Red Worms vs. Red Wrigglers

worrelldpeaceNovember 17, 2007

Newbie here... Purchased all the basics from where I read that "Red worms will not survive in garden soil." I've read in other places that Red Wrigglers, however, will live in either compost or soil.

Can you tell me if either of these statements is true?

I'm looking for one worm to do dual duty... I don't want to worry that my compost worms can't make the move into my garden. Is there a compromise? Are Red and Red Wrigglers different?


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I believe that red worms and red wrigglers are the same worms. European night crawlers or ENCs are said to be a composting worm and a garden worm. I am just using them as composters and fishing worms right now.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 5:34PM
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wfike(8, Atlanta, Ga.)

Reds wont survive in a garden unless it is full of organic matter so they will have something to eat. They don't eat dirt. They eat bacteria that eat organic matter in the soil. leaves, grass, compost, vegs. sawdust, hay, animal manure, etc. If the soil doesnt have loads of it they will leave or die. also moisture!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 8:25PM
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So long as you keep your garden mulched with organic matter and things stay moist enough, compost worms will survive in your garden. Compost worms are quite happy living in mulch or between mulch and the ground. In fact, I used to find them all the time on my patio where the wood mulch tended to build up.

Red Wrigglers and Red Worms are both common names that tend to be used for several species of worms. Most of em as far as I know are composting worms.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2007 at 9:12PM
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In my area wigglers are foetida and red worms are african night crawlers. Some of the area worm farmers believe the ANC are better composters becuse of superior size however they also say they are not as hardy as wigglers. I have ANC as well as ENC and find both to be good choices for my in ground pit.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 9:14AM
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I think that some say the ANC are also more prone to escape attempts. I have not noticed this. I believe the worms I bought contained both foetida and Lumbricus rubellus. (ok I know my spelling is off.)

    Bookmark   November 21, 2007 at 6:58PM
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Lumbricus rubellus, (dung worm, red marsh worm) "probably has potential for doing double-duty as a vermicomposter and as an earthworker." "Worms Eat my Garbage" by Mary Applehof, pg 40,41 Eisenia fetida and Eisenia andrei are close relative. "Most commercial cultures contain a mixture of both species, and growers do not separate them." "Worms Eat my Garbage" by Mary Applehof, pg 40

    Bookmark   January 22, 2008 at 3:27PM
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I've read that Lumbricus rubellus is invasive and is threatening North American Forests.

Quoting from: Invasive EarthwormsÂA Threat to North American Forests
Plants & Gardens News : Volume 19, Number 1 : Spring 2004 by Niall Dunne

"In 2002, Michael Gundale of Michigan Technological University published a
report detailing how the epigeic bait and compost worm Lumbricus rubellus
may be wiping out populations of the rare goblin fern, Botrychium mormo,
and possibly other rare native plants too, in the Chippewa National
Forest. Gundale credits the epigeic worm's destruction of mycorrhizal
fungi in the soil as a reason for the goblin fern's decline.

"John C. Maerz and colleagues from Cornell University have found strong
evidence linking salamander decline in the hardwood forests of central New
York and southeastern Pennsylvania to invasions by L. rubellus and Asian
Amynthas species, among others. ..."

"... With invasive earthworms wriggling amok in our forest soils,
gardeners who use worms to decompose kitchen scraps and plant waste may
want to take a closer look at what theyÂve got growing in their compost
piles. Some of the traits that make worms ideal for vermicompostingÂsuch
as high reproductive rate and adaptabilityÂmay also make them potentially
successful invaders.

"The worm predominantly sold for composting is the red wiggler or red
tiger worm, Eisenia fetida. It has a rusty brown color with alternating
yellow and maroon bands down the length of its body; a pigmentless
membrane separates each segment. It grows up to three inches long and is
highly prolific. Though the worm has established itself in the wild here,
so far it has not been identified as a problem species.

"Another popular compost species, the red worm, Lumbricus rubellus, is
causing trouble, however, and should be avoided. It also grows up to three
inches long and has a history of being confused with E. fetida. This worm
is dark red to maroon, has a light yellow underside, and lacks striping
between segments.

"In The Earth Moved (Algonquin Books, 2004), a wonderful new book on
earthworms by Amy Stewart, forest ecologist Cindy Hale advises worm
composters to freeze their castings in air-tight bags for a least a week
before adding them to garden soil, no matter what worms species they use.
"It won't hurt the soil microbes, but it will kill all the worms."

Here is a link that might be useful: Invasive EarthwormsA Threat to North American Forests

    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 12:22PM
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I wouldn't worry too much about the worms being an invasive species. It's a little too late now. They have already been released into the environment. Much like rabbits in Aus, there is little we can do to stop them at this point.

Worms are only one of the many hundreds of invasive species in the U.S. Chances are if you look around your front yard half of all those decorative trees and shrubs you've planted will be an invasive species of some kind.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2008 at 10:10PM
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To give up defeats the whole purpose of vermecomposting.
The worm industry has chosen for the gain of money to sell Eisenia foetida, and "European Night crawlers. Very few if any sell a native worm to the area. To be Green is to change,not to give up.Below is part of a study, WORM COMPANY'S WAKE UP!!!!!!!.
Eisenia foetida, or"European Night crawlers."are non native worms,This is why we
with any non-native species, it is important not to allow them to reach the wild. Their voracious appetites and reproductive rates (especially among the red wigglers) have been known to upset the delicate balance of the hardwood forests by consuming the leaf litter too quickly. This event leaves too little leaf letter to slowly incubate the hard shelled nuts and leads to excessive erosion as well as negatively affecting the pH of the soil. So, do your best to keep them confined!

Eisenia foetida
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Eisenia fetida, known under various common names, including redworms, brandling worms, tiger worms and red wiggler worms, are a species of earthworm adapted to decaying organic material. They thrive in rotting vegetation, compost, and manure; they are epigeal. They are rarely found in soil, instead like Lumbricus rubellus they prefer conditions where other worms cannot survive. They are used for vermicomposting. They are native to Europe, but have been introduced (both intentionally and unintentionally) to every other continent except Antarctica, occasionally threatening native species.

Established ecosystems have developed their own natural balance and controls over time, and the plants and animals within those systems find this balance suitable for survival, or they have been able to adapt in order to survive within those conditions. When non-native species from other ecosystems are introduced, they can upset that balance and bring harm to the established plants and animals, and the whole ecosystem. Non-native species come from somewhere else and they are not natural to the ecosystem they have been introduced to. They may be harmless and beneficial in their natural surroundings, but they can totally devastate different environments. When alien species enter into an ecosystem, they can disrupt the natural balance, reduce biodiversity, degrade habitats, alter native genetic diversity, transmit exotic diseases to native species, and further jeopardize endangered plants and animals. When there are no established natural controls, such as predators to keep the non-native harmful species in check, there can be a population explosion of the invasive non-native species causing an ecological catastrophe.

Here is a link that might be useful: INVASIVE NON-NATIVE SPECIES

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 11:51AM
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I have read every post and am now more confused than before...

My personal approach and attitude would be to not add to the problem... even if it is well established... is there a "heritage worm"? Something that is native, not been hybridized, and local?

Given that I plan to start up a vermicomposting set-up to service a new garden:
1) what worms should I use (I live in Los Angeles)?
2) Where do I get them?

some advice I got was just to start composting and use the worms that show up... and to some extent that makes great sense... but, given that the evolutionary process designed specific worms for my area, it makes the most sense for me to try to use them - in my opinion.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 4:25PM
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im wondering the same thing i live in sac.. i wanted to create a duo level bin.. very large bin.. (hot section) cold section - normal litter section

finding the right worm for the area's hard.. and just saying this is bad or that is bad without putting up the right thing...

need an american red wiggler type
and an american earth worm

also are black solider flies native

    Bookmark   June 16, 2013 at 8:33PM
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I am in Sacramento as well. My backyard is full of clay. I have worm bins with red wriggles but I cannot imagine them living too far outside of the bin zone and watering areas since the 'dirt' dries out so quickly. I do have these worms growing in my blueberry planters where they seem to thrive. And a toad comes and hangs out when it is wet and the dogs do not hear it and chase it. I think he is attracted to the worms.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2013 at 11:45PM
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