The Best Composting Worms

Worm Types

It is important that you're familiar with the different types of composting worms. You must know in advance what each worm requires in order to be successful in your worm composting endeavor.

Rougly 4,400 different worm species have been identified. They are grouped according to the animal classification divisions of phyla, order, genus, species.

These divisions represent their physical characteristics such as body color, shape and size and ecological functions such as burrowing abilities and food preferences.

This, in turn, allows researchers to categorize earthworms in ecological classes as epigeic, anecic and endogeic.

Epigeic

Eisenia fetida

(red wiggler, manure worm, red composting worms)


  • Small reddish/brown worm, 1.5-2.5 inches long.

  • Live in the upper litter layer of the soil.
  • Ingest large quantities of decomposing vegetation (detritus) material. They can eat up to 1/2 their weight in feed/day.

  • Most widely used worm species for composting as it is most adaptive to moisture and temperature extremes than other species.

  • Produce 3.8 cocoon per adult per week.

  • Each cocoon contains between 8-20 eggs, but on average only 3.3 worms will actually hatch.

  • Hatching occurs in about 3 weeks.

  • 53-76 days to sexual maturity.

  • 85-149 days from egg to maturity.

  • Ideal temperature ranges from 70-80°F.

  • Minimum: 38°F; Maximum: 95°

  • Moisture content ranges from 43-90 %.

  • pH levels between 5-9.

  • Prefers higher protein:carbon feed.

  • Extremely tolerant of handling and has the widest range of feedstocks.

  • Makes a very good fresh water bait worm for wide-mouth bass and trout due to its vigorous wiggling.

    Eudrilus Eugeniae

    (African Nightcrawler)


  • Commonly over six inches long.

  • Good composting worms and fishing bait worm.

  • 35-51 days to sexual maturity.

  • Prefer temperatures of 75ºF- 85ºF, will tolerate 45º-90ºF.

  • Cannot tolerate extreme cold.

  • Dislikes disruption of environment and handling.

    An interesting research study on the African nightcrawler can be read here.

    Eisenia hortsenis

    (European nightcrawler)


  • Larger worm for compost, but lives deeper in the bin.

  • Likes higher carbon:protein feed.

  • Slower reproduction, shorter life span.

  • 1.6 cocoons per adult per week,1.1 babies per cocoon.

  • Net reproduction of 1.4 young per adult per week.

  • From Egg To Sexual Maturity = 85 Days.

    Anecic


    Lumbricus terrestris (common nightcrawler)
  • Large deep burrowing worms that come to the surface when it is time to feed.

  • Burrows are semi permanent and may extend six feet down.

  • Help aerate the soil and improve water retention.

  • Not suitable for worm composting; better for fishing bait.


    Endogeic


  • Aporrectodea caliginosa
  • Frequently encountered in farming systems.

  • Lives in the first 4-8 inches of soil, they produce horizontal burrows.

  • Tends to be medium size and pale in color(indicates sub-soil dweller.

  • They are important in root decomposition, soil mixing, and aeration.


    As you can see, it's best to leave the "soil" eaters where they are. In fact, if you try and switch both sets of worms to the other's natural habitat, they will die.

    My composting worm stock is Eisenia fetida as it works best at our altitude and winter temps that can drop into the 20's. I would like to try the Eudrilus, but they don't like it that cold.

    Now that you've read about the different composting varieties, you just might want to experiment and try one or several of them.

    Variety is the spice of life...... and worm composting!

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