WORMS – AND THEIR KEEPING

I’ve just been watching a video posted by ‘Avon Angler UK’ on YouTube entitled “The Cheap & Easy Way To Keep Nightcrawlers / Worms – How To Keep Them Indefinitely” … and here’s the link to that …  LOBWORM VIDEO … and as I’ve been meaning to do a blog/YouTube on the subject of worm keeping myself it’s sort of kicked me into action to tell my way of doing things!

For info, ‘Nightcrawlers’ is the American term for the worm that we know as the lobworm and, as I believe most of our commercially sourced (tackle shop) lobworms are actually imported from Canada and the USA, is probably the correct term for the purchased variety, with manually collected by the angler ones being ‘Lobworms’ although I’m not really sure if they are identical or related versions. Also although there are worm breeders in the UK I’m not sure if they actually breed lobworms or buy them in from America as lobworms are extremely difficult to breed due to their lifestyle and their type of sexual union. Brandlings/dendrobaenas/redworms/tiger worms are easier to breed and, if purchased, will have been UK bred.

Right, as I generally only use dendrobaenas (aka dendros) – although I have at times added tiger worms to the stock so probably not pedigree dendros these days – but I did use lobworms back in the day and so  I’ll just cover these two species in depth. The limit to my red worm knowledge is that if you have a compost bin into which you put your grass cuttings then at some time you’ll discover an ample supply crawling around the damp top of the bin trying to escape … but as I find them to small for my own purposes I’ve never collected them up.

LIFESTYLES and CATCHING

Dendros … are a ‘composting’ worm and feed mainly on the fungus that grows on rotting vegetation rather than the vegetation itself as commonly believed. So they live naturally in the earth/soil, usually with 12” of the surface and generally would get harvested by digging in a compost heap or similar ground type.

Lobworms  … actually live in the roots of grass and are usually only 1”-2” beneath the surface of the ground. At night they rise from their burrows to collect dying vegetation such as fallen leaves to drag underground for a food store – and this is the cause of the leaves you see sticking up vertically on grass patches – the leaves haven’t fallen and stuck in the ground like a spear under gravity, the lobs have grabbed them and pulled them into their burrows. Another indication of the presence of lobworms are ‘worm casts’ on the grass surface – small piles of soil created by thin strings of soil caused by the worms passing soil though their bodies as they burrow. Lobs also need to come to the surface to mate which they do by lying side by side with their ‘saddles’ together (NOTE: it is etiquette to avoid disturbing the copulating worms at this time!). Lobs usually surface on warm, damp, dark nights and at that time can be spotted simply by roaming the grassy area with a dim torch … and then comes the tricky bit – catching them! Lobs are sensitive to light (how much so depends greatly on their usual environment – worms in a usually dark quiet area are much more cautious than the worms that live in an area such as a lit roadside grass verge where passing traffic and light are the norm. So, you need to be stealthy by using as dim a light source for your torch as is possible and search by treading slowly and very lightly… as the worms lie with their tails anchored in their burrows the merest disturbance can see the worm disappear back into its burrow in the matter of milliseconds.

Steps to catching lobworms … venture out on a warm damp night – after rain is a good time – and using all caution as advised above start your search … on spotting a target get as close as necessary in order to be able to grab the visible part of the worm as close to its burrow as possible and then quickly grip/trap the worm at that point – a pocket with some sharp sand that allows you dip your finger in can help with the grip – BUT do NOT pull the worm as doing that will many times mean you end up with a broken worm….

NEVER KEEP BROKEN WORMS! DOING SO MEANS THAT IT CAN DIE AND ITS DECOMPOSITION CAN LEAD TO THE DEATH OF THE HEALTHY WORMS!

… just hold for a few seconds to prevent it pulling back into the burrow and the worm will relax and can be slid out and placed in your bait box … and then go search for the next – which can be within 12”!. On an average night its possible to collect well over 100 in 30 minutes … as I used to back in the day BUT health and age has meant too much backache for me these days PLUS in the days of cutback my catching ground suffered… I used to collect from the grass verge of the main road through our estate … as lit by street lights and worms were used to vibration due to passing traffic the worms were not ultra cautious and at times I’d get 200 in 30 minutes … BUT in those days the grass verges were cut to golf green status weekly with the cuttings removed and the surrounds of lampposts tidied by the use of strimmers .. then came the cutbacks with the grass cut once every couple of months so post-cutting the grass is now twice as high as they were pre-cutting, cut by rotary mower not cylinder with the cuttings left on the surface, and the lamppost surrounds are now poisoned with weedkillers instead of strimmed … last time I went worming there I managed just 20 straggly worms in 2 hours!!

I did buy 100 lobs to try seeding our back lawns some years ago … but I’ve never seen one worm there since … but then again I am competing with several nocturnal visitors for them – several foxes and badgers! Plus several dozen magpies!

Hence lobworms are off my bait list as buying in is far too expensive.

KEEPING/STORING WORMS

Lobworms I used to simply store in a small (25/50 litre?) flip top bin with small holes drilled in the base and kept in the corner of the garden shaded from direct sunlight between the rear hedge and a rhododendron bush. No need for a tight fitting lid as lobworms are not escape artists like dendros, etc and their keeping media was simply peat free compost with a few grass cuttings, decaying foliage and used tea leaves added for their nourishment. The media was checked regularly and kept damp. BTW – use ONLY USED tea leaves … unused tea leaves are NOT good for them!

The lobs remained happy in this although the environment wasn’t conducive to breeding and as they were used up they needed to be replenished as and when – but a good night’s worming soon sorted that and often only needed to be topped up once a year, usually just before June 16th ….

Dendros/Tigers/Brandlings I started off by purchasing 1Kg from a worm seller a couple of years ago … and are stored in a large woven plastic sack (weave allows good drainage) with a base media of peat free compost to which kitchen organic slops (old spuds, carrots, cabbage, etc – NOTE: NO MEAT/DAIRY BASED NOR ACIDIC MATERIALS SUCH AS CITRUS FRUITS, ONIONS, ETC. EGG SHELLS ARE ADDED TO PROVIDE CALCIUM AS WELL AS TO NEUTRALISE ANY ACIDIC BYE PRODUCTS!!!. The sack has its neck secured tightly with a re-useable cable tie in order to prevent the worms escaping … and is then placed inside a small surplus wheelie bin (council went from weekly collections to fortnightly and provided larger bins and we were allowed to keep the original for our own uses) that has small holes drilled through for aeration and drainage … which has a small upturned bucket in the base to keep the bag off the bottom to increase drainage/aeration. The bin now holds probably more than the number of worms I originally purchased – and bigger and fatter too, many like mini-lobs. Stored by the greenhouse in the shelter of some small conifers, its great for access to worms at any time of the year – blazing drought to freezing icebound make no difference. In use, and to prevent over disturbing, I simply fill a bait box of worms which I’ll then  use for several sessions. I store the bait box and unused worms after each session in the fridge or on the concrete floor of the garage switching between them as needed to keep worms in good condition … and every 2-3 months I replace the worms in the bait box with fresh worms from the stock bag whilst adding the old worms back to the bag to get back some fitness for future use….

SO … all very easy and ensures a constant ready supply J

WORM SUPPLIERS

For my stocks and past purchases I’ve used WILLY WORMS, YORKSHIRE WORMS and WORMS DIRECT.

All have been very good….

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