leaf compost food for worms

What Do Worms Eat? an earthworm’s favourite foods!

There are many different types of worms in the world, but for the most part, when talking about the worms we find in the soil in our garden, allotment and fields are earthworms. So let’s find out – what do worms eat?

What do worms eat?

Earthworms eat organic matter like leaves, grass, fruit, vegetables, and microbes dead or alive. Organic material just means that at one time it was part of a living thing.

Types of Earthworms

There are typically four different types of earthworms which can be separated by the main type of food they prefer to eat. They are:

Anecic earthworms find decaying plant matter laying on the ground and bring it to their burrow in the soil before eating it. The entrances to Anecic burrows can be easily identified by a small mound of worm castings (poo) built up around the entrance. They burrow deep vertical shafts into the soil up to 2 meters deep. They often burrow a small horizontal tunnel off the main vertical shaft to deposit their cocoons or take shelter from stormy weather. They prefer fresh organic material over well-rotted food. These earthworms are large and have pigmented (coloured) skin – usually brown in colour. Aneic earthworms will come to the surface at night to feed on roots of the grass in the soil and leaves or manure. These are the most typical worms found in our garden soil.

Compost earthworms are usually found in compost heaps. They will eat decaying plant matter and manure which has either been mixed through soil or is still in the compost heap. This compost will have already started decomposing. They prefer warm moist environments with a plentiful supply of composted material. They are usually redder in colour with some striping.

Endogeic earthworms live in shallow horizontal burrows under the ground. They live in and feed on the soil. Endogeic earthworms are very pale grey, green, pink, or blue in colour. They are usually found in mineral soils high in organic matter

Epigeic earthworms live in and eat partially decomposed logs, tree stumps and deep leaf litter. They do not live in soil and they do have pink coloured pigmented skin.

earthworms in soil

The best type of food to give earthworms.

The best type of foods to give earthworms is:

Nitrogen-rich green waste such as:

All types of vegetable scraps, most types of fruit waste, used tea bags, coffee grounds, and crushed up eggshells.

Carbon-rich brown waste such as:

Paper cuttings, cardboard cuttings, coco coir, newspaper, horse manure or aged compost.

Foods that can be given to earthworms but in limited amounts are:

Citrus fruits, onions, garlic, horseradish, chilli peppers, breakfast cereals bread and pasta. These foods are either too pungent or too high in energy which upsets the earthworms digestive system.

The worst type of food to give earthworms is:

Human waste or pet waste, poisonous plants or plant cuttings which have been sprayed with chemicals, oils, fats or greases, and non-degradable items such as plastic.

Earthworms favourite food

Earthworms like eating any part of pumpkins, canteloupe, squash, watermelon or honeydew melon. In fact, they love any member of the Cucurbitaceae family. They prefer these types of foods as they are high in sugar and will break down very quickly. Be aware that these fruits are very high in water and will turn your compost heap into a wet mess if you don’t add something to dry up the liquid such as cardboard.

Other great foods for earthworms are waste bananas, apples, coffee grounds, cow and horse manure, vegetable waste, wood chippings, twigs and small branches, grass clippings and leaves – these foods are great for worms.

Get your own composting bin and start composting today!

Further reading