Red Worm Cocoon Production in Different Materials

Red Worm (Eisenia fetida/andrei) cocoon production has always been a topic of keen interest for me over the years – especially the potential influence that different materials/conditions can have on it.

I want to do a lot more experimentation relating to this in the months ahead, but for now I’ve decided to start a very quick-and-dirty, “just-for-fun-let’s-see-what-happens” trial with 3 different habitat/food mixes.

Yesterday, I set up 3 small plastic tubs – all of them have at least some aged horse manure in them. One of them only contains the manure, another also has a lot of wood chips (with leaves chipped in), and the third also has a lot of shredded cardboard. For the “other material” tubs, I simply added a scoop of aged manure in the bottom and a scoop of manure at the top (in the case of the shredded cardboard, I did mix it up with the manure a bit.

I feel that having at least some manure in all of them is important for overall nutrition, and – at least in the case of the cardboard treatment – also microbial inoculation. I seem to have a developing gnat and fruit fly situation in my basement at the moment (for some reason they always seem to crop up at this time of year – lol) so I want to steer clear of anything like kitchen scraps or even chick starter feed.

Once set up, the bins were moistened, and 4 mature Red Worms were added to each.

NOTE: As alluded to earlier, I realize this is completely “un-scientific”. I only have a single rep for each treatment – and of course, adding mature (potentially fertilized) worms will affect the results. Again – this is just for fun. I will let everything run for a while and assess, just for the sake of seeing if there are any really noticeable differences in cocoon abundance.

Should be fun to see what happens – and I will likely hatch (yuk yuk) some other cocoon project ideas in the meantime.
Stay tuned!

P.S. Here is an interesting paper relating to the effect of temperature on Red Worm reproduction: Influence of temperature on the reproduction of the earthworm Eisenia foetida (Oligochaeta)

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    • John W.
    • December 25, 2018

    My vote is on the horse manure and cardboard mix.

    • Caleb
    • January 4, 2019

    I’m with John W, I’d think the cardboard will be the perfect combo with the manure to increase cocoon count.

    Another question on the Horse Manure specifically since I see you’ve started using it more recently. What difference is there in garden productivity with straight horse manure put into the garden vs worm processed horse manure? I’m curious how much difference the one to two month additional processing makes, if any.

    • janet jaromscak
    • January 8, 2019

    can you use chicken poop instead of horse manure?

  1. I see all three of your tubs contain horse manure. I for one have no access to horse manure. My primary mix is aged leaf litter, coffee grounds and kitchen scraps. Would you at some time consider several mixes all with different base media?


    • Bentley
    • January 8, 2019

    Caleb – by the time you read this, I may have posted my 21 day results. Definitely some interesting surprises, and yes cardboard was a strong treatment for sure (especially second half of the 3 week period).

    As for aged horse manure – it’s been one of my favorite materials for many years now. Straight manure vs vermicomposted horse manure are definitely quite different. Same sort of idea as basically any organic waste – and the compost you make with it. The finished stuff will be very rich in stable humus, plant-available nutrients, and even potentially various plant growth promoters (in case of worm worked material, that is – not regular compost). Aged horse manure could be just fine for a garden (especially if well aged) – and may essentially be a compost by that point. Fresh stuff can be a bit more unpredictable. Sounds like another great idea for an experiment! Haha

    • Bentley
    • January 8, 2019

    Janet – you need to be extra careful with poultry manures. Very different ‘can of worms’ (lol) than horse and various other livestock manures. Tends to be dry, with high salt content and tendency to give off ammonia gas (salts and ammonia are very dangerous for worms).
    If you want to use them I would recommend mixing them with a lot of carbon-rich bedding materials (straw, cardboard etc), soaking down, and basically letting the mix compost outdoors. Once it is darker in color with a more pleasant (somewhat earthy) odor it should be fine. Test on a small scale first.

    John – I definitely understand that not everyone has access to manure, and agree that the more typical materials, like you mentioned, would be interesting to compare. You should try your mix in some little tubs (I’d suggest a bedding like cardboard or shredded paper as well though) with 4 worms and see what happens!

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