Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:56 pm
Earthworms are hermaphroditic, meaning both male and female. Nevertheless, a red worm cannot produce offspring on its own. So how exactly do they reproduce? They mate by aligning their heads and attaching together at the clitellum. A cocoon is then formed at the clitellum. The cocoons are small, yellowish and lemon-shaped. Let’s find out in detail how epigean reproduction works for your vermicomposting.
How fast do earthworms reproduce?
The speed of the earthworm reproductive cycle depends on several factors:
- The number of worms that are active reproducers
- The environmental conditions in the vermicomposter
- The species of worms present
- In very general terms, a population of red worms (or Eisenia fetida, the most common in vermicomposting) can double in number approximately every 60 to 90 days. This must be compared to their average lifespan, which is about 2 years, and up to 8 years.
Vermicomposting worm populations are largely self-regulating, depending on available space and food supply. For example, if the worm population is too large for the size of the worm bin and the food you are serving them, their reproduction will adjust and slow down.
A mature worm can produce 2 to 3 cocoons per week. For eisenia fetida worms, the newborns inside the cocoon can take up to 11 weeks to mature before hatching. Each cocoon usually hatches 2 to 4 baby worms.
If conditions are not conducive to hatching, such as a drought, the cocoons can lie dormant for years. So, if you go on vacation and your worm population drops sharply, no stress! There will be a new batch of worm cocoons ready to hatch when you return.
How do you identify active epigenetic worms?
A breeding active worm can be identified by its distinctive ring (or bulge, band), called a clitellum. This physical feature is absent in juvenile worms. It will develop at puberty until it becomes turgid during the sexual period. Finally, this ring will regress in period of genital rest.
A band of clitella forms near the anterior worms (head) when the worm is about 4 to 6 weeks old for the red epigees. They start to lay worm eggs (cocoons) at the age of 2 or 3 months.
Favourable conditions for earthworm reproduction
Worms have adapted to living in an environment that often changes rapidly. Reproductive rates respond to natural cues as a way to ensure the survival of their species.
The following changes can impact earthworm reproduction:
- Temperatures that are too cold or too hot (regulate between 15 and 25°C)
- Too much or too little moisture in the vermicomposter
- Overpopulation of worms (not enough space)
- Food supply (in quantity and quality)
- Keeping the worms in a small space increases the chances of reproduction. Thus, vermicomposters are suitable places for a good level of invertebrate population renewal.
Tips on how to make your worm population explode
Once we have clarified all of these elements about the reproduction of epigeic worms, we can conclude with a series of tips to boost your population.
Serve them aphrodisiac foods: Earthworms are more attracted to certain foods that will attract and satisfy them. Thus, they will gain strength and gather around these foods. From then on, they will be encouraged to have more contact. Consider offering them leftover watermelon, melon, pumpkin, mango, avocado, bananas or corn.
Build them a stimulating bedding: To promote honeymoons, the quality of the bedding is very important. Make sure the moisture content is perfectly managed (similar to a wrung-out sponge). In addition, offer them small, cozy spaces with pieces of paper and cardboard. Also, you should know that they like to have romantic moments in eggshells. Finally, some users have reported seeing their worms running around on burlap for dates.
Match your worm bin to the worm population
: When there are too many worms in a particular space, they tend to slow down their reproduction so that their home does not become overcrowded. This helps them avoid depleting the available food supply. If there are too few worms in an area, mature breeders will have trouble locating and reproduction will be hampered. If your worms sense that they have plenty of space and food available to increase their population, they will breed as much as possible! So, assess your worm population as best you can and adjust the size of the worm farm accordingly or give away part of your farm.
Maintain ideal conditions for reproduction: In order for their libido to be at its best, all the factors influencing it must be at their best. In other words, you must pay attention to all the parameters that make the worms feel good: temperature, humidity, food, carbon-nitrogen balance, population density, ventilation, noise…
You are now ready to start a breeding frenzy in your vermicomposter. We wish you lots of beautiful worm babies!