Facts About European Nightcrawlers
Known alternately as Belgian worms, super reds, Carolina crawlers, blue worms and giant redworms, European nightcrawlers are a variety of earthworm that are commonly used for composting, as bait and as food for household and exotic pets. European nightcrawlers are more resilient than some worm species, and can be raised at home for any of these purposes. European nightcrawlers are pinkish to red in color and look similar to red wigglers. They can be differentiated from red wigglers by size; they grow up to 8 inches long, over twice the size of the smaller variety. European nightcrawlers are about as big around as a pencil when not stretched out. They are smaller than Canadian nightcrawlers, however, which can stretch up to 14 inches. As the name suggests, these nightcrawlers are native to Europe, but they are widely found in North America as well.
These worms are frequently used for composting, along with red wigglers. The nightcrawlers can break down larger items like leaves and other tough materials that have not been pre-composted. They also break down household waste, eating the waste and producing compost as a by-product. European nightcrawlers usually stay in compost bins, and putting a light over them at night will keep them from crawling away at night. They are also useful in gardens; they will help till and aerate soil while providing castings, which are great fertilizer.
Hardier than Canadian nightcrawlers, the European variety is commonly used as fishing bait. They do not need to be refrigerated as Canadian crawlers do, surviving in an optimal temperature range of 55 to 78 degrees F. They have also been shown to stay alive longer on hooks and survive in brackish water that would kill other worms. European nightcrawlers can be purchased at many bait shops, and are widely available over the Internet.
As Pet Food
European nightcrawlers can be used as food for most pets that regularly eat worms and insects. Turtles, frogs, koi, birds and lizards will accept European crawlers with relish.
European nightcrawlers can be kept and cared for in a manner similar to red wigglers. Peat moss makes a good bedding, and should ideally be about 6 to 8 inches deep. The bedding should be kept moist, but not soaking wet. If it is too wet, the nightcrawlers will try to escape. The pH should be 6.0 and 7.0. Ideal growth temperature is between 60 and 70 degrees. The worms will eat nearly any natural food, including kitchen scraps; supplemental feeding with chicken egg-laying mash is recommended for calcium. Food should be sprinkled on the surface of the worm bedding, never buried. Bins can be made out of anything that will hold the bedding.