Earthworms will eat most things that have lived.
Generally speaking, earthworms are quite specialised. In their preferred habitat, some earthworms have a preference for different types of bacteria. In turn, different bacteria prefer different types of organic matter. Some bacteria prefer protein substances and other prefer carbohydrates. So in different instances you will find different earthworms enjoying different foodstuffs.
Feed For Earthworms
Earthworms develop and breed best on a balanced diet of protein from meat, legumes and manures, cellulose and sugars and starch from plants. There should be more cellulose and carbohydrates than protein in their diet. Try to maintain a carbon nitrogen ratio of 20:1 for healthy earthworms.
Some materials are preferable to others. The following list is long but not comprehensive.
- Blood: Goes well with sawdust and other porous materials.
- Cardboard: Earthworms love it, very low in protein, shred well and mix with other materials. The glue in cardboard contains boron so do not over do it.
- Chicken Litter: less harmful than straight manure, but should still be mixed at one part per ten of other cellulose materials such as rice hulls, cardboard or sawdust.
- Clover Hay: Good also.
- Comfrey: Shredded leaves, increases potassium (K) levels.
- Commercial Animal Feeds: These can contain whole grains and should not be introduced to beds because they can cause acidity lower in the bedding materials, feed without grain lumps is ideal but expensive, it should be wet.
- Cow Manure: An excellent feed, some cattle drenches are deadly, wet feed lot manures and mix with porous materials.
- Deciduous Leaves: Great, add crushed lime stone
- Grit and Ground Limestone: Helps the earthworms digestive process in gizzard.
- Hoof and Horn: Extremely high in nitrogen, mix with lesser materials.
- Horse Manure: Not high in protein, if the horses have been drenched then the manure should be heaped for a month and leached of the drenches which are designed to kill worms, mix horse manure with higher protein feeds, race horses generally have higher protein manure.
- Lawn Clippings: Mix with other materials.
- Lucerne Hay: Excellent, high in protein, best mulched and mixed with cardboard or sawdust.
- Lupin Hay: Not high in protein but still great.
- Meat or Fish: Should be minced mixed with other porous materials and covered on the bed.
- Oaten Hay: Excellent except for grains, should be mulched and composted.
- Paper: Shred and mix with nitrogenous materials.
- Pea and Bean Straw: Excellent.
- Pig Manure: Earthworms love it, it smells and should be covered by straw to avoid neighbour troubles and flies, requires leaching to reduce salts, where pigs feed contains copper salt additives reduce the ratio of pig manure to one-quarter of feed.
- Rabbit Manure: Ideal, and there are friendly rabbit farmers around, one actually places his wire based hutches over his worm beds as an automatic feeder.
- Sheep Manure: High in protein, can contains salts and should be leached, mix with some porous material.
- Seaweed: Great, blend with other materials.
Around 70% of household waste can be recycled by earthworms. Unfortunately most households produce more waste then the average domestic worm farm requires, but just remember the more you can recycle with earthworms, the better it is for the environment. Additionally if there are larger scale farms producing earthworms in your area , maybe you could approach the farmer about supply your household waste, say once a week.
How do Earthworms Eat
In compact soil, swallowing is the earthworms main way of moving about. Earthworms ingest maybe 50% of what they encounter depending on the make-up of the soil. Earthworms have to extract their nutrients from the soil, to get the little sustenance they need, they have to ingest a relatively huge amount.
Earthworms ingest their food by pushing the inside of their mouths forward and inside out. They grip onto the chosen morsel with their oesophagus and then pull it inwards, closing their mouth over the food particle. The food is then passed onto their digestive tract.
All earthworms are essentially a hollow tube. The tube-like digestive tract is surrounded by muscle, like a section of bicycle tube, which runs the length of the body. This muscle, in turn, is wrapped in a series of muscles that ring the body. These segmental muscles are filled with water. As liquids are incompressible, these water filled muscles provide the key to a earthworms locomotion. The skin forms the earthworms outer sheath.