Nightcrawler worms are the most common earthworms in the world and they are used as bait for fish, and also for vermicomposting in the garden.
Look around most moist soil surfaces at night and you may catch nightcrawler worms scrambling the area.
Though being Endogeic (deep soil) worm species, you’ll likely have to wait for them to show themselves (usually after heavy rainfall)
They have a rather large body, unlike most earthworms you’ll find around.
More so, the night crawlers, just like the red wiggler worms are an invasive species.
Over the years, they have migrated from their region of origin (Europe) to regions including Africa and Canada.
All thanks to their invasive attributes, we now have varieties of them in each region and they are known as the Canadian nightcrawlers, African nightcrawlers, and European nightcrawlers.
Nightcrawler worms are scattered abroad due to factors such as bait trade, agriculture, horticulture, and unintentional transport.
There is a ton of information and facts that you likely want to know about night crawlers and this article covers just that.
Let’s deep dive (pun intended) right into this very common earthworm species.
Nightcrawler Worms Quick Fact Sheet
Size: 4-8 Inches
Ideal Habitat Temperature: About 16-21°C (60-70°F but can withstand temps up to 80). Canadian nightcrawlers prefer cooler temperatures, ideally 60 degrees F.
Ideal Habitat Moisture: Between 60-80%
Ideal Habitat pH: Neutral pH
Scientific Name: Lumbricus Terrestris
Other Names: Grunt worm, dew worms, garden worms, lob worm, and leaf worms.
Ideal Diet: Leaf litter, plants, soil micro-organisms, insects, remains of larger dead animals.
Feed Rate: They can eatas much as their own bodyweight daily.
Reproduction Rate: An average of 38 cocoons per year, or roughly one every 10 days.
Days to Reach Adult Maturity: Within 45 days after hatching.
Composting Difficulty: Medium.Not quite as easy as the red wigglers,they prefer vertical burrows deep into the soil but this isn’t a problem with the right set up.
How To Identify Nightcrawlers? Anatomy
There are millions of worm species in the soil and it is hard to differentiate one from another.
In light of that, we have highlighted some prominent features to look out for in nightcrawlers.
An adult nightcrawler worm measures up to 4-8 Inches in length.
When compared to other earthworms, they have a relatively large body.
More so, a full-grown nightcrawler will have 136 segments on its 4-8 Inches body.
The night crawlers appear red-greyish on their backside and slightly pink on their belly.
Because night crawlers are heavy burrowing worms, their tail tends to be more flattened than the head and lighter in color.
4. Eating habit
The name, ‘Nightcrawlers’ was given to this species of worm because they only come out to the soil surface at night to eat and mate.
Nightcrawler Worms Life Cycle
A Nightcrawlers’ life cycle can take between 6-10 weeks from egg to reproductive maturity.
They start off as cocoons, containing around 1-5 worm babies per cocoon.
It can take around 2-3 weeks (at optimal temperatures) until they hatch and that’s when they start their journey to become full-grown adult nightcrawler worms.
It takes another four to six weeks for them to reach this stage and be mature enough to reproduce.
They can produce on average around 38 cocoons per year and it largely depends on whether or not they are in an optimal habitat with the right temperatures, moisture levels and food supplies.
Where Are Nightcrawlers From and Where do They Live?
Nightcrawlers can be found everywhere around the world, since they’re another invasive species.
They are from Europe but have found their way to other parts of the world.
They are an invasive species and are useful to anybody with a fishing rod or a garden.
They live and spend long periods deep in the soil and only come out at night to eat and mate.
NOTE: They are indigenous to Europe but are in abundance in regions like Canada and Africa.
As is common with most earthworms, night crawlers are heavy feeders.
If you want to start vermicomposting and you’re considering our slippery friend, then you should understand their diet.
Below, you’ll find a list of the foods a nightcrawler will benefit from and ones you should avoid.
1. Decomposing matter
2. Finely ground materials that are soggy enough to be consumed.
3. Leaf litter
5. Grass clippings
6. Vegetable peelings
7. Coffee grounds
8 Crushed oatmeal
9. Compost or kitchen scraps
11. Fruit scraps
Do Not Feed:
Large quantities of:
4. Dairy foods
You can find a more exhaustive list of what worms eat < in our ultimate guide
Are Nightcrawlers Good Composting Worms in a Worm Farm?
When worm farmers are considering the species of earthworms they would use in their worm bin, the Nightcrawlers sometimes don’t pop up as the first choice.
This is because there are easier to maintain composting worms like red worms.
Night crawlers also like soil to burrow deep into, whereas red wigglers are happy to dwell in and on top of their food or simple worm bedding.
Nevertheless, they are still also great composting worms for your vermicomposting activity, especially European nightcrawlers who aren’t as sensitive to temperature changes.
They are helpful in a worm farm and garden because they are intense burrowers and with their activities, they can properly fertilize and can aerate the soil on their quest for feeding on nutrients.
Plus by burrowing, they are making sufficient room for water and air to flow into the soil.
Note: The Canadian nightcrawler isn’t as good for compost purposes. They aren’t as voracious when feeding as their European brothers and sisters, are more solitary and need their soils to be kept cool to survive.
Are Nightcrawlers Common?
Yes, they are a common species of earthworm.
They are popularly used for vermicomposting.
More so, they are a big deal in the fishing world as they are also used as fishing bait for large fish.
Although indigenous to Europe, nightcrawlers have found their way across the world to become a household name.
Their migration is due to agriculture, horticulture, unintentional transport, as well as being used as fish bait.
Other Common Names for Nightcrawlers?
Nightcrawlers go by several aliases including:
- Grunt worm
- dew worms
- garden worms
- lob worm (in the UK)
- leaf worms
- common worms
Throughout the article, we’ve been mentioning that the nightcrawler worms have a variety of species and in this section, let’s take a look at their different earthworm types.
African Nightcrawlers [Eudrilus eugeniae]
The African nightcrawlers are excellent composting worms with a large appetite.
If you’re considering vermicomposting, then they are a common favorite because they produce massive castings that will be beneficial to your worm bin and your gardening endeavors.
More so, they eat up to 150% of their body weight each day if they are presented with favorable living conditions.
How Do You Identify an African Nightcrawler when You See It?
Well, their coloring is exceptional and one-of-a-kind being a mix of grey and purple (when compared to the reddish brown of the others)
Plus, they are a tropical species of nightcrawler worms – they love warmer environments and are very sensitive to cold, so may do better if you live in a hotter climate.
Also, in contrast to its cousin, the European nightcrawler, its reproduction rate is impressive and produces approximately 2-3 cocoons per week.
Below is a list of food that you should feed the African nightcrawler:
2. Used Coffee Grounds
3. Fruit and Vegetable waste (except citrus fruit)
4. Starchy Foods
5. Farm animal manures
European Nightcrawlers [Eisenia hortensis]
European nightcrawlers are also known as the “super reds” because of their similar coloring pattern to red wigglers. (though you can see the difference in our article red worms vs nightcrawlers.)
They are great picks when considering fishing and vermicomposting activities.
The fishing enthusiasts will be glad to know that this species is much larger and most suitable for use as fish bait.
For easy identification of the European nightcrawlers, we will provide a checklist of things to look out for in them below:
- They are approx 4 inches in length [adult nightcrawlers]
- The diameter of the European nightcrawler is about the diameter of a pencil.
- Color: Deep red with a lighter underbody.
- They are much larger than the common red wiggler.
- They are slower than Indian blue worms.
- Their saddle/clitellum is obvious
- They do not have an iridescent sheen like the red wigglers.
- They have bandings when fully stretched out.
Canadian Nightcrawlers [Lumbricus terrestris.]
The Canadian nightcrawler is another prominent species of nightcrawler worms.
They are readily available across North America.
They earned the nickname “dew worms” because you will find them wriggling around while the morning dew is still in abundance on the ground and plants as well.
One major downside of the Canadian nightcrawlers is the fact that they are not good for vermicomposting when compared to their counterparts as the Lumbricus terrestris are a more solitary species.
Things to look out for in a Canadian nightcrawler include:
- Size: They are large and measure up to 7 inches in length.
- They tend to be rounder on the head side
- They are flatter on the tail side
- Spade-shaped tail
- Dark purple color towards and on the head
- They have a lighter color towards the tail
- They prefer cooler temperatures to the European nightcrawlers
Key Differences Between Night Crawlers and Other Earthworms
Here are a few differences, besides what we’ve already mentioned between nightcrawlers and other earthworms you should take note of:
Nightcrawlers Are Nocturnal, and Earthworms Are Diurnal
The most evident difference is the fact that nightcrawlers only come out when it is nighttime to eat and mate as well.
On the other hand, some other earthworms are diurnal meaning they carry out all their activities during that period.
Night Crawler Vs. Earthworm: Size
When it comes to size differences, you should note that most other earthworms are longer but thinner than nightcrawlers.
Nightcrawlers are a beneficial species for both composting and in the wild. They love to burrow into the ground which provides soil aeration for your plants.
What you’ve just read is a compilation and findings based on hours of research on everything you need to know about nightcrawler earthworms.