Vermicomposting is one of the popular methods to speed up traditional composting. When you are selecting worms for your bin, you have to Identify red wigglers correctly. Since they are more efficient than other species. When composting with worms, you receive many benefits. These worms’ castings (poops) are rich in nutrients such as Nitrogen, phosphorus. These red worms can easily breakdown many organic matters. Hence, these annelids important for decaying organic material on your compost.
These tiny species are living close to the surface. Many home gardeners mistakenly identify earthworms as red worms. However, because they have similar body shapes, the difference can be easily identified by their body size, color, and behavior.
Red Wigglers are also called panfish worms, red worms, tiger worms, manure worms, and brandling worms. These worms also use for fishing bait, which is why they are called panfish worms. Their scientific name is Eisenia fetida. They are more sensitive animals.
How to Identify Red Wiggler Worms?
Red wigglers and earthworms are difficult to spot at once, especially when the earthworms are at a growing age. Since they have similar visually, we can quickly identify red wigglers by checking the general appearance.
- Fully-grown Red Wigglers length is three to five inches.
- Body-color is a reddish-brown color.
- More aggressive than the earthworms.
- Has tiny rings space strips throughout the body. That is why they called tiger worms.
- Tiger worm lives close to the soil surface or compost pile.
- It has a clitellum close to the head. This part slightly larger than the body. It mainly uses for sexual reproduction.
What is the difference between earthworms and red wigglers?
There are some differences between earthworms and red wigglers. We can easily distinguish these two species using their physical appearance. Generally, earthworms living in few inches deeper soils with their own burrows. Red worms are living close to the surface or top of the surface. Red wigglers eat rotting organic material, and earthworms eat small microorganisms in the soil, including fungus, bacteria and dead leaves, and grass. We can identify these two types of worm’s differences in several criteria.
- Physical Appearance.
Red wiggler worms are smaller than earthworms. Another main physical difference between red worms and earthworms is body length. A fully-grown red worm’s length is 2 inches to 4 inches, and earthworms can be up to the 14-inch in length. If we look at their body color, we cannot clearly identify when their body contains dirty materials. First, you have to wash them. Red wiggler reddish-grey in color tale side has yellowish tip and earthworms are reddish-brown.
- Natural Habitat.
Red wiggler is more aggressive. Most of the time, they live close to the surface. Earthworms live in deeper soil (up to 6 feet), and they make burrows. Both of these species need adequate moisture, but compost worms prefer slightly warmer temperatures.
- Favorite Foods.
Compost worms love organic foods like vegetable scraps and fruit scraps, including cabbage, apple peels, eggshells, celery, beetroot. As I mentioned earlier, earthworms eat soil fungus, bacteria, fallen leaves, and dead grass.
Red worms reproduction rapidly than the nightcrawler. If you added the same amount of these worms into a single container, you could see red wigglers can easily double their population in 60 days.
- Help Composting.
Red wiggler highly helps to decompose kitchen waste. Adding these worms to your kitchen compost bin can quickly accelerate the organic material breakdown process. On the other hand, earthworms do not eat vegetables and food scraps. Therefore, they do not directly help to breakdown those materials. However, they help make aeration to the pile by making burrows and improve the compost bin fertility by their casting (poop). Aeration requires the increase in the organic matter decomposes. Therefore, nightcrawlers help to compost indirectly.
Because of the above-mentioned difference between earthworms and red wigglers, they can easily live in the same compost bin. Although, there are no special benefits or disadvantages to putting these two species together. When earthworm and red worms can live together in the same compost bin, they are no competition among them for foods.
Can red wigglers survive winter?
Suppose the temperature falls below the 32 °F (0°C) harmful to red worms and eventually dies. Red wigglers cannot survive in freezing temperatures. Therefore, when you are maintaining vermicomposting, a.k.a. worm composting outside, you must maintain a proper temperature. Although if you are composting indoor, you do not worry about temperature drop during the winter season.
When the temperature falls below 50°F (10°C), panfish worm decreases decomposition organic matter and reduces reproduction. It means they become dormant.
Best foods for Red Worms.
Red wigglers mostly prefer kitchen waste, including vegetable scraps, fruit scraps, eggshells, spoiled foods, coffee grounds, tea bags. Not only that they like cardboard, but papers also never use ink to contain papers like newspapers. However, never try to feed them meat or dairy products. Never use any non-biodegradable materials like plastic, polystyrene, etc. they are toxic to them.
What is the best home for red wigglers?
Red wigglers prefer foods and a moisture-rich environment. Not only that, they grow well and speedup reproduction when they receive optimum living conditions. Red worms like following environmental conditions.
- Temperature between 65°F to 85°F (18°C – 29°C). If the temperature over 85°F (29°C), it is harmful to them.
- Proper air circulation. They need oxygen to breathe and exhaust carbon dioxide.
- Soil/Compost pH level between 6 to 7pH. However, they can survive 4.2 to 8 level even if they live over 7, not the perfect condition.
- Good moisture level. They need good moisture to breathe through the skin.
A large amount of tiger worms casting can be harmful to them. Because castings of one wiggler are toxic to another worm, when you are doing a red wiggler farm, make sure that they receive enough space. Especially pay attention to worm’s population (quantity) and the container size. Change the bedding every six to seven months to provide a favorable environment for them. In hot weather, never let the soil temperature increase over 85°F (29°C).
Where can I find red wigglers?
Red wigglers can find commonly in old manure, compost piles, and bins. These worms live many rotten foods heap in your backyard or garbage dump area. Apart from that, you can easily find Red worms in animal farm manure piles, especially cattle and horses. Those are the natural habitat for them. Alternatively, you can purchase red worms in vermicomposting -supplier, fish bait shops.
How to grow red worms in Worm bin.
When farming red wiggler at-home worm bins, you have to provide a favorable environment for them. At optimum living conditions, you can double these manure worm’s population every 60 days. In-home worm bin, you have to provide controlled temperature, moisture, light, and even foods.
Best red wiggler bedding.
The best bedding for compost worms should be non-toxic, retain moisture, pH level should between 6 to 7, rich in organic matter, and good ventilation. These materials should be high nitrogen and carbon ratio. The perfect bedding for red worms is a mix of the following organic materials.
- Shredded brown corrugated cardboard.
- Fully decomposed compost.
- Peat Moss or coconut coir.
- Shredded papers – Not use ink contains papers. These ink chemicals can be toxic to worms.
- Fallen leaves and grass clippings.
- Aged cow and horse manure.
- Kitchen waste, including vegetable and fruit scraps.
- Chopped Eggshell.
How often to add bedding to the worm bin?
When you are, maintain the red wiggler worm bin, you have to change the bedding every six to seven months. If there are many worm castings (poop), it can be toxic to other worms who live in the bin. Which means each red wiggler poop can toxic to them but not for human.
Apart from that, you have to maintain a proper moisture level but not soggy. Therefore replacing the manure worms bedding every 6 to 7 months essential routine.
Most worms do not live more than 5 inches deeper from the surface. Therefore, you do not need to change the whole worm bedding. Hence, replace bedding 6 to 7 inches deeper from the surface.
Hi, can either earth worms, and or red wigglers be put directly into a raised garden bed that has mostly broken down bark and twigs, with some loam…it is light and fluffy, seems to retain water moisture fairly well, but contains virtually no soil in it. I want to “build up” the nutrients by adding some compost and some aged steer manure, but I also want the worms to do their thing to further break down the bark and twigs, and any brown leaves and or grass clippings I may leave in to ward off any weeds in spring. Any assistance will be much appreciative.
BTW…my wife will not let me keep a worm composter (vermicomposter)
Yes, you can put earthworms directly into raised garden beds. Compost, barks are a good living environment and foods for earthworms. These two types of worms do not need garden soil.
However, if you put red wigglers they need a good cover to protect them against predators like birds. Because they live surface of the soil. Adding leaf mulch on top of the beds provides good protection. But they prefer to eat plant trimmings, paper, leaves, and food scrap, etc things. So you have to provide these things. It will make bit messy your garden beds. If you do not worry messy garden bed you can do it. It gives more nutrients to your plants. Therefore my recommendation is if you can keep red wigglers on your compost bin.