Vermi-Kids Update

Amazing how fast time flies, and how quickly kids grow! Seems like only yesterday that I was announcing Spencer’s birth and showing off the cool worm hat that RWC regular (and good friend), Anna K. made for him! (be sure to check out “Worm Head Jr” for some perspective).

Adaia, too, has continued to reach key milestones as well. Not too long ago I announced that she had started up her very first worm bin (see “Adaia’s First Worm Bin“) – and I actually have a very interesting update to share on that front in a minute – well, yesterday we went to the nursery and she picked out her very first potted plant! She chose a nice looking purple Impatiens – great choice if you ask me. I have little doubt that once we find a nice (larger) pot for it and mix in some rich vermicompost, she’ll be rewarded with multiple pretty blooms.

Ok – getting back to the worm bin…

Since Monday is “home day” for Adaia, I thought it would be fun to check-up on the system to see how the worms are doing. We have added some fruit waste since first setting it up, and a little water along the way (since it is open), but other than that we’ve basically let it sit.

The good news is that everything looks great! It seems most of the food waste has been converted into castings and the environment has remained nice and moist! We now have an official count on the worms – five, not four as I had estimated originally – the worms have “grown up” quite a bit so it was much easier to find them! I guess we’re going to need one more name (so far we have Cocoa, Cookie, Egg Shell and Theo, as mentioned last time).

Looks like we should be expecting to find some new babies at some point as well. I found at least three cocoons!

Last time I mentioned that Adaia wasn’t quite ready to let the worms sit in her bare hand – well, I’m happy to report that she’s made good progress in that department!

Now, for something really intriguing (at least for me) about this system. I am pretty sure that two of our five worms are actually Lumbricus rubellus! In hindsight it actually kinda makes sense since we were digging material from the fringes of my worm beds (where these other worms seem to be a bit more common).

As mentioned in my recent “Invasive Earthworms” article, Lumbricus rubellus is one of the non-native worm species that seems to be contributing to the issues in northern forests (where no earthworms were previously found), so I’ve been very keen to learn a lot more about them.

I will definitely be sending some specimens to Dr. Reynolds (mentioned in the Invasives article) to confirm the identification, but here are some reasons I’m feeling fairly confident about my hunch:

1) Unlike Eisenia sp, Lumbricus sp worms (such as the big “Canadian Nightcrawler”, Lumbricus terrestris) have a spade-shaped tail – think it may even be referred to as a “beaver tail” or something like that.

2) The coloration of this worm is also quite distinct from my Eisenia worms – while it certainly has some reddish-purple shades, it’s not nearly as vibrant – tends to have more of a dull coloration. It also doesn’t have any of the yellow banding that Eisenia worms have.

3) Apart from having more of a conical tail than L. rubellus, E. fetida also typically has a yellow (or at least lighter colored) tail tip, as shown in the last image.

If it turns out my “hunch” is correct this will be good news since I’ve been having very little difficulty spotting the Lumbricus worms in my beds. Apart from getting a positive ID on these worms, I’m also really interested to see how they do in my daughter’s little worm bin! I can pretty much guarantee that the cocoons I found are from the Eisenia worms (neither of the other worms looks to be mature yet), but I’ll be interested to see if the other ones do end up reproducing in this system.

Hard to say who is having more fun with this little experimental bin – my daughter or ME!! haha!
Whatever the case may be, I will be sure to keep everyone posted!

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    • John Duffy
    • May 17, 2011

    You’ve got a couple cuties there, Bentley. I wouldn’t be surprised when Adaia gets into her teens & starts bringing boys home, one of the first things she’ll want to show them will be her worms. I’m sure she’s at that age where you get to play why, why, what, what for hours on end. Cherish these moments while they last. They grow up way too fast. Then ya have to wait for grandkids to do it all over again…It’s even more fun ( if ya can imagine it) than it was the first time around…
    ps..the worms at Maplewood school are doing very well;)

    • brenda bowen
    • May 18, 2011

    Good job on those cuties B.and mrs B. And thanks for the pictures of worms.

    • synelg
    • May 19, 2011

    Glad you’re investigating Lumbricus rubellus this year Bentley. I’ve got gazillions of them (I think) in my horse’s outdoor poo piles. I’ve got a bucket of them sitting in my porch gotten from removing them from the manure I bring home for the EFs. I’m keen to learn what to do with them – return them to the piles, or try some experiments. I’ll try to get a photo soon. They started off quite small in autumn but have grown a lot in the past month or two.

    • Bentley
    • May 20, 2011

    Thanks John & Brenda!

    Synelg – I will be interested to see some pics!
    I seem to only be finding small ones as well – hope to see what they look like when mature (so happy to have them in my daughter’s little bin)

  1. Bentley – did you get my email with the pics? I put them on also. One member there thought that one of the pics was of a Lumbricus terrestris, but I have counted the segments to the clitellum on that pic and it seems to me that the clitellum starts at segment 27, which I understand to be a hallmark of LR. At any rate, I have gazillions of these worms in my old manure piles – they seem to be at all levels – both a metre up and at the bottom, and they are increasing. Every time I bring manure home for my EFs, I bring dozens of these worms, which I have been separating out into a separate bin. I also have a 6 metre long worm farm made out of pallets in my horse’s paddcok now, and yesterday I created a section of it around a metre square, just for these worms, to see what will happen. I filled this with shovel-fulls of old manure with lots of these worms in it.

  2. Ok. Roll the truck backwards! Been re-counting the segments on that pic again and now I get 32! So it’s an LT.
    However, that worm wasn’t typical, I just picked two worms to photo – one big one and one smaller one. The smaller one does look like an LR from what I know, and those are what I’ve got gazillions of.
    The more I learn, the less I know……
    I will get more, better quality pics.

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