Red Worms, Africans and European Earthworms

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Posted by Tim Herron Farms on May 1, 2011 at 7:10 AM

Worm Facts

The Dendrobaena Worm, full name Dendrobaena veneta (also known as the European night crawler & Eisenia hortensis), is a very tough and particularly wriggly worm, making them ideal as worms for fishing. They are surface feeders who are sensitive to light. The worms' eagerness to escape light is what makes them squirm so much in daylight. To ensure that you don't find your bucket of worms empty, you need to keep the lid on in the dark.

The Dendrobaena worm has the ability to consume large amounts of vegetable matter, up to half their body weight a day. A sexually mature Dendrobaena weighs anything from 1 to 2.5+ grams.

The temperature range at which the Dendrobaena thrives, that is breeds, is between 12 to 18 degrees Celsius. In warmer temperatures, their metabolism increases so they eat more food in warmer temperatures, up to 25 degrees Celsius. If the temperature raises too much above this they can get very stressed and will die at high temperatures. Therefore if you have a portable wormery it needs to be kept in the shade in the summer months and in the sun in the winter months, or even indoors. Moisture is very important as worms need it to breathe through their skin, although do not drown them. In ideal conditions, a single worm will produce approximately 2 young per week. Cocoons are laid which normally contain 1 worm taking anything from 40 to 128 days to hatch. Dendrobaenas take 57 to 86 days to reach sexual maturity.


Watch the worms wriggle:

You need not worry about any escapees as Dendrobaenas are indigenous to this country and are a friendly lot, posing no threat to any other earthworms.

Recently we have heard a lot of talk about the Tiger worm versus the Dendrobeana worm and their suitability for composting your kitchen scraps. To be fair we have decided to put together some facts about the Tiger worms so that you can make up your minds for yourselves.

Being Dendrobaena worm farmers we know how successful Dendrobaenas are and the hundreds of tonnes of food that they get through on our farm. Being livestock farmers we are also familiar with the Tiger worm which can be found in any partially composted dung/compost heap.

The Tiger worm to a certain degree is a myth, it obviously exists but is not a distinct breed as is commonly thought. The scientific name is Eisenia foetida, also known as Redworm, Red Wiggler, Brandlings or Manure Worm amongst other names. It was the distinct banding that developed when the worms were farmed in a single medium, paper pulp, that led them to be named tiger worms. On entering an environment different to that in which they are bred, they tend to go wandering due to the shock of the environmental change. We get these small wild worms entering our worm beds. For this reason we only use the outdoor beds for breeding composting worms. If worms are ordered for fishing we only use pure dendrobaenas bred indoors to prevent contamination by the smaller worms not appropriate for fishing. This infiltration of Redworms into our beds has enabled us to see the advantages of Dendrobaenas in wormery like conditions i.e. the larger Dendrobaenas aerate the beds better and prefer wetter conditions often found in wormeries.

Like the Dendrobaena, the Tiger worm is an Epigeic worm, i.e. they live on the surface of the soil or in the top 6 inches or so of the topsoil under the litter layer. Both are indigenous to this country. Both worms can tolerate temperatures from 3 to 27 degrees celsius. Our Dendrobeanas have survived snowfall and frosts on our outdoor beds without any insulation! Worms will burrow down to protect themselves. A single Tiger worm will produce approximately 2-4 young per week. Cocoons are laid which normally contain 2 worms taking anything from 32 to 73 days to hatch. Tigers take 53 to 76 days to reach sexual maturity. As a guide, in ideal conditions, you can expect to double the weight of your Tiger worm population in 3-4 months.

The Tiger is supposed to eat up to its own weight in food each day, its weight being from 0.5 to 1 gram. However we have found that Tiger worms eat no more, if not less, weight for weight than dendrobaenas.

We do not have a surplus of worms to shift, in fact we have to work extremely hard to meet demand. It would be far easier for us to supply less worms with our wormeries (and cheaper), but we continue to provide 1kg of worms as we know that this amount gives our customers the best chance of making their wormeries a success.

We have done our own trials in controlled conditions, feeding the same amount of food to two large trays of worms. One tray contained dendrobaena worms and the other contained an identical weight of tigers. At the end of the trail the tiger worms had bred more but the dendrobaenas had eaten more food and had produced a greater quantity and quality of wormcast i.e. the compost was broken down better and was much finer.

In summary, both Dendrobaenas and Tigers are effective composting worms. However we have found Dendrobaenas ideally suited to wormery conditions because they like wetter conditions, will tolerate slightly acidic conditions better and being larger and more robust they are more efficient at aerating the compost. This is handy as the natural composting process can cause your wormery to become acidic should you overfeed or forget to neutralise the PH of your wormery with eggshells or lime.

Tiger worms do breed faster than dendrobaenas.

In our experience of breeding the two types of worms in controlled conditions, Dendrobaenas digest waste quicker and more efficiently than tiger worms producing quality wormcast at a much faster rate.

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