Ok, allusions to Mr. Ed aside, I to this day am often confused by the many different names given to worm varieties. A “humblest wiggle worm” at one place is a “Super Duper Nuclear Special Hybrid Jumbo Fishing Night-Crawler Bass-Stalker!!!” at another place. So what gives?
Well first off scientist have never discovered a hybridized worm, so any worm that claims to be an actual hybrid worm is provably not actually a hybrid. Many worm farmers and sellers will use a proprietary name, such as “Hybrid Red Worms” to try and set their worms apart from the others. I don’t see that there is anything wrong with doing this, as even though they may be selling the same type of worm as the next guy, their worms may indeed be bigger, a different color, or more lively than the other farms due to special management or a different diet. For instance many worm farms use red brick dust to color their red worms a darker red color many fisherman prefer. This is a natural ingredient that would be disposed of otherwise so this is a great idea where the demand exist. Also some worm farmers may thin there beds and add extra feed to fatten their worms for fishing bait. However when it comes to composting worms I do not see that any of these techniques can improve a worms ability to compost over the long run.
Another key point here is that most composting worms are not “earthworms.” Earthworms are what is known as “Anecic”3 which means that they live deep in the earth and build a complex system of burrows. They do not live in leaf piles or manure, but may visit them to eat before returning to there burrows. The well known Canadian Nightcrawler falls under this category. There are countless numbers of this type of worm but very few of them are sold commercially,of course with the Canadian night-crawler being an exception.
Composting worms are categorized as “epegeic.” This means that they live above the earth and do not make complicated burrows as earthworms do. These worms need lots of organic material in order to survive. Most of the worms that are commonly sold are of this type. Although they are hundreds various epegeic worm species only a few are sold commercially.
So what this boils down to is a simple fact that there are only a few species of worms sold commercially4.
- Eisenia fetida AKA: Red Wiggler Worm,Tiger Worm, Trout Worm
- Eisenia andrei AKA: Red Wiggler Worm, Tiger Worm, Trout Worm (cannot be distinguished from E fetida without a microscope, as such they are considered by worm farmers to be the same)
- Eisenia hortensis AKA: European Red Worm, European Red Worm, Red Worm, Jumbo Red, Dendrobaena veneta (Old scientific name) **Update now I think they changed this worms scientific name again. Eisenia venta is the new proper name best as I can tell. If you know for sure let me know.**
- Amynthas gracilus AKA: Alabama Jumper, Pheretima Hawayana (Old scientific name)
- Eudrilus eugeniae AKA: African Nightcrawler
- Lumbricus terrestris AKA:Canadian Nightcrawler, Dew Worm
- Perionyx excavatus AkA: (not readily available and many worm farmers consider it to be a pest)
So there we have it. In all only about 5 different types of worms are commercially available at least in the USA. They are a few other worms that are less common such as the northern blood worm or the imported nuclear blood worm.