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Worms are not all the same!

Worms inside a Compot

Worms are not all the same! There are two broad types of worms.    One is flat, eg tapeworms, and the other is round, eg Garden worms.     It is only the round worms that I will talk about today.

Earthworms are like a long hollow muscular tube.   They eat into the soil with their mouth.   The soil then passes down the hollow gut where the nutrients are absorbed, and the rest is left in the soil behind the worm, where the enzymes and bacteria from the gut keep breaking down the soil turning it into worm castings, making it a better place for the plants.

Earthworms do not have lungs but breathe oxygen by gas exchange through their moist skin, so need to keep moist or they will die.   This is a good reason to keep the soil moist in your garden and near your Compot so that any worms near will be able to move through the soil transforming it into beautiful castings. They will accumulate inside your Compot if you are filling it with worm friendly food only. Otherwise they will live outside the pot in the surrounding soil living off the leachate produced by the Soldier Flies and nutrients that end up in the soil as it seeps out from inside the Compot.

These wrigglers have no eyes but can feel any sunlight on them so they move underground to get out of the sunlight. One very good reason to cover your Compot with grass clippings, straw, sugar cane mulch or leaves.

Earthworms can consume up to half their weight each day so are really working hard for their “owners”.   Inside worms are a lot of useful Bacteria that help to break down any feed eaten and it is these Bacteria that continue to breakdown any Organic Matter in the soil after they have left the worm.   Mixed with the Bacteria inside each worm are some grains of sand that grind up the food helping the Bacteria digest the food.

Earthworms are both male and female, ie they are hermaphrodites, so can reproduce on their own without finding a partner.   Reds and Tigers require two worms to reproduce but Blues usually do not need a mate.

Three species of worms

Three Types of Commercial Worms

Three species of worms are available commercially.

These are:

  • Red (Lumbricus rubellus)
  • Tiger (Eisenia fetida) and
  • Blue (Perionyx wexcavatus)

Some people say that there are hybrids of these but that is not possible as for worms to successfully mate they need to be the same species as well as the same size.   There are some worms that look like a hybrid with features like the so called parents but these are a separate species.

Red worms are a deep red or maroon colour with some iridescence on top and a light yellow underneath, and are always found in the top 15 cm of the soil.   One visible characteristic is that they wriggle a lot in sunlight as they actively dislike sunlight.   They do not breed as quickly as other commercial worm species but are good at converting plant and animal matter into nutrients that plants can readily use.   Their preferred temperature range is 18 to 23o C

Tiger worms are a rusty colour with a clear brownish tinge where each segment is clearly shown as a yellow band, and are NOT good as fish bait as they give off an unpleasant yellow liquid.

Blue worms are a purpley colour – blue with a reddish brown posterior. They prefer the top 5-6 cm of soil, very rich compost decaying food and animal manure so would be great with your Compot if you live in a warmer climate as the preferred temperatures of 20 -25 C.

Though you don’t need to add worms to your Compot it will definitely make a difference as long as you are filling them with worm friendly waste only and as long as you keep the soil moist and covered with grass clippings, hay, straw or shredded bamboo to help retain the moisture in the soil, keeping your worms happy and protected from the harsh sun.

Today’s Did You Know…?

Dumb Cane

Dumbcane (Dieffenbachia sp)

This is a plant up to 2m tall with green or yellow or white blotches on it. It is a common indoor plant still sold today despite the fact it was used to torture slaves in the West Indies, making them unable to speak. Hence the name “dumbcane” as told to Bob when he was in Curacao.

The stems and leaves produce an irritation and burning of the mouth, lips and tongue with a lot of salivation and swelling thus causing difficulty in breathing and swallowing while rendering the tongue immobile. The effects last several days.

Usually only small amounts are eaten due to the intense pain for which milk or ice-cream should be given as the calcium inactivates the oxalic acid that causes the problems. It is usually only very small children that eat the plant as they put anything and everything into their mouths. There is a report that a cat has been killed by this plant.

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