Red Wigglers (Eisenia species) is most commonly used for vermicomposting. This species of worm is also known as the “red wiggler”, “red wriggler”, “red worm”, “tiger worm” or “brandling worm”.
The worms hatch from cocoons and mature in about 30 days. Each worm has both male and female organs, but they do mate with other each other. They can produce about two cocoons per week and will lay them near the soil surface.
When soil conditions are favorable, or after around 20 days, about three worms hatch from each cocoon. The average life span of the worm is almost two years. Under favorable conditions, red wiggler worms will reproduce quickly. The population of worms can double every three months.
Red wigglers are especially hardy because they can tolerate a wider temperature range than many other types of earthworms. The survival range is zero – 35 degrees Celsius (32 – 95 degrees Farenheit). An optimal temperature is C 25 degrees (75 degrees Farenheit). The ideal moisture content of their habitat is 80 percent, although they will tolerate a wide range of conditions. Cocoons will survive more extreme conditions than the worms.
Red Wigglers are epigeic, which means that they feed on the surface, unlike the common gardening worms which burrow in the ground and feed on soil. When kept in moist bedding with food scraps, a pound of worms consumes up to 1/2 pound of food scraps per day. Food scraps that worms will break down easily include fruit, vegetables, bread, rice, pasta, tea bags, and coffee grounds. They also feed on the bedding (shredded cardboard, newspaper, leaves, etc.). The composting process is termed “mesophilic” which means it is a combination of microbial activity in the soil and earthworms gut along with aerobic decomposition as a result of earthworms activity.
The worm composting process produces castings that are excellent for growing plants. For more information on the uses of red wigglers and their castings, read Research supporting use of worm castings for growing plants.
Source: Vermiculture Technology: Earthworms, Organic Wastes, and Environmental Management Edited by Clive A Edwards, Norman Q. Arancon, and Rhonda Sherman.