Question from Christine:
I have been composting with worms for quite sometime now, and I have a
question that no one seems to have the answer to. I want to know why
they say to use red worms as opposed to earth worms for composting? I
have so many earthworms and would like to use them, so why do you
recommend red worms instead? Please let me know, thank you, chris
In a typical backyard composter (or composting heap etc) that’s in direct contact with the soil, regular soil worms will certainly come up into the lower reaches of the system and process the wastes – but it’s very important to realize that soil worms are NOT well-suited for composting at all, in comparison to varieties such as Red Worms.
Red Worms are among those earthworms known as “epigeic” worms – that is to say that their natural habitat tends to be near or even above the soil surface. They are specialized for life in rapidly changing environments – specifically, rich organic matter deposits such as manure heaps and compost piles. They can tolerate warmer conditions and much higher worm densities. They can also breed and consume wastes much faster than typical soil worms (which are classified as either “endogeic” or “anecic”).
In indoor systems, it’s actually next to impossible to keep and breed most soil worm species – at least when using your typical indoor worm composting bins/beds – so Red Worms (or other composting varieties) are always going to be your best choice when you are specifically wanting to process wastes materials quickly and effectively.
Hope this helps!
P.S. You may also want to check out this post to learn more about the different worm groups: Attracting Compost Worms in Your Backyard
P.S.S. The term “earthworm” refers to all three groups (mentioned above), including all composting species (even though they usually don’t live in a purely soil environment).