Red Wiggler Worms’ Life Cycle - Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm

Red Wiggler Worms’ Life Cycle and Stages

Live Worms, Red Worms


red wiggler worm in the its adult stageYou know those slimy red worms that you use when you compost organic scraps in your yard? Well, they’re scientifically referred to as Eisenia Foetida. This is one name for red worms, but they also have many others – like tiger worms, manure worms, and red wriggler worms. To get the most out of composting, you should understand how these worms grow and develop. However, red wiggler worms’ life cycles and stages can differ for each specimen.

Factors like a moist environment and overfeeding can either prolong their lifespan or not. This article will explain all the stages in a red wriggler worm’s life cycle and the factors that can affect it. So to learn more about this worm species, continue reading below.

Egg Stage

Red wiggler worms start out as cocoons (each cocoon contains about 4 to 6 baby worms only) and begin with the egg stage. When adult worms give birth or deliver worm eggs, their eggs will typically be in a grape seed-like size. So you can imagine how tiny it can be.

But aside from that, these eggs will usually go through an incubation process of 23 days (give or take, it’s about 21 days if the eggs are in optimal conditions).  The worms will then change the egg case color from golden yellow to maroon-like. These will then start to hatch after about 3 to 4 weeks.

Juvenile Stage

Now after the egg stage, comes the juvenile (young) stage. They’re also called wiggler hatchlings. At this point (after hatching out of eggs), baby red wriggler worms will start out with no reproductive organs. They will be able to develop them after some time. They will also be just about half an inch in length size and can be no thicker than four human hairs combined.

Although they are quite small at this point, these compost worms can start eating organic matter heavily already so they can be immediately used for vermicomposting. If you want to learn more about this composting process, you may read about this from one of our previous posts on Composting 101: Worm bins composting.

Adult Stage

If you know a bit about earthworm lifecycles, you can probably anticipate the stages that come after the juvenile stage. So, the next stage after the juvenile is the mature stage. It takes 40 to 60 days for a young red worm to reach adulthood. Now, this is the stage when the baby red worms start to fully develop their reproductive organs.

At this point, they can start to procreate. You’ll know they’re fit to mate when you see their reproductive organs, the thickened ring about a third way down from the red wriggler worm’s head (also known as clitellums), have already changed into an orange color. So, if you see an orange ring on your worm, it’s in the adult stage and ready to mate.

Mating Stage

These worm-composting worms also go through one last stage, and that’s the mating stage (the reproduction stage). Even though they are born as hermaphrodites, red wrigglers still need another worm (and it should still be the same type of worm) to be able to mate.

It is through the right temperatures (an acceptably warm temperature) that you get them all energized about trying to find a mate to reproduce with. So after mating, they will then separate from each other, and will then start secreting the eggs that they’ve produced.

Red Wriggler Worms’ Life Cycle and Stages Summarized

The life cycle of red wriggler worms has 4 stages:

  • The egg stage – the initial incubation process lasts approximately 23 days. After that, the egg changes color and young red wriggler worms hatch about 3 – 4 weeks later. So, the egg stage lasts about 6 – 7 weeks.
  • The juvenile stage – at this point, juvenile worms don’t have formed reproductive organs. However, you can use them for composting as they can already eat organic materials. The juvenile stage lasts about 40 – 60 days.
  • The adult stage – in this stage, the reproductive organs of the worms are formed and they are fully-fledged, mature worms. This is the stage when they can start to mate.
  • The mating stage – this is the ultimate stage of a red wriggler worm, when it is ready to mate. You will know a worm is in this stage if you spot an orange ring near the anterior side of your worm.

So, red wiggler worms’ life cycle starts as eggs and, naturally, ends after death. Their average life span may be as long as 4 to 5 years. But this may also depend on a few more factors, such as whether you are containing them in unfavorable or favorable conditions or, well, using them as fish bait.

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25 thoughts on “Red Wiggler Worms’ Life Cycle and Stages

  1. I purchased my worms about four months ago and they seem to be doing great. They easily eat 3+ pounds of vegie scraps a week and the numbers have increased two times over. The problem is they are all small, maybe an inch and a half to two inches in length. I purchased to use as fish bait and they are just too small to place on a hook.
    I order red wigglers from Uncle Jim’s. Do I need to start over with a different worm or will these get larger?

    1. It sounds like you have too many worms in competition with each other for food. You could try splitting a small portion into a second farm and allowing them more food per worm. I lost a stack of worms due to heat stress (Australian summers) and the remainder are huge…

    2. I have 2 bins full of red wigglers and they can get 3 to 5 inches long easy. They say a watched pot doesn’t boil–about the same result with watched worms

  2. I got my worms about 2 months ago, i baby them.. is it possible to over feed your worms? And how can I separate the babies from the adults?
    Thank you!

    1. I have had red wigglers for quite some years now. Loading up a bin with alot of food all at once is not a good idea–the food just gets moldy. I only put in what they can reasonably eat, and contrary to what alot of people write they don’t eat everything you give them.
      If they look like they are slowing down eating–slow down giving it to them. Mine live in the garage and they slow way down during winter.
      Forget about giving them citrus of any kind. Mine just love watermelon, so I put in a bunch of melon with flesh down and rind up–basically melon chopped in half lengthwise. They will eat it to the point of paper thin skin–for reasons of their own they leave rind that’s paper thin, which I remove and throw on compost pile..
      ** forget about separating little worms from big worms–they are all just worms–remove only those that have basically gone dead. I use a moist coir medium that I change once a year and at that time I pick the live from the dead or look kinda dead

  3. I bought my worms from PetSmart. I just started my VERY mini vermicompost in my condo a couple weeks ago. It’s kind of fun. :D

  4. I received my worms on Wednesday and the worms died Saturday night. I did not know they did not like the environment because they did not try to escape. I keep an eye on the worm bin everyday to make sure the environment was to the worms liking? I use newspaper, egg shells, coffee grounds, and some compost. What do you think is the cause of 90% of my worms dying

  5. If anyone needs a larger number of wigglers on an acreage with manure to compost, I have a good population in a cow manure pile by late June thru August most years. No livestock on farm so there are no stable flies laying on my piles.
    I also usually have a small amount ( a few yards) of finished landscaping/garden compost with no odor or population of wigglers.
    I’m SW of Albert Lea 6 mi off I-35 in far South-Central MN.

  6. Got our worms a couple days ago and they are already going crazy laying eggs. This has been awesome for my kids to experience while home from school.

  7. I have had my worm farm for about 3 weeks. I live in Texas and my hungry bin is on my carport that is shaded all the time but does get pretty hot.The food scraps I have fed the worms seem to be sprouting and this morning I noticed that I think there are small white maggots on the lid of the bin. Could this be? I have fed them potatoes, tomato pieces,eggplant pieces mostly. I would like to ask what I should be doing?

  8. Skip the acidic fruit and vegetables like tomatoes and citrus fruit. Worms don’t like acid. I do add my used coffee grounds ( most of the acid is in your coffee, not the remaining grounds), but coffee grounds are only 10-15% of my total volume.

    Temps in High 80’s is a killer. Bring them in the house. If your bin is right, it should be near odorless to slightly earthy. My two bins are in my office.

    As for other creatures, this is inevitable. I freeze my scraps to help kill any bug eggs or large, then throw it in. Sometimes I put the frozen blob in the corner and the worms move away. I don’t recommend this until you have more understanding.

    You said nothing about bedding. Your bin should be mostly shredded non-glossy newsprint and ripped up pieces of cardboard. Last, leave them alone! The less you mix the bin, the happier they are.


  9. But if you’re adding eggshells to your operation, a bit of coffee grounds can neutralize the alkiline outcome. And btw, my worms have no trouble with citrus peels. they seem to be the quintessential omnivores!

  10. On the growth rate of worms, 40-60 days for maturity means about what length of worm?

    I ask because I have many baby “worm-hairs” in my castings. teeming with life. I have started a separate nursery/castings bin to have already screened casting ready to use, minor anount malted barley to keep them happy as they grow. Occasionally I will re-screen it to harvest those worms and get them back into the work bin.

    How long until they are in the 1.5″-2″ range?

    1. Hello Ken! Depending on which worms you have, Red Wigglers, European Night Crawlers or another, the size can differ. I am assuming that you have the Red Wigglers. At full maturity, our Red Wigglers will be about 2-3 inches.

  11. How can I deter pests in my worm composter ?
    Also if I bring my worm composter inside like in my basement, will it attract mice and rats ?

    1. Hello Divya;

      The best advise it to make sure you do not overfeed the worms and keep the food covered. You do not want a lot of decomposing excess food smelling up the bin and basement; that will surely draw anything in search of a free meal. Feed the worms every 3-4 days or when the previous food is almost gone. Cover the food with dampened cardboard or paper and the bin lid.

  12. I have a tub style worm bin. I see new hatchlings and it’s getting close to time to harvest my castings should I wait to harvest till they get bigger? The worms have been in the same bedding for about 4 months. Recommendations.
    Also I’m curious. Every time I open my bin there are always a couple on the top of the lid trying to get out. Is this normal. Some of the babies are even on the top of the lid. What do you think?

    1. Hello Sarah;

      When there are a lot of baby worms in the bin, you can remove the entire clumps of babies with the castings and put that into the new bin, or wait a bit longer if the adult worms are not all trying to escape at once, that would mean it is becoming toxic to them. Worms love the condensation at the lid and sides of the bin and will congregate there and that is totally normal, again, as long as it is not all of your worms and only some. Sometimes, it can be many but they look pretty relaxed most times if they are simply soaking and not trying to escape. We hope this was helpful to you.

      Uncle Jim’s Worm Farm

  13. I have a question- do the worms just each lay a single egg after mating- or several- or must they repeat the breeding for each egg?

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