The African Night crawlers, the "KING" of composter
Updated: Mar 25, 2021
The African Night Crawlers are native the warm regions of West Africa, but now vermicomposters in tropic and sub tropic climates all over the world are using them as composting and bait worms.
Due to their voracious appetites and ability to quickly reproduce African night crawlers are quickly gaining popularity with vermicomposters. However due to their warm weather roots ANCs are not able to tolerate the environmental conditions that Red Worms and European Night Crawlers can handle with ease.
African Night Crawler are a distinctive mix of a grey and purple color and grow to over twice the size of red worms, often reaching over 8 inches. If you are familiar with red worms one of the things you will immediately notice about the ANC is how large and muscular it is compared to the redworm. You may also be surprised at the large size of their castings.
African night crawlers are very desirable for vermicomposting, harvesting worm castings, and raising for bait worms. African night crawlers produce absolutely huge castings.
Advantages of African Night Crawlers
Some worm farmers feel ANCs are a high maintenance breed. However lots of folks report that ANCs are a joy to work with and are really very happy with them. Of course the most important thing to keep in mind is their vulnerability to the cold, which is explained in detail in coming paragraphs.
African night crawlers have lots of characteristics that make them suitable for the worm farm. While not as tolerant to environmental changes as the European Night Crawler ANCs are still a valuable addition to the worm bin, this is especially true in warmer climates.
It is also reported that ANCs like to crawl and explore. If your ANCs start to escape their bin first make sure your bedding conditions are good. Then have a good tight lid on your bins and place a light above it to keep them under the bedding.
Typical of all composting, or vermicomposting, worms ANCs come up to the surface of their bedding to eat decomposing matter. So they thrive near the surface layer of top soil or bedding. African night crawlers literally gobble up decaying matter. Watching a few hundred ANCs feed on some fruit or vegetable scraps is an amazing thing, we have simply not seen any composting worm pounce on food in this way.
The tremendous appetite of the African Night Crawler makes them ideal for the compost bin and prolific worm casting (a.k.a. worm poop) producers; given the right environment. ANCs get much larger than red wigglers, over 8 inches is not uncommon. True to their size they eat a lot more than red worms and European night crawlers. Some estimates say the African can eat nearly 1.5 times it's body weight each day.
Like any good composting worm African Night Crawlers are colony dwellers being content to live in close quarters with each other. This also ensures they reproduce quickly, another big plus for worm farmers. But like any night crawler; if you plan on raising ANCs as bait worms they will need extra room in order to plump up. And plump up they will; ANCs make excellent bait worms. Perhaps the greatest advantage for using the ANC as a bait worm is the fact they need no refrigeration. Most bait night crawlers must be refrigerated to be kept alive for any period of time; not the ANC.
Africans reproduce and grow quickly. Scientific research revealed that ANCs grow more quickly than red worms. Newly hatched Africans reach sexual maturity blindly fast, as worms go. In ideal conditions they become mature breeders in as little as 5 weeks. African night crawlers produce an average of up to 3.5 cocoons in a week. From each cocoon typically 2 hatchlings will emerge. So in about 20 a single African Night Crawler can produce nearly 175 offspring. Just keep in mind with any worm breed factors such as food, temperature, and moisture levels may greatly influence reproduction rates.
While the ANC may not be very cold tolerant it does have the advantage of being able to withstand high temperatures. African night crawlers will thrive in beds that are 70F to 85F (21C - 29C). Researchers report that ANCs can tolerate temperatures of 90 F. However we would not recommend letting the environment of African Night Crawlers get much higher than 90 F.
While we can't offer any definitive proof it sounds as if the ANC can start to die off if the temperature gets much below 60F. There is some debate on this; however to play it safe at this time we simply can not recommend putting ANCs in beds that will get down into the 50's. But this does not mean worm farmers living in cooler climates can't raise ANCs. For those able to house African night crawlers indoors and monitor their bedding temperatures the African night crawler is still a good choice. Just like all worms African night crawlers take in oxygen through their skin, so moist bedding material helps facilitate worm breathing. The moisture in your bins also helps breakdown bedding and vegetative matter into a mushy matter. This is accomplished by the microbes found naturally in worm beds. It is this liquidly mixture of decaying food and microbes that worms eat.
Where to Purchase African Nightcrawlers Worms
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