African nightcrawlers, scientific name, Eudrillus eugeniae, originated in tropical areas of West African and have flourished in other warm areas around the globe. It is a prized composting worm for its vermicast, worm manure, worm castings or Black Gold, which is equivalent in size and shape to mice droppings. This vermicast unlike others for the most part when using the proper bedding material can actually be used in a fertilizer or seed spreader to cast out onto ones yard.
African nightcrawlers are a warm temperate earthworm requiring a minimum temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit in order to survive. African nightcrawlers are most productive at composting and reproduction at a temperature hovering around 78 degrees Fahrenheit however room temperature of approximately 70 degrees is sufficient for them. The African nightcrawler can survive temperatures of up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit in the shade as long as there is moving air over the surface.
Unlike other worms taking a month for the cocoons, worm egg capsules, to hatch, African nightcrawlers cocoon can hatch in 12 days under the right environmental conditions. The cocoons are similar in size and shape of a tomato seed starting out as an olive color when first laid, turning to a darker brown as they mature prior to hatching.
Under good conditions, one can expect an average of three to four earthworms to hatch per each cocoon while each mature worm laying anywhere from two cocoons a week to a dozen per week depending on the environment in which they are raised.
Being this is a larger worm, it does take longer to reach maturity, basically five months. The African nightcrawler reaches a length of 6 to 8 inches within eight months time with some exceeding this length over an additional 30 to 60 days to lengths of up to 10 inches.
African nightcrawlers have become a favorite for fishermen from spring through fall and especially during the warmer months. Being this earthworm cannot be refrigerated or it will die, it survives well in warm waters, outliving most other worms. Another benefit over most other worms purchased at bait stores is the fact the others are refrigerated, hence sending the other worms into shock going from a cool temperature to the warmer water.
Since the African nightcrawler will not survive in a refrigeration unit without deadly damage being done within a couple hours, live bait machines and most bait stores do not support this earthworm. This leaves most avid anglers at a loss as those that have tried using this worm find it a favorite friend of the fisherman.
Unlike other some other composting worms, this specie does not do as well in a worm bin with vegetable scraps and cardboard. It does extremely well as a manure worm and will devour damp shredded newspapers. Another bedding material utilized for this earthworm is Sphagnum peat moss which is widely available.
If you are raising African nightcrawlers for fishing, we have found the best way to fatten them up is to use Purina Worm Chow as either the main food source or a supplement. Our findings have also found that the use of this particular worm food has benefitted our earthworm reproduction by increasing the cocoon laying ratio per worm. Environmental conditions also will play an important role on the cocoon laying ratio.
“In the world of earthworms, there is perhaps no one more knowledgeable than South Carolina’s Worm Expert Bruce Galle… Master Wormologist." – OutdoorLife Magazine