The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Foraging redworms

How to tell a redworm from a random earthworm

When I put the second round of food scraps in the worm bin this week, I was surprised to find some worms under fresh bedding that I'd laid out on the far side of the bin to drain.  This area is six feet away from where we'd introduced the worms and had no food to attract them, making me wonder what worms were doing there.

Redworms on food scrapsMy first thought was that the worms might actually be run-of-the-mill earthworms since I'd had the cardboard bedding sitting out on the ground before soaking it and adding it to the worm bin, and I'd noticed at least a dozen worms taking advantage of the moist hiding place.  However, a close look at the foraging worms in the bin versus a typical earthworm from outside the bin showed that the foraging worms were redworms --- notice the almost orangey cast to the redworms versus a purplish cast to the random earthworm, and the obvious yellowish lines around the redworms.

Poking around inside the bin, I also discovered that the worms had found all of the food scraps, although they seemed to be congregated in some areas at much higher concentrations than in others.  I guess worms travel further than I give them credit for.  So, the question is --- how do worms decide where they want to go?  Do they just move randomly until they hit something good to eat, or can they smell food from a distance?  Do they give off any chemicals to attract their buddies when they find a good stash of vittles?  Anyone know a good source of information on redworm biology, behavior, and ecology?

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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