Information on Red Wiggler Worms

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Red wiggler worms are composters and are used in household compost buckets to process decaying material.
Red wiggler worms are composters and are used in household compost buckets to process decaying material. (Image: earthworm image by ril from Fotolia.com)

Red wiggler worms, also known as redworms, manure worms and compost worms are very important to the planet's well being. They aid in the digestion of the earth’s soil by breaking down material in the dirt. These worms are typical earthworms called an annelids or "ringed" species, meaning that their bodies are segmented on the outside and inside. In addition to providing compost, red wigglers are popular species used as fishing bait and for feeding larger animals, such as reptiles and birds.

Composters

Red wiggler worms or eisenia foetida are composters. These worms live in the top 12 inches of soil, and eat bacteria from decaying organic material turning it into nutrients for the soil called humus. Composting with red wigglers is beneficial and can reduce household waste, provide free soil enhancer, reduce the amount of electricity used when operating a garbage disposal and spawn more worms for fishing and feeding.

Vermicomposting

Red wiggler worms are particularly useful for urban composters, since they can be placed in a compost bin and kept indoors. After laying a moist bed of moss or shavings, food waste is placed on top of the bed for the worms to eat. Mary Appelhof, author of “The Worms Ate My Garbage,” suggests weighing the food you could compost for one week. Provide one square foot of surface area per pound of food for your worms. Applehof gives a ratio of one pound of worms per day of food waste.

Reproduction of Red Worms

It takes 8 to 10 weeks for a worm to reach sexual maturity. Red wigglers are asexual, meaning they have both male and female reproductive organs. Once a worm has formed a clitellum or a red band around its body, it can breed. Two worms will lay together and form the clitella around both of their bodies and secrete sperm. Once this is completed they will slide out of the band of clitella and go about their lives. Then the clitella secretes another chemical called albumin. The albumin forms a cocoon around the worm eggs and fertilizes them. A red worm cocoon is the size of a grape seed and will change color as it ages; when the cocoon is a deep red color you’ll know that your worms are about to hatch.

Red Worm Environment

If you are keeping worms as bait or feed, a simple chicken mash is a good source of nutrients for them. It is important that the worms you feed your birds or reptiles are well fed themselves, as this will aid in providing nutrients to your pets. If you are composting you can add fruit and vegetable peels, coffee grounds, egg shells and tea bags. However, meat and dairy products often rot and smell bad (attracting rodents) and it is recommended by cityfarmer.org to avoid adding those products to your compost. Red worms thrive at 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit; however, they can tolerate colder conditions. A bed of peat moss, shredded cardboard or dead plant matter must be laid down as a home for the worms. Never mix your food waste into the bedding, this will cause illness in the worms and death.

Worms as Business

Raising red worms can be a good way to supplement income and work from home. The environment needed to do this is adaptable and can be done in anything from a warehouse to a basement. They are easy to grow and it can be a family project. If your worms are well cared for they will pay off by multiplying. One-thousand mature red worms can become 500,000 within a year. Be careful not to sell off your breeder worms during the first season. One way to make sure that you don’t sell breeders is to set up a "propagation box" in which the breeders will multiply. A few months later you can transfer the new young worms to a different container.

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