Red Wigglers (eisenia fetida) are from the same family as the
common earthworm or Night Crawlers (Lumbricus terrestris) you
see on your driveway after a rain. The main reason Red Wigglers
are preferred vermiculture specialists is their diet. Composting
worms, such as the Red Wigglers and Europen Night Crawlers need
a lot of nitrogen. They get the nitrogen from the organic food
scraps we feed them or in the wild, what ever they may find in
a compost pile. Another important difference is that Canadian
Night Crawlers like to draw food down into burrows (up to 6 feet
deep), whereas Red Wigglers prefer to eat on the go. Being top
feeders, Red Wigglers and Euros scavenge for food just 6" - 12"
below the surface, making them perfect for a composting environment.
No bones about it!
Did you know that worms do not have any bones. Their bodies are made
up of hundreds of small rings called 'Segments'. They move by manipulating
each segment with tiny circular muscles beneath their skin. They secrete
a slippery fluid that let's them move easily through the earth.
No eyes, no ears, but lots of heart!
Worms do not have eyes or ears but are very sensitive to light. They
generally avoid bright sunshine. Each worm has 5 hearts, so you gotta
love them! Their bodies are sensitive to movement and vibrations. It
is hard to sneak up on a worm. Worms usually know when people are near
simply by the vibrations they make by walking.
Worms are cold-blooded creatures, their body temperature is determined
by their surroundings. Red Wigglers are most active when the temperature
is kept between 16° - 28°C (60° - 80°F). They become sluggish and eat
less when the temperature falls out of this range.
Worms are Hermaphrodites. That means that each worm has both
female and male sex organs. You may have noticed a swollen area
about 1/3 the way down the length of some worms. This area is
called the Clitellum. The presence of this section signifies
that the worm is sexually mature. Worms will join together tightly
to exchange fluids. Each worm will collect sperm from a partner
and then store it for a few days. This time lag is to ensure that
worm's own sperm dies off before fertilization takes place. Eventually,
the sticky substance around the Clitellum will harden
and form into a cocoon. The worm will back out, sliding the cocoon
over its head. Eggs and sperm are deposited in the cocoon as it
passes along the worm's body. The cocoons (or egg sacs) are deposited
in the soil to incubate. Each cocoon can contain up to
20 fertilized eggs, the average is 2 - 6. After around 3 weeks
the cocoon will hatch and the baby worms will emerge, hungry and
ready to eat.