Some Basic Guidelines on Raising European Nightcrawlers (ENC)
(Dendrobaena veneta now also called Eisenia hortensis)
Our entire breeding stock is imported from Europe in October 2016!!
Put European Nightcrawlers in a compost bin and watch your scraps of fruits and vegetables disappear. ENCs are fairly easy to feed and care for. However, remember in order to keep a healthy worm farm there are some basic guidelines.
It seems European Nightcrawlers like to crawl and explore. If your ENCs start to escape their bin make sure your bedding conditions are good, that they have food available, moist bedding, moderate temperature and that they are not crowded. Have a good tight lid on your bin and place a light above it to keep them under the bedding. IMPORTANT! Do not allow them to become crowded. As they multiply you will need to divide them into several new beds/bins. If they become crowded they will NOT grow to full size, they will become stunted in growth.
European Nightcrawlers will come up to the surface of their bedding to eat decomposing matter. So they thrive near the surface layer of top soil or bedding and they literally gobble up decaying matter. ENCs can get up to 6 inches long (some say longer) and as thick as a pencil in an uncrowded worm bed/bin. They happily go about making compost and castings. To purchase castings click here.
Like any good composting worm European Night Crawlers are colony dwellers being happy to live in close quarters with each other. This also ensures they reproduce quickly, another big plus for worm farmers. But like any nightcrawler; if you plan on raising ENCs as bait worms they will need extra room in order to plump up. And plump up they will especially when you feed them corn meal!
ENCs make excellent bait worms, even in brackish water. Perhaps the greatest advantage for using the ENC as a bait worm is the fact they need no refrigeration unless you plan to keep them in a bait cup for over a week. Most bait night crawlers must be refrigerated to be kept alive, not the ENC.
European nightcrawlers are tolerant of temperatures between 35F to 80F. ENCs will thrive in beds that are 60 F to 75 F. This does not mean worm farmers living in cooler climates can't raise ENCs. When it gets below 40F outside they need to be protected from the cold. If you can move them indoors or to the basement the European nightcrawler is still a good choice.
Just like all worms European night crawlers take in oxygen through their skin, so moist bedding material helps facilitate worm breathing. The moisture in your bins also helps breakdown bedding and vegetative matter into softer matter. This is accomplished by the microbes and some other tiny critters found naturally in worm beds. Since ENCs do not have teeth, their food needs to be liquid, extremely soft or very small bits. These nightcrawlers have a gizzard like chickens do and need grit to digest food, adding a bit of topsoil will add grit. We add Agricultural Lime Powder (the kind that is fed to beef, chickens & pigs) to the beds once a week to keep the bedding from getting acidic.
The following list gives a few things you can and cannot feed them. But it is not all inclusive, there are many more foods you may wish to use.
Do feed things like:
Fruit waste: (Non-Citrus) apples, grapes, bananas, plums, peaches, pumpkin, etc.
Vegetable waste: carrots, lettuce, beans, peas, limited amounts of potatoes, leaf vegetables, etc.
Agricultural Lime Powder (Calcium Carbonate): for grit to digest food, if you use eggshells you may not need to use lime
Egg shells: be sure to crush them up to make a fine powder and use sparingly (eggshells provide grit and lime)
Coffee grounds (filters too): an excellent worm food - use sparingly
Tree leaves: (no exotic tree leaves), common species shredded or composted
Cardboard: shredded cardboard is used as food and bedding
Newspaper: shredded newspaper is used as food and bedding
Garden waste: Bean stalks, pea vines, beet tops, etc.
Starchy vegetables and grains: pasta, potatoes, rice, grains, corn meal - use sparingly
Aged animal manure: cow or horse or rabbit or sheep or goat manure (be certain it is past the heating stage)
Commercial worm food: Purina Worm, use sparingly and read directions on the bag
Do Not Feed:
Meat or fish products of any kind
Dairy waste: milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.
Cooking oil or grease, or any kind of oil or grease
We use these worms in our compost bin and use the composted material in our garden along with their worm castings. These pictures were taken of some plants in our garden. We credit the compost and castings for the plants vigor. And these are recent photos of our European Nightcrawlers, as you can see they would not sit still for the camera.
These photos taken on the same day were sent by our customer, George, Miami, FL. Both were planted at the same time.
Lettuce seedlings with worm castings added: Lettuce seedlings without worm castings added:
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