For large jobs of sifting worms from castings or compost I use my Texas Worm Harvester, but for smaller jobs I have built a small box sifter. With some scrap materials, and the left over 1/4 inch wire mesh I had I put together this sifter. I have also seen where other worm farmers use 1/8 inch screen, for my use I have found the 1/4 inch to do just fine. Separating worms from castings using this or the harvester method is the first step I take and removes most of the worms are course unprocessed organic matter. I do spend time picking out tiny worms and eggs, but losing a few is not a big deal. Here is a picture of a tiny hatchling that I found while harvesting castings. As you can see, or maybe not, these little guys are hard to find. This little thread of a worm was wiggling which made him easier to see.
I decided to check in on a bin I had set up with only 10 red worm eggs, November 28, 2010. To my surprise, I found several worms quickly, and the largest was this 3.5″ monster pictured above. There was a visible clitellum, which means they have reached sexual maturity.
Red Worms will usually reach reproductive maturity in 2-3 months. Red Worms are hermaphroditic, and come equipped with both male and female reproductive organs.
This little experiment is proving out that your starting number of red worms is less important than providing the right environment for your worms.
Moisture: Damp but not wet- think of a wrung out sponge
Feeding: Simulate their natural environment (manure piles, decaying leaf piles) Feed in one part of bin when food is gone. Worm food includes: vegetable scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds, herbivore manure.
Inspired by Bentley Christie’s 4 worm experiment where his 5 1/2 month experiment with 4 mature worms rendered 12 adults and 94 juveniles. I began a similar experiment of 2 bins with 4 worms and my normal bedding.
11-14-10 I set up up two starter bins w/ bedding and 4 mature red worms.
12-5-10 Three weeks into the experiment I did a pretty good count in one of the bins and was able to find the 4 original worms and 4 juveniles. I was also able to find a few cocoons. I could have easily missed counting due to the small size of juvenile worms .
From everything I can gather a mature worm can produce an egg sac every 7 days, and reach sexual maturity in 60-90 days. The two main variables I would like some data on are:
1) time it takes a cocoon to hatch?
2) number of worms in cocoon?
I have read cocoons can hatch 3-30 baby worms, and assume healthier worms in ideal conditions will hatch more. Accurate numbers will require accurate counting, and isolating variables.
I recognize that calling this an “experiment” is a bit of a stretch but wanted to see what would happen.
A Red Worm egg sac or cocoon can be laid every 7 days by a healthy mature red worm. Red Worms can reach sexual maturity in about a month and a lifespan that can go into the early teens. Red worms are hermaphoditic which means they both fertilize and lay eggs. Eggs can have 4-30 baby red wigglers.
Keep your worms well but not over fed, moist environment, temps from 40F-80F, and in a quiet dark place and they will produce well for you.