Worms, the mega stars of the show..!
The Compost worm is a true wonder of nature. it has no eyes yet is sensitive to light, no lungs but absorbs oxygen through its skin.It has 5 pairs of hearts and a circulatory system that pumps the blood long ways through its body. Worms are also both male and female and both worms perform the role of the male and the female each time they mate. Even though they are both sexes there still needs there to be two worms to breed (it would be no fun otherwise)
After mating, both worms lay a cocoon, each of which contains between one and eighteen baby worms who hatch after 2-3 weeks. The baby worms will mature in around 2-3 months. In ideal conditions worms can multiply at a rate of 2 to the power of 8 in a six month period, which means that a pair of worms can become 256 worms in just 6 months!
At IITSV we run 4 species of compost worm. Each species fulfill a slightly different role and have a peak season.
The red wriggler (Lumbricus rubellus) is the great allrounder. It works in all seasons but also works well in cooler conditions when other worms haveslowed down. It is generally a small worm but can grow up to 75mm.
The Tiger worm (Eisenia fetida) is a very distinctive worm with dark bands around its body (hence the name). It is a slightly fatter worm than the wriggler. It it very active in the late summer and will breed prolifically in the right conditions.
The Indian Blue worm ( Perionyx excavatus) Is the skinny but hungry worm of the mix. It is a ravenous feeder and prolific breeder in warm weather. It is slightly purple in colour and has a distinctive blue sheen in the light. It is a native to Australia and parts of Asia.
The African Night Crawler (Eudrilus eugeniae) is the big gun of the mix, mature worms grow up to 20cm long. It works in the lower sections or the worm beds and is able to break down organic matter that would be too large and coarse for other worms. In my original trials the crawlers were destined be sold as fishing worms but after seeing the great work that they do, decided they were better off living at and continually employed at my place.
These are a tropical species of worm and will die if conditions get too cold. They will also, as the name suggests, crawl off at night if conditions don’t suit them, so we have to be especially nice to them.
All of these worms are able to live and work in the same beds together (maybe people could learn something from that) and are distinctly separate species that cannot cross breed. They are all true compost worms and do not tunnel like the worms that you would commonly find in your garden. The only live and work in the surface layers. In nature their role is breaking down organic matter, speeding up decomposition and allowing the tunnelling worms to transport organic matter and microbes deep into the root zone.
The primary food of worms is bacteria, protozoa and other microbes and not vegetative matter as is widely believed. In order to extract and digest the microbes, the vegetative matter is consumed and crushed in the worm’s gizzard, aided by grit and sand that acts as teeth, then the lower digestive tract has it’s own bacteria that finishes breaking down the remaining organic matter. This broken down matter along with a large number of bacteria is the excreted as worm cast.
It is the bacteria passed out in the castings (worm poo) that is so beneficial to plant growth.
(We are NOT making any claims, however with more serious research in the future it may even be found to be beneficial to humans too..!)