DIY Vermicomposting II: Do You See Cocoons Yet?

A red wriggler cocoon. They're very interesting things to see up close, and you can read here about how they're formed. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
A red wiggler cocoon is very interesting to see up close. Read more about how they’re formed. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

If you followed our guide from last weekend about setting up your own worm bin, you now have a new home for some worms. Now, I want to discuss some of what you might see after about three months of running your worm bin.

If you have your worm bin in the proper environmental conditions, if you are feeding the proper amounts of food, and if you are maintaining the right moisture levels in the bin, after approximately 90 days, your worm population might be happy enough to reproduce. This is a sign of maintaining a worm bin properly, and will help your worm casting process proceed even faster.

How Do Red Wigglers Reproduce?

I will simply refer you to other websites to learn more about the specifics, but it’s worth noting here that red wigglers are asexual, in that they possess both male and female reproductive systems. However, it still takes two red wigglers to produce a cocoon.

The cocoons have varying gestation periods, depending on the conditions in the worm bin. If the conditions are right, the cocoon can provide three or four baby worms in as little as a month’s time. If the conditions aren’t ideal, the cocoon can remain dormant for several weeks longer.

A baby red wiggler will be ready to reproduce itself in 1.5 to 3 months time.

How Will I Know What I’m Looking At?

You will see several signs of worm reproduction, if it’s happening. It won’t be difficult to see, and if you see these signs, don’t change a thing. Keep the temperatures/humidity levels the same, and don’t change their diet or feeding schedule.

1. Cocoons. Red wiggler cocoons are translucent and amber colored. They are about the size of a grain of rice, but slightly fatter. The photo at the top of this post is the best red wiggler cocoon photo I was able to take in 2009. If you want to see an amazing image, check out this one, where you can even see some babies inside!

Red wiggler cocoons. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Red wiggler cocoons. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

2. Adult worms ready for reproduction. When adult worms are ready to reproduce, their clitella (the distinctive band around the worm’s midsection) will swell up. See the photo below for an example of what to look for. Two adult worms will lie side-by-side with their clitella touching to mate.

An adult red wiggler ready for a mate. Note the swollen band around the midsection. This means it's ready. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
An adult red wiggler, ready for a mate. Note the swollen band around the midsection. This means it’s ready. You can also see several cocoons in the casting material and a baby red wiggler on the right edge. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

3. Baby worms. These won’t be difficult to see either. Baby red wigglers look like miniature versions of the adults you initially added to your worm bin at the beginning—like little threads, almost.

This photo shows an adult red wiggler ready for reproduction, with a baby red wiggler just to its left. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
This photo shows an adult red wiggler ready for reproduction, with a baby red wiggler just to its left. Can you see it? Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Conclusion

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If your red wigglers are reproducing, then you’re doing things right. Stay the course with the environmental and feeding schedules, as well as your choice of food scraps. Look for the indications in your bin as a sign of how happy your worms are!

Happy vermicomposting!

Patricia Vollmer is the proud mother of two emerging geek sons, ages 12 & 15. She is a meteorologist with the Air Force Reserve and is currently assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy. Patricia blogs about her family's nomadic military life at Ground Control to Major Mom. Home is always where the Air Force sends her family, which is currently in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Hobbies include running, despite no one chasing her, sharing her love for Disney and Star Wars, and exploring the world with her boys. Ask her why the sky is blue at your own risk.