I'm starting a garden and wondering if worm that are sold for fishing bait can be used in a garden? I'm adding corn meal peels, manure, etc, into the soil.
You should contact your county agricultural extension agent to check about the use of worms in the garden as well as what species. There are areas where fishing bait worms are considered an invasive species.
Long considered a gardener’s friend, earthworms can loosen and aerate the soil. But the story is different in the Great Lakes region. The last Ice Age wiped out native earthworms 10,000 years ago, and ever since the Northeast forest has evolved without the crawlers, Hale says. But now earthworms are back, a product of fishers who toss their worms into the forest, of off-road vehicles and lumber trucks that carry them in the treads of their tires, and of people who bring in mulch—and any worms that might be in it—from other areas.
As invasive creatures, the earthworms wreak the most havoc with hardwood forests, such as those consisting of maple, basswood, red oak, poplar or birch species. (Conifer-dominated forests seem to experience less dramatic impacts.) According to Peter Groffman, a microbial ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y., northern hardwood forests have relied on thick layers of leaf litter that serve as a rooting medium. The earthworms, Groffman reports, “come into an area with a thick organic mat, and two to five years later that layer is gone.”
From the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources What's the big deal about earthworms in Minnesota?
Non-native "red wiggler" earthworms are sold and shipped all over the country for home compost piles and vermicomposting (worm composting) operations. Thus far, they are not known to survive Minnesota winters. However, if they or other species are able to survive winter and escape from compost piles they could further harm native forests. If you have a compost pile in a forested area, do not introduce additional non-native earthworms. If you are concerned about spreading non-native worms with your compost, you can kill worms and their eggs by freezing the compost for at least 1 week. See the brochure "A B C's of Composting with Earthworms Safely" pdf This link leads to an external site. by Great Lakes Worm Watch for more info.
Just about all the earthworms found in Northland forests are foreign, including nightcrawlers and angleworms, and their impacts are most noticeable in vegetation on the forest floor, the study reports.
Those changes include a decline in native plant species diversity, increased non-native plants from Europe (like buckthorn) and an increase in grasses moving into forests.
The Great Lakes Worm Watch is a web site with information about earthworms as an invasive species group as there are a number of different species.
Yes, you can use fishing worms in your garden. However there are a few things to be aware of.
Worms sold for bait are typically one of the larger species. Canadian Night Crawlers and Alabama Jumpers are two varieties commonly sold for bait.
The worms used in vermicomposting are most often Red Wigglers. These are quite small, and wouldn't make the best bait for that reason.
Red Wigglers are preferred for vermicomposting because they breed rapidly and consume great amounts of vegetable matter. They tend to live within the compost at the surface rather than deeper in the soil. This limits their utility in a garden as they would not carry organic matter deep into the soil column, offer the other soil engineering benefits that their larger cousins do. Their "above ground" habit also limits their ability to survive harsh winters.
The Night Crawlers and Jumpers, on the other hand, live much deeper in the ground. They come to the surface to feed on organic matter, and then carry that up to several feet deep where it is deposited in their castings. These larger worms are also more useful in a garden setting because their deeper burrows promote soil aeration and drainage, too.