After many years of raising numerous species of worms and reading what others have to say, not just about reproduction rates of red wigglers but other worms and facts such as how long to mature, I decided to run a more accurate experiment. Based on feedback from my last survey it was fitting that this experiment had already started using red wiggler worms.
Looking over the web I find site after site online stating that red wigglers can lay up to 2-3 cocoons per week under the right conditions. What even amazed me more is the fact that even some universities writing studies on worms repeat this same information which can be found all over the Internet. Just to begin by showing you how much false information is out there on raising worms, I am going to place a link to a thread on The Worm Expert discussion forum by another member in Australia, Brian M. We all have heard and read that when using manures to be sure that it does not contain dewormer. Brian began fooling around with dewormer and adding directly into his worm bin. You can read more on his results from an actual test he ran as well as his explanation and my follow up make a lot of sense. Click here (opens in new window).
Getting back to my experiment I setup 225 red wigglers mature worms, all the same size fully grown out in a worm bin for a period of 21 days. The reason I went just three weeks is the fact that at this point the cocoons begin to hatch under the right conditions which is illustrated in the picture below where I harvested the cocoons and began counting them out.
Once I harvested the worm cocoons, the trick is to mix the material well in the collection tray as seen below. This enables me to figure out how many cups of material I have as well as collect one cup of the mixed material. At this point the easiest way to clean a bit more is to use a strainer and garden hose to rid the mix of some of the leftover bedding material so as to make counting much easier.
Once I counted one cup out of 10 ¾ cups of material containing the worm cocoons, I ended up with 378 cocoons pictured below. The photo does not do it justice as I realize it does not look like that many worm cocoons, however that is what is in the cup.
Multiplying 378 (number of cocoons per cup) X 10.75 (number of cups containing worm cocoons) = 4,063.5 cocoons.
Now keep in mind there will be those that are skeptical of the cup count, but remember, this does not include any cocoons that I actually discarded when cleaning the worms out some more so as to weigh and be sure I had my worm count still (fully grown red wiggler will weigh right about .031 ounces), cocoons that fell through the 1/8” screen and ended up in the worm castings nor any of the dark colored cocoons I missed while counting them as the closer to hatching, the darker the color on worm cocoons.
Now if I take the total number of cocoons, 4,063.5 divided by the number of worms in the worm bin, 225, I end up with 18.06 which is the number of cocoons on average that each worm laid over a twenty one day period.
If I were to break this down further, and divide by 3, the number of weeks, I end up that on average each worm laid 6.02 cocoons per week. Taking in to affect the number of cocoons I missed, I could be closer to 6.5 cocoons per worm per week.
In conclusion, using the actual number 6.02 cocoons per worm per week, I end up with 2-3 times more cocoons than what others state online. That same ratio increase of two to three times more worms that what others claim to produce in the same time frame! At the same time this is an average, hence I do not know if some worms are capable of laying more than one cocoon per day while others may lay one every other day…
There are a few denominators in this equation such as feed, Purina Worm Chow for one, temperature and the fact that I used all mature, fully grown out red wigglers. As we found with any worm, your growth, reproduction… will yield better results if all the worms are of the same size.
In other words, a batch of bed run worms of 1,000 red wigglers, even if 225 of them are fully grown, will not yield the same results. Hence all the other web sites maybe basing results on bed run batches of worms!
For more information on worm cocoon counts and raising African nightcrawlers, you may either purchase the paperback or download, Raising African Nightcrawlers, the best worm for composting, fishing and worm casting production. These worms can be grown to over eight inches long!