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PostPosted: Tue Sep 14, 2010 3:47 pm 
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Before purchasing 500 EEs 3 weeks ago, I searched the 'net for information on this worm species. As usual, online information was often unclear, inconsistent or misleading. Here's my collection of links and quotes. I used my personal "common sense" screen to filter out dubious info, but please feel free to add to or comment on anything here. My experience is obviously limited, but my initial impression is these nightcrawlers have been tagged a bit unfairly as a troublesome composting worm. *knock on wood* Now watch that statement come back and bite me. :wink:

The biology and population dynamics of Eudrilus eugeniae (Kinberg)
by Jorge Dominguez, Clive A. Edwards and John Dominguez
• Fecundity, growth, maturation and biomass production were all significantly greater at 25°C than 15°, 20°or 30°. {25ºC = 77ºF}
• The growth of individual earthworms increased the lower the population density, but the greatest overall earthworm biomass production occurred at the highest population density.
• The greatest number of coccons per week and the number of hatchlings per cocoon were obtained at 25°C. Cocoons of E. eugeniae hatched in only 12 days at 25°C, the earthworms at these temperatures reached sexual maturity in as little as 35 days after hatching.
• Throughout its life cycle, E. eugeniae grew much more rapidly than E. fetida, in similar environmental conditions.

Culture of Earthworms for Bait or Fish Food
• The West-African nightcrawler grows well at a temperature of 75-85°F (24-29°C). Maximum weight (11 worms per ounce) occurs within 8-10 weeks. Optimal cocoon production is obtained when there are 150 adults per cubic foot.
• The nightcrawler (EE) has a uniform purple-grey sheen and the posterior segments are evenly tapered to a point. The segments of the brandling worm (EF) alternate reddish-orange and brown; the posterior segments do not taper, and the final segment is blunt.

http://www.backyardnature.com/cgi-bin/gt/tpl.h,content=678
• We raise our African Nightcrawlers in buckets, with tiny airholes drilled around the neck of the bucket.
• There are two things that will slow African Nightcrawlers down.
1. Cold temps (below 70 or so)
2. Excess water

Red Worms vs. African Nightcrawler In Composting
"Under ideal conditions this species can process wastes very quickly and also has a very high rate of growth and reproduction. In fact, Dominguez et al. (2001) found that Eudrilus eugeniae outperformed Eisenia fetida at 25 C (77 F). This earthworm does very poorly at temperatures below 15 C (59 F), and will actually die quite quickly once temps are below 10 C (50 F)...I asked Alan Hanson, co-owner of Blue Ridge Vermiculture, about the ‘handling’ issues with ANCs and he mentioned that aside from some tendency to roam after harvesting they were generally a fairly easy-to-manage worm."

Misc. quotes from various forums:
"ANC's are extremly shy, hate any disturbance, and take about a week to settle in. They do make lovely compost - the castings are almost as big as rice grains...In my experience, when a bin gets overcrowded, some adult ANC's get the urge to escape and go nightcrawling" ~Peter Barnard

"I have been raising reds, euros, and Africans in my basement, which stays a constant 60 degrees F. The reds and Africans are going gangbusters but the Euros don't seem to be producing either castings or cocoons as quickly as either the reds or Africans. If I didn't know better, I would think the Euros were the more temperature sensitive of the three. The Africans eat their weight in food every day and the reds are running a close second. I don't think the euros even come close to half their weight. As for casting production, the Africans blow the other two varieties away." ~Bob Collinsworth

http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/verm/msg0418125318713.html
"I do like the African Night Crawlers (Eudrilus eugenia) but you do have to keep them warm and they do not like changes to their bedding, i.e.- they slow down in castings and cocoons. My favorite thing is the fact that the bigger ones (8-12") like to lay on top of the bedding and stretch out. As long as you don't disturb them, they won't immediately scurry when exposed to light. They just kind of hold their pose as if flexing muscles and to say, "Check this out!" They're just cooler (more cool??) to me. All that being said, I do nothing but keep their bin warmer through the winter than the reds. I feed them the same as the reds, they use the same bedding as the reds." ~mike@ocm.utah.edu

http://forums.gardenweb.com/forums/load/verm/msg071142361842.html?14
"I have EF's, ENC's, and African Nightcrawlers. The African Nightcrawlers are IMO, high maintenance. They don't respond to handling well, they get riled up easily, and don't seem to be as hardy as the EF's and the ENC's. In my experience, if the Africans want to roam, light doesn't deter them in the least. The only thing that I've found that deters them is a fan blowing directly in the bin. So of course, you have to be careful to keep the bedding moist when there's a fan blowing on it." ~gardenfanatic (aka Deanna) MO zone5b

Interview & video of a vermicomposting operation using EEs
"He took me into the large temperature-controlled room of his business, where up to 1600 3.5-gallon buckets are stacked neatly on pallets for easy rotation every two weeks. In each bucket live 250 to 275 worms that squirm around within a bedding mixture of moist black peat moss and eat a balanced meal of powdered grains and milk protein."

tips from Bruce Galle at organicfarms
• If you kept them between 70 – 75 degress you would be fine for raising and breeding the African nightcrawler. The ideal temp would be right about 74 degrees.
• an African nightcrawler takes 5 months to reach maturity, or approximately 150 days after hatching. To reach a size of six to eight inches in length takes 8 months after hatching. Red wigglers will mature faster.
• These worms are also highly prolific however take longer to mature.
• you can raise either the African nightcrawler or European nightcrawler with food scraps, however do not expect them to devour as much as the red wiggler worms.
• Nightcrawlers usually need a little time to adjust since they do not ball up together as the red wigglers do. They are more of a wandering worm until they adjust to their new home
• Setup your bin as you would for red wigglers with one exception, make the bedding thicker. I recommend 6 to 8 inches of bedding such as shredded newspaper and cardboard.
• African nightcrawlers will eat and not only eat but devour shredded newspapers. The cardboard will take some time to break down, however after some time, they will eat this however not like the shredded newspaper.
• The African nightcrawler is probably one of the hardiest worms I deal with.
• Some worm farms and brokers sell African Nightcrawlers in counts of 600 to 1,200 per pound. These are bed run, usually very small African Nightcrawlers which are still good for composting; however do not make a very good fishing worm. We offer a 200 to 300 count per pound African Nightcrawlers. These are approximately eight month old worms which run about 6 to 7 inches in length without being stretched out.

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 14, 2010 4:10 pm 
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Hey Andrew, have you notice many cocoons yet?


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 14, 2010 6:52 pm 
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mikel: not yet, but I haven't really been digging around the bedding. I thought I saw one against the front glass the first week, but the worms move stuff around and it wasn't there when I went to take another look. There may have been cocoons in the bedding the worms were packed with.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 15, 2010 9:12 pm 
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For those who have never seen EEs, here's a short (~1.5 min.) video of my new squirm. They were shipped in what looks like their own castings. Watch their mouths. I couldn't find a way to embed a video. If someone knows how, please let me know. I do know how to add a photo. :D
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uh2XBXa3YsQ

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 16, 2010 3:49 pm 
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plumiebear wrote:
mikel: not yet, but I haven't really been digging around the bedding. I thought I saw one against the front glass the first week, but the worms move stuff around and it wasn't there when I went to take another look. There may have been cocoons in the bedding the worms were packed with.


I know they say they are prolific breeders, thought maybe you had seen a few here and there.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 17, 2010 12:51 pm 
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mikel wrote:
I know they say they are prolific breeders, thought maybe you had seen a few here and there.

That's what I'd read also, although they're still not as prolific as EFs. I personally have trouble seeing EF cocoons. My niece and nephew can spot them quickly, but I still miss some even after looking carefully. I haven't read anything that says EE cocoons are all that much bigger than EF cocoons. Someone recently sent me EH cocoons, which are supposed to be slightly bigger than EF cocoons. I'm afraid I couldn't tell the difference. I think I'll have better luck spotting 1-2" baby worms, but it'll be a longer wait before those start showing up.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 17, 2010 4:45 pm 
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I never noticed many cocoons when I was raising them. I was hoping with your setup that you were having better luck. I also agree that alot of the online info. is misleading.


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PostPosted: Fri Sep 17, 2010 11:36 pm 
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plumiebear wrote:
I think I'll have better luck spotting 1-2" baby worms, but it'll be a longer wait before those start showing up.

Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. :D And I couldn't be happier to be wrong. Here are the babies:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXzrelDuxFU&feature=player_embedded

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 19, 2010 5:22 pm 
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That's a short amount of time for a cocoon to hatch. Perhaps those were already there just smaller worms or cocoons when you received them.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 19, 2010 8:11 pm 
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mikel wrote:
That's a short amount of time for a cocoon to hatch. Perhaps those were already there just smaller worms or cocoons when you received them.

I agree, the cocoons probably came in the original shipping bedding. I have no idea how small the babies are when just hatched, but I'm guessing these are younger than 3 weeks old and were hatched (born) here from cocoons formed (conceived) in WI.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 19, 2010 9:09 pm 
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I find the baby EEs almost impossible to see. I have no problem seeing baby EFs. They are a nice bright pink color. But baby EEs are grey and they blend in beautifully to the materials in the bin. It's not until they get a little girth to them that I can spot them more easily. I agree with the others that you likely had some babies in your order when it arrived. But you definitely have cocoons in your bin now and future babies that you come across will be "yours."


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 20, 2010 9:42 pm 
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RoseGrower wrote:
But you definitely have cocoons in your bin now and future babies that you come across will be "yours."

RG, I just wish I could actually see a cocoon. I've read that EH cocoons are a bit larger than EF cocoons, but I never heard a description of EE cocoons. I thought they would be easy to spot since the EE castings are so large and distinct.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 20, 2010 10:15 pm 
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Andrew,
I have found the EE cocoons to be difficult to find. I have never found a bright lemon-colored cocoon, for one thing. The lightest I've ever found is an amber color, and that blends in with leaves a whole lot better than a fresh, yellow EF cocoon. I just riled up my Africans for you, Andrew. I rifled through the bin searching for a couple cocoons. I found them, although it wasn't easy. And they were an amber-dark brown color. Something which might surprise you is their size: they are the size of EF cocoons. EH cocoons are much larger. I know this doesn't make sense since the EEs are the largest worm by far, but that's how it is in my bin, at any rate. I knew they were smaller than EH cocoons, but I thought they were bigger than the EF cocoons, until I checked tonight. You might simply not notice the cocoons if you've been looking for something larger. Anyway, it was an excuse to rummage around in the bin a bit. I haven't done that for a month now since they do take it badly. I've got the fan running on them tonight. It's the best discouragement for stampedes that I've found. I saw a lot of juvies in the bin, so that was nice!


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 12:48 am 
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RoseGrower wrote:
I have found the EE cocoons to be difficult to find. I have never found a bright lemon-colored cocoon, for one thing. The lightest I've ever found is an amber color, and that blends in with leaves a whole lot better than a fresh, yellow EF cocoon. I just riled up my Africans for you, Andrew. I rifled through the bin searching for a couple cocoons. I found them, although it wasn't easy. And they were an amber-dark brown color. Something which might surprise you is their size: they are the size of EF cocoons. EH cocoons are much larger...Anyway, it was an excuse to rummage around in the bin a bit. I haven't done that for a month now since they do take it badly. I've got the fan running on them tonight. It's the best discouragement for stampedes that I've found. I saw a lot of juvies in the bin, so that was nice!

Thanks, RG. Didn't mean for you to rile up your squirm. :wink: I had just fed mine worm chow a few hours ago and a lot of them were near the surface, so I didn't want to put them off their feed. BUT...it turns out I finally spotted what I thought was a cocoon near the glass. Since I could see it, I didn't have to bother too many of them to get to it.

This one was a dark amber-brown. It was a bit wrinkled and may already be empty. Maybe someone can tell from the photo. I wish the cocoons were sharper instead of the dime, but that's the best I could do under dim CFL lighting (which also distorts the color a bit). The more yellowish one on the left is an EH cocoon someone from LA sent me. It's about 3/16" from tip to pointy tip and is among the largest of the EH cocoons I have. To be precise, I should say that the cocoon I found tonight is probably an EE cocoon. I have no way of checking if all the worms I received were EEs nor do I know if other species' cocoons weren't included in the bedding. Only time will tell if other species start to show up in this bin.
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 11:19 am 
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Andrew,
Your EE cocoon looks much larger than mine. Interesting. I know I have EE cocoons, though, as that order was 100% EE. (I'm not saying yours are not EE cocoons). The order was completely breeders and I counted every one of them by hand (obsessive sounding, I know, but I wanted to see how many there were to how much they weighed, since I figured I'd never be doing that again) so I know they were all EEs. I have baby and juvenile EEs now, too. So, it's interesting that my EE cocoons are so much smaller than yours apparently are. If the ones I spotted were empty already, that might explain part of the difference, but I don't think it would explain all of it. I'm going to leave my herd alone for now, but when I harvest that bin sometime in late fall or early winter, I'll keep an eye out for cocoons and maybe at that point I can take a picture comparing those to my EH cocoons.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 5:32 pm 
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Okay, Andrew, I found some more cocoons. I'll spare you the long story behind it, but last month I wanted to put my EEs in new bedding. The old bedding had lots of baby worms in it, though, so I set that aside as my "nursery." Since the little guys aren't going anywhere as quickly, I took a look in there. Apparently the 2 I found last night were outliers. These are much larger, matching what your picture shows.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 21, 2010 7:18 pm 
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RoseGrower wrote:
Andrew, Your EE cocoon looks much larger than mine. Interesting. I know I have EE cocoons, though, as that order was 100% EE. (I'm not saying yours are not EE cocoons). The order was completely breeders and I counted every one of them by hand (obsessive sounding, I know, but I wanted to see how many there were to how much they weighed, since I figured I'd never be doing that again) so I know they were all EEs. I have baby and juvenile EEs now, too. So, it's interesting that my EE cocoons are so much smaller than yours apparently are. If the ones I spotted were empty already, that might explain part of the difference, but I don't think it would explain all of it. I'm going to leave my herd alone for now, but when I harvest that bin sometime in late fall or early winter, I'll keep an eye out for cocoons and maybe at that point I can take a picture comparing those to my EH cocoons....Okay, Andrew, I found some more cocoons...Apparently the 2 I found last night were outliers. These are much larger, matching what your picture shows.

RoseG: I intended to count my order of 500 EEs, but when I opened the package and looked at what I received...I was just too shocked at the size and mass of worms in the bag. Basically I had no doubt I'd gotten $39 worth of worms and didn't bother to count or weigh them. I have a longer "unpacking" video with me babbling a bit maniacally about the massive worms, but here's a shorter, saner version:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bgXj-zgkdY

Since I didn't examine all the worms closely, I can't guarantee the order was 100% EE. But (despite what I said earlier) I'm fairly confident I have all EEs. I think I read somewhere that even within a given species there is a range of cocoon sizes depending on the age & size of the worm shedding the cocoon. I'd also read that EH cocoons were on average larger than EF cocoons, but when I hunted down a few random EF cocoons from my in-ground bin, they didn't look all that much different than the EH cocoons. Yes, the EH cocoons were on average larger, but only by a very small margin. And of course this was the first EE cocoon I've seen, so we'll have to wait and see if others turn up a similar size.

I had planned on a partial harvest of VC at the 2 month mark, but I may try a small harvest in the next couple of weeks. I'll certainly take photos of the castings and any cocoons I find.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 05, 2010 12:20 pm 
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I found my first "crispy" this morning. It was stretched out to a very thin, twig-like line ~4" long. I had harvested some worms yesterday to ship out to some friends and I guess some of the worms did not care for the disruption in their habitat. I've not used the overhead lamp for a couple of weeks, but that might not have discouraged this particular escapee in any case.
[edit: it occurred to me that I might have dropped a worm]

I didn't have time to look for cocoons, but a few days earlier I did remove a dozen mature worms to weigh. Total weight was 0.7 oz. I deducted 0.1 oz for the castings to give a worm weight of 0.6 oz. I added the dime and sprayed water after I weighed them. Average weight .05 oz. per worm, which works out to ~320 worms per lb. I may need to feed them more.
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