As composters, we definitely love our worms. And if you have a healthy vermicompost bin, then you definitely know there’s lots of love between the worms, too. But how exactly do our worm bins become so populous? Red wiggler worms are frequent reproducers. If conditions in the bin are ideal, each worm can produce up to 7 worm hatchlings per week. And because red wigglers are hermaphrodites, with both male and female parts, every worm in your bin has the potential to lay and fertilize eggs. When a red wiggler worm matures, it develops a swollen band near its head called a clitellum that stores the eggs and sperm.
During reproduction, two worms join at the clitellum and exchange seminal fluid. During the three hours of being joined, each worm forms a mucus ring around itself. As they separate, the mucus rings harden and the worms begin to back out of their respective rings over a 7-10 day period.
As this happens, the ovum, amniotic fluid, and semen are deposited into the mucus ring which then seals and hardens into the yellow, lemon-shaped cocoon that we are familiar with. While the hatchlings mature, the eggs begin to turn ruby red. Each egg will hold 2-7 red wiggler babies that will hatch in 30 to 75 days. After 85-150 days, these babies mature into adults and can then begin producing offspring of their own.
Author: Nancee Foglesong (Master Composter Volunteer)