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Nightcrawler Question

This question comes from Mario. Like many other people, Mario is curious about various worms he has found in the ‘wild’. Here is what he had to say:

HI there!
I was recently searching for worms after a couple of rain days at church. There´s a lot of just dirt with a little of grass and some roses. To my surprise I found at least 60 worms, there very different from the red wigglers I recently purchased, my question is: are the worm I found on the moistured dirt, are they nightcrawlers? I realy dont have any idea what kind of worms they are, some of them are a little white with lots of veins on there body, some are thick and very
brownish. Hope to hear from you soon. Thank you very much, by the way your web site is one of the best I have found, probably top 10 on the web.

Wow – ‘top 10 on the web’?? I’ll assume you are talking about vermicomposting sites. Regardless, that is quite a compliment, Mario! Thanks very much.
:-)

You’ve asked a great question! I know a lot of people get somewhat confused when it comes to various species of earthworms. The wide array of common names floating around certainly don’t help the situation at all! You mentioned “nightcrawlers”. There are three different species of worm (that I know of) that are known as nightcrawlers. One of course is the European Nightcrawler (Eisenia hortensis) – a worm I’ve been talking about a lot, ever since starting my own euro worm bin. Then there is the ‘Canadian Nightcrawler’ (Lumbricus terrestris), also known as the ‘Dew Worm’. Finally, there is also an ‘African Nightcrawler’ (Eudrilus eugeniae).

Lets, chat very briefly about each.


The European Nightcrawler (Eisenia hortensis), also known as the ‘Belgian Nightcrawler’, is a larger cousin of the Red Wiggler (Eisenia fetida). Like E. fetida, you won’t generally find this worm in ‘regular’ soil habitats, unless there is an accumulation of rich organic matter. The prime habitat for a worm like this is a compost heap or manure pile.


Canadian Nightcrawler | Dew Worm

The Canadian Nightcrawler (Lumbricus terrestris) is a very large worm (unfortunately this picture doesn’t provide any perspective) that is very popular for fishing. Many people assume they can start up a worm bin with this species, but alas they are not well suited for this habitat at all! Dew Worms are deep soil burrowers, creating extensive tunnels down through numerous soil layers. During heavy rains, or on moist nights they often move to the surface to feed on organic materials (leaves, dead grass etc). They require cooler temperatures and far less crowded conditions than composting worms – as such, they won’t thrive within the confines of a household worm bin.


African Nightcrawler

Like the European Nightcrawler, the African Nightcrawler (Eudrilus eugeniae) is another species of composting worm. It is native to certain tropical regions of the world, which makes it less tolerant of cool conditions (according to the scientific literature, this species will die if temperatures fall below 10C/50F), but it is apparently a very effective composting worm and breeds very rapidly under ideal conditions.


Back to your question, Mario…

It’s tough to say for sure what kind worms you found, other than to say that they are almost certainly ‘soil worms’ – i.e. species not well suited for worm composting. I’m not sure where you are located, but there is certainly a chance that there were Canadian Nightcrawlers among the worms you found, especially given your “thick and brownish” description for some of them.

Anyway, thanks again for the great question – hopefully my response has helped!

B.

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Written by Bentley on January 25th, 2008 with 10 comments.
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10 comments

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Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com paul
#1. February 12th, 2010, at 10:15 PM.

i am doing a report on night crawlers and wonder if they eat more materials faster in small or large containers. your site is great.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#2. February 16th, 2010, at 7:56 PM.

Hi Paul,
There are many different variables to consider here, so it’s tough to provide a concrete answer to your question. It all depends on how many worms we are talking about, how big the systems are, what the temperature is etc etc.
If the number of worms (I’m assuming it will be the same for both systems) is close to optimal in the smaller system, you will almost certainly see faster processing since the worms won’t be as spread out as they would be in the larger system.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Manshe
#3. March 9th, 2010, at 7:07 AM.

I am starting rearing earthworms(the exotic esenia fetida) in my plot. I also want to investigate the efficiency of local species. I have a problem in identyfying the vermicompost. Is there any extra procedures to prepare the vermicompost to market?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com paul thomas
#4. March 19th, 2010, at 8:14 PM.

can the european night crawler just be put in the garden? Can it live there as regular earthworms do?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Bentley
#5. March 22nd, 2010, at 1:17 AM.

MANSHE – Not sure I fully understand your question. If your bed is rich in organic matter it should be relatively easy to see where the vermicompost is accumulating. It tends to be a dark, crumbly material that smells nice and earthy. Before selling it you will likely want to screen it (1/4″, then perhaps 1/8″ screen).
———————–
PAUL – I wouldn’t recommend simply adding Euros to your garden, although a good worm farmer friend of mine assures me they are better adapted for the soil environment than Red Worms. Still, I would personally recommend setting up some sort of “in situ” vermicomposting bed, such as a vermicomposting trench (see HOT TOPICS page to learn more).

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com rafunzelbaba
#6. October 11th, 2010, at 1:37 AM.

what?are the advatages of african night crawler worms compaired to other worms?

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Cianoy
#7. November 18th, 2010, at 10:19 AM.

Hello there! You know I’ve always read that nightcrawlers in the garden are not suitable for worm bins.

But what exactly happens if you put garden variety worms in the bin? Supposing it’s a basic plastic tub with really small holes. They can’t escape and they’ll probably eat anyway, right?

Trackback Mention from Thewholelifeblog.wordpress.com
#8. April 24th, 2011, at 4:58 AM.

I Just Adopted 500 Pet Wrigglers « Whole L.I.F.E.: You can view pictures of both worms side by side here. 

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com Stahl
#9. July 5th, 2011, at 11:58 PM.

I have started looking into raising worms for fishing and for the garden. I like the larger worms for the bigger fish but I would also like to have some of the smaller varities. I can get red wigglers up to canadian night crawlers. What would be a happy medium to start with.

Get your own gravatar by visiting gravatar.com rou1
#10. January 26th, 2014, at 7:33 PM.

I picked my worms from the pavement,they’re not red wigglers,and they seem to do just fine in my bin. They eat lots and reproduce like crazy.I imagine I have some type of red worm but do not know for sure. Maybe someday I will identify them. They grow to a dark maroon color with a bright orange band when breeding. I believe the only people who highly recommend red wigglers over the natural species in the area might just be talking what they’ve heard and not what they know.

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