European Nightcrawler Cocoons

European Nightcrawler Cocoon

Close-up of European Nightcrawler Cocoon

As mentioned at the beginning of the month, I now have a couple of small bins containing European Nightcrawlers (Eisenia hortensis).

The bins I used to house the worms are the same systems I set up for my first two worm composting videos. Even though both bins were very well-aged (in fact, I could no longer find any evidence of food waste in either), the Euros seemed somewhat unsettled when I first added them – almost certainly due to shipping stress (which is inevitable) and perhaps also the fact that they were raised primarily on a manure diet.

In an effort to discourage too much roaming I added a decent layer of shredded egg carton cardboard (my absolute favourite for vermicomposting) in each. This material absorbs moisture very readily, and will create a much drier atmosphere above the main composting mass – gradually over time this cardboard will completely moisten and be broken down (worms love it), but in the meantime the worms seem more than happy to remain in the wet materials down below.

After doing my 4-worm experiment inspection this morning I decided to check out my Euro systems to see how they were doing. I was very happy with what I saw. Not only are the worms no longer roaming around the sides and lid, but much of the waste materials and wet bedding has been processed (I saw lots of worm castings). When I first opened the bin I even caught two worms mating. I tried to get a picture but it didn’t turn out as nicely as I had hoped – I will aim to get some good mating pictures at some point.

Seeing the mating inspired me to dig around for cocoons. As you can certainly tell from the photos above, I did indeed find them – quite a few in fact! Very exciting stuff! I’ve seen (and written about) Red Worm cocoons before, but this is my first experience with E. hortensis reproduction. I’m actually quite surprised to see just how quickly they are producing cocoons. I’ve read quite a bit about the “slow” reproductive cycle of Euros, so I wasn’t expecting to find any evidence of mating for quite some time.

Of course, we’ll still need to wait and see how long it takes for juveniles to hatch (and then mature), but this is good progress in my books nevertheless!

Anyone who has found Eisenia fetida (Red Worm) cocoons should be able to tell from the first photo that these are definitely larger – not too surprising given the larger size of this species (E. hortensis, that is). It certainly made things easier when I tried to find them in the bin.

Rest assured, I’m going to keep close tabs on both my Euro bins from now on and will report back as soon as I find any baby worms!

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    • David Lozowsky
    • December 28, 2007

    HI B,
    What size bins are you using for your e. hortensis? Also curious to know what kind of camera allows you to take such great macro shots?

    • Bentley
    • December 28, 2007

    Hi David,
    Good to hear from you!
    The funny thing is I’m using one of the smallest Rubbermaid tubs you can buy (somewhere in the range of 3-5 gallons I think). I was a little leery about using these bins for Euros (even though they work great for Reds) simply because they are a larger worm and like a bit more room to spread out in.
    So far so good, but I’d like to relocate them to a larger bin before too long.

    As for the camera, I’ve been pretty amazed with its abilities. It is simply a Canon PowerShot A530 ‘point and shoot’ digital camera with 4X optical zoom and 5 megapixels. Makes me wonder what I might be able to do with a full-fledged digital SLR.


    • austyn gray
    • January 5, 2008

    hi, very interested in your use of Eisenia Hortensis. In Britian they are much prefered due to their higher tolerance to temperature fluxation and crowding. Over the last few years I have found that cocoons have been produced around 58 days. significant development re juveniles and fully developed worms occurs after 81 days. As you suggest the low reproduction rates of Hortensis are not correct. under optimum conditions I have found these worms to be prolific. good luck regarding your breeding. We unfortunately in the Uk are well behind re vermicomposting compared to you in the USA and Canada but we are learning. regards always g austyn

    • Bentley
    • January 7, 2008

    Hi Austyn,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I guess I’ll need to start up a new ‘4 worm experiment’ with my Euros to get an accurate idea of their reproduction cycle. For some reason I totally forgot about the fact that many of the worms likely arrived fertilized, and then simply produced cocoons soon after arriving (making it seem like their production rate was quite fast). I will be interested to see how the Red Worm lifecycle compares to that of the Euros. Unfortunately my ‘4 worm experiment’ isn’t likely providing an accurate indication of ‘ideal conditions’.


    • ann kimmel
    • November 5, 2008

    I also have been experimenting with these worms since April of this year. I have noticed for me they are reproducing much faster then the red worms I have. I like you noticed many cacoons after just a few weeks of having them. for some reason it seems like they do not compost quites as fast as the red worms but this could be just my imagination.

    • Bentley
    • November 6, 2008

    Very interesting, Ann. Do you find they are reaching adulthood faster as well?
    What have you been feeding them?

  1. Hi Bentley, congrats for your blog 🙂
    I’ve a bin of Euros and I can sadly tell that they are chaste worms 🙁
    I can’t find any cocoon at all. Are there specific reasons for this?
    Thank you in advance!

  2. # 1. Would like to say this site is the key to my success and is very helpful all around in everything obstacle i may have encountered in vermiculture. Thanks alot

    #2. I have a problem with mites. I went on vacation but left a good bit of oatmeal grain for the worms and moistened it along with the bedding. When i got back there was kind of a sharp smell when i dug into the bin and mites also. It’s not a population boom but would like tips before it gets to that point.

    #3. I have euros and they have plenty of cocoons laying around by the way. I soon to be ordering a lb of euroes because my population is quite low only found 8 worms to be exact(not due to bin conditions but many tiger oscar aquariums around the house)

    Addiotional Info
    Bedding:Cardboard and newspaper
    Food:Scraps and purina worm chow

    Thanks alot, T

  3. Hi T,
    Glad the site has helped!
    As for mites – in my experience, they thrive in really wet conditions when there is ample food (perhaps too much food). If you can ease off on the feeding a bit and provide more air flow (maybe leave the lid off periodically) this should help. I see far fewer mites in my open systems than in my enclosed bins.


    • anthony
    • January 12, 2017

    I raise Euros and the reality is Euros Dont really need to alot of patience to raise them the timeline of reproduction of reds and Euros is very similar Euros In my opinion are better because they grow bigger than Reds so they eat more (My Opinion) and they are easier to seperate from the castings!

    • Bentley
    • January 12, 2017

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Anthony! Makes me want to set up a comparison experiment! 😉

    • Dale Emery
    • February 7, 2020

    Just a quick comment, 1 thing I have noticed is that some brands of tubs you can buy seem to be coated with something ( I’m assuming it has something to do so the tub doesn”t stick to the mold) now I wash each and rinse new tub totallly before using it.

    • Tab
    • July 21, 2020

    Hi, best regards from Poland. I started my first bin with ENC worms a month and a half ago. I chose containers adapted to contact with food. This is probably important. I came across your blog a few days ago and read, read, read. You are very helpful, I learned a lot of important things about worm farming. I will use them for the sake of my crawling friends. You are helping a lot, for which I am very grateful. I hope to convince others to start worm farming and obtain vermicompost. I will be checking back often.

    • Sean
    • January 26, 2021

    Hello I have just started raising european reds and I ordered a thousand worms do you think that is to many worms in one bin to start a successful breeding farm

    • Bentley
    • February 8, 2021

    Hey Sean – it may not be “too many”, but if the plan is to grow a big population my suggestion would be to start multiple bins and spread your purchased worms between them. This gives them more room to spread out and you should see faster reproduction for sure (assuming you provide them with good living conditions)!

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