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Colonising

Worms breed to fill the space they live in. When a small amount of worms are placed in a large space, like a worm composter, they will become too busy 'colonising' to spend much time and energy eating. Therefore to get maximum waste conversion from your worms you need to have enough to fill the wormery you have them in. This is a common reason why many first time worm composers think that their system is not working.


Reproduction

Worms have reached sexual maturity when they have developed a large pink, or orangey red band, the clitellum around their bodies. This can be a confusing time for the worm, when they realise they have both male and female reproductive parts and don't quite know what they should be doing. Contrary to popular belief they do not have sex with themselves, but prefer the company of another worm. Mating, where sperm are exchanged by both worms often lasts an hour or so and can take place in broad daylight, when they forget altogether that they don't like the sun.

The eggs and sperm are contained in a ring of slime which is produced by the clitellum. The ring shuffles down the body of the worm and eventually drops off the end. It closes up and hardens in the neat shape of a cocoon. Worm cocoons come in all different sizes depending on the species, if you look through your worm compost you will see dull yellowy-brown cocoons they are about 2-3mm across and shaped like a lemon. You can tell a worm species by the size and exact shape of its cocoons.

Fertilisation takes place inside the cocoon and only around 3 of the 20 or so eggs in the cocoon make it to embryonic state. The embryonic worms grow inside the cocoon and live off its nutrient rich contents. In around 11 weeks, when this food supply is all used up, the baby worms or hatchlings hatch out and eat the food in their surroundings.

it takes about 3 months for the worms to be fully mature.

In comfortable conditions without predators, such as in a wormery, compost worms have been know to live for up to 4 years.

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