E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Eisenia fetida (Savigny, 1826)
Compost Worm; Manure Worm; Red Wiggler Worm
Family: Lumbricidae

Photo of species

© Earthworm Research Group University of Lancashire  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #10664)

Earthworm distribution in BC


The earthworms of British Columbia are a little known faunal group. We would like to thank the Royal Ontario Museum for providing permissions to use extracts, including illustrations, from the following publication in the atlas pages: Reynolds, John W. 1977. The Earthworms (Lumbricidae and Sparganophilidae) of Ontario. Thanks also to John Reynolds for provision of substantial information on earthworms and review of the atlas pages.

Species Information

This is an introduced European species of earthworm. Reynolds (1977) provides the following description for it: “Length 30-130 mm (generally< 70 mm), diameter 3-5 mm, segment number 80-110, prostomium epilobic, first dorsal pore 4/5 (sometimes 5/6). Clitellum xxiv, xxv, xxvi-xxxii. Tubercula pubertatis on xxviii-xxx. Setae closely paired, AB = CD, BC < AA, anteriorly DD -1/2C but posteriorly DD <1/2C. Genital tumescences may be present around any of the setae on ix-xii, usually around setae a and b of xxiv-xxxii. Male pores with large glandular papillae on segment xv. Seminal vesicles, four pairs in 9-12. Spermathecae, two pairs with ducts opening near mD line in 9/10 and 10/11. Colour variable, purple, red, dark red, brownish red, sometimes alternating bands of red-brown on dorsum with pigmentless yellow intersegmental areas. Body cylindrical.”

Source: Reynolds, John W. 1977. The Earthworms (Lumbricidae and Sparganophilidae) of Ontario. Life Science Miscellaneous Publications, Royal Ontario Musuem, Toronto, with permission.


Species Biology

Reynolds (1977) indicates: “There is little information on rest periods in the life-cycle (Gates, 1972c). One assume that under favourable conditions activity can occur throughout the year. Feeding is selective in that there is minimal ingestion of earth. Copulation is subterranean and although the species has been thought to be obligatorily amphimictic, uniparental reproduction is possible, though very rare (Gates, 1972c). Experimental self-fertilization was demonstrated by Andre (1963). [This species] has a maximum life expectancy of 4-5 years, although between 1 and 2 years is more usual. [It] has been reared on earthworm farms and sold in every Canadian province and American state for fish bait.” Cocoons are about the size of a grape seeds. The incubation period of the cocoon is 23 days (various sources). Four to six juveniles are produced per cocoon; juveniles are approx. ½ long.


Reynolds (1977) provides the following habitat information for this species: “Olson (1928) found this species in manure and decaying vegetation where moisture concentrations were high. Cernosvitov and Evans (1947) and Gerard (1964) recorded its habitats as manure, compost heaps, and soil high in organic matter, as well as forests, gardens, and under stones and leaves. Murchie (1956) reported [this species] from manure and bait castaways but never from what he considered 'natural' habitats. In Tennessee, Reynolds et al. (1974) recorded scattered distribution of this species with it occurring most commonly under logs and debris and at roadside dumps. According to Gates (1972c) the available records give a pH range of 6.8-7.6, and while in Scandinavia it has been considered a species dependent on human culture, it is known from caves in Europe and North America, and Russian records report it from taiga, forests, and steppes. In Ontario it was found most frequently under logs and usually not far from human habitation. There are few data available concernng its natural habitat in North America.”


Global Range

Reynolds (1977) says: A native of Palaearctis, [this species] is now known from Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Africa, and Australasia (Gates, 1972c). Reynolds and Wetzel (2008) report it from Bermuda, the US, Canada and Mexico. Also know from Iceland (Backlund, 1949). “Probably in every state...as a result of vermicomposting, but uncommon in natural field populations” (Reynolds and Wetzel 2008).
Canadian and BC Range

This species is widespread, “probably in every... province as a result of vermicomposting, but uncommon in natural field populations” (Reynolds and Wetzel 2008). In British Columbia this species is reported from Vancouver, Victoria, Prince George, Burnaby and Port McNeil (Marshall and Fender 2007).

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Additional Photo Sources

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2021. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2022-08-09 7:05:57 PM]
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