The African nightcrawler or Eudrilus euginae is one of the most popular earthworms for composting. It is a native to South Africa but common globally, especially in warm and sub-tropical regions. They are known for their quick reproduction rate, making them easy to grow. Plus, the growing requirements are minimal, with the most important being the right temperature.
If you intend to grow African nightcrawlers at home, keep on reading. We’ll talk about some of the best things that you can do. Aside from composting, raising this worm is also a good idea if you are a fishing enthusiast. It will make an exceptional choice for a live fishing bait!
For the untrained eye, it is difficult to identify an African nightcrawler. It looks like almost all earthworms.
On average, the length of African nightcrawlers is 6 to 12 inches when they are mature. They can even be larger! The length is comparable to European and Canadian nightcrawlers. The main difference, however, is that the African nightcrawler is smaller in terms of diameter.
One of the easiest ways to identify and differentiate the African nightcrawler is to look closely at its body. You will notice that it has a raised saddle or clitellum, which will remind you of a red wiggler. It will also have a visible banding when the worm stretches. In terms of color, the top is purple to dark red. There is an iridescent sheen when it catches sunlight. The lower part of the worm, on the other hand, is grey or pink.
In the soil, the African nightcrawler is a fast mover. On the other hand, when it is held on your hand, you will notice that the worm is significantly slower.
These worms are known for being copious providers of worm castings. They generate a large amount of body waste that can enrich soil quality, making it more suitable for crop production.
How to Feed African Nightcrawlers
Being voracious eaters, make sure that African nightcrawlers receive enough food. The amount of food to provide these worms will depend on how many pounds you have in a bin.
What to Feed African Nightcrawlers
The best scraps to feed African nightcrawlers include fruit waste, such as apples, bananas, pears, and peaches. Make sure to not give them citrus fruits. For vegetable waste, some of the best options are carrots, peas, beans, and lettuce, among others. Coffee grounds are also great, but make sure to provide them in moderation. You can also feed eggshells, but make sure that you crush them. You can also feed them with grass clippings and yard debris. Shredded cardboard is also an excellent choice. Even better, it can also double as bedding. This helps in absorbing water and moisture to prevent the soil from soaking.
What Not to Feed African Nightcrawlers
While they eat a lot, you also need to know what to avoid. As mentioned, citrus fruits are not for them. You should also avoid fish and meat. They can leave a foul smell in the composting bin. Human and pet waste are also prohibited. You should also avoid feedstock with grease and oils since they can suffocate the worms.
Reproduction of African Nightcrawlers
With the quick reproduction rate of nightcrawlers, you do not need to wait a long time before they are ready for harvest. You can use it as a fishing bait shortly after starting the breeding process. With their very fast reproduction rate, you can expect two to three cocoons every week. Meanwhile, in every cocoon, there are two to three babies. Each worm can produce six to seven new worms in a week, provided that you have the right growing conditions.
Raising African Nightcrawlers
If you intend to raise African nightcrawlers, one of the first things that you need to do is to create a worm bin. If that’s the case, then take note of the steps briefly mentioned below:
- The first thing to do is to find a suitable container. Make sure that it is deep enough to accommodate soil and worm. The size will depend on how many worms you wish to raise.
- Once the containers are ready, drill holes. You will need generous aeration. This will prevent the soil from soaking.
- Add a layer of shredded paper or cardboard at the bottom. Next, add your choice of soil. Pick a well-balanced soil to help succeed in your endeavor.
- Add the worms on the top of the soil. Add a thin layer of soil to cover the worms. To finish, sprinkle food scraps on the top so that worms will have something to feed on.
Aside from the proper set-up of the worm bin, here are other tips and tricks that can help in raising African nightcrawlers:
- Avoid over-crowding. See to it that there is enough room for the worms to move. Otherwise, they will die.
- At least twice a week, take the time to check the moisture level of the worm bin as this is a crucial factor for survival. Squeeze the soil lightly with your fist. There should be a clump. Otherwise, this is an indication that water is needed. Sprinkle water on the top instead of pouring. Do not add more than what is necessary.
- Keep an eye on the potential pests. The best way to avoid their presence in the worm bin is to be mindful about the food scraps that you are using. As soon as you see a pest, take it out and note the source so that you can prevent adding the same food.
- Use your nose to determine the condition of the bin. If it smells off, then this is a sign that there is something wrong. It can be symptom of pest infestation. It may also mean that the worm bin is too dry or too moist.
Breeding African Nightcrawlers
African nightcrawlers are notable because they breed quickly. The breeding is faster compared to European and African nightcrawlers. It is best to keep them indoors when breeding, especially during the cold season. While they can tolerate near-freezing temperatures, the breeding stops at about 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before we end this guide, let’s answer a few questions you might have about African nightcrawlers.
What are the benefits of raising African nightcrawlers?
Raising African nightcrawlers is beneficial if you want to try composting at home. This is also a good idea for those who would like to raise their bait. Plus, it has benefits on the soil. It can improve soil structure and aeration, making it healthier for plants. Not to mention, it will be effective in breaking down organic waste. More so, the castings can act as natural fertilizers.
What are the temperature requirements of African nightcrawlers?
In most cases, they can survive in temperatures ranging from 38 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Nonetheless, take note that they can hardly survive when it is extremely cold. When the temperature drops, you might want to consider bringing the worms indoors or covering the bin to provide the insulation that they need.
How do you harvest African nightcrawlers?
When it is time to harvest worm castings, which you can use in the garden, below are some of the most popular methods.
- Top Harvesting: The easiest method, it requires waiting for a thick layer of vermicast to form at the top of the soil. Sweep the casting and use your hand to scoop them out of the bin. Be gentle to avoid accidentally crushing the worms.
- Dry and Sift: This method requires drying the bin by as much as 40%. When moisture is at a minimum, sift to harvest.
- Migration: This method of harvesting relies on the ability of African nightcrawlers to follow food. You can add food to where you want the worms to go, add a screen or any platform where worms and crawl, and wait for them to move out of the bin. Once they are out, all that will be left in the bin would be the worm castings that you need.
How do I compost in the winter?
While low temperatures can kill African nightcrawlers, in many instances, they can manage to survive in the winter. The technique here is to provide proper insulation. Adding mulch and hay to the soil will help. They will function as natural insulation. Covering the top of the bin can also help to shield the worms from freezing temperature. More so, you need to bring the worm bin indoors.
In sum, African nightcrawlers are amongst the best composting worms. They are great for any composting bin! Not to mention, you can also use it as a fishing bait. If you are interested to grow these worms at home, there’s no need to be an expert. Take note of the things mentioned above, and you will succeed! From the right temperature to proper feeding, consider the things mentioned earlier. These worms reproduce fast, so it won’t take long before you succeed!