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Eisenia fetida

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Eisenia fetida
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Annelida
Clade: Pleistoannelida
Clade: Sedentaria
Class: Clitellata
Order: Opisthopora
Family: Lumbricidae
Genus: Eisenia
E. fetida
Binomial name
Eisenia fetida
(Savigny, 1826) [1]
  • Eisenia foetida (older spelling)

Eisenia fetida, known under various common names such as manure worm,[2] redworm, brandling worm, panfish worm, trout worm, tiger worm, red wiggler worm, etc., is a species of earthworm adapted to decaying organic material. These worms thrive in rotting vegetation, compost, and manure. They are epigean, rarely found in soil. In this trait, they resemble Lumbricus rubellus.

The red wiggler is reddish-brown in color, has small rings around its body, and has a yellowish tail.[3] Groups of bristles (called setae) on each segment of the worm move in and out to grip nearby surfaces as it stretches and contracts its muscles to push itself forward or backward.

E. fetida worms are native to Europe, but have been introduced (both intentionally and unintentionally) to every other continent except Antarctica.

E. fetida also possesses a unique natural defense system in its coelomic fluid; cells called coelomocytes secrete a protein called lysenin, which is a pore-forming toxin, which is able to permeabilize and lyse invading cells. It is best at targeting foreign cells whose membranes contain significant amounts of sphingomyelin. (Lysenin is also toxic to organisms lacking sphingomyelin in their cell walls, including Bacillus megaterium, though the pathway is not understood).[4]


E. fetida is used for vermicomposting of both domestic and industrial organic waste.[5][6][7] Vermicomposting septic systems have been used for decades and allow for decentralized on-site processing of blackwater using Eisenia fetida.[8][9] Tiger worms are also being tested for use in a flushless toilet, currently being trialled in India, Uganda and Myanmar.[10]

Moreover, red worm is widely used in fishing, being one of the most ideal baits for tench, bream, and roach. [11][12]


When roughly handled, a redworm exudes a pungent liquid, thus the specific name fetida meaning "foul-smelling". This is presumably an antipredator adaptation.[13]

Close-up of E. fetida with visible bristles

Related species[edit]

E. fetida is closely related to E. andrei, also referred to as E. f. andrei. The only simple way of distinguishing the two species is that E. fetida is sometimes lighter in colour. Molecular analyses have confirmed their identity as separate species, and breeding experiments have shown that they do produce hybrids.[14]

The mitochondrial genetic characteristics of the Irish population of E. fetida could be the result of reproductive isolation, so suggests that this sample may constitute an unrecognized species or subspecies of E. fetida.[15]


E. fetida copulating in a compost bin

As with other earthworm species, E. fetida is hermaphroditic, and uniparental reproduction is possible, even if usually the reproduction is between copulating individuals.[16] The two worms join clitella, the large, lighter-colored bands which contain the worms' reproductive organs, and which are only prominent during the reproduction process. The two worms exchange sperm. Both worms then secrete cocoons, which contain several eggs each. These cocoons are lemon-shaped and are pale yellow at first, becoming more brownish as the worms inside become mature. These cocoons are clearly visible to the naked eye. At 25°C, E. fetida hatches from its cocoon in about 3 weeks. [17]


The lifespan of E. fetida under controlled conditions varies between one and five years. [18]


  1. ^ "Eisenia foetida". Fauna Europaea. 2004. Archived from the original on October 1, 2007.
  2. ^ "Catalogue of Life : Eisenia fetida (Savigny, 1826)". www.catalogueoflife.org. Retrieved 2021-01-26.
  3. ^ "Red wiggler Body appearance".
  4. ^ Bruhn, Heike; Winkelmann, Julia; Andersen, Christian; Andrä, Jörg; Leippe, Matthias (2006-01-01). "Dissection of the mechanisms of cytolytic and antibacterial activity of lysenin, a defence protein of the annelid Eisenia fetida". Developmental & Comparative Immunology. 30 (7): 597–606. doi:10.1016/j.dci.2005.09.002. ISSN 0145-305X. PMID 16386304.
  5. ^ Albanell, E.; Plaixats, J.; Cabrero, T. (1988). "Chemical changes during vermicomposting (Eisenia fetida) of sheep manure mixed with cotton industrial wastes". Biology and Fertility of Soils. 6 (3). doi:10.1007/BF00260823. ISSN 0178-2762. S2CID 21470644.
  6. ^ Orozco, F. H.; Cegarra, J.; Trujillo, L. M.; Roig, A. (1996). "Vermicomposting of coffee pulp using the earthworm Eisenia fetida: Effects on C and N contents and the availability of nutrients". Biology and Fertility of Soils. 22 (1–2): 162–166. doi:10.1007/BF00384449. ISSN 0178-2762. S2CID 25060696.
  7. ^ Maboeta, M.S.; Rensburg, L.van (2003). "Vermicomposting of industrially produced woodchips and sewage sludge utilizing Eisenia fetida". Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety. 56 (2): 265–270. doi:10.1016/S0147-6513(02)00101-X. ISSN 0147-6513. PMID 12927558.
  8. ^ "Vermicomposting Toilets". Vermicomposting Toilets. Retrieved 2021-10-27.
  9. ^ Dey Chowdhury, Sanket; Bhunia, Puspendu (2021-04-02). "Simultaneous Carbon and Nitrogen Removal from Domestic Wastewater using High Rate Vermifilter". Indian Journal of Microbiology. 61 (2): 218–228. doi:10.1007/s12088-021-00936-4. ISSN 0046-8991. PMC 8039078. PMID 33927463.
  10. ^ "Testing the "Tiger Toilet"". US AID. May 26, 2016. Archived from the original on October 29, 2020. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  11. ^ Jim, Uncle (26 June 2012). "Best Worms For Bait Fishing". Uncle Jim's Worm Farm. Retrieved 3 February 2023.
  12. ^ "LOBWORMS, REDWORMS AND DENDROBAENA WORMS". Angling Times. Retrieved 3 February 2023.
  13. ^ Townsend, Craig; Ebizuka, Yutaka, eds. (2010). Natural products structural diversity-I, secondary metabolites : organization and biosynthesis. Vol. 1 (1st ed.). Boston: Elsevier. p. 393. ISBN 978-0-08-045381-1.
  14. ^ Plytycz, Barbara; Bigaj, Janusz; Panz, Tomasz; Grzmil, Paweł (2018-09-21). "Asymmetrical hybridization and gene flow between Eisenia andrei and E. fetida lumbricid earthworms". PLOS ONE. 13 (9): e0204469. Bibcode:2018PLoSO..1304469P. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0204469. PMC 6150523. PMID 30240427.
  15. ^ Pérez-Losada, Marcos; Eiroa, Julio; Mato, Salustiano; Domínguez, Jorge (August 2005). "Phylogenetic species delimitation of the earthworms Eisenia fetida (Savigny, 1826) and Eisenia andrei Bouché, 1972 (Oligochaeta, Lumbricidae) based on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequences". Pedobiologia. 49 (4): 317–324. doi:10.1016/j.pedobi.2005.02.004.
  16. ^ Domínguez, Jorge; Velando, Alberto; Aira, Manuel; Monroy, Fernando (2003-01-01). "Uniparental reproduction of Eisenia fetida and E. andrei (Oligochaeta: Lumbricidae): evidence of self-insemination: The 7th international symposium on earthworm ecology · Cardiff · Wales · 2002". Pedobiologia. 47 (5): 530–534. doi:10.1078/0031-4056-00224. ISSN 0031-4056.
  17. ^ Neuhauser, Edward F.; Hartenstein, Roy; Kaplan, David L. (August 1980). "Growth of the Earthworm Eisenia Foetida in Relation to Population Density and Food Rationing". Oikos. 35 (1): 93–98. doi:10.2307/3544730. JSTOR 3544730. Retrieved 2020-10-14.
  18. ^ Venter, J.M.; Reinecke, A.J. (1987-01-29). "The life-cycle of the compost worm Eisenia fetida (Oligochaeta)". African Zoology. 23 (3): 161–165. doi:10.1080/02541858.1988.11448096.

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