Acquired: Bred invertebrate myself
Congleton, Cheshire, United Kingdom
Posted Sep 17, 2012
The Tiger Worm (as they are known in the UK) is probably the most efficient worm at composting and they absolutely love the heat of compost heaps. Because they are used so frequently for vermiculture and are sold as fish bait (another name for them is the Trout Worm) they are easy to get hold of.
I admit that I first got mine in the wild from a friend's house almost 30 years ago. They had a compost heap and when we investigated it was infested by these bright red worms with almost gold banding (this is why they are called Tiger Worms in Britain). I captured a few and used them to seed our farm's dungheap.
They thrived on the heat and the organic matter and ever since I have been taking them with me wherever I go. Like all earthworms they only eat decaying vegetation. So, if you are going to introduce to a compost heap ensure that you allow the vegetation to begin rotting for a couple of weeks before getting any worms.
If growing on a large scale for composting you can even make a small income by selling excess worms on as fish bait. Like all earthworms, Tiger Worms are hermaphroditic, possessing both male and female reproductive organs. However, unlike many hermaphroditic organisms earthworms cannot self-fertilize. The worms' reproductive organs are contained in their saddles and to breed two worms conjoin saddles and exchange sperm. The worms will then secrete a cocoon (visible to the naked eye) which will contain several eggs each. As the worms inside develop the cocoons darken until the developing worms break through the walls and hatch.
One point to note when handling the worms, if they are handled roughly they exude a pungent-smelling liquid from its skin as a means of deterring predators (though not common this can induce an allergic reaction in the skin of some individuals). This is the reason for their Latin species name of fetida.
The chance of allergic reaction from this is the reason I have not recommended these for young children.
They are ridiculously easy to keep. Add to warm rotting vegetation and just let them get on with it. Soon they will have helped convert the vegetable matter into rich compost. Just make certain that you have several compost bins at different stages of preparation to transfer the worms to when they have finished on your first lot of compost.