Red Worm Cocoons

As mentioned in my last post, I wanted to write something about red worm cocoons and post some pictures so that everyone knows what they are looking for.

The other day when I was digging through one of my bins I came across an unbelievable mass of cocoons (also called ‘capsules’). I usually have no trouble finding them in any of my worm composting systems, but I can honestly say that I’ve NEVER seen anything like this.

Unfortunately I could not get a good picture (camera didn’t know what to focus on) but I figured I would post the best one anyway.

Clusters of Red Worm Cocoons

I also took a much better picture of some cocoons I collected. As you can see below, worm cocoons have an oval or even tear-drop shape to them. They tend to be a dark straw-yellow colour, but become darker brown once the young worms hatch.

Red Worm Cocoons

The number of cocoons in a given worm bin depends on conditions and materials present. I’ve seen major increases in cocoon production in paper sludge, and you’ll often find a lot of eggs associated with corrugated cardboard if you happen to use it as bedding.

Temperature, moisture content and worm population are all important determining factors. If conditions in a system decline – food source depletion, drying out of bedding, temperatures drop etc – red worms will often start producing more eggs to ensure the success of future generations. I’ve read that some worm farmers will actually dry out their systems in order to get increased cocoon production (and then will bring moisture levels up again to stimulate hatching).

Worm cocoons can withstand conditions far worse than those tolerable for the worms themselves. Glen Munroe reports in the >Manual of On-Farm vermicomposting and Vermiculture that red worm (Eisenia fetida) eggs can even survive extended periods of deep freezing.

Cocoons can also remain viable for many years before hatching. Vermicomposting expert, Dr. Clive Edwards has heard of worm cocoons being able to survive for as long as 30-40 years (Casting Call, Vol 2 #6; p1).

The cocoon itself starts as a mucus band produced by the clitellum during reproduction. Once sperm is exchanged between worms (remember each worm has both male and female sex organs but most species still reproduce via cross-fertilization), the worms separate and the clitellum releases a compound which causes each worm’s mucus ring to harden. This hardened band is then slides off the worm, collecting sperm and eggs along the way. As it separates from the worm both ends are sealed.

One other little tidbit of interesting info…
I’ve read that worms hatched from cocoons in a given material will tend to be much better adapted than any adult worms introduced to the same material (assuming they weren’t also born in it themselves). If you buy worms that were raised in manure and try to feed them food scraps for example you may find that they want to roam initially (I have witnessed this myself). Adding a bunch of cocoons on the other hand should provide you with a thriving population of highly adapted worms (assuming you don’t mind waiting for them to hatch and grow up).

I’m actually surprised that more worm sellers don’t offer cocoons – they’d certainly be much cheaper to ship and could potentially result in more bang for your buck (each cocoon of Eisenia fetida will generally produce multiple baby worms).

Well, I think that’s enough about worm cocoons for now! If you have never seen any yourself, be sure to dig around in your bin and see if you can locate some.
My next goal is to see if I can get a picture of a cocoon with a baby worm coming out. I’m going to try hatching some outside the bin in a smaller system where I can keep close tabs on them. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on my progress!

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  1. Fascinating tidbits, Bentley! I learned a few new things. 🙂 Great shots of the cocoons, too. I look forward to an image of an emerging worm – that would be so cool. 😀

    • Bentley
    • September 17, 2007

    Thanks Cassie!
    One of our readers has informed me that he has a picture of an emerging worm and offered to send it my way!


    • Amie
    • September 19, 2007

    I was wondering why some of my worms were roaming since I was told that they wouldn’t if they were happy. I have been very careful to make sure that the conditions inside my bin are perfect so maybe they’re just roaming because they were raised in different conditions. I hope this is the case since they have plenty of bedding and we’ve left them for a few days to work on the food they have in there. What do you think?

    • Bentley
    • September 20, 2007

    Hi Amie,
    I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if that’s why they were roaming. These worms are very often raised on manure (an ideal food for them) and food waste is a much different material, almost certainly with a much different microbial community.
    Also, the stress of shipping the worms may also lead them to roam once they are placed in a new system.

    You definitely did the right thing letting them mellow out for awhile with the food they have. Hopefully that get’s things back on track for you!


    • Amie
    • September 21, 2007

    They look much happier now. Only one is wandering up the side. Thanks for your advice. You’re doing a great service to us newbies!


    • Gillian
    • September 22, 2007

    Hi, thanks for the great advice, and being a newbie, I have started two small wormeries, Thanks Amie, she had the same problem as me with the roaming and mine seem much happier now.
    Is it advisable to just leave alone or does it pay to separate some cocoons and or worms as they mature.
    any advice greatfully received.

    • Bentley
    • September 23, 2007

    Amie – in a well-balanced system you will still find that worms like to crawl up the sides of the bin sometimes. Unless there are masses of them and they seem really intent on escaping, this is definitely nothing to be concerned about. I’m glad to hear that things have settled down in your bin!

    Gillian – It’s great that you are keeping two separate bins. This will serve as a great insurance policy in case something goes wrong with one of them. If your worms seem to have settled down I wouldn’t worry about separating out cocoons. That said, it might be fun to set up a smaller third system and stock it only with cocoons to see what happens! 🙂

    • Kami
    • September 23, 2007

    Reading your website has been so much fun. I got my first bin a month ago and started with a few worms I bought at a bait shop. Your information has helped me a great deal in getting that bin going. I just ordered a bunch of worms online and am growing to three bins! Your site has been very helpful and encouraging. I hope you are able to continue to update us on what is going on with your bins!

    • Bentley
    • September 23, 2007

    Thanks Kami – glad I’ve been able to help!
    Rest assured you will continue to see lots of new updates and added features in coming weeks and months!


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    • jennifer
    • November 3, 2008

    Hey, are those little white dots tiny worm cocoons? I just started my bin last month, none of those larger yellowish cocoons yet, but they sure do munch through the food. Pumpkin innards from a few days ago, already unrecognizable (if they still exist).

    • Bentley
    • November 4, 2008

    Hi Jennifer,
    Any little white dots you see are likely mites (or maybe springtails – but they are much more mobile). Worm eggs don’t really increase in size

    • Mark
    • November 15, 2008

    Hi, I have just harvested 100+ worm cocoons out of my latest turn-out. This is to enable a friend to start a new system. Did have 1 cocoon hatch in my hand, with 5 emerging! I will report back on how new system grows

    • ani
    • March 26, 2009

    so, there were tons of cocoons in my castings harvest. what do i do with them? put them back in the bin? i don’t want to out them into my garden, correct?

    • Bentley
    • March 27, 2009

    Hi Ani,
    It is tough to remove cocoons from castings. If you REALLY don’t want to lose them you might think about leaving the castings to sit for awhile, with perhaps some food materials on top. The cocoons will eventually hatch and the young worms should migrate to the food zone.
    Adding them to the garden is ok if you have some sort of in situ worm composting system like my ‘vermicomposting trenches’ – when the red worms hatch they will simply move into the composting zone and increase your population of worms.

    • Michele
    • April 5, 2009

    Thanks so much for showing what a worm cocoon looks like. I just started a worm bin and you gave alot of advice on how they operate. Worm composting is SO interesting. Some people think that it is yucky, but I remember when my father had a worm compost in his backyard so it isn’t that bad. Interesting reproductive process!!!

    Right now I live in Tri-cities WA and I am keeping my bin in the garage. I am concerned about regulating the temperature. We’ve had some chilly nights so the temperature in the garage was at least above 30, but probably too cold for the worms and they were a bit sluggish. I noticed that they “perk up” when the temperature gets warmer. But we really get some hot weather here beginning in May or so. When the temperatures climb to above 90 deg (too hot in the garage), I’ll have to move the bin outside in the shade. Then in the winter, I’m thinking an electric blanket at low temperature to take the chill off. Any other ideas on regulating the temperature without alot of expensive equipment (aside from bringing the bin inside the house)?

    • Cassandra
    • April 30, 2009

    I found something VERY interesting the last time I turned over the bedding in one of my bins. Imagine “The Blob” from the ’50’s movie, but in miniature and pink-ish in color. Never having seen a cocoon before, I thought it was a redworm cocoon that was ready to hatch, as the “blob” was very. . .active, as if a lot of small things were inside of it and fighting to get out (or perhaps only one thing was in it and wanted to get out). Since I’m new at this, I put the 1/8″ pink and white thing back in the bin (it kind of rolled around, but not very quickly–something alive was definately inside of it), and decided to let Nature take its course. I have not seen any of the cocoons that you show in any of my three bins, but I also haven’t known to look for them, either. I’m also wondering what kind of critter is in that worm tub now, too. I am kicking myself for not photographing it.

    On a different topic, your information about worms not liking a certain food and wanting to escape makes so much sense now. My worms seem to LOVE coffee grounds, but it also makes them climb up the sides of the tubs (thank goodness for lids and screens!) to the point where I will find 5 or 6 worms on each handle inside! They are multiplying very well on a diet of leaves and cow manure compost, and they seem to love bananas (not the peels) and instant potato flakes. I wondered why all three bins had the worms trying to “escape” at the same time, and now I know it’s because of the food I put in each and every bin. They do settle down after a few days, regardless of what I feed them. I wonder if the coffee grounds “speed them up” the way coffee affects humans (I don’t drink caffeine, so I know the feeling if some gets slipped my way), and that’s why they want to climb, but I don’t pour water over the grounds and bathe them in it–the seem to BATTLE to come to the surface for that coffee. I still can’t believe how quickly all the worms come up and munch on coffee grounds, then want to climb all over the place. They are like children–you have to watch EVERYTHING you feed them!

    I’m interested to learn more about the corrugated cardboard method of housing/feeding them, as it sounds as if it would be easier to collect the castings that way. I seem to have the best luck with keeping my worms happy if I put in crabgrass roots that I pull out of my yard (I cut off the leaves since they don’t like them). They just LOVE to eat the dirt and nestle in the roots. I don’t like the crabgrass in my yard, so we are all happy. I will look for the cocoons the next time I change the bedding. Your advice about keeping them in the same bedding that they are used to is invaluable, but not all worm farmers tell you what kind of bedding to use when you get your new “friends”. Personally, I don’t like using peat, as it takes 500 years to make it. Another worm farmer suggested using shredded coconut shells and leaves, but that isn’t available where I live. Next year, I will make sure I keep my leaves instead of having them hauled away by the city. I do find it difficult to separate the castings from leaves and cow manure compost. Do you have any suggestions (I haven’t read your whole site yet, so I apologize if you have answered this already)? I got a “worm harvester” that makes it MUCH easier to get the worms out, since I have to go through ALL the bedding a little at a time, and it’s almost impossible to miss an adult/growing worm that way, but there were almost zero castings in the bottom of the tub. I have some ideas of how to make something similar, yet easier to use, and I’ll try to get it made at Home Depot (I lack all the tools needed for such work). Are baby redworms tiny pink-ish versions of adult worms? I use a plastic kiddie swimming pool to make the pyramids and I find little “worm-lets” coming to the tops of them. They look like worms, they move like worms, and they have a tiny pink “vein” going down their back. I would think that a worm would not want to come to the top, though, but would attempt to dig deeper into the pyramid, which makes me wonder if these are really worms, or if they are still young and stupid! I had a maggot infestation in one of my tubs because flies could get through the air holes, but some screening taped to the outside of the lids put a stop to that very quickly. I wonder if those little white things are actually maggots, not baby worms, but maggots have a yellow-ish tint to them and a black dot on their mouth, plus they are rounder than these little pinkish things.

    I want to look over your website to see if you have a photo of two worms mating. THAT would be a very educational bit of information, especially since the children next door (my helpers) don’t quite understand how a worm can be both male and female. I’m sure they are mating all the time, but when you move the bedding, they are pulled apart. A photo would still be of great usefulness, and I hope you have one. Children have a hard enough time understanding human sexuality, much less worm sexuality!

    Thank you so much for helping us newbies–I have been in your position on other issues, and it feels good to help someone else do the right thing for themselves or for another living creature.

  4. Thanks very much. I don’t think I ever seen a worm cocoon. Thank you!

    • Dan
    • May 19, 2010

    Thanx for the picture of a cocoon, I was getting ready too
    harvest the adults and put new bedding and did not want
    too waste the offspring.

    • crystal
    • November 17, 2010

    Thanks for the ton of information about the worm cocoons. In may I started with a three tiered worm bin that has now multiplied to the three tiered worm bin + 3 kitty litter buckets, three dishpans of different materials.

    I do think I have seen cocoons and some of my worms are very fat. I am sure they are multiplying all over the place.

    I live in Southern New Mexico and I keep the worms in my garage. I bought a window air conditioner for summer and a floor heater for winter. I am maintaining about a 70-75 degree air temperature for them. I do not use anything but newspaper and food scraps. I have added sand and also corn meal every so often because my earlier readings said those were good for the digestive properties of the worms.

    I have innoculated a lot of my house plants with worm castings and possibly cocoons. The house plants are doing much better and I have vowed not to get any more containers, so as the population increases, I put them in the garden, in the yard and under my pecan trees. Everything is going gang busters. I am having fun and my worms seem happy;
    Thanks again for all the information.!!

  5. Thanks, this pic of the cocoons are very much appreciated. I have seen these in my worm bins of the past. I started a new one lately and I’m trying to figure out the best way to induce reproductions. I never knew that actually drying out the bin would make that happen. Thanks a lot for the information. Also, the primary bedding I use is corrugated cardboard, with little newspaper.

    • Cassandra
    • April 15, 2011

    I’ve been raising worms for approx. three years now, and I have come up with some good ideas for keeping them happy. I read my post from 2009, and I am amazed at how naive I was back then! Here’s what I learned:

    I keep my worms in storage tubs that you buy at Target, Wal Mart, Home Depot, etc., and drill 5 or 6 holes in the bottom to let excess moisture out. I raise one corner of the tub with a shim so most of the water comes out of one hole, and I collect that water in small buckets for use on my house plants (I store it in milk cartons or clear juice cartons–recycling/reusing those plastic items saves me money!); it’s essentially liquid castings.

    I live in NC, so the weather is temperate during the winter, and I accept that worms will die during the hot summers. Since the tubs I keep my worms in are about 24″ deep, I make sure that they are full during the winter and there is plenty of rotting mattter in them. If I poke around in the tub, I usually find a “worm ball” in the middle of the tub, which is the warmest place. When two worms find each other, mating happens, so by the time spring rolls around, I have too many worms. It is the perfect time of the year to divide the contents of the tub in half (I usually move the top leaves away and just take worms and built-up castings from the bottom), and fertilize my plants.

    I rake up tree leaves in the fall and double or triple bag them, and that is their bedding & main food all year long. My neighbor gives me his coffee grinds, and I throw whatever appropriate food scraps into the bins when I have them. I learned that my worms LOVE acorns, melons of all kinds, grits, oatmeal, outdated cornbread mix, outdated bread, the paper from my shredder (not shiny paper, just regular paper) and corrugated cardboard torn into 1″ squares (I call the cardboard “a feel and a meal”, since the smaller worms like to get inside the corrugations. They will eat many other things too, provided it is small enough to decompose quickly. For some reason, my worms HATE potatoes–go figure. . .

    Since my “worm room” is a shed attached to my house, I have problems with rats getting in for food and making nests because food is readily available. I bought some heavy-duty metal grating at Home Depot, and my neighbor cut it so each piece is a bit bigger than the top of the tubs on all edges. In the summer, I cover the metal grating with cheesecloth to keep flying insects out, and I ALWAYS place a brick on each of the four corners of the tubs to keep the rats out of them. It doesn’t hurt to put some rat poison in the room, nor to make sure that liquid doesn’t accumulate–rats will driink just about anything, so I keep the “worm tea” buckets empty, except when I’m watching them fill up.

    I have also learned that if I keep a compact fluorescent bulb burning all the time (40 watts is fine), the worms stay in their tubs. As long as they have enough loose bedding, packed bedding, and food everywhere they go, they will stay in their tubs. The only time I find worms on the concrete floor is when they “go rogue” and wriggle out through the drainage holes. If you keep the tubs off the ground, they are less likely to escape this way.

    One more item, and I’ll stop writing. Wherever you get your “seed” worms from, always buy additional worms from that same supplier. If you don’t, the worms get mixed and it’s virtually impossible to separate them. If you MUST have two different species of worms, keep two sets of tools (one set per species), and never let them touch each other or use the tools for one species in the tub(s) of the other–baby worms and/or cocoons can cling to a trowel or a spade very easily.

    I keep a Zip-Lock plastic bag next to my sink at all times so I can just pop food scraps in it for the worms. It’s not worth it to try to wash the bags out after they are full; I’m all for recycling and reusing, but you waste more water cleaning a bag as opposed to throwing it out. If you can rinse it once and it’s clean enough to recycle or reuse, then do that by all means do it, but I find that there is usually so much nasty stuff stuck to the inside that I prefer to start with a clean bag.

    I hope my “on-the-job-training” helps somebody else. There is soooo much to learn about worms, and I had to learn most of it on my own. I sincerely hope that this info will help someone else. Do your best, but remember–you can’t save EVERY SINGLE WORM.

    Keep up the good work, Bentley!

  6. Cassandra,

    Love your detailed comment, but just a few questions from me. It sounds like you don’t even use the lids that comes with the tubs from the retail stores you’ve mentioned. Also, what’s the approximate size on the drainage holes you make on the bottom? My last question is my most curious one. How in the world are your worms able to get at acorns? This is a first for me. Please enlighten. I’m loving my relatively new vermiculture hobby. Thanks.


    • Cassandra
    • April 18, 2011

    I have a two-part comment.

    I ordered my first batch of e. hortensis worms, and they did well in a “large” plastic tote (they could get 18″ of bedding easily) with a few holes drilled at the bottom for drainage. Their color was (and still is) a rather pale color, something akin to my own very pale skin color, with a distinct red stripe down their backs. I kept them in the shed attached to my house (it’s unheated. and faces south), but their bedding was/is raked-up fall leaves that I double-bag and store under my deck (they LOVE the acorns–it’s adorable to see little worm butts sticking out of acorns as they chow down the inside of it!). As I have gotten more educated about worms, I noticed that the worms my supplier said were hortensis are actually much lighter in color than redworms (more on that later). They are certainly larger than redworms. When it was time to sell them at the spring farmer’s market and I didn’t have enough worms, I made a mistake and didn’t buy from the same supplier, and got e. fetidas instead of e. hortensis. I made some calls to people who had been kind to a beginner, and despite my description of the two kinds of worms, I was told that my ORIGINAL ones were actually fetidas, and they could be put together without any problems, since the people I spoke to said they were the same kind of worm.

    It’s been two years now since that mix-up and my lack of knowlege about worms, and I have made some interesting observations. The first year, the smaller, darker worms seemed to take over my tubs (I have 5 now–three in the shed, and two outdoors in a shady area; the outdoor tubs do not have any holes drilled in the bottom, and I don’t do much more than throw food scraps and bedding in the tubs). During the hot summer in the southeast, ALL of the worms seemed to die off. I thought that I was done with worms when fall was in full force, but much to my surprise, I had a SLEW of the pale worms in all of my tubs, and they seem to like the corners of the tubs the best (perhaps it’s drier there?). I can’t find many of the smaller redworms at all, yet I have so many of the pale worms, I am giving them away to friends and neighbors, as well as putting them in my yard. My flowers are GORGEOUS and HUGE since I began putting both live worms and castings around the roots; even the area where I throw my black oil sunflower seeds for the birds has dozens of sunflowers sprouts now (I had so many worms, I put them in that area, hoping to get some good potting soil, as well as giving the birds a treat to eat, something that broke my heart to do, but for the good of the whole colony, I had to do SOMETHING and reduce the tub populations). Whatever the species the pale worms are, they seem to dominate my tubs and survive the harsh summers we have, provided I keep them well hydrated (they are the Godzillas of my worm tubs). I contacted the seller of these pale worms, and was told they were e. hortensis. Since the introduction of the fetidas, I noticed that a lot of the worms turned a grey-ish color, and the grey ones are shorter and fatter than the pale worms–this coloring could be from the food they get once in a while (“Moo-nure” from Home Depot), although there always seems to be a fair amount of these very strong and wiggly worms in my tubs. Like many other worm stewards, I feed my worms pieces of corrugated cardboard, and they LOVE it–I often find them inside the corrugations, so I have started calling the cardboard “A feel and a meal” (also, a great slogan to add to “Great Roots Bring Great Fruits”)! I read the info left by Edwards, and it does seem that the cocoons only have 1, and OCCASIONALLY 2, wormlets in them. I contacted the supplier of the pale worms, and he informed me that they were indeed e. hortensis.

    Wendy Y. wanted to know about the manure she bought from Home Depot (is it “Moo-nure”?)? If so, it’s mainly mulch with a little bit of cow manure mixed in. My worms seem to like it a lot, and even though there is not much manure in there, they seem to like the dirt in the bottom of the tubs. I get horse manure from a fellow down the street whenever I have the energy to go get it. When my tubs seem to have a lot of worms in them and are filled close to the top with bedding and dirt/castings, I simply divide whatever is in the tubs in half and spread whatever is in the trowel in places that need some help growing. So much for my story on mixing two species of worms together. As a biology lover, watching what happens in my worm tubs has been utterly fascinating. I’m still befuddled about which species of worm I actually have, but I know they eat A LOT. As worms are wont to do, they are always mating, but I have yet to find two dissimilar worms “exchanging fluids” (AKA “having hermaphroditic sex”). If anyone has anything to add to this (the grey color, the change in size of some of the worms, the loss of my redworms (or have I actually lost most of the European Nightcrawlers???), please post a comment.

    • Dave
    • October 4, 2011

    First and foremost I want to say thank you for this awesome site. Recently due to some health scares (cancer)I decided to change my lifestyle and that included trying to eat as much organic food as possible. So I did research and when I decided to grow my own fruits and vegetables and I wont even lie; cannabis(I’m from California and it helped me endure through chemo, radiation and surgeries) I decided to create a natural compost. I must of spent $300 on redworms from local bait shops, but they wouldn’t live more than one day. Come to find out our 100+ weather and the heat from decomposing material would kill them. It was frustrating to say, but now they are doing great. This is what I do, I add about 1″ of something called Beats Peat (Home Depot) which is essentially coconut husk that is grinded and keeps a neutral ph. It also retains moisture much better than carboard, paper or peat moss. I add some compost from a traditional compost pile that I have, some soil and add perlite. This way I can remove my worms and have the best potting soil from the get go. Their diet only consist of fruit and vegetable pulp extracted from my juicing. I started juicing after watching the documentary; Fat, Sick and Nearly dead and I wanted to try to get healthy. So the way I figure that I will feed them the left over of what they help create in my vegetable garden. So I usually make a hole in the bin and put the pulp there and now I have thousands of worms that I planning to create a small side business selling worms and the rich potting soil with worm castings. I just don’t know how to price them. Just a side note, I was about to give up with the whole vermicomposting when I purchased a pound of red worms from ebay and when they arrived, I could not get to them for three days. So when I finally got them most if not all the worms where dead from the heat. But I went ahead and put them in my bin and I noticed greenish, yellowish “pellets”(now I know cocoons). Well one day I noticed small worm sticking out to my delight.

    So the point of my rant’s: thanks to this site I learned how and what to do and that itself I say saved my life. I stop using chemical fertilizers and eating my own super grown produce. Happy to say I have been in remission for two years, when I was told I only had months. I started bodybuilding, finished my degree and looking at medical schools. By the way I was able to do this in a one bedroom apartment with the tiniest property. I grow my vegetable in a 6X6 raised garden and only use my self made soil.

    Last thing, the way I control the tempature in the summer. I soak the compost and turn it with a shovel. In the winter I add a compost bacteria from the home depot and add only a fraction of what it suggest and use grass clippings on top. So the decomposing creates heat that keeps the compost warm, but not over 88 degrees.

    Once again thank you.

    • Ryan
    • April 24, 2015

    few Quick Questions. I started a plastic worm bin roughly three weeks ago, and have noticed a few things:
    1) I have some roamers, how many should I be concerned with? I purchased roughly 500 and tonight I went out to my bin removed the lid and had a large population (20-30) cruising around near the top.
    2) I also have noticed some condensation in my bin and am just starting to notice some little white mite eggs, but when I dig around the bin, it doesn’t feel necessarily too wet (aside from the cardboard I placed on top of the pile) I think I might need to drill more holes.
    C) how often should I add food? I can easily produce a lb or more of veggie/greens waste a day and have been dumping it in every night. Is that too much? and how fine should I chop this stuff?

    • Nancy Cianciulli
    • November 27, 2019

    I was gifted a bin of casting + told there should be eggs in it. He only screened it with 1/4″ screen. I’d like to try to hatch these,if they’re there! I have temp@ 75-80f,moisture climbing to 75%. Any advise appreciated.

    • Bentley
    • December 16, 2019

    Hey Nancy – a very simple approach would be to put the material in a bin an try laying a piece of melon (or something similar) down on the surface. Maybe cover with some bedding. Leave it for a period of time and see if any hatchlings appear.

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