Euro Cocoons Galore!

European Nightcrawler Cocoons

Last week I told you about the new home I set up for my European Nightcrawlers. Well it seems my worms have really settled in, and are now working over-time to fill all the available real estate.

That is to say they are breeding like…well…WORMS! Composting worms that is (soil dwellers tend not to be quite so prolific).

Levels of materials in the bin have settled down quite a bit since adding the worms, so I decided to add some more food waste! As I mentioned in my last post, my wife and I have been eating healthier this year and it’s left me with a lot more food waste for the worms (not to mention feeling better!!). Whoohoo!

Below you can see the colourful assortment of food scraps I added yesterday.

European Nightcrawler Bin

Anyway, I’m going to be very interested to see how long it takes before I start finding little euro-babies wiggling around. I found quite a few cocoons that seem to have darkened, and there seems to be baby worms inside – so perhaps it will be sooner than expected!

Speaking of worm babies, I really need to check in on my 4 worm experiment to see if there are any new additions there.

Man oh man – there certainly isn’t a shortage of things to write about on the blog these days!

[tags]european nightcrawlers, eisenia fetida, worm reproduction, worm cocoons, worm bin, worm bins, worm composting, vermicomposting, vermiculture[/tags]

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    • Kami
    • January 17, 2008

    I do not understand how you can feed that much. How do you keep the bin from going bad?

    Have you ever had protein poisoning or acid bin? If so, how do you keep that from happening?

    • Bentley
    • January 18, 2008

    Hi Kami!
    That’s a good question.
    A big part of successful vermicomposting involves creating a well-balanced ‘habitat’ for the worms – I can’t emphasize that enough. This is why I strongly recommend setting up a worm bin well before actually adding worms. In the case of this bin, there is a lot of quality habitat down below, plus good air-flow, so the worms have plenty of options when it comes to avoiding an unfavourable conditions (assuming they develop).
    Also, one thing I didn’t mention in my post is that I added quite a bit of absorbent, shredded cardboard along with the waste materials.

    As for protein poisoning or acidic bins, I haven’t had serious problems with a worm bin for a very long time. Sure I get the odd fruitfly or fungus gnat infestation due to lazy habits, but nothing that makes the worms want to leave the bin (or die).


    • Steve
    • January 18, 2008

    I regards to the picture you have posted, I am wondering something about the accepted rule of thumb for the amount of food for the worms verses the weight of the worms. If that is 3 lbs. of food in the above picture will it take 1 lb. of worms 3 days to process it?

    The amount of food shown is about what our family of 5 puts daily into our tine Lee Valley composting pail. (plus some coffee grounds and tea bags) For now, until my two worm bins get going, most my food waste is going to our outside composter.

    • Bentley
    • January 18, 2008

    Hi Steve,
    I really try to steer clear of “rules of thumb” when it comes to vermicomposting, since pretty well every situation is different. There are so many factors that come into play – temperature, moisture, type of worms used, number of worms present, health of worms, overall balance of system, types of wastes being used, level of decay of wastes, the size of waste particles (ie whole or shredded?) etc etc etc.

    I know how beneficial it can be for newcomers to have a set of rules to follow, but unfortunately when you are dealing with a complex ecosystem like that found in a worm bin/bed, all the various pieces of advice offered (even my own – haha) are ‘rough guidelines’ at best. Once you work with your system for awhile you should get a ‘feel’ for its potential level of performance.

    If the materials were quite decayed already and temperatures quite warm (above 20C / 68F) I would think it possible for a pound of worms to consume 3 lbs of (food) waste in 3 days. In the case of my bin, I’ll be surprised if these wastes are consumed within a week. The bin is in my basement (where temperatures are cooler), there was already a decent amount of food in the bin, and the wastes I added weren’t very rotten, nor were they chopped up at all. I have quite a few different options as far as where to put my wastes (multiple bins etc), so I tend not to put too much effort into optimizing the materials for rapid breakdown, other than letting them sit for a period of time before adding them.

    Keeping your scraps in a separate pail (as you described) should help encourage a lot of microbial growth (ie rot), and thus will help increase the speed of breakdown once added to your bins.

    Not sure if I’ve helped at all here, but thanks for the good question!

    • Brody
    • February 11, 2008

    Hey, well, it’s been a few weeks now and I’ve been checking the bin on Sundays, trying not to disturb my charges too often. Adding a little pre-rotted veg scrap here and there. Today I had to rush in here and see what worm eggs look like – because I apparently now have an active worm nursery. They look like the photo above only more of an ivory color and damp. From what you wrote I’m thinking they are fairly new and will dry and harden some before they hatch.

    I’m just proud my worms appear to like the home I’ve made for them, and are settling in happily. Your Web site here helped that happen!

    • Bentley
    • February 11, 2008

    That’s great, Brody! Congratulations.
    I’m really glad to hear that the site has helped as well!

    • Brody
    • February 17, 2008

    Bentley – I think I have a problem. I think my worm cocoons – aren’t worms.

    They have legs. Like little tiny hairs, almost can’t see ’em at all.

    And maybe the critters are too small to be worm cocoons anyway. They look more like aphids since I got one and took it out into daylight. Think maybe something hatched off my produce? Are my worms in danger from them? Any experience with this?

    Thanks for any advice!

    • Bentley
    • February 17, 2008

    Those would be mites, Brody. There are a variety of different mite species that can spring up in a worm bin from time to time – seemingly out of nowhere.
    In actuality they can easily get transported to your bin via soil (if you add any) or even the shipment of worms themselves.
    For the most part you don’t need to worry too much about them, although large numbers of mite may be an indication that you are overfeeding your bin. The shiny, round, white ones seem to love lots of water-rich foods like melon, cucumbers etc.


    • Brody
    • February 19, 2008

    Oh, well, veggie mites don’t sound so menacing, I can live with ’em. So long as they don’t start yopping off about, “a person’s a person no matter how small”.
    Sorry, I’m a child of Dr. Seuss. Probably one reason I’m herding worms now. Thanks again for your help!

    • Bentley
    • February 19, 2008

    “Horton hears a Who!!”
    I didn’t grow up with Dr. Seuss, but am now well versed in it – we have been reading his stories to our baby daughter before bed several times a week.
    My favourite is “Oh the Places You’ll Go” (which isn’t just for kids, in my mind).

    Anyway, good luck with the worms – keep me posted on your worm herd!

    • Kris
    • February 22, 2008


    We need some guidance. We purchased a worm bin composting system on line and it said we would get the bins a week or more before the worms….well, the worms arrived today (thank goodness I had to pick up a kid from school, on our way back up the driveway there was a box in the mailbox)the high temp today was 20, yesterday started out at -10 with a windchill of -30…no kidding they closed schools. Anyway we have no bins, I called the people we ordered through and he said the bins would be here tomorrow. So what am I suppose to do? I told them that there was no indication inside or outside the box as to what was in the box and what to do with it. I opened the box….nothing but a bag with a ziptie….I finally opened it and it was our worms, I thought they would want to know. Then I was told the worms are ok from 50 to 90 degrees….???? So I let the gentleman know I really need some help I don’t know what to do. So he sent me the 6 pages that would come with the bins….guess what …it doesn’t tell us what to do with the worms. I tried looking on some websites and decided I had better grab the bag from the counter top as it was stated they don’t like light. I did have one egg carton that I soaked and tore up. I found a small rubbermaid container aprox. 8 x 18 (guessing) I put a doubled piece of newspaper inside on the bottom, dumped the worms onto it then poured my coffee grounds from breakfast over them then some torn up soaked egg carton, then some folded up dampened newspaper and set the lit on loosely then set them in a box and closed the box lid. They are in the house. Any help would be very much appreciated.

    • Bentley
    • February 24, 2008

    Hi Kris
    Apologies for the delay getting back to you! Sounds like you have a serious situation on your hands there!
    Seems rather odd that the worms would arrive BEFORE to bins! If I was a worm dealer I would send the bin a week or so before the worms so the customer could get it ready for the worms arrival and let it age a little.
    As for what to do – you are definitely on the right track. Getting them into some sort of bin is a good start. I would have soaked a bunch of shredded cardboard (corrugated carboard is great) and/or shredded newspaper and/or peat moss (any of those, or combination would be fine). The ideal ‘food’ to add is something thats already starting to decompose – obviously in your situation you don’t have the luxury of being able to age the wastes. I would either freeze or cook some vegetable/fruit wastes (if none available I’d just harvest some older produce from my fridge – haha) to help start the breakdown process then add them to the bin.
    First and foremost they need a habitat, so the more moist bedding you can add the better.

    Anyway – hope your actual bins arrive soon (although your home bin will potentially be a better habitat for them by that point).
    Let me know if you have any other questions


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