Raise European Night Crawlers
Raise European Night Crawlers for Fun and Profit
The European Night Crawler, also known as the Belgian Worm, Super Red, Carolina Crawlers, Blue Worms, and a half a dozen other names. The Scientific name is Eisenia hortensis.
The European night crawler is a relatively new worm to the United States. A worm expert who was doing some work for the Azerbaijan government in vermiculture discovered this worm in Azerbaijan. He brought the worm back to the US, and the rest is history, but a history that is yet to be written. This is the greatest worm I have ever seen, and I believe this worm will one-day dwarf all others in use, and sales.
I have a great deal of faith in a grand future for this worm. The reason for my optimism and excitement solely rests in the qualities that Esenia hortensis possesses. Some of these qualities are that hortensis has; a long shelf life. Our studies have shown that hortensis remains in good condition at room temperature for about three weeks longer than the common red worm, Esenia foetida, and the African Night Crawler. Hortensis also does not require heat the way the African does, or cold the way the Canadian Night Crawler does. The European also is at least twice the size of the common red worm, and reaches sizes comparable to the African, and Canadian. Hortensis is also raised much the same way as the red worm, which makes it extremely easy to raise, and breed.
At the present time there are very few growers of Hortensis. The reason is due purely to the newness of the worm. This worm is quickly catching on, and will soon be a major player in the composting, and bait industries. I receive calls everyday from new growers, or people interesting in getting started with the European Night Crawler. I am sure that this is the worm of the 21st century.
These worms have four requirements; bedding, food, moisture, and proper Ph. If you meet all four requirements you will be successful in breeding this worm.
The bedding needs to be little more than peat moss. The bedding should be moist but not wet. If you squeeze a handful of the bedding you should produce only a couple of drops. You will want the bedding to be about eight inches deep. The worm use the top few inches of the bedding, so eight inches should be plenty. Europeans eat a diet rich in garbage. They will eat nearly anything. Our studies indicate that the European will consume food scraps at a greater rate than the common red or compost worm Esenia Foetida. If you keep worms for the purpose of composting your scraps for casting production, you will want to put this worm to work for you.
Grain feeding also works well in the production of Hortensis. Chicken egg laying mash works well. You will want to top feed these worms so that the feed does not get mixed into the bedding. I have found that Esenia Hortensis is hardier than the African, and red worm, and much more hardy than the Canadian. This does not mean that they are impervious to disease, and acidity. You must keep the proper Ph in the beds at all times. It is best to keep the Ph of your worm bedding between 6.0 and 7.0? To keep the pH at at this level you will need a good pH meter, or a chemical pH tester (we have pH testers here), powdered limestone. The type you will need is Calcium Carbonate. The hydrated lime, and pellet lime will burn the worms, and will kill them. For more on pH and for pH meters please click here.
We recommend chicken egg layer mash because it is a nearly complete food supplying many nutrients and minerals. If it makes chickens lay eggs, we figured it would help worm lay eggs. We were right. We increased our worm production by about twenty- percent with this food. Top feeding means that you feed the grains only on the top of the beds. Do not cover the entire top with the feed. You will always want to give the worms some room to escape should the bedding become sour. The best way to feed the grains to the worms is to moisten the grains in a separate bucket or container, and the feed the worms by placing a row of the wet feed down the center of the bed or bin. Make sure that the worms have plenty of room to escape on both sides of the bed or bin.
Measure the pH regularly. This is very important, for bedding can sour quickly, and you can loose your worms if the pH gets too high. pH measurement is best done with a chemical pH tester available? here. The Chemical testers are more reliable in my estimation.
If your pH is at 7.0 or below treat the bedding with powdered limestone, which is available at you local feed and garden store. Use the limestone liberally. I have found it best to mix the lime with the feed when you are moistening it. This will stop the acid from developing in the feed. You should also sprinkle the tops of the beds with limestone once every three weeks. Make sure you use powdered limestone, palletized lime will burn and kill the worms. Ask for powdered limestone, the type used on horse stall bedding.
It is important to remember that this worm is also great for composting scraps, so you can feed this worm your kitchen scraps, and never have to feed them grain. Grain feeding is mostly used for the production of worms for sale. Europeans will eat nearly any food scrap you can produce with the exception of bones.
You can create a bin out of anything that will hold bedding, and allow for drainage. Tubs, Rubbermaid containers, wooden crates, or cement block beds all make great housing for Europeans. Just be sure to turn the bedding in whichever container you use every three weeks. Turning the bedding gives you a chance to see the worms, but is also provides air to the bedding, which will help reduce harmful acid from being produced.
Hortensis is a prolific breeder. Soon after setting up your bins and beds you will notice many capsules in your beds and bins. The European worms like to lay eggs near where the food is placed. I have found that the European lays more capsules than many other worms including the red worm. The African only rivals this worm in capsule production. Each worm will lay one to two capsules per week. Each capsule will hatch out between 4 and twenty worms. You can easily see how the increase in population will be large in a short amount of time. There are no male and female worms. Worm are asexual, which means that all worms produce offspring.
The only downfall of the European, if you can call it that, is that the European has an accelerated life cycle compared to other worms. The European reaches the end of its life cycle in a little over a year, while the red worm can live for a few years. The European is best purchased for breeding when they are half grown. The reason for this is that this is when they are still young they breed best. Other worms breed best when they are at their largest size. This is not really a problem for the grower who is planning on growing this worm for bait, or for resale as bait. If you are going to grow this worm as bait it does not matter if the worm if large, and near the end of its breeding life. It is important to remember to treat your customer?s right. If your customer is purchasing breeding stock sell the young worms, but if they want bait sell them the large older worms.
The market for the European worm is largely untapped at the turn of the century, but will not remain so for long. If you are interested in raising this worm for profit you will have to market this worm and create a demand that does not exist yet. Once the fishermen and gardeners get a gander at this beauty it will sell itself. You will most likely find a market for this worm where the market now exists for the African, for the red worm, and for the Canadian. That is to say you will be selling to fishermen, bait shops, garden shops, and to schools. You will find markets by contacting the stores mentioned above, and by also advertising in the classified section of sports, and gardening magazines.
The European requires some care in shipping, but less than the African and the Canadian that can only be shipped when the temperatures are right, or when provisions are made in the packaging to artificially create the temperatures needed. We like to ship bulk worms in muslin bags placed in a cardboard box. We count out our worms in ensure accurate count, and then count out an additional ten percent to account for losses in shipping. The ten percent over-count is the standard for the industry for all worm sales. If you are shipping to bait shops, or selling to bait shops you can use soup, and deli salad containers available through us, or available through any restaurant supply house.
Harvesting is important to mention. You do not need any expensive equipment to harvest your worms. All you need is a bright light, and fingers. Place a pile of bedding with worms in it on slab beneath a bright light. Slowly remove the first layer of bedding. The worms will burrow into the bedding to escape the light. As the worms burrow keep removing the bedding. Repeat until the all of the bedding is removed, and all of the worms are in one pile on the slab. You can then count them out with ease.
This little booklet is the first of its kind on the subject of the European. It does not explain every detail that can arise in the raising of the European, but it will give you the start you need. I hope that the future will bring many more people into the worm industry, and that with that will come a much more detailed study of the European. . Visit us for future updates on this worm, and the worm industry.QUESTIONS?? E-mail me here.