A Worm Cocoon Has Been Born (Sort of)
A Worm Cocoon has been deposited and who wins… Euros or Reds?
We are pleased to announce the arrival of eggs. Or should I say ‘we are pleased to announce the depositing of a worm cocoon?
Yes – our very first. We were so excited and anxious to identify it without doubt, (it could have been some random seed, we thought) that we rushed inside to consult images on Google and were very miffed to find pictures of worm ‘eggs’ in groups of hundreds all at once. Our single worm cocoon seemed very paltry indeed. Never mind, though, since then I have found a few more and I am taking this as proof that we are not doing anything disastrous, that our residents are contented, well fed and generally living ‘the good life.’ It is interesting to note that the lemon-yellow colour of these first eggs tells us that they are quite recently produced. When older, the colour will be a darker red-brown.
The cycle of reproduction in worms is fascinating and you can read more about it here. I seem to have ended up with two types of the creatures in my worm farm. Some are Eisenia Foetida (also known as Red Wigglers, Tiger Worms or Brandlings) while others are not so red-brown in colour and I believe these may be Eisenia Hortensis, a.k.a. European Night Crawlers. The supplier did say there would be a mixed bag. The method of reproduction for both is similar, if slightly different in timing and there will not be any inter-breeding.
Incidentally, there are some astounding stories told of the breeding capacity of both species, with some folk swearing by the super-virility of the Wigglers and others maintaining that the Crawlers are better. Research seems to show variables in diet and habitat account for some of the differences and genetic factors and over-enthusiasm, answer for the rest.
In trying to find an answer this question, I took the opportunity to visit one of my favourite vermiculture blogs, www.redwormcomposting.com to see what Bentley Christie had to say. He has been running an experiment on reproduction in these same worms for some months now and it is well worth reading his blog where he details his findings over the period.
He introduces us to one of the definitive texts on vermiculture, viz. “Vermiculture Technology” by Clive A. Edwards et al. (this book is based on a number of academic studies centred around several species of composting worms including both Eisenia Foetida and Euros., in various countries and situations.) It is rather expensive, but it is a mine of information for we new wormers and chunks of it may be accessed on the internet.
In Chapter 3, “Biology and Ecology of Earthworm Species Used for Vermicomposting.” by Jorge Dominguez and Clive Edwards we find the following information.
EISENIA FOETIDA (Red Wigglers, Brandlings, Tiger Worms)
Worm Cocoon Production – 2.45-3.5 cocoons per adult worm per week.
Time to Hatching – 18-26 days
Juveniles per Viable Cocoon – 2.5-3.8
Time to Maturity – 28-30 days
EISENIA HORTENSIS (previously known as DENDROBAENA VENETA. Common name, European Night Crawlers)
Worm Cocoon Production – 1.96 cocoons per adult worm per week
Time to Hatching – 42.1 days
Juveniles per Viable Cocoon – 1.10
Time to Maturity – 65 days
From these figures it would seem that indeed, Red Wigglers mature and breed more quickly and more vigorously than Euros, but experiments do show that this balance may well change if conditions at the farm are less than optimal, for instance, if temperatures are particularly cold in winter.
Bless the worm cocoons!