Purchasing Red Worms From A Bait Store

Worm Composting...

“Are red worms from a bait store the same as the red worms that I would order from gardening catalogs? Thanks,” ~ Sandy

Hi Sandy –

That is a good question since it highlights the limitations of relying solely on ‘common names’. I’m sure there are a lot of bait shops that carry ‘Red Worms’, but the question IS, how many of those shops have Eisenia fetida?

The advantage of scientific names is that there is only one for each organism, and it’s universally used around the world – with the exception of cases where a former name is still in use after a new name as been declared – as is the case with the European Nightcrawler (Eisenia hortensis – formerly Dendrobaena veneta).

Since E. fetida is such a common species, there is probably a good chance that many bait stores are indeed carrying this worm (which may also be referred to as Tiger Worm, Brandling Worm, or Red Wiggler, among others), but it’s hard to say for sure without seeing the worms for yourself.

In some cases even scientific names won’t help us out however – such as when the wrong one is being used! You can find many people claiming to be using Lumbricus rubellus (also called “Red Worms”) for composting. While I certainly won’t claim outright that these people are wrong, there is some evidence to indicate that L. rubellus isn’t used for composting nearly as much as some think.

Back in 1988 scientists conducted a very interesting survey of numerous worm farms in Australia, Europe and the U.S., all of them claiming they were raising L. rubellus. As it turned out, ever single farm was actually breeding E fetida and/or its very close relative E. andrei (these two are virtually indistinguishable from one another and very commonly found in mixed cultures)!

But I digress…;-)

Bottom-line, your best bet is see if they know what the scientific name of their worm is, and if not at least where they got them from (since there is a decent chance the supplier would know)

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