The most common composting worm is the Red wiggler worm or red worms.
They are the best starter option when it comes to picking the best worms for vermicomposting.
However, they may usually get confused with other worms because of their generic look.
While the eyes of a seasoned worm farm enthusiast will know which worms are red wigglers, novice worm farmers may not.
If you’re a beginner to vermicomposting and you’re thinking of adding this species to your worm farm, but need more insight into red wiggler worms, then this piece will explain it all.
In this informative article, every detail you need to know about these first-choice vermicomposting worms is discussed.
Here are all the facts about red worms, or the scientifically named, Eisenia fetida.
Red Wigglers/Red Worm Facts Sheet
Size: Up to 3 Inches
Ideal Habitat Temperature: Between 55-77 degrees F.
Ideal Habitat Moisture: Around 70%
Ideal Habitat pH: Between 6.0 and 7.0
Scientific Name: Eisenia Fetida
Other Names: Manure worms, redworm, brandling worm, panfish worm, trout worm, tiger worms.
Ideal Diet: Tea bags, fruits, vegetables, decaying leaves, coffee grounds, egg shells [crushed egg shells], food scraps, and organic waste.
Feed Rate: Eat up to half their body weight daily
Reproduction Rate: Red worms produce 2-3 cocoons per week. Average 3 baby red worms per cocoon.
Days to Reach Adult Maturity: After 90 days.
Composting Difficulty: Easy.
How Do You Identify Red Wigglers / Red Worms? Anatomy
So, how do you tell if you have red worms wriggling in your palm?
In this section, you’ll discover tips that can help you determine whether or not you have the king of vermicomposting (Red worms).
The color of a red wiggler worm is the first noticeable factor to consider when identifying them.
They have a distinct reddish color that’s different from that of the blue worm or Alabama jumper.
Interestingly, the color density of a red wiggler worm largely depends on its diet.
And their diet determines the color of their tail – either lighter red or yellowish color.
Red wiggler worms measure up to 3-4 inches in length when at full stretch.
That is the same length as the Indian blue worm some other worm species in the soil.
However, what makes the red worms distinct is that when they stretch, there are evident and almost tiger like brandings or “stripes” in their segments.
With this attribute, they are popularly nicknamed the tiger worms.
Imagine a string of tiny beads with one large one towards the tail end; that’s what the Clitellum of a red worm looks like.
It is also sometimes called the saddle. You can learn more about the function of the clitellum in our guide.
The size of their Clitellum makes them unique because other composting worms do not have theirs as prominent as the red worms’.
For example, indian blue worms and Alabama jumpers have clitellums that are flush with the rest of their body.
Body: When you look at mature red wigglers, you’ll notice that they have several stripes or rings that run from the head to their tail.
Unlike the Indian blue worms, Alabama Jumpers and many other worms that react quickly to environmental factors and changes, red wigglers do not.
Their movement is not as erratic as those two species and they remain fairly calm when they face situations like sharp exposure to light or an attempt to get a hold of them.
They’ll move slowly towards food sources and away from danger.
Habitat and Environment
Unlike night crawlers and other Endogeic (deep soil) same species, they are topsoil worms (epigeic), so you’ll most likely find them on the surface, looking for their food sources.
Red Wigglers (Eisenia Fetida) Life Cycle
Before we talk about the life cycle of red worms, we want you to understand the reproduction process.
There are no male or female red worms – they are Hermaphrodites and have both reproductive organs.
Like every other worm, they start as eggs.
And as stated earlier, red worms produce 2-3 cocoons per week. Each cocoon houses 3 baby red worms.
When the baby red worms are hatched, they become active workers looking for nearby food sources.
It takes about 90 days for a baby red worm to reach full maturity (indicated by the swollen clitellum).
You should note, however, that they look like every other worm until they are fully matured – only then can you properly identify them as red worms.
The life span of an average red worm ranges from 4-5 years (Of course, that’s if they don’t get picked as fish bait or die due to unfavorable conditions.)
Where Do Red Worms Live and Where Are They From?
Red worms originated from Europe but are now found in every corner of the globe besides Antarctica.
They are an invasive species of worm so it makes sense you’ll find them in the ground wherever you go.
They either made their way across the planet by accident in shipments or were purposely introduced for their wide variety of uses and benefits.
Red Wiggler worms do best in temperatures between 55-77 degrees F, and these conditions are where they’re most likely to be found.
Bedding that reaches a heat of 80 degrees F or more in temperature will likely see the worm population attempt to escape to survive.
Above 84 degrees F for long periods of time will likely kill them
Red worms live where they find food and they come from the soil – as with every other worm.
They belong to the class of worms that live on the top surface of the soil – making them Epigeic earthworms.
If you happen to find dark areas full of organic materials, be sure to find red wigglers gathered there.
They live inside and alongside decaying materials, such as garden waste, dead leaves, and aged animal manure.
A quick recap: Red worms are from the soil, feed in the top layers of soil (epigeic) and they live anywhere they find organic materials to consume, in temperatures between 55-77 degrees F, ideally and a moisture level of around 70%.
What Do Red Wigglers Eat?
At the top of this article, we touched on what to feed red wigglers and what food the Eisenia Fetida or red worms like to eat.
Here’s a bigger list of what to feed worms and what not to feed worms of the Eisenia Fetida species:
2. Coffee grounds
3. Eggshells [crushed ones]
5. Tea bags
8. Plant trimmings
9. Compost food scraps
Do Not Eat
1. Pet waste (especially ones that are on worming medication)
2. Insecticides (or plants that have been treated)
3. Chemicals (like colored ink on newspapers)
5. Citrus fruits
7. Hot and spicy food
While some of these foods can be fed in the tiniest amounts, such as citrus fruits and meats, they have a downside when used in closed system bins.
Too many citrus fruits can kill your worm farm, and meats, although edible by worms may attract foul odors and pests like rodents and other insects.
Feed In moderation
- Tea bags/coffee filters
Are Red Wiggler Worms Good For Composting?
While the title of the best composting worms is debatable, the title of “easiest to raise” most definitely does go to the red wiggler.
Raising red wiggler worms are your best option if you plan on starting your worm bin for the first time.
(you can find our best worm bins reviewed < here)
For an affordable price, you can buy one pound to two pounds of red worms for a worm bin and leave them to do what they do best – reproducing and composting!
They’re synonymous with composting at this point and most studies refer to them as “composting worms”, so you can’t go too far wrong using them in your vermicomposting adventures.
It is also worthy to note that they are not only fantastic composting agents but are also excellent fishing bait (For those aspiring to fish for trout and other fish.)
Are Red Worms Common?
On every street in the ‘worm world’- the soil, you’ll find red wigglers gathered.
They are the most common composting worms in the world and are your surest bet if you want to start vermicomposting.
What Other Common Names do Red Wigglers Have?
Red wigglers have earned themselves several nicknames over the years and they include:
1. Manure worms
3. Brandling worm
4. Panfish worm
5. Trout worms
6. Tiger worms
Key Differences Between Red Worms/Red Wigglers and Other Earthworms
Check out the key factors that set the Red wiggler apart from other earthworms:
1. Feeding Habits
The majority of earthworms are “shy” eaters. They prefer their organic material and food in the soil.
However, the red wiggler is a public eater and is comfortable with eating on the surface where it finds dead organic materials.
2. Composting Ability
Many other species of Earthworms’ favorite activity is burrowing deep into soil and this makes them less preferable for composting because you’ll need to bury their feeding materials fairly deep in their worm bedding.
That doesn’t mean you can’t use them for composting, however, you’ll have to deal with a more maintenance work as you’ll constantly need to turn the compost and bring their worm castings to the surface.
Beginners should opt for red wigglers in their compost bin instead as they are topsoil eaters and very efficient composting agents.
Frequently Asked Red Worm Questions
Below, are answers to various common questions surrounding red worms.
Are earthworms and red wigglers the same?
Technically speaking, any segmented worm found in the soil is considered an earthworm.
So, red wigglers are earthworms too.
However, they have a set of attributes that differentiates them from the common earthworms. The main difference being that they are Epigeic (surface-dwellers) rather than Endogeic (burrowers)
Should I put red wigglers in my garden?
Yes, you can.
They make for some of the best garden worms.
This is because they are voracious eaters of dead organic matter and their worm castings (worm poop) are invaluable to the fertility of the soil.
More so, they can act as effective pesticides in your garden.
You may want to limit their numbers as they reproduce and they are top soil dwellers, so you may not want to see them all over the place.
Though birds are natural predators of worms and should keep the numbers in check.
Are red wigglers invasive?
Red wigglers are an invasive species of earthworms.
Most of the red wigglers you find in your garden are not native to the United States.
Can you find red wigglers in your yard?
Yes, you’ll find red wiggler worms in your yard, depending on where you live and the species of native worm in your location.
You’ll find red wigglers gathered anywhere they find their food sources.
They live there and feed and reproduce quickly.
Are red wigglers harmful to humans?
Red wigglers do not pose any threat to humans.
Rather, they are very useful and essential to our survival because they aerate and nourish our soil, decompose waste in our compost bins, we even use them for fishing bait.
Even though it sounds strange, in many cultures people also enjoy eating worms!
What are red wiggler worms good for?
Red wigglers are good for:
3. Providing protein for chicken, reptiles, and of course, humans who eat worms.
4. Making the soil fertile.
Are red worms and red wigglers the same?
If you’ve noticed in this article, the terms red worms and red wigglers have been used interchangeably.
They mean the same thing – the king of compost worms! At least, for beginners.
They use their other senses to determine their movements and where they should live or abandon.
This article has talked about everything you need to know about the most common composting worm- the red wigglers.
We hope you’ve learned a thing or two about the Eisenia Fetida and you have an idea of where to start looking to create an amazing worm bin. Happy vermicomposting!
Want to learn more about other types of worms? Read our article on Earthworms vs Flatworms.
The Myths and Facts about Compost Worms or Red Wigglers (Eisenia fetida and Eisenia andrei) fed with Fishy Wastes as Feedstock | July 2018 – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326305195_The_Myths_and_Facts_about_Compost_Worms_or_Red_Wigglers_Eisenia_fetida_and_Eisenia_andrei_fed_with_Fishy_Wastes_as_Feedstock