What do I do with the worms in my compost?

I love my compost bins, tucked away behind the garage. It’s so quiet and private back there (a big thing in a city backyard) and smells of leaves and rain and the forest.

I finally got around to screening my compost. Oh, what beautiful stuff. It’s not such good work for my back, but good for the rest of me (thigh muscles, spirit, etc.).

This was the best batch of compost I’ve made yet. Full of worm castings, hummus and rich black stuff. And worms. I’ve never seen so many worms (except maybe on RIT’s sidewalks after a heavy rain).

What am I supposed to do with the worms in the compost? Put them back into the pile? Put them in the garden? Eat them for dinner?

I tried hard to sift the compost lightly, to reduce the likelihood of grinding any worms on the hardware cloth. I probably cut a few in half as they desperately tried to wriggle through the holes into the lovely black screened compost beneath. Most of my worms went into the screened compost and then into the garden. I figure the garden can always use them. And, since I didn’t put any worms in the bin to begin with, they migrated from somewhere on their own and more worms will find the bin again for the next batch.

In order to answer my question — so I know what to do next time — I turned, as always to the Internet. Not, say, the Cornell Cooperative Extension, a reliable source of knowledgeable information. Why do that when you have Google at your fingertips?

What I found? Not much.

In worm composting (where you have a couple of pounds of worms in a bin!), you put the worms back in the bin. Gives me the heebies just thinking about it. I can touch worms, with gloves on. But I don’t want 2 lbs of the them in a container, thanks.

According to compostinfo.com:

Screening Compost

Your composting system may not break down all the larger materials, such as corncobs or wood chips, in the first batch of compost that you make. When you screen your compost, any material larger than your screen size can be removed. These materials are called “overs” which can go back into the compost system the next time that you build a pile. The overs provide bulk for aeration and microbes attached to these pieces will help jumpstart the new composting process.

Yes, nothing about worms.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has directions on how to build a free-standing compost screen, but, again, no worm info.

Surely I can’t be the only person with this question? I guess I’ll have to ask the Co-operative Extension folks at the South Wedge Farmer’s Market this week after all.