You 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.
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.
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.
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.
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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