During the past year or so (especially the last 6 months) I’ve had the opportunity to spend a lot more time working with European Nightcrawlers (Eisenia hortensis / Dendrobaena veneta), and as you can probably tell from my writings, I’ve really come to respect them a lot more.
It’s funny to think that my frustrating experience with Euros in my VB48 actually helped lead me down the path to my new found appreciation of these worms. I guess you could say it’s one of those “making lemonade out of lemons” situations that actually panned out (as you may recall, I came up with a skirt-tray system down below the VB48 that’s been working very well).
Spending as much time with these worms as I have, I’ve come to realize that some of my previous assumptions (you know what they say about ASSumptions! lol) were a little off target. As such, I thought it would be of value to put together a post based on my current knowledge-of/experience-with Euros.
Here is a run-down of interesting tidbits (my own observations supplemented with information obtained from reliable sources) about Euros:
NOTE: These are certainly not ALL new revelations (I have categorized accordingly) – and others who have worked with this worm will likely have some different experiences/perspectives. As always, please don’t treat my info as “gospel”.
1) Euros do not thrive in acidic conditions – This is something that needs to get added as a footnote to my “vermicomposting requirements” list. Unlike Red Worms (who seem to do just fine even when pH dips quite low), Euros shy away from acidic food/conditions and will tend not to thrive in a system that is excessively acidic. I first learned this from world-class worm-breeder and friend, George Mingin (who has been wonderfully generous with sharing his “trade secrets” on the WFA member’s forum), but it’s something I’ve also recently seen evidence of in my own systems.
When I’ve added deposits of coffee grounds in my VB48, these zones end up crawling with Red Worms, yet there is nary a Euro in sight (they are, however, found in high densities close by). Interestingly, a large deposit of mixed food waste – including some acidic materials like pineapple – recently added to an enclosed plastic tub system has also ended up devoid of Euros.
As a bit of an experiment I’ve added some (calcium-rich) rock dust (and will continue to do so when feeding) to see if helps a bit.
Just for fun I also sprinkled some on the surface in my VB48 in one small location. I can’t say for sure that the Euros were attracted to it, but I did find a fair number of them in that zone not too long afterwards. This is definitely something I need to investigate further.
2) Euros are very heat tolerant – I’m pretty sure not everyone will agree with me on this (including some academics). Once again I am relying on George Mingin’s vast experience with these worms since I myself have never had the opportunity to test this out. George says he’s had Euro beds reach 35 C (95 F) without any obvious signs of stress from the worms – whereas his Reds tend to start crawling out of the beds once temps reach 33 C (91.4 F). In “Vermiculture Technology” (and various other publications connected with Dr. Clive Edwards) Edwards & Dominguez suggest that 25 C (77 F) is the upper limit of this worm (35 C given as the upper limit for Reds).
I seem to recall, however, that Larry “Garbage Guru” said his Euros died off when it got really hot, while his Red Worms survived.
Bottom-line, you can take all this with a grain of salt! Lots of different factors come in to play here (moisture content, for example, can have a huge impact on tolerance of higher temps).
My main recommendation is simply NOT to assume they don’t handle heat well.
3) Euros are considerably larger than Red Worms (Eisenia fetida/andrei) – Although closely related to Reds, and similarly well-suited for vermicomposting, Euros are definitely a larger worm, and don’t really need any sort of super-nutrient diet (or other requirements) in order to attain and maintain that size.
Naturally, this means they are very well-suited for those also interested in raising live food organisms (for turtles, snakes, larger fish etc) and/or bait worms.
4) Euros don’t like to be disturbed – Anyone with a good memory of my “vermicomposting requirements” list will know that one of them is “peace and quiet”. This was added almost more as an afterthought (and as a bit of a joke), since I was focusing mostly on the requirements of Red Worms at the time (and they are actually pretty tolerant). In hindsight I’m glad I left it on the list because it is definitely applicable to European Nightcrawlers.
If you’ve ever given a Euro bin a good bump, or have started digging around vigorously, you likely know that this will almost always bring at least some of them (often the larger ones) to the surface – and some may even attempt to escape from the bin. It’s not too surprising, then, that they tend to be very restless after being shipped! My recommendation is add a really thick layer of dry, absorbent bedding over top of the worm habitat zone (not a bad idea in general) and/or keep the lid off and shine a bright light over top for a day or two to help them settle in.
All in all, this is definitely NOT something to worry too much about – just something to get used to if you’ve only ever worked with Reds. As a side-note, I want to point out that I’ve never witnessed a mass-exodus of these worms (such as can happen with Blue Worms), so I don’t actually consider them “flighty” or unpredictable.
And who knows – perhaps and advantage of this behavior is that you could use some sort of “grunting” technique for harvesting lots them at once!
5) Euro reproduction and maturation is somewhat slower than in Red Worms – A population of Euros will tend to grow at a slower rate than a population of Red Worms. Here are some numbers George M. shared with me from his own operation
Cocoon Laying – 3 cocoons per worm per week
Cocoon Incubation – 14-21 days
Viable worms per cocoon – ~3
Time to Maturity – 42 days
Cocoon Laying – 2 cocoons per worm per week
Cocoon Incubation – 21-28 days
Viable worms per cocoon – ~1
Time to Maturity – 56 days
Numbers from the literature (those from research conducted by Dr. Clive Edwards and associates) aren’t too much different, although incubation and maturity times for Euros tend to be greater. In all honesty, I tend to trust numbers from “real world” worm farming systems a bit more than experimental lab set-ups – but the long and the short of it is that all these stats should simply be used for comparative purposes, and even then it’s always going to totally depend on a variety of different conditions (eg. both George and the academics seem to keep their worms at 25 C / 77 F).
6) Euros often move in “reverse” (lol) – When Euros are disturbed, they commonly seem to first stick their tail out and then to emerge backwards. What’s interesting is that when I attempted to grab one of these tail tips one time it actually popped off. Makes me wonder if this is a protective mechanism? Obviously the head region is a lot more valuable to the worms than the tail tip (which they can easily grow back).
7) Euro coloration can vary a fair bit – In the past I assumed that Euros were always brownish in color (with their distinct banding pattern), since all the ones I’d dealt with had looked that way. I recently realized (when I started getting some from a new supplier up here in Canada) that they can actually be quite red in color, similar to Red Worms.
I think their diet can play an important role in this. I’ve noticed that previously-red Euros seem to gradually take on more of a brownish (even yellowish) color over time if they are feeding primarily on manure.
8) Euros prefer deep systems with higher moisture content – I am NOT going to claim here that these worms don’t thrive in deep, moist systems. What I WILL say, though, is that they clearly seem to do just fine in shallower – even open – systems. As I’ve mentioned, plenty of them have come out the bottom of my VB48 – but it’s important to note that there are still LOADS of them hanging out near the surface still.
What they really seem to like is sitting directly below sheets of newsprint or something similar. Most of my current Euro systems (VB48 included) are simply open bins with flyers, paper bags etc acting as a cover. The worms seem to be thriving!
Even shallow concrete mixing trays with NO cover whatsoever seem to work great!
9) Euros aren’t as good as Red Worms for processing waste materials – I’ve always just naturally assumed that Red Worms were a lot better for vermicomposting, but seeing the way my Euros voraciously feed on wastes and bedding alike, I’m not nearly as convinced of this! While it’s clear that vertical flow-through systems may not offer the best way to separate Euros from their castings, something I definitely would like to try out is some sort of horizontal flow-through, such as a multi-chamber composter or “walking windrow” (aka “wedge system”).
I am testing Euros in a number of other ways this season – in : 1) Typical “Backyard Composters”, 2) “Worm Towers”, and 3) Pet waste vermicomposting systems. I think they will have the potential to do very well in all of these – especially since these types of systems will be less prone to disturbance than your typical home “worm bin”.
All in all, I am very excited to have the opportunity to work a lot more with European Nightcrawlers, and my hope is that a lot more people will start to try them out as well.
I’d like to extend a big “THANKS” to George Mingin for his role in educating me (and many others) about this cool species!
As always – I’d love for readers to share their experiences here (in comments section) as well!**Want Even More Fun With Worms? Sign Up for the RWC E-mail List Today!**
Pet Waste vermicomposting systems? Please tell more or link to blogs about it! 🙂
I will definitely be writing about this fairly soon. Hoping to get my first system set up sometime next week.
I have written previously about pet waste vermicomposting though:
I think I am setting up my WF 360 this weekend for euros.
I might be having a hard time because i have been mixing coffee grinds in with my mix.
Oh how I hate euros right now 🙂
Thanks Bentley! I did a search before commenting, but didn’t find anything. I didn’t use the magic words! Loved the blogs about cat litter composting! I think may try it!! I’ll have to find a comparable green litter though.
Can’t wait to hear about the other system. 🙂
We traveled to Australia a few years ago. We spent a few days on Kangaroo Island. The cabin that we stayed in was “off the grid”, mostly because it was so far off the beaten path. The sewage waste from the cabin was treated with worms, then recycled to water the yard. We had no problems with the system. Very cool.
Odd, my euros love coffee grounds. I told wfa members about the heat tolerance two years ago, just not quite the level of temp George noted. I know I can’t be trusted, darn me(lol). Have got to say George is a great guy, very knowledgable, always answers those crazy questions I sometimes ask him.
I started a euro bin about three months before my red bin (Walmart only carries euros) and they are doing great. I started out with too few worms, but they survived the first hatching and now are doing great. My red bin on the other hand, will need to be restarted.
Timely article Bentley. Thanks for sharing!
So far my Red/Euro mix is doing great, no worms have escaped from the Worm Inn. I don’t disturb the system very much, and actually kind of forget about it during the week. Weekends I mix up some homemade manure for them and vacuum my fungus gnats up. Ha ha. I do dig around the top 3″ or so just to see how the last batch broke down and always find some of each type of worm. Haven’t broke off any tails yet! :O
I wonder if this distaste for more acidic conditions had anything to do with the sour worm bin decline when you tried feeding bokashi to an indoor worm bin. You were using strictly Euros in that experiment, if I remember correctly…
I have to LOL, You have put in writing, what I have been telling people for years. most are shocked to here it, as they have read so much miss information about redworms…..Gladd to see the artical, all my worms eat coffee grounds, and like them, and although they can tolerate the heat, they all eat better in the 70’s range…………..Tim
JOHN – I hope to see you get you excited about Euros again! Interesting re: the coffee grounds. That could potentially be a contributing factor.
JESSICA – LoL – yes, the “magic words” and use of quotation marks will work wonders with our search function. And there is always the “Hot Topics” page to check as well (many popular topics/posts can be accessed from there).
KGMOM – Sounds really cool! Many potential uses for these composting worms I tell ya!
MICHAEL – Your info is certainly reliable and appreciated. Very interesting re: the coffee grounds. I definitely need to do some more testing!
NomNom – Glad your Euros are thriving! In my experience they are a very resilient worm, and quite easy to maintain (some food + lots of bedding and leave them alone = success! haha)
PAUL – Thanks for the update! I’m really interested to learn how they do in your Inn over time.
DEOXY – I’d say that it definitely helps to explain why the Euros weren’t thriving in that system. Although, I don’t think ANY worms would have thrived in that system! lol
TIM – Please elaborate on that. What is it about Red Worms and/or Euros that people typically get wrong? Thanks for sharing (and yet another reminder I need to work more with the coffee grounds and Euros). Interesting re: the feeding at more moderate temps!
“TIM – Please elaborate on that. What is it about Red Worms and/or Euros that people typically get wrong?”
The post’s and so called facts, sometimes even come from Universities, Many claim, that ONLY Red wiggler, Eisenia fetida can and should be used for composting. noting that only the red worm is a top feeder….as we know this is not true, the list is endless. I believed a lot of it for many years, only to find the myth’s are very untrue.
I hear you there! Definitely a lot more focus on Reds than Euros. What’s funny is that those who end up trying the Euros often seem to fall in love with them (of course, this likely stems from the fact that they are so much better than most people give them credit for).
Here’s to getting a lot more people excited about these worms!!
I am one of those that fell for the euros. Most of my vermicompost production comes from euros. I think the consistency of the vermicompost is better with euros. They seem to more completely process what’s in the bin. They seem to be particularly attracted to cardboard. I soak waste cardboard for a couple of days before adding to the bin. When I check a number of euros are happlily feeding on pieces of the cardboard.
Yeah i haven’t completely given up on Euros. But it’s too hot here to start a new batch and see what happens. Lol! I know when they get real hot here they crawl on the top to die. I had a bin with mixed and didn’t have a single Euro left when i was done. I know a Euro can crawl out of a porcelain bathtub in a few seconds. My EF laugh at 95 degree weather. I’m getting me some new test vessels lined up for more Euro experiments. But there is a reason Dew worms and Euros don’t like it here. Our humidity is like steaming clams. Mine wanted A.C.! Under my house they survived. My worm tent the EF beat them into submission. Round three may be different?
I like to know if I can mix both kinds of worms in the same bed
I know Bentley is using a mix of them for a lot of his new experiments and for his customers.
MICHAEL – thanks for chiming in! I had actually forgotten that you were a Euro-convert! That’s cool! I really like the castings from Euros as well – beautiful stuff, and they actually seem to create it quite quickly!
LARRY – I was hoping you would jump in here. Your info is a reminder of the fact that you just NEVER know! Amazing that your Reds have been so heat tolerant (and the Euros haven’t)! I guess the key is to aim for temps a bit more moderate if possible. I know mine are REALLY thriving down in my basement (where it would be low 70’s).
JESUS – John is correct. I’ve definitely come to appreciate the way these worms can work together (and get along) in a vermicomposting system. I used to recommend keeping them separate since I assumed Reds would outcompete the Euros – but a lot of recent experimentation has definitely indicated otherwise!
It DOES depend on what you are trying to do though. If you have plans to sell the worms as distinct species, it might be a pain to have them mixed.
Bentley, are these Euros the same nightcrawlers we dig up in the yard for fishing or are they strictly a type that one needs to purchase somewhere?
These are definitely NOT those same nightcrawlers (“Canadian Nightcrawlers” | “Dew Worms” | Lumbricus terrestris). These worms are larger cousins of the Red Worm and are composting worms, not soil worms.
In your article on European Night Crawlers of about a year ago, you mentioned that you were going to test them out with “worm towers.” I assume you were referring to “worm feeding stations” that some people are using in raised-bed/square-foot gardens.
I am building some new raised beds in my vegetable garden and I am planning on using worms fed with vegetable scraps through worm towers as a much less labor-intensive alternative to amending my very-high-clay-content soil with shredded leaves each year.
I had been planning on using Alabama Jumpers until I read your article on ENCs. Could you share any insights from your testing with worm towers? In particular, I’m trying to figure out how many worms to start with in a 3′ x 25′ x 6″-9″ (tilled depth over hard clay subsoil) bed, and how far apart to put the worm towers (the fewer the better) so that the worms will aerate and spread their castings throughout the entire bed. Also, can they burrow down deep enough in the subsoil to survive summer afternoons here that frequently exceed 100 (37.8C) degrees.
What about enviromental impact when these various worm species get loose in the wild? All of you need to consider the invasive species aspect. Any of you that are involved in the bait business would know that Canadian crawler suppliers are yielding the lowest crop since 1988, and the price is the highest it has ever been. If you search “nightcrawler shortage”, you will find various articles documenting this, including one from the Wall Street Journal dated July 11, 2014. The result of this shortage has encouraged bait dealers to try species other than the Canadian nightcrawlers and redworms. If you search “Asian worms” (aka Alabama Jumpers), you will find that they are showing up in various states where they have never been, and they are devastating forests. The environmental impact is severe and there is no practical way to eradicate them. Growing Canadian crawlers in captivity is not been found to be practical because it takes 5-7 years for them to mature. From a cost vs. production standpoint, Euro worms appear to be the most practical species to supplement the bait business. My question is how damaging are Euro worms going to be when discarded by unknowing fishermen or accidentaly released? I cannot find any information on this, and it needs further study…… BEFORE it becomes a potential problem.
Clear Lake, IA
SKIP – if you google “worm towers” you will see what I mean. I am not familiar with “worm feeding stations”, but perhaps it is essentially the same thing.
In all honesty, I haven’t done enough with Worm Towers to answer your questions (spacing etc). I have a large garbage can tower in the middle of a “square foot garden” sized bed with 4 tomato plants in it, and it has worked very well.
DAN – invasive species can be an issue, but it’s far less likely to be a concern with Red Wigglers or Euros. They are both very much adapted for life in very rich habitats, such as manure heaps etc. Worms like Alabama Jumpers definitely have more potential in my opinion since they tend to be leaf litter worms. You may want to check out this other article I wrote on the subject:
What am I supposed to be feeding these Euros? NomNom said it best..Wal-Mart only sells Euros. I certainly have no intention of getting rid of them, but I’m sure they’re getting hungry (my “real” red wigglers are in transit to me now)..
I got European night crawlers and put them in my bin and now they just lay at the top and are not moving please help.
To answwe your question about what to feed your euro’s. There is slot of things you can feed them. I have a few things that I feed my euro’s and they have been doing extremely well for the last 7 years that i have been raising them. I alternate my mixes to give them a variety. I have one mix which is crushed eggshell, fine chicken layer mash, and coffee grounds. I feed them this once every other week. You will notice that the eggshell will not be eaten right away but the purpose of the eggshell is to keep proper oh balance on the worm bin. The eggshell is a slow release calcium which has kept my ph levels perfect for many years. The other mix I use is coffee grounds, cornmeal, and crushed stale bread. They go crazy over that mix. But all in all I also found that if you just mix the eggshells through out the bedding it will evenly distribute the proper oh balance of your bedding. If you are unsure of the mix proportions then you can always just sprinkle pure cornmeal of the top and they will love you for it. I like them mixes but when you have a farm as big as mine and you don’t have enough to make the mixes plain cornmeal works wonderfully and they stay extremely happy and healthy. Also another point is it is all about experimenting. I know for a fact that every worm farm can be different. My cousin lives down in Tennessee and her Euro’s do not like coffee grounds but mine here in pa love them and I gave her her euro’s right from my own farm. I find it weird but it is what it is. Like Bentley has said do not over feed them this way you get a good idea as to what and how much of something they will eat or not. My worm farms are built out of plastic storage beens from lowes. I have the lids on them with air holes drilled in the sides and lids. One thing i found with my euros is that if you sprinkle your food mix over the top and then cover the entire top of your bedding with damped paper towels ( solid sheets not shredded ) in one layer the worms will feed much better and it also helps control the moisture of the bedding material as well. Plus if you miss a feeding the euro’s will eat the paper towels as a substitute to there diet. It kind of an all around win win situation. Like Bentley said once you get the hang of it they are extremely easy to raise.
Thanks for listening,
Euros love to eat spent coffee grounds and newspaper. When done with an apple bury the core in a corner of the bedding. Invest in a decent paper shredder – your bills and junk will make good feed, too.
Old corn meal that you forgot in your fridge – they love. The coffee filters, too!
So far I’m liking these. I’ve raised redworms before but I like the size of these. Redworms are tiny and can barely fit on a fishing hook.
Ok, I have raised these worms off and on for years but still need to know what they are called. I live in Texas and I am talking about our southern nightcrawler. The one we find crawling in our yards after a rain. Anyone know the name for sure ? I m starting my beds again and would love to be able to look up the requirements for them and learn a bit more. I have always used them for bait. And am thinking of a small business possibility.
Please be aware of the difference between Euros and jumping worms. The second is both highly invasive and harmful. Someone wrote about the tail coming off. That wasn’t a Euro, that was a jumping worm.
Both eat kitchen scraps. Any leftover veggie pieces will be great for your work bins! Potato, apple, banana, carrot peels…etc. Just avoid fats, dairy, and meats. Also avoid citrus and acidic fruit waste.
Thank you for the information and positivity on the ease of raising Euros. I have just started raising Euros with a view to developing a business. My worms arrived in good condition. I like to settle them in straight away in complete darkness; to my shock many of them escaped within hours! This has never happened with red wigglers so I was horrified. They have now settled in with a cover and light over the top, no deaths. They absolutely love layers of intact cardboard in the bedding and scoff a mix of ground up oatmeal, brown rice and milk powder like there’s no tomorrow although they eat everything I offer them including coffee grounds. Having harvested cocoons I’m eagerly watching the babies mature. I’m in the process of setting up a two tier, polystyrene tray tower system for vermicompost and single trays for breeding. We get temps from -1C to 39C where I am and I hope the polystyrene and being indoors will help to protect them. Though I may have to cool them during hotter weather. Early days, but all seems to be going well and I think the Euros will be very popular choice for gardeners, exotic pet owners and fishermen alike.
Hi Siobhan – thanks for stopping by. I had completely forgotten about this article and I’m getting more active with Euros these days so this is great timing.
They are definitely more sensitive than Reds and I can remember the earliest Euros I received (via a shipped order) years ago being very restless early on. Lots of dry cover bedding and light should help them settle in.
As for temps – hopefully your indoor temps are a bit more moderate than the range you mentioned. Somewhere between 20 and 30 C (68 and 86 F) would probably be the best bet.
Hi Bently, my experiment with keeping my red wigglers outside in the winter in Maine, zone 5 worked! I was inspired after watching you on the HGFS summit last year. I couldn’t dig a trench in our lawn because of all of the tree roots so I put them on the ground, with food scraps and a deep litter of leaves in the early fall. Before the freezing weather arrived I covered the whole area with hay bales, three bales high and three bales wide by six bales long. It was a milder winter than usual but with periods of well below freezing weather and no snow cover. The bales were filled with red wigglers this spring. Yeah!!! This area will become my new planting bed. Thank you!
That’s fantastic, Crystal – sounds like a great approach! 😎
Bentley, I just wanted to chime in that I am so glad to see you are posting about euros again! I have quite a few bins going, and dare I say, I prefer them to the wigglers.
However, after having fed them solely fruit/veggie scraps, cardboard, coir, etc. for over a year, I have gradually seen the euros shrink and get less energetic. I remember long ago thinking how huge, adventurous, and active they were compared to the little, squirmy, congregating reds. I recently wondered if I hadn’t mixed in reds by mistake as they were starting to look identical.
Since 2 weeks, I started feeding them oats, flour, cornmeal and they seem to be perking up. (I also recently changed my water source and now only use rain water.) I have one bin to which I do not add grains and they continue to be lethargic. My main purpose of having worms is for composting, so not sure how I feel about having to actually feed euros different food (more like a pet).
All the info you post about them, I am reading eagerly. Thanks.