Worm Life Cycle

Worm-Life-Cycle Meme's Worms

Table of Contents

How do worms reproduce?
Worm Life Cycle
Stage 1: Cocoons to hatchlings
Stage 2: Hatchlings to Juveniles
Stage 3: Juveniles to Adults
How often do worms reproduce?
1. Temperature
2. Moisture
3. Aeration
4. pH
5. Food
6. Pest control
5 worm killing mistakes to avoid
1. Letting habitat temperature rise
2. Not replenishing the bedding
3. Not increasing feed quantity
4. Feeding the wrong foods
5. Not monitoring the surroundings
FAQs
Can worms feel pain?
How long can worms go without eating?
Do worms regrow if cut in half?
Do worms have 5 hearts?
What do worms hate the most?
Do worms like sugar?

Can worms disappear on their own?
Why do worms hate salt?
Can worms eat rice?
Conclusion

According to a research report, worms, especially earthworms, contribute to 140 million tons of grain production directly. That's just earthworms in the wild. When you take into account the fact that they can help with vermicomposting at little to no cost, their importance rises exponentially. 

Despite their contributions, we know very little about them. That's what we will change today. The post below will answer the question: how long do worms live? It also covers other crucial aspects of their lives, like the stages of the worm life cycle. 

How do worms reproduce?

Before we highlight the life cycle, it's crucial to understand how they reproduce and how their population grows. 

National Wildlife Federation states that earthworms are hermaphrodites, that means, they have male and female reproductive organs. Usually, they reproduce by jutting out their front part from the soil and waiting for another worm to face in the opposite direction and come nearby. That's when they join together and release mucus, which forms an enclosed tube that contains cocoons. 

According to Marlborough District Council, earthworms can mate as frequently as every 10 days, and the process usually lasts 24 hours. Now that you are aware of how cocoons are formed, it's time to answer the question, what is the life cycle of a worm to understand more.

 

Worm Life Cycle

The life cycle begins with the Cocoon stage. Overall there are 3 worm life cycle stages which are as follows: 

Stage 1: Cocoons to hatchlings

Cocoons look similar to lemons. However, their shape can vary since they are formed by mucus, which solidifies at a later stage. The hatching of cocoons is dependent on a lot of factors:

  • Temperature is crucial for cocoon hatching. According to a study, temperatures between 10°C and 25°C are most conducive to successful cocoon hatching.
  • While the type of soil doesn't significantly impact production, the moisture content does. A research report concluded that the hatching rate and production rate were highest when the soil moisture content was 35%.
  • Lastly, the presence of red mites can damage most cocoons as they drain the fluids from cocoons, which means the hatchlings won't survive. 

If the conditions are proper, the cocoons hatch in 2 to 3 weeks. Theoretically, hatching of 1 cocoon can result in 20 earthworms, but that's not the average. According to a studyon average, more than 80% of the cocoons produced anywhere between 1 to 4 earthworms rather than 20.

 

Stage 2: Hatchlings to Juveniles

Once the Hatchlings come out, they look similar to earthworms but are smaller. Not only that, their color is paler than fully grown worms. However, as they consume food and grow, they resemble earthworms more closely. This life stage usually lasts for 2 weeks, after which earthworms become juveniles. However, a few noteworthy changes take place during this stage, which are:

 

  • The skin of hatchlings grows thicker.
  • Usually, if juveniles are well-fed and have access to ample food, their skin color darkens with each passing day.
  • The skin darkening is also coupled with increasing length.

 

Stage 3: Juveniles to Adults

Usually, the time it takes from the formation of a cocoon to the earthworm reaching the adult stage of its life is around 90 days. However, there are a few factors at play here: 

  • Species
  • Moisture
  • Temperature
  • Access to food 

Once the worm reaches the adult stage, it has fully developed sexual organs and is able to breed, which means it can again contribute to population growth. Once it starts breeding, the same cycle will repeat. 

Worm life span can be as long as 5 years in many cases. Therefore, they produce numerous cocoons during their lifetime, allowing them to increase their population exponentially.

 

How often do worms reproduce?

Adult worms can reproduce every week. However, this mostly happens during the warmer months since the cocoons are safer during these months. There are a few other factors at play that determine the frequency of reproduction, which we will cover below.

 

Factors that impact worm reproduction

When worms are in their natural habitat, it's tough to control these factors, but you can certainly do so in your bin.

 

1. Temperature

Ideally, the temperature should be in the 60°F to 80°F range. Anything above that will reduce worm activity, and they are likely to remain embedded in their bedding, which means the reproductive activity will also be less. The higher temperature will also start impacting the humidity and moisture in the surrounding environment, which once again would result in less worm activity. 

Therefore, temperature is the #1 factor that impacts reproduction.

 

2. Moisture

According to the USDA, worms are 75% water. Hence, they need moisture in the environment to maintain their body weight and water content. If you aren't aware, they consume water by absorbing moisture through their skin. This means that if the surrounding soil or organic matter isn't moist, they start losing water and body weight.  

When worms are reducing body weight, they certainly won't prefer any activity that requires them to spend a lot of energy or resources, like reproduction. A study also concluded this, clearly stating that reproductive and other worm activities increased in the presence of adequate moisture in the surroundings.

 

3. Aeration

Apart from absorbing moisture through their skin, worms also breathe through their skin. That's the primary reason they surface after rain or when the organic matter surrounding them drowns in water. Excessive water hampers their breathing. 

The point we are trying to make is that worms need well-aerated surroundings. If the organic matter in your bin is drowning in water, worms won't be able to breathe. Difficulty in breathing is likely to kill them, which will actually reduce the population. 

Similarly, if the organic matter isn't drenched but dense, then too, they will find it difficult to breathe, which will certainly slow down reproductive activity. That's why proper aeration by either spreading the organic matter in the bin or tilling the soil in case of natural surroundings is important to aid the reproductive activity among worms.

 

4. pH

According to a report published by Cornell University, a pH value between 6 and 8 is perfect for worms to survive. If the value falls below that, the surroundings become too acidic for worms. The more the pH level falls, the more likely the earthworm population is to fall. Notice, we aren't talking about growth but rather the population actually going down, which certainly means reproduction isn't happening. 

According to a Government of Wales report, acidic soil or the surrounding area threatens a growing earthworm population. That's why, from a vermicomposter’s point of view, it's important to keep a watch on the pH level to ensure the earthworm population keeps on growing.

 

5. Food

For any species to reproduce and thrive, a consistent food supply is needed. The same is true for worms. According to Purdue University in their natural habitat, the constant growth of roots and plants and their decay provide worms with a consistent food supply. Similarly, animal manure is also a good food source for worms. 

In a worm bin, it's crucial to replenish food before the earlier one runs out for this very reason. It will ensure that worms can focus on their basic activities like moving around, reproducing, etc, which certainly means faster population growth, which aids the production of vermicompost.

 

6. Pest control

Let's say all the above conditions are met, but predators and pests are infesting the worm’s surroundings. 

Will the worm population grow? 

Most likely not! 

Even if the worms reproduce, the hatchlings and larvae are most likely to be killed by predators. That's why it's important to always be on the lookout for such predators. Below, we will cover 2 of the most common predators of worms.

 

  • Red mites:
  • Red mites attack worm cocoons and drain the liquid from them, which can prove fatal for the larvae. The best way to eliminate them is to expose the bin to sunlight for a short time. Another option is to use a watermelon rind as bait, attract them to the rind, and throw it away.

     

  • Ants:
  • Usually, ants don't directly harm the worms but rather steal their food supply, which impacts population growth. In certain rare cases, they do attack worms. Therefore, it's best to eliminate them if you notice them in your worm bin. 

    One of the easiest ways to do so is to sprinkle cinnamon in your worm bin. This will drive away the ants but will not impact the worms. 

    Once you take care of these few aspects, it's easy to aid the reproduction process of worms and maximize worm life expectancy.

     

    5 worm killing mistakes to avoid 

    The answer to the question, how long do worms live for, especially in the worm bin, is also dependent on avoiding certain mistakes, which can prove fatal for them. The section below covers such mistakes.

     

    1. Letting habitat temperature rise

    Letting the temperatures rise is one such mistake. It can dry out the worms' skin, eliminate moisture from the surroundings, and even reduce worm activity, which decreases the chance of reproduction. The first two can even prove fatal for worms. 

    When so much can go wrong on the occurrence of this mistake, it's important to monitor the temperature and, if need be try out things like: 

    • Changing worm bin location to reduce temperature.
    • Using a fan to keep the temperature down.
    • Sprinkling water to ensure proper moisture content. Proper moisture content also reduces temperature.

     

    2. Not replenishing the bedding

    Worms feed on their bedding, which is also like their protective shell. Whenever they are stressed or the surrounding conditions aren't conducive, they take refuge in their bedding.  

    If you don't replenish their bedding periodically, it will take a toll on their well-being. Such an impact can impact their lifespan and reproductive frequency. That's why not replenishing their bedding is a mistake you should avoid.

     

    3. Not increasing feed quantity

    Let's add a pound of worms to your worm and feed them 1 pound of organic matter daily. The worms finish it off in a day, and you feed them daily. Everything is going fine. 

    But what if you stick to this schedule and don't increase the feed quantity? 

    Well, that's a mistake! According to Oregon State University, the population of worms can double approximately every 60 days. That means you need to increase the feed quantity accordingly. So, don't make the mistake of sticking to the same feed quantity if you want them to thrive and not starve to death eventually.

     

    4. Feeding the wrong foods

    Worms, just like any other creature, need proper nutrition. But how to achieve that? 

    Answer is to avoid the acidic foodstuffs and simply rotate among the options like:

     

    • Raw cut fruits (Non-citrus)
    • Vegetables
    • Tea bags
    • Crushed egg shells

    Always keep anything salty, spicy, or heavily processed away from the worm bin. Worms don't like such foodstuffs, and they can impact the bin's pH level, causing even more problems.

     

    5. Not monitoring the surroundings

    Another mistake people make that can significantly alter the life cycle of worms is not monitoring the surroundings. Always be on the lookout for pests, and if you discover any, it's best to take corrective measures. 

    How does the lifecycle of a worm end? 

    There are a few common causes of worm deaths: 

    • The most common cause is skin dryness. This can happen in the worm bin or their natural surroundings. Since they consume water through their skin, dry skin means they will eventually die of thirst.
    • Lack of air circulation in the bin or natural surroundings is another problem that causes them to suffocate and die.
    • Too much or too little food is another reason for their death.
    • Rapid temperature changes can also prove fatal to them.
    • In many cases, predators can also kill or turn them into hosts, eventually killing them. 

    Once they are killed, they decompose quickly because they primarily consist of water.  

    Once their bodies start decomposing, they are recycled by other worms. Hence, there is no need to remove them.

     

    FAQs

     

    Can worms feel pain?

    Worms don't feel pain in the same way as humans do. However, they have a nociceptive receptor, which helps them move away from danger.

     

    How long can worms go without eating?

    Worms can live up to four weeks without fresh food. However, during this period, they should be in a moist and cool location away from sunlight. Their life greatly reduces when exposed to high temperatures or when they can't absorb moisture through their skin.

     

    Do worms regrow if cut in half?

    It depends on the worm species. Certain species will grow into 2 independent worms once the missing parts regenerate, whereas for certain species, only the tail end will regenerate, and the head end will actually die.

     

    Do worms have 5 hearts?

    Yes, worms do have 5 hearts. Despite that, the rest of their body systems, like the circulatory system and hearts, aren't as advanced as ours.

     

    What do worms hate the most?

    Worms hate salty, acidic, or spicy foodstuffs. Besides that they also hate meat or fish. Anything that is heavily processed isn't liked by them.

     

    Do worms like sugar?

    Yes, worms do like sugar in small quantities. A better option is to feed them sweet foodstuffs rather than sugar directly. That's because directly feeding them sugar can attract other pests, which impacts their growth.

     

    Can worms disappear on their own?

    Worms migrate when conditions aren't conducive to them. If the conditions are too dry or the surroundings get too wet, they can migrate to a better habitat. That's why monitoring the worm bin regularly is important to maintain the right conditions.

     

    Why do worms hate salt?

    Salt drains water out of earthworms' bodies through osmosis. Moreover, it destroys their skin. Both these prove fatal for worms, and hence, worms hate salt.

     

    Can worms eat rice?

    Cooked rice in limited quantities is fine for worms. However, the high starch content in rice isn't best for them. Due to this reason, it's better to avoid feeding them rice.

     

    Conclusion

    So now that you're aware of the worm life cycle, it would be easier for you to use them for vermicomposting. Using the guide above you can even aid their lifespan and reproductive process to ensure the worm population in your bin grows at an even faster pace.

     

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    Sources:

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-023-41286-7#:~:text=6.5%25%20of%20global%20grain%20(maize%2C%20rice%2C%20wheat%2C%20barley)%20production%20and%202.3%25%20of%20legume%20production%2C%20equivalent%20to%20over%20140%20million%20metric%20tons%20annually.



    https://www.nwf.org/en/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Invertebrates/Earthworms#:~:text=Earthworms%20are%20hermaphrodites%2C%20meaning%20an,and%20the%20ground%20is%20wet.

     

    https://www.jstor.org/stable/48688826#:~:text=Temperature%20was%20found%20to%20be,%2C%2015.5%25%20of%20cocoons%20hatched.

     

    https://www.zoores.ac.cn/en/article/doi/10.3724/SP.J.1141.2008.03305#:~:text=The%20greatest%20cocoon%20production%20and%20hatching%20rate%20were%20observed%20at%2035%25%20soil%20moisture%20content.

     

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    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/248447097_Temperature_and_soil_moisture_content_effects_on_the_growth_of_Lumbricus_terrestris_Oligochaeta_Lumbricidae_under_laboratory_conditions#:~:text=Consequently%2C%20earthworm%20growth%20and%20activities,optimal%20humid%20conditions%20%5B15%5D%20.

     

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    https://businesswales.gov.wales/farmingconnect/sites/farmingconnect/files/documents/cff_earthworms_and_soil_health_eng.pdf

     

    https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/ay/ay-279.html#:~:text=Continuous%20root%20growth%20and%20subsequent%20death%20and%20decay%2C%20plus%20animal%20manure%2C%20provide%20a%20large%20food%20supply%20that%20can%20maintain%20high%20earthworm%20populations.

     

    https://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pub/em-9034-composting-worms#:~:text=They%20can%20double%20their%20population%20in%20about%2060%20days!

     

    https://www.marlborough.govt.nz/repository/libraries/id:2ifzri1o01cxbymxkvwz/hierarchy/documents/environment/environmental-education/Wise_up_on_worms.pdf




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