Worm Colour Variations

Here are some more great questions from one of our loyal readers, Apple (who previously asked about mites and worm cocoons).

questions – when i turn the bin, i see many of my worms are a dark
magenta color, which seems normal to me, but a few of them seem light
peach or pale pink. are the pale ones sick or dying? they all seem
very active. do red wigglers come in many colors?

i noticed a tiny beetle in my bin today. it’s an indoor bin, so i’m
not completely sure how he got in. is this ok, or could it present a
problem to the cocoons and/or worms?

for a while i was adding crumpled dry newspaper as bedding but now my
compost seems clumped and chunky with newspaper balls. i try to
separate it as best i can, and have since stopped adding newspaper.
will my compost ever take on that rich texture with the newspaper
clumps in there? i’m seeing many more castings since i stopped adding
the newspaper, but i’m not sure if it’s going to get too damp. i’ve
been adding torn egg cartons too.

Hi again, Apple!
You’ve definitely hit on an important point about the colour (re: spelling – I’m from Canada, eh! haha) range in ‘Red Worms’. This species comes in a huge array of colours and sizes, even within the same worm bin sometimes – it’s no wonder they end up with so many different common names (people assume they are different species).

I have seen them range in colour from dark reddish purple to light orange cream – sometimes with distinct stripes, other times not. One thing that DOES seem to be consistent is a yellowish region at the tip of their tail. Where they are located in a worm bin seems to possibly influence the colour as well – those down in the really wet, semi-anaerobic zones seem (in my experience) to have more of a bright orange colour than those located closer to the surface. Perhaps this might have something to do with hemoglobin levels – not really sure. (although, I would expect this to actually result in a much brighter red colour, not orange). Those worms living in very wet conditions are usually a fair bit larger as well – presumably due to water retention.

Regarding the health of your worms, my general rule of thumb is that if they are vigorous and active they are probable doing just fine. If they are sluggish and unresponsive this is not a good sign. (sounds like yours are doing great).

Periodically, certain varieties of beetles can end up in an indoor vermicomposting bin (they are certainly more common in outdoor bins) – usually via material that came in from outside. I definitely wouldn’t worry too much about them. Some of the larger beetles can be predatory, but even those pose little threat to your worm population.

One of the things I don’t like about newsprint and other paper wastes is the tendency for these materials to get matted down. An important role of worm bin bedding is to help maintain some air flow in the bin. This is why I generally prefer shredded cardboard. That being said, I wouldn’t worry too much about the clumps of paper that have formed in your bin. They should breakdown over time. If you do want to speed up the process simple break them up by hand and spread the material around the bin a bit.

I’m glad to hear that you are still adding cardboard. It definitely helps to continue adding bedding along with food wastes since – as you suspected – the contents of your bin can become waterlogged otherwise (assuming no drainage, that is).

Anyway, hope this helps! Thanks again for the questions, Apple.

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