Perionyx excavatusor blue worms are more common than most vermicomposters realize. Commonly called “Indian blues” or “Malaysian blues” these worms bring out very negative feelings for some.
Blues are considered a pest worm in most of North America but are used in more tropical regions of the world for vermicomposting.
Blues are commonly mistaken for red wigglers, but are easily distinguished once you’re educated on the differences.
Blues tend to be longer and skinnier than red wigglers, the have a short, dark coloured head that looks blue in the light. Blues are a fast moving but twitchy worm. The clitellum on blues is flush to the body or slightly indented. Their clitellum begins on segment 14 from the mouth. Blues lack the striping pattern found on Eisenia fetidaor Eisenia hortensis.
Blues are often mixed into orders of red wigglers, allegations have been made that a few unscrupulous vendors purposely sold blues in place of red wigglers deceptively. Blue worms are often considered a pest worm by many because of the reputation for escaping and the ability to invade the beds of commercial worm breeders and take over. Perionyx excavatus are a very fast breeding and capable composting worm. With their superior breeding ability, exceptional composting ability and tolerance for heat (sometimes generated by overfeeding) they would be a far superior worm to Eisenia fetida if not for the wandering.
Advantages of blues:
High temperature tolerance
very fast to reproduce
perhaps the fastest worms to create casting (exceptional for waste reduction)
Disadvantages of using Perionyx excavatus
Prone to escape a worm bin (especially during rain storms)
Too thin for most fishermen for bait use.
poorer tolerance to cold than Eisenia fetida
I have written an EBook about Perionyx excavatus, and offer it for only $3.99
Perionyx excavatus in a Home Worm Bin First Edition
This past week has been a learning experience, a bit of a failure and a need for a slight adjustment.
Day 1- setup experiment
Day 2- Little change, worms have dug in but and appear to be throughout the bedding with no signs of preference for, or adversity to potato.
Day 3- Bedding very dry, have turned on heat here in Ontario now so relative humidity reduced. 4 oz. water added.
Day 4- Much like day 2. Surface of the bedding is dry, misted with spray bottle.
Day 5- Same as day 4
Day 6-Again dry additional 4 oz. water added
Today Day 7- Observed the fed potato had become a hard lump from the starches drying out. Have removed and replaced it with fresh potato. I’ve thoroughly moistened bedding and cut a piece of woven poly to sit atop the bedding to try to contain some moisture.
The experiment will continue with the poly topper to see if I can better control moisture and keep the bin more hospitable over the next week. The hope is that the additional moisture will allow microbes to work on the potato better, keep it from hardening and allow the worms the opportunity to begin feeding.
Eisenia fetida and Eisenia Andrei are the proper Latin names of the worms commonly known as red wigglers. The 2 species are anatomically identical but cannot breed to create hybrids (J. Dominguez et al. 2004). Eisenia Andrei are said to be sometimes darker pigmented than Eisenia fetida, this isn’t necessarily a reliable identifier between the 2 species and is irrelevant for our needs in composting.
Red wigglers have some distinctive features that can help identify them.
The clitellum on an adult begins at segment 25 or more commonly 26
The clitellum covers 6-8 segments
They always have a striped banding between segments (sometimes less distinctive than other times)
Red wigglers have a lighter coloured tail than head, ranging from yellow to almost orange.
fully grown adults are between 2 and 4 inches (5-10cm)
If in the wild they will be found in leaf litter or manure and compost piles, never in soil
When handled or frightened they exude a yellow smelly fluid (fetid smell)
Eisenia fetidaexuding defensive fluid
Eisenia fetida and Eisenia Andrei are an ideal worm for beginning composters
They have a wide temperature tolerance 35-85F (2-30C)
They tolerate moderate handling
Red wigglers reproduce quickly
Red wigglers generally stay in a bin well
They tolerate high population densities
They compost quickly and have large appetites.
There are a few drawbacks:
They’re size is limited to smaller than most want for bait.
Their small size makes more work in extracting worms from compost
All in all true red wigglers are an excellent choice for beginner composters. Knowing how to identify that you’ve received the correct species when ordering may save you some grief.
Recently there was a debate in one of the Facebook groups that drifted off topic. It drifted into a debate about composting tomato, potato or members of the nightshade family of plants. During the debate I said I would create a mini worm bin with 25- 50 worms and feed potato to end the debate. The full debate can be seen here if you are a member of the group or join up
On Monday14 November 2016 I began the experimental tater feeding bin. The bedding is screened, Ph adjusted and sterile sphagnum peat moss. The bedding was sterilized by mixing with water and boiling for15 minutes. The bin was formerly a 2 pound margarine container. 50 red wigglers were added and fed with finely diced, white potato.
finely diced potato
bedding and potato top fed
The intended time frame for the experiment is 4-6 weeks. I will make daily observations and post them weekly. Observations will include any noticed dead worms, need for moisture, if worms appear to be eating the potato and any other relevant observations. At the end of this experiment (presuming all the worms aren’t dead) I will count the worms and any cocoons to see what the final conclusion is.
My expected observations are that the worms will survive, produce a number of egg capsules and eat the potato.
For some fun, I challenge some readers to try this too. Let`s find out once and for all if the toxin (solanine) found in nightshade plants is indeed toxic to worms.
2016 has brought an NBA championship home to Cleveland with the Cavaliers. Baseball’s AL championship home with the Indians. A good year for Cleveland!
There’s another, lesser known champion in Cleveland, a champion of the environment and worm farming. Michelle C. has for the second year sent flyers home with Trick or Treaters, looking for parents to drop off their used Jack O’ Lanterns, pumpkins, leaves and other organic autumn decorations. All this material, plus more that Michelle can find is composted with the help of Michelle’s growing worm population.
Michelle is following the “Food not Lawns” doctrine and converting the front of her suburban home into a veggie garden with splashes of colour from some planned ornamentals.
I “met” Michelle when she took the Facebook groups “Red Worm Composting” and “Vermicomposting-Worm Farming” by storm as an eager newbie. She worked very hard to learn all she could and quickly earned the respect of the administrators and was soon promoted to one herself. Michelle is always happy and eager to help out people with questions.
Michelle’s goals include beginning a bait worm business, lowering her own grocery bill, and perhaps selling some fresh, organically grown produce.
All in all Michelle should serve as an inspiration to what one person can do with a little ingenuity and a lot of hard work. Hats off to you Michelle!
We will have future updates on Michelle’s progress.
Composting with worms or vermicomposting has several advantages over traditional composting. A worm bin can be kept indoors where adding kitchen waste is handy. Vermicompost (castings) are a superior compost in that they contain beneficial soil microbes, polysaccharides, proteins and other nitrogenous compounds. Studies confirm that vermicompost is at least 4 times more nutritive than conventional cattle dung compost. In Argentina, farmers who use vermicompost consider it to be seven (7) times richer than conventional composts in nutrients and growth promoting values. Continue reading
There’s more at stake than just growing bigger vegetables and increasing yields. Being good stewards of our soil may be a major step in saving our environment for our children. Keeping waste from landfills and returning nutrients and carbon to the soil we prevent those wastes from producing greenhouse gases and reduce (or eliminate) the use of chemical fertilizers derived from fossil fuels. Nutrients added using organic methods are less susceptible to being washed into our watersheds and causing algae blooms that starve wetlands, ponds, streams and lakes of oxygen. So occasionally posts may be made on relevant environmental issues.
We will discuss primarily using worms to convert waste to valuable compost. Other methods of creating garden amendments from waste may also be explored. In time we also have a goal to share other methods of zero to low cost organic growing, in particular using waste products and household items. Organic growing need not be expensive and by using waste, costs are low making the methods ideal for farmers and growers in third world countries.
We would like to also profile some extraordinary people and businesses who set an example for what can be done to help the soil, the garden and our planet while earning a living or as a hobby. People and businesses diverting “trash” to make valuable fertilizer replacements.
Above all we want YOU to succeed in reducing your own waste, growing a better, more sustainable garden, lawn or orchard by nurturing your soil.
Time for me to stop rambling and for you to jump in and get growing. We hope you’ll subscribe to our mailing list to stay up to date with all we have going on and all we have planned. Cheers to a healthier planet, one garden at a time.