Vermicomposting, worm bin, composting with worms community and forums
I broke down (don't ask) and ordered 5 lbs. of E. hortensis from David & Chris at Earthworms 4 Sale. [Note: as of Aug. 2012, they were drop-shipping Euros from Florida. You may want to request NC-grown worms if that matters to you.] They'll be shipped out Monday. Below is what I've culled from various forums and blogs. There was quite a flurry of discussion on this species '98-'00, when EHs were first becoming popular among worm farmers in the U.S.
Since the terrarium worked out so well as a wormery for my African nightcrawlers, I decided to bump the aquaponics project and use a ~30 gal. aquarium as an indoor worm bin for these European nightcrawlers. That completes the vermi-trilogy as far as I'm concerned (no disrespect to the PEs), with EEs & EHs indoors and the EFs outdoors. With the exception of cooler bin temps (60-65ºF) and damper bedding, it sounds like I'll set things up pretty much the same as I did for my EEs.
• 6-8" of damp egg carton/cardboard bedding with a sprinkling of VC. I may add leaves.
• secure lid (around the edges) with 1/16" screening for ventilation.
• nightlight on top of the lid to discourage wanderers for the 1st few weeks.
I hope the worms I receive look as good as Eve's gob of EHs:
Although most of the quotes below support the very little scientific data that is available, there are clearly very strong anecdotal accounts from worm farmers who disputed the low reproductive rates reported by the scientists. I think it is a classic apples vs oranges kerfuffle. The scientists were studying worms to process cattle manure and the worm farmers were providing very different environments and food stock for their Euros. Of course the results would be different.
Excerpts from the Eisenia hortensis sub-group
"Doctors Adrian Reinecke and Sophie Viljoen conducted detailed studies on the reproduction and maturation rates and environmental requirements of this species in the early 1990s, which confirmed studies conducted on this species by Dr. Clive Edwards in the late 1980s. The researchers found D. veneta to be a large worm with a low reproductive rate and slow maturity rate compared to Eisenia fetida, Perionyx excavatus and Eudrilus eugeniae; findings which suggest this species is the least suitable for vermicomposting of those studied. Even so, D. veneta (reclassified by taxonomists to the genus and species Eisenia hortensis) has demonstrated some value in vermicomposting. Studies demonstrate that this species performs better in excessively wet environments than the other species used for vermicomposting, leading to its use in some large-scale European vermiprocessing systems remediating paper sludges."
"Some U.S. worm growers have become fans of Dendrobaena veneta and dispute the research data, believing the worm to reproduce and grow as rapidly as Eisenia fetida in their vermiculture and vermicomposting systems. Their observations are compelling and, coupled with the great size of this worm, are likely responsible in part for the sudden popularity of the species."
Kelly S.: "E. hortensis, which is a slow-growing worm species even in its ideal environment of high moisture and temps between 60-65ºF...is more easily stressed by lower moisture levels...Heat tolerance is dependant on moisture level. This worm is very tolerant of environmental fluctuation and handling, but has a slower reproductive rate and requires very high moisture levels, relative to other worm species...edwards and reineckes research show E. hortensis to be long lived and slow growing"
Bentley at redwormcomposting: "They have a lower rate of reproduction and take considerably longer to mature. That being said, I’ve been told they can be more tolerant of poor bin conditions and low food levels – more apt to stay put as compared to red worms...they seem to like manure a lot more than food scraps."
Kazuko at K & W Rabbit and Worm Farm (no longer online): "I've seen the reference to the study conducted by Clive Edwards regarding the reproduction rate of Eisenia hortensis/Dendrobaena veneta. Contrary to his findings, it has been my experience and the experience of other growers I've spoken with that not only do they have an excellent rate of reproduction, but under optimum conditions they will out produce Eisenia fetida. I've found that Eisenia hortensis has different preferences to temperature, moisture, bedding etc than Eisenia fetida and I'm wondering if the study may have been conducted out of their optimum range. In tests I've done with Eisenia hortensis in home vermicomposting bins, they have performed as well as or better than an equal biomass of Eisenia fetida. They seem to be able to break down cellulose material without as much help from soil bacteria."
Jeff at friendlywormguy (in cold Canada): "My beds are 8″-12″ in depth...the reds are composting in the top 3-4″. The Euros are composting from 4-12″ levels of my composting worm beds. All I had read about the euros, and their want to crawl, out of the beds, bins etc. Is wrong in my opinion, I have had alot more problems with the Red Wigglers crawling, then I have ever had with the European N/C. On another note: It is hard to kill Euros...The Euros take change in their environments better then the Reds do."
RedHen: "I started raising ENC's over a year ago, just to see if they would thrive in a bin situation. They do not reproduce at the same rate as the EF's, (they are slower). I notice that the ENC's like things cooler. If the temps get above about 70, they get kind of melty and very slow. I am raisng them at 60F and they are doing really well. They also seem to like it wetter, which in a plastic bin, is easier to have happen. I started with 2 lbs and the original gang went through trial and tribulation, and I was not too sure about how they were going to do. I started feeding them more often (and think they actually eat more, and faster than the EF's) and put them in a cooler temperature situation. Things started looking up."..."When I get new worms I do make food (steamed) very soft for them, so there is food immediately for all. Food, good cool temperature and very damp bedding should get you and your new pals off to a good start."
flyboy: "I got three pounds of euros late last fall. I have them in a 10 Gal Rubbermaid tub. I have never seen the cocoon density in my red worm bin like I see in my euro bin. I feed them every couple of weeks and leave them alone."
gardenfanatic: "I don't know if you have access to fall leaves, but ENC's are eager consumers of them. Also, they tend to like the bin wetter and a little cooler than the reds."
stevemc: "They eat like hogs. My redworms rarely light into food the way the encs do. I have been giving them some coffee grounds with fruit and veggie scraps and a light dusting of corn meal. They do not wait for the macro herd to prepare it for them..the just seem to start eating."
wtman: "I didnt put anything in there new home except shredded newspaper ( confetti style) for the first couple of weeks, but i will say this, they absolutley thrived in the shredded paper alone. you will have no doubt about the castings either, its not hard to tell their castings from the compost like the ef's."
thinwhite: "E. Hortensis was my first attempt at vermiculture, and I found them to be very easy creatures to deal with. I actually started out with 270 (yep, 270) worms that I bought locally for fishing...I did find at first that they did have a tendency to roam - especially after I harvest the castings. I raise the Euros, E. Fetida, Georgia Jumpers, and African Night Crawlers. I've found that all of these critters just LOVE to roam after a harvest...Amongst all the species I raise, I've also found them the most likely to dig into a pile of dead leaves and grass clippings with gusto. The other species WILL eat these foods, but none do so with the enthusiasm of the Hortensis'."
Here's some video of the worms when they first arrived 6 Oct. 2010: