Eisenia hortensis vs. Dendrobaena veneta

Interesting question from Erika:

I have read on some sites that the Eisenia hortensis (Euro Nightcrawler) and the Dendrobaena veneta (also known as Dendrabaena hortensis or Dendra) are the same worm. I know they can’t be since they have a different scientific name, but figure they are closely related by looking at their names. I have read on your site (which is great by the way) that you have been using the Euros. Have you tried the Dendras? If so which did you prefer for both composting, and for reproducing? I have been raising Eisenia fetida for almost a year now with much luck in Wyoming but would like to branch out into other types of worms.

If you have already answered this please let me know where I can find it. I will continue to browse your site and see what else I can find that I never knew I needed to know!! Thank you so much. Erika

Hi Erika,
Your logic is certainly on target here – different scientific names should indeed indicate a completely different species. Given the fact that we are talking about different genera altogether (Eisenia vs Dendrobaena), makes it all the more likely that we are talking about very different worms!

There’s only one problem…

As fantastic as scientific ‘binomial nomenclature’ is, unfortunately from time to time those pesky scientists throw a wrench into the system and mess things up!

Every so often researchers will update the scientific name for a given species – typically once new evidence indicates that it is actually more closely related to species in another family, genus etc. Often it’s not as drastic a change as in the case of Eisenia/Dendrobaena – assigning various subspecies groupings for a given species for example, is something that occurs more often (especially with microbes and other teeny tiny critters)

As annoying as these discrepencies can be, it is really important for the scientist to make the change since it helps group organisms more accurately moving forward. Unfortunately there is no ‘CNN’ for mundane scientific news (like name updates) so this info doesn’t exactly go mainstream once it is announced! As such, these older names can end up lingering for quite some time.

What interesting about this particular case (and something that definitely does not help!!) is the fact that the Dendrobaena veneta name is still very widely used in Europe for some reason, while the new name has gained a lot more acceptance over here in North America.

Anyway, the bottom-line here Erika is that ‘YES’ I have been using Dendros and Euros – but only because they are one and the same!

Hope this helps!

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    • Erika
    • October 14, 2009

    Thanks so much. I have found a few sellers selling these worms under both names as if they are a different worm all togehter, thus adding to my confusion. I figured I should find out before buying one and the same.

    • robert daly
    • November 3, 2009

    heya me names robert daly .. i am wonder were can i find dendrobaena worms .. can they be digged up from any were or any place if so can you please contact me on

    • Bentley
    • November 3, 2009

    Hi Robert,
    I don’t know how much luck you will have finding Dendros (E hortensis) digging in the soil. Looks as though you are in the UK based on your email address. I’d recommend getting in touch with some worm suppliers over there – should be plenty of people raising them. If none of the suppliers is willing to give any away, perhaps you could connect with other UK vermicomposters who are raising them – hobbyists tend to be a lot more generous with their worms!

  1. Hey Bentley,
    There is a website selling both Dendrobaena veneta and Eisenia hortensis. He has two different pictures and two different prices. I guess he is either confused or just trying to not miss any sells, but it made me think maybe I was wrong in my thinking they were the same so I found your article while researching. So they are indeed the same worm? Are some people confused and calling another worm Dendras?

    Bye the way, my prayers with you, your wife, and your soon coming child.

    • Jim Hunt
    • December 2, 2010

    Hey Matthew,

    I emailed them and they said they had sent a sample to C. A. Edwards and he identified it as Dendrobaena veneta. They say the “Dendras” are smaller than the E. hortensis, produce compost a little faster, reach maturity a little faster and reproduce faster. Being between the E. fetida and the (normal) E. hortensis in size makes their “Dendras” a better size bait for some types of fishing (in their opinion). I say just use immature Euros if you want a smaller worm. I guess the reproductive advantages might sway some people toward this worm.

    If you really want to be confused check out this species identification page: http://www.nurturingnature.co.uk/pages/subpages/educationadultpage.htm



  2. My understanding of this issue is as follows:

    Veneta and hortensis are two morphologically similar but distinct species. Some taxonomists have placed them in the genus Eisenia, others in Dendrobaena. Dendrobaena seems to be accepted as the correct genus for these species; this is certainly the case in the UK anyway.

    Veneta is a large chunky worm with distinct striping. Hortensis is a smaller thinner worm without distinct striping. Hortensis worms are typically less than 5cm long, whereas veneta are usually significantly longer than this. Hortensis worms are smaller than Eisenia fetida and Eisenia andrei, whereas veneta worms are bigger.

    The worm known as the ‘european nightcrawler’ in the USA is veneta. I am not sure why it is referred to as hortensis; this is clearly incorrect. The error has become so widespread that most websites on the net claim that hortensis and veneta are synonyms. I think it is a case of incorrect information online just being copied by other websites, hence spreading the error until it makes it as far as Wikipedia, at which point it must be true!

    • Bentley
    • March 7, 2017

    Interesting post, Ben. Thanks for sharing. While I agree with you about the way (often wrong) information gets spread around online, it is important to note that the D. veneta / E. hortensis (being the same) idea has been backed up by a highly respected researcher in the field of vermicomposting, Dr. Clive Edwards (originally from the UK, and a very prominent earthworm scientist while there). I’m not saying this makes the info “gospel” – clearly the water is still VERY muddy – but hopefully it at least explains why I myself have felt fairly confident in employing that designation. If only earthworm taxonomy was considered a very important research topic with lots of funding available…perhaps we could put all these various worm ID issues to rest once and for all! Oh well.

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