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Identifying the European Nightcrawler Composting Worm

Vermicomposting is fun, challenging, and faster than hot composting. I compost with blues, red wigglers and European nightcrawlers.

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European nightcrawlers are one of the most commonly used composting worms, second only to the red wiggler. Being larger, they can also be easier to use as bait for fishing. However, they tend to consume things slower than their red wiggler cousins. If you do not plan to use them for fishing at all, consider red wigglers instead.

European nightcrawlers are sometimes called "super reds" due to their similar coloring, but larger size, compared to red wigglers. Euros were originally known as Dendrobaena veneta, but were reclassified as Eisenia hortensis.

European Nightcrawler With Clitellum and Banding Labeled

European Nightcrawler With Clitellum and Banding Labeled

Identification of the European Nightcrawler

European nightcrawlers are:

  • About 4 inches in length, fully grown
  • About the diameter of a pencil
  • Deep red in color with lighter underbody
  • Larger than a red wiggler
  • Move slower than Indian blue wiggler
  • Have a prominent saddle/clitellum
  • Do not have an iridescent sheen
  • Will have banding when stretched out
  • Stay on the top layer of ground-cover (epigenic)
European Nightcrawler Worm

European Nightcrawler Worm

Size, Color, Markings

European nightcrawlers look very similar to red wigglers, but larger. Their tails tend to flatten out slightly (but not as much as a Canadian nightcrawler), and the yellow markings that red wigglers sometimes develop are more prominent in the Euro. European nightcrawlers also have a prominent clitellum, or saddle.

They tend to move at a similar speed to a red wiggler, and definitely slower than an Indian blue or African nightcrawler. Euros are a ruddy red color, with a lighter underbody.

Two European Nightcrawler Worms With Banding

Two European Nightcrawler Worms With Banding

Environment

Live most composting worms, Euros enjoy a moist environment. However, care should be taken to ensure it does not become too wet. While the European nightcrawler doesn't seem to mind the extra moisture too much, it will attract other insects and pests that will make caring for the Euro less enjoyable (and stinky).

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Since Euros do not have lungs and obtain oxygen through diffusion, it is important to give adequate airflow to your colony. If you are using a bin, you can drill holes in the side to provide ventilation. If your Euros are protected from rain, you can cut out a portion of your bin and put screening in the lid, which will work better overall. During the day, this screening will help encourage your friends to stay put in their home, instead of going exploring.

One European Nightcrawler Worm, Stretched Out

One European Nightcrawler Worm, Stretched Out

What to Feed European Nightcrawlers

European nightcrawlers' dietary needs are similar to most other composting worms. Bedding, such as shredded newspaper or torn up cardboard, is important to start. Coconut coir is also a favorite.

Euros enjoy eating vegetable and fruit waste, as well as grains. However, avoid citrus and pineapple, as well as most meat and dairy. Citrus and pineapple have enzymes that can hurt them. Meat and dairy will attract flies, which will lead to maggots. While maggots are not necessarily a bad thing, they aren't pleasant to look at and do not leave as much vermicompost behind after they feed. Do not overfeed your worms, and attempt to bury your kitchen scraps underneath a layer of vermicompost or bedding. This will help prevent ants and roaches.

I don't think it is possible to have too much bedding, as long as the amount of moisture and airflow is adequate. Some grit, such as sand or egg shells that have been ground up, will make it easier for your wormy friends to break down waste as well.

Two European Nightcrawler Worms

Two European Nightcrawler Worms

Where to Get European Nightcrawlers

European nightcrawlers are actually some of the easiest worms to acquire, although you will need to be patient to get them established. Most bait shops, and stores that have significant fishing departments will have Euros for sale. This is how I started my colony of Euros—I purchased about 15 of them at Wal-Mart.

They have been my most successful and easy to care for colony thus far. If you want to to jump start your vermicomposting operation, you can purchase larger amounts. This will be less expensive per worm, but the initial outlay will be more.

Two European Nightcrawler Worms

Two European Nightcrawler Worms

An Excellent Choice for Vermicomposting

Overall, the European nightcrawler is an excellent choice for vermicomposting. They aren't too picky about their environment, and don't tend to try to escape unless something is very wrong with your bin.

They aren't as prolific as red wigglers and don't digest quite as much waste, but they do grow significantly larger than reds, making them more desirable as fishing bait. They tolerate colder temperatures than some of the more tropical worms, like the Indian blue and the African nightcrawler. A very solid choice for a first time vermicomposter.

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

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