Which underground animal can take the shape of a dollar sign? A worm!
And while there are those who make good money farming worms at home, there is another way to profit from these wigglers without breeding them in your house or garage. You can make good money collecting worms in their natural environment.
Worms have several distinct markets, though the most common is as fishing bait. As children, my brothers and I dug up worms in the woods and sold them by the dozen to neighbors who liked to fish. We put them in paper cups or any containers we could find.
Another market is gardeners. Worms, especially red worms, aerate and fertilize the soil, making it better for growing vegetables. You can also sell worms as pet food for birds, snakes, fish and some other small animals.
So how do you collect them for sale? Here are a couple of ways to get you started.
Dig for Wiggly Treasures
You can simply do as we did as children, and dig for worms. They’re especially populous where you see rotting organic matter, like under old piles of leaves or grass clippings. The hardwood forests of northern Michigan were our best hunting grounds. Unfortunately, digging for them is probably the least-efficient way to gather earthworms.
Grunt for a Living
If you watch Mike Rowe’s TV show “Dirty Jobs,” you may have seen the episode on worm grunting. In it, Gary Revell demonstrates how he makes a living doing this. Basically, you pound a wooden stake called a “stob” into the ground and rub a “rooping iron” (a flat piece of metal) across the top. The resulting vibrations cause all the nearby worms to come out of the ground, where you can easily pick them up.
If you’re good enough, you can show off your skills and be crowned the worm grunting king or queen at the annual Worm Gruntin’ Festival in Sopchoppy, Florida.
Pluck Them off the Pavement
Worms come out of the ground when it rains heavily. Various theories attempt to pinpoint the cause of this earthworm exodus (and you get to see them mating if you watch that video). Recent studies suggest that the vibrations caused by rain drops sound like those made by moles, and coming out of the ground is the worm’s attempt to prevent being eaten.
Driveways, sidewalks and parking lots are sometimes covered with thousands of worms after a good rain. All you have to do is pick them up and put them in buckets full of loose dirt.
Preparing and Selling Your Worms
Keep the worms in buckets or bins of very loose soil, and package them by the dozen or by the pound when you are ready to sell them. Wet crumpled newspaper is often used as bedding for storage and transport.
Many types of containers will work if you’re selling them in person at local fishing spots, or door-to-door to gardeners. For example, a case of 1,000 foam bowls and a case of lids to fit them will cost you about $100 on Amazon.com — about 10 cents each. That’s not bad if it’s your only expense for a dozen worms that sell for $1.50. Be sure to punch holes in the lids to allow air in.
If you plan to sell online and ship your worms to customers, you’ll need boxes. According to WormsEtc.com, it is usually best to ship your product using the U.S. Postal Service because they have a better record of safely delivering the worms alive and because UPS and Federal Express require that you become a certified shipper.
How Much Can You Make Selling Worms?
That depends on the worm type, the size and the market. At the moment, red worms on Amazon.com sell for about $9 for 300.
Night crawlers from family operations sell for about $30 to $32 per pound. You’ll sell about 350 to 400 night crawlers per pound, so you’ll be getting approximately $0.08 each if you sell them retail in bulk.
At local fishing spots near me, nightcrawlers fetch $2 per dozen.
In addition to retailing your worms, you can wholesale them to stores. They’re found in the sporting goods department of some Walmart stores, and usually bought from local suppliers. Bait shops are the most obvious wholesale market. You can also try selling to pet stores that carry worm-eating animals. (Like this idea? Click to tweet it!)
Your Turn: Would you consider worm grunting to make some extra cash?