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Identifying different kinds of worms

Posted by Tim Herron on November 11, 2010 at 2:19 PM


This page clarifies which species is which in the Vermi-composting world. There seems to be a lot of confusion, even amongst worm breeders, on exactly which “Red Worm” (commonly named the “Red Wriggler”) they are breeding and selling. The name “Red Wriggler” has been so loosely used in the past, that you very likely NOT getting the ACTUAL “RED WRIGGLER”.

So if you really don't mind which red composting worm you have, as long as it gets the job done, great! but for those who want to know more about the worms you have, and more of their characteristics, or if you are interested in breeding worms yourself, then read on. . .

The Real “Red Wriggler” !!

The common name “Red Wriggler” was first given to the “Red Worm” from the genus Lumbricus rubellus. Its other common names are Red Worm, Dung Worm or Blood Worm, and more recently I have begun to refer to these as “True Reds”. It is called “Red Wriggler” because these worms are EXTREMELY sensitive to light. While all worms “wriggle” with discomfort at being exposed to light (mostly ultra-violet light from the sun), this “Red Wriggler” thrashes about violently. This characteristic, as well as the fact they exude amino acids, make these “Red Wrigglers” irresistible to fish, and therefore THIS is the “Red Wriggler” sought after by fishermen as great bait.

“True Reds” are good composting worms, but do not breed as prolifically as other commercial earthworms. They do their best work in the soil as they are endogeic (soil dwellers) that convert decaying plant and animal material into available food for plants at the roots where it is needed. They also turn and aerate the soil as they borrow horizontally through the soil

How to tell a “True Red” (Lumbricus rubellus)

COLOUR: Dark Red or Maroon - somewhat iridescent on top and light yellow underside.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Yellowish trowel shaped tail and has NO stripes or banding

ADULT LENGTH: 3-4 inches with up to 95 -120 segments

CLITELLUM: Found between segments 27 - 32 - raised on top side and flatter underneath.

FIRST DORSAL PORE: Found between segment 7 & 8.

HABITAT: Endogeic (Soil Dwellers) -Prefer top 6 to 12 inches of soil

FOOD PREFERENCES: Rich compost, decaying plants & animal material.


COCOON HATCHING: 10 - 16 weeks

The Mis-named Red Wriggler !!

The common name “Red Wriggler” has been associated with another red-coloured worm that isn't from the “Red” (rubellus) family, but is from the “Tiger” family. The Latin name for the Tiger Worm is Eisenia fetida. The worm mis-named “Red Wrigglers” are actually “Red Tigers”, which are a sub-species of the Tiger Worm. Red Tigers are Eisenia fetida andrii. Another common name is Red Brandling Worm. These worms do not “wriggle” as much as the real “Red Wriggler” when exposed to sunlight, and almost appear sluggish in comparison to the True Reds. Also, all Tiger Worms release a ‘fetid' taste and smell as a defense mechanism, and therefore are NOT suitable for fishing! So selling “Red Tigers” as “Red Wrigglers” makes a HUGE difference to fishermen looking for a true “Red Wriggler”, and is somewhat misleading.

Tiger Worms (regular and red) are ideal for composting rich organic waste from the kitchen as they live off a rich source of food,and process large amounts.

How to tell a Red Tiger Worm (Eisenia fetida andrii)

COMMON NAMES: Red Tiger Worm, Red Brandling Worm, Red Tiger Hybrid

COLOUR: Reddish-purple with dark and light stripes or banding between segments

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Banding between segments and have a slightly pointed tail.

ADULT LENGTH: 3 inches

CLITELLUM: Found between segments 26 - 32 - raised all around the worm like a bandage.

FIRST DORSAL PORE: Found between segment 4 & 5.

HABITAT: Epigeic (Surface Dwellers) - Prefer top few inches of soil.

FOOD PREFERENCES: VERY Rich compost, decaying food & animal manures.


COCOON HATCHING: 25 - 70 days, depending on conditions.

How to tell a Tiger Worm (Eisenia fetida)

COMMON NAMES: Tiger Worm, Brandling Worm, Manure Worm, Garlic Worm

COLOUR: Rusty Brown with dark and light alternating stripes of dark brown and light yellow/cream

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Distinct banding between segments and has a rounded tail.

ADULT LENGTH: 3 inches

CLITELLUM: Found between segments 26 - 32 - raised all around the worm like a bandage.

FIRST DORSAL PORE: Found between segment 4 & 5.

HABITAT: Epigeic (Surface Dwellers) - Prefer top few inches of soil.

FOOD PREFERENCES: VERY Rich compost, decaying food & animal manures.


COCOON HATCHING: 25 - 70 days, depending on conditions.

Note: There are some that believe that the “Red Tiger” is a cross or hybrid of the regular brown Tiger (above) and the True Red, and have even named this worm ”Red Tiger Hybrid”, but this is highly unlikely, as there is little scientific evidence that species are able to cross breed because the sexual organs are not ‘matched ‘ for copulation. Although T.J. Barret (Harnessing the Earthworm - 1947) includes documentation submitted by Dr George Oliver that claimed that he had succeeded in hybridising Lumbricus Terrestris - (Night Crawler) with Eisenia Foetida (Tiger/Brandling Worm) in 1925 and named this the “Domestic Earthworm”.

Blue composting worms :

The “True Blue” Worm

If there was confusion over the Red Worms, the Blues have a similar problem in that another blue coloured worm from an entirely different species (Spenceriella noctiluca) native to Australia have been called all the common names that were originally given to Perionyx excavitus. These include Blue Worm, Indian Blue, and Malasian Blue, so once again, to avoid confusion, I call these “True Blues”. The “Aussie Blues” have many similar physical and habitual characteristics to the True Blues, that the confusion here is more forgivable. The traits that separate them are very subtle physical characteristics, while the other distinguishing factors are mostly anatomical, and therefore unseen. Another similarity is that neither tolerate cold climates and prefer more tropical regions. True Blues are known to leave a wormery and have been called “Travellers” by Mary Appelhof in “Worms eat my garbage” (1982 & 1997)

How to tell a True Blue (Perionyx excavitus)

COMMON NAMES: Blue Worm, Indian Blue (named by David Murphy), and Malasian Blue

COLOUR: Perionyx excavitus: Anterior is pupley-blue and the posterior is reddish brown, (while Spenceriella noctiluca is electric pupley-blue on top and reddish brown underneath.)

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Banding between segments and have a slightly pointed tail.

ADULT LENGTH: up to 6 inches

CLITELLUM: Found between segments 7 - 10 - slightly depressed rather than raised.

FIRST DORSAL PORE: Found between segment 4 & 5.

HABITAT: Epigeic (Surface Dwellers) - Prefer top few inches of soil.

FOOD PREFERENCES: VERY Rich compost, decaying food & animal manures.


COCOON HATCHING: 7 - 21 days, depending on conditions.

Note: Perionyx excavitus is parthenogenic, meaning that they are not only hermaphrodites, (ie. have both female and male sexual organs like all earthworms,) but they are able to fertilise themselves, and do not need a mate to reproduce, while hermaphrodites need a mate to transfer each others sperm to fertilise their eggs.

The “Aussie” Blue” Worm (Spenceriella noctiluca)

Several (4) of the Spenceriella species (amongst other species) have been described as Bioluminescent Australian Earthworms. These four Spenceriella species are placed in a new cormieri species-group in the sub-genus Spenceriella S(S). The sub-genus Spenceriella is redefined to include species of earthworm lacking calciferous glands, a highly uncommon occurrence in earthworms, as this gland is credited with the earthworms' ability to produce large amounts of calcium carbonate to aid digestion and is believed to be the secret behind earthworms' ability to neutralise acidic soils. The fact that Spenceriella do not have this gland is the reason for their recent re-classification.

Why these worms are confused with Perionyx Excavitus, is due to the fact that on tactile stimulation Spenceriella noctiluca exhibit spontaneous blueish luminescence which is enhanced by addition of peroxide. Along with other similar external physical characteristics, including the depressed clitellum, make this species easily confused with the “True Blue”.


The Classic “Nightcrawler” (Lumbricus terrestris)

Nightcrawlers have a few distinguishing features, both physically and habitually, that have been found in an “African cousin” of another species Eudrillus eugeniae (commonly named the “African Night Crawler”.) Once again, these two species are often confused. Nightcrawlers are not great for domestic vermi-composting even though they are one of the most prolific breeders. The reason is mostly because they prefer their tunnels to be undisturbed and are restless if they are unable to burrow deep enough. They have been known to leave domestic wormeries in search of deeper ground. Nightcrawlers have been known to burrow down 6 to 8 feet deep, but come to the surface to forage and to deposit their castings and capsules. This characteristic makes Nightcrawlers one of the more important earthworms for soil rejuvenation, as they bring minerals from the sub-soil to the surface in their castings and take organic matter deep into their burrows. This cycle is paramount to replenishing our depleting and eroding top soil. Conventional ‘unsustainable' agriculture creates a loss of 75 BILLION TONS of topsoil is lost each year - equating to a loss of around 10 million hectares of productive land per year. Eg. 1 kg of wheat equates to the loss of 5-7kgs of topsoil. Introducing Nightcrawlers to agricultual/pasteral lands could turn this critical situation around in a relatively short period of time.

How to tell a Night Crawler (Lumbricus terrestris)

COMMON NAMES: Nightcrawler, Dew Worm, Rain Worm, Orchard Worm, Angle Worm, Night Lion

COLOUR: Reddish Brown, can appear to have a greenish tinge, with yellowish underside


ADULT LENGTH: up to 14 inches

CLITELLUM: Found between segments 32 & 38 - prominent orange-red

FIRST DORSAL PORE: Found between segment 21 - 23.

HABITAT: Anecic (Deep Burrowers) - Vertical burrows found to be up to 8 feet deep

FOOD PREFERENCES: Decaying Organic Matter.


COCOON HATCHING: 14 - 21 days, depending on conditions.

How to tell an African Night Crawler (Eudrillus Eugeniae)

COMMON NAMES: African Nightcrawler, Giant Nightcrawler

COLOUR: Dark mauve or pink throughout, and are slightly iridescent


ADULT LENGTH: up to 16 inches

CLITELLUM: Found between segments 32 & 38 - prominent orange-red

FIRST DORSAL PORE: Found between segment 21 - 23.

HABITAT: Anecic (Deep Burrowers) - Vertical burows found to be up to 6 feet deep

FOOD PREFERENCES: Decaying Organic Matter.


This page stolen from Herron Farms Dawsonville Ga. 30534706-531-9917

Categories: Herron Farms Dawsonville Ga.30534, Atlanta and Metro Atlanta Worms, Vermicomposting

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10:51 AM on April 19, 2019 
Patterns are the key to identification! When identifying an earthworm, look at the patterns on its clitellum. The fine details are not as important, or even as clear, as stepping back to observe the general patterns. For example, the number of segments from the peristomium to the clitellum and the number of segments which make up the clitellum are species-specific in earthworms. This means that, if two earthworms have different numbers of segments to the start of the clitellum, they are different earthworm species.