Worms in the Snow

Sheila Lennon of the Providence Journal asks about keeping worms alive in the snow. If you are an ER fan, you might remember an episode several years ago (Episode 38, “It’s Not Easy Being Greene,” which aired on February 1, 1996, to be exact…I know this because of these crazy guys who are more obsessed with ER than I was in those days) in which a patient came into the ER with her Can-O-Worms and asked Carol to take care of it while she was in the hospital. The worm bin was mistaken for trash and thrown away; by the time Carol found it, a crust of ice had formed around it and she feared the worst. Fortunately, the worms had burrowed into the center of the bin and stayed alive. The patient gave Carol a box of worms so she could get her own colony started.

Sadly, the worms did not go on to have a regular role on ER after that. It’s a shame, really, that worms don’t figure into the plots of more popular TV shows…and I’m not talking about “Fear Factor,” which hardly portrays worms in the positive light they deserve.

So, the lesson to take away from this is that worms can tolerate some freezing temperatures, although their numbers will certainly dwindle when they’re not in their optimal 60-70 degree temperature range. Depending on the severity of the freeze in your area, you might:

Set the bin up in the basement or garage. Really, worms are quite self-contained and not likely to go exploring as long as you keep them happy.

Keep the bin on a sheltered porch and wrap it in an insulating blanket. They can go days or even a few weeks without additional food, so you won’t have to unwrap them very much.
If you have a larger worm operation in mind, build your bin so that it is sunk into the ground (some people use old refrigerators for this) and cover it well with straw, leaves, etc. Shredded newspaper inside the bin makes great insulation and the worms will munch on it, too. Just make sure there’s drainage (like holes covered with fine mesh screens) so the worms don’t get waterlogged.My worms sit on the kitchen porch where they are protected from rain. Here in Humboldt county, the temps reach freezing a couple dozen times over the winter, and once in a great while it’ll get down in the twenties.

My experience has been that worms are, overall, content with their lot in life. They are peaceful, docile, focused on the task at hand (so to speak), and not given to complaining about the cold.