms from a friend’s system that is in balance with their needs, then you’ll be reducing their ability to compost their own food scraps for some time. As a general rule, you can assume that the worm population will double in 3 to 6 months if conditions support population growth. So, taking half their worms may effect their system for a few months.
Do you have access to an outdoor compost pile? Poking around the surface debris should turn up a few worms. The 10 to 15 cm red worms that inhabit surface vegetable waste are likely to be red wigglers or their composting kin. If you don’t see worms now and can come back later without arousing suspicion, try leaving some fresh food scraps to rot and lure the worms out. I’d use banana peels, melon rinds, cucumbers or the like — anything that decomposes quickly. Come back in a week and the worms should have found your food. Introduce what you find to your worm bin and repeat as necessary.
Another fine source of worms, which was touched on when we mentioned Craigslist, is the pasture. Surely, if you can find farm animal waste that has been piled and allowed to age, there will be worms working away at decomposing the manure. If you don’t mind manure, you may be able to find large quantities of worms this way.
One suggestion that I have heard for acquiring red wigglers, that I believe to be bad advice, is to go to a fishing bait store. While some bait stores may actually sell red wigglers, more often they’ll be selling night crawlers or dew worms. These worms live a different life style than red wigglers and will not perform as well in the compost bin. Also, bait is sold by a count of individual worms. Meaning you may be buying 2 dozen worms for a few dollars, but the pound or so that you need for composing would cost you hundreds of dollars. It is just way cheaper to buy them by the pound.
To summarize, a worm supplier will get your system up and composting quickly with the right amount of working worms saving you some time, but there are alternate ways to get started.