Compost Worms - Useful Helpers In Composting Organic Waste

Compost Worms – Useful Helpers In Composting Organic Waste

Our compost heap is home to many creatures. Besides mites, woodlice, springtails, snails, various insect larvae and countless other beneficial organisms, earthworms also live here. More precisely, it is the compost worms that help decompose our biological waste properly. And that’s what makes this species so special, because unlike other earthworms, they mainly stay in the upper, nutrient-rich layers of the earth.

But that’s by no means all you need to know about the little earthworms. Therefore, in this article you will learn which known species of compost worms are particularly common in European compost heaps zufinden, how they help in composting, how you can breed them yourself and where you can buy compost worms.

What are compost worms?


Compost worms (singular: Eisenia fetida) are a subspecies of earthworms that are by no means rare in this country. Among other things, they are known as dung worms or stink worms and, as the name suggests, feel right at home in compost or dung heaps. But they can also be found under rotting plants or in meadow soils. There they usually stay in the upper layers of the soil to be close enough to dead plants or even animal droppings.

The body structure of compost worms, is identical to those of other earthworms. However, they do not grow quite as large as, for example, the dewworms. An adult compost worm can grow up to 9 centimeters long. Here, the body is divided into 105 flesh-colored sections that become lighter toward the end of the body. On closer inspection, small bristles can be seen on the underside of the body, which the worm uses to move around.

A distinctive feature of this species of earthworm, is the temperature range in which the compost worm feels comfortable. Most earthworm species prefer a temperature range of 10 – 14 degrees, compost worms, on the other hand, only feel really comfortable at warm temperatures. Their optimal range is between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius.

What are the known species of compost worms and in what respects do they differ?
Of course, not all compost worms are the same. They also have different species. The three best known and most widespread species are the compost worms Eisenia andrei, Eisenia foetida and Eisenia hortensis (Dendrobena). With the aid of a magnifying glass, differences in pigmentation in particular can be shown. The Eisenia foetida is white-yellowish in the area of the furrows, which is why it is also known as the “tiger worm”. In contrast, the Eisenia andrei is usually reddish in color throughout and thus rightly deserves the name “red worm”. In addition, the growth rate, as well as cocoon production, is higher in the E. andrei.

The Eisenia hortensis or also called Dendrobena is the superworm among the compost worms. It is considered to be particularly active and is also popular with anglers as fishing bait. The breeding of the Dendrobena is relatively easy and so it is not surprising that this species is most often offered in the trade.

How do these worms help with composting?


By living in the compost pile, they loosen it up and thus help water and air to penetrate even into the deeper layers of the humus soil that is being formed. If appropriate food residues, as well as dead plants, are disposed of on the compost pile, they can be taken up by the compost worms and later excreted, in the form of a concentrated amount of nutrients.

Since a compost worm can take up about half of its own body weight in food and consequently also convert it, with an appropriate population, a lot of organic fertilizer is already produced in a short time, which rightly deserves the designation 100% organic.

To support the worms in worm composting, the compost pile should always be kept moist and shaded, because hot days, sometimes even at over 25 ° C, do not get the compost worms at all and they burrow into the lowest layers of the earth.

Can compost worms be bred and if so, how?


In order to get compost worms, earthworms are needed first. These can either be bought or collected outside. However, this is not the end of the story. The worms need an ideal home, a so-called worm farm. This can be easily built, for example, with commercially available plastic boxes.

To do this, holes are first drilled in the bottom of the inner box. Then this box is filled with a few layers of newspaper, then crumpled newspaper and finally damp newspaper and soil and placed in the second box. The worms can now move in. In one corner, fruit, vegetables, coffee grounds and other treats can be draped on the soil for the earthworms.

From now on, it’s a matter of patience. In the next few weeks, the worm population will grow. This must now be watched carefully so that there are not too many or too few worms dwelling in the worm farm. In addition, it should always be kept moist. Then, when there are enough worms, they can be moved to a large compost pile.

If you don’t want to do this work, you can also buy earthworm cocoons or adult compost worms and settle them in your own compost pile.

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