Vermicomposting is fun, challenging, and faster than hot composting. I compost with blues, red wigglers, and European Nightcrawlers.
Canadian nightcrawlers are one of the largest commonly available worms. They are sometimes called "dew worms" because they are sometimes found outside in the early morning when there is morning dew still on the ground and nearby plants. The scientific name for them is Lumbricus terrestris. Other names include "lobworm" or just "nightcrawlers." Despite the name, Canadian nightcrawlers are believed to have originated in Europe.
They are not great for vermicomposting. They are more solitary worms compared to red wigglers, euros, African nightcrawlers, and even blue worms.
Canadian nightcrawlers are large. Larger than most other worms with which you will come in contact. The one pictured below stretches to over 7 inches long. They are about as long as African nightcrawlers, but much thicker. They dwarf European nightcrawlers in both thickness and length. They are also much longer and thicker than both red wigglers and Indian blue worms.
Identifying Characteristics of Canadian Nightcrawlers
In addition to their size, these worms also have a number of other characteristics that will help you identify them.
Canadian nightcrawlers are:
- About as thick as a pencil
- About 6–8 inches in length
- Have an obvious, raised clitellum
- Rounder on the head side
- Flatter on the tail side
- Spade-shaped tail
- Dark purple color on head
- Get lighter in color towards the tail
Canadian nightcrawlers like it pretty cold. They live in about 60°F soil year-round. They can be kept in bins if the environment can be kept cold enough, but need lots of decaying plant matter, like leaves and grass clippings, in their environment. They do not do as well as other composting worms at breaking down food waste.
I am currently attempting to see if Canadian nightcrawlers can survive at all in Florida temperatures. If I see any success, I will run a more formal test. During the summer, the temperature will reach 95°F, which will certainly make the soil greater than 60°F.
As with most worm species, Canadian nightcrawlers should be kept shaded from the sun. They need some moisture in order to help oxygen exchange, but too much water isn't good either. As a general rule, if there is standing water in your bin, you have too much liquid. Adding extra dry debris or bedding will help absorb the excess water.
Canadian nightcrawlers move somewhat slowly. They move similarly to red wigglers and European nightcrawlers. They generally move forward in a wavelike pattern, stretching out the front have of their body, then dragging the rest of their body forward. This is dissimilar to Alabama jumpers and Indian blue worms.
Where to Purchase Canadian Nightcrawlers
The most likely place to source Canadian nightcrawlers will be a bait and tackle shop. I was able to purchase 12 nightcrawlers for $4.50.
Due to their size, Canadian nightcrawlers make excellent fishing bait. They are much easier to pierce with a hook, compared to African and European nightcrawlers. They are almost too large for many small hooks, making them a tempting target for fish.
Can You Vermicompost With Canadian Nightcrawlers?
In short, not really. While you can keep Canadian nightcrawlers, and create a thriving population with which to use as bait, they are not great composting worms.
Canadian Nightcrawlers are anecic. This means they tend to make deep burrows, surfacing only to feed on decaying plant matter. They then retreat into their vertical burrows. Composting worms are generally epigenic, meaning they live in and around the surface of the soil, will use the same burrow occasionally, but will also travel around and explore the bin more often. Due to the behavior of epigenic worms, it is easier to feed them.
Vermicompost, called castings, will tend to gravitate towards the bottom of the bin. Fresh bedding and food can be added to the top, where epigenic worms will migrate to eat the decaying food.
Canadian Nightcrawlers are very large worms, with an obvious clitellum and flattened, spade-shaped tails. You can keep a population of Canadian nightcrawlers if you can keep them cool and ensure they stay moist, with lots of leaf litter. However, they do not make for great composters, due to their burrowing nature.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Devin Gustus