Types Of Earthworms – Explanation + Visual Guide

There are 3 main types of earthworms; the compost worm (not common garden worms you find in the backyard), the earth-worker worm, and the root-dwelling worm. They belong to the subgroup of animals known as invertebrates.

Moreover, there are 3 main earthworm species that we will also discuss in the article. However, if we’re being exact, there are approximately 2,700 different kinds of earthworms. I’ll list the main species of earthworm first then the main earthworm types.

An earthworm is a tube-shaped, segmented worm found in the phylum Annelida. They have a worldwide distribution and are commonly found living in soil, feeding on live and dead organic matter. An earthworm’s digestive system runs through the length of its body. It conducts respiration through its skin. 


Anecic Earthworms

This species of earthworm leaves permanent vertical burrows in the soil. They drag leaves from the surface into these burrows and eat the leaves. Anecic earthworms a dark red or brown head end while their tails are usually a paler color.

Anecic earthworms also leave piles of dirt and debris behind when as they burrow by casting them around the entrance to form a mound. They also cast their waste on the surface as well which in turn acts as fertilizer for plants.

Apporectodea longa, an anecic earthworm.
Apporectodea longa, an anecic earthworm

Earthworms in this species include the Aporrectodea longa (pictured above), Aporrectodea nocturna, Lumbricus friendi and Lumbricus terrestris.

Endogeic Earthworms

Endogeic earthworms live in and feed on the soil. Unlike anecic earthworms, which make vertical borrows, these types of earthworm make horizontal burrows through the soil to move around. Endogeic earthworms are often pale in color. Most have a mixture of grey, pale pink, green or blue.

Allolobophora chlorotica, an endogeic earthworm.
Allolobophora chlorotica, an endogeic earthworm.

Allolobophora chloroticaApporectodea caliginosaApporectodea ictericaApporectodea roseaMurchieona muldaliOctolasion cyaneum and Octolasion lacteum are all endogeic earthworm species.

Allolobophora Chlorotica

Allolobophora chlorotica, or green worm, is a species of earthworm that feeds and lives in soil. This species stands out from other earthworms due to the presence of three ‘Sucker-like Discs’ on the underside of the clitellum. 

Green Worm (Allolobophora chlorotica).
Green Worm (Allolobophora chlorotica).

Octolasion Cyaneum

These species of earthworm lives mainly in topsoil. It feeds on the soil where it lives. Most of them grow to 10cm once they reach maturity. The body from the first segment to the saddle is partly or entirely pale in color.

Their color varies and they can be faint blue-grey to a pale rosy pink color. However, it has a prominent yellow tail (last four or five segments). Octolasion cyaneum may also have a lilac blue line on the upper surface.

Octolasion cyaneum - Blue Grey Worm
Octolasion cyaneum – Blue Grey Worm

Epigeic Earthworms

These earthworm species live on the surface of the soil in leaf scatterings. Unlike the other species of earthworm, epigeic earthworms are not likely to make burrows but live in and feed on the leaf litter on the surface. Most are often bright red or reddy-brown in color and they are not usually stripy.

Lumbricus castaneus, an epigeic earthworm.
Lumbricus castaneus, an epigeic earthworm.

Dendrobaena octaedraDendrobaena attemsiDendrodrilus rubidusEiseniella tetraedraHeliodrilus oculatusLumbricus rubellus and Lumbricus castaneus (picutred above) are a few of the epigeic earthworm species.

Dendrobaena Octaedra

These are small (2-4 cm), litter-dwelling earthworm native to Europe. However, they can also be found in parts of Canada, the United States, South America, and Asia.

Dendrobaena octaedra feed principally on microorganisms associated with rotting surface litter. They are also known as the octagonal tail-worm.

Eiseniella Tetraedra

The eiseniella tetredra is a red worm which varies in length from 2 to 8 cm. These species are aquatic and live in mud or under stones in rivers. You’d also find them in damp areas on land.

Compost Worms

There are 4 species of compost worms and they live within the top four to five inches of topsoil and feed on vegetable matter. They are quite fond of protozoa, bacteria, and fungi.

You can find these types of earthworms in regular garden soil, leaf piles, and manure piles. They don’t build permanent burrows but, instead, they burrow randomly throughout the rotting matter and the topsoil.

Eisenia Fetida

  • Common names: Tiger worm, manure worm, brandling worm
  • Color: rust brown with yellow stripes around its body – just like a Tiger!    
  • Length: up to 130mm
  • Ideal working temperature range: 15-25°

Dendrobaena Veneta

  • Common names: dendras, blue noses
  • Color: violet, purple or olive-brown and sometimes striped
  • Length: up to 155mm
  • Ideal working temperature range: 18-25°

Lumbricus Rubellus

  • Common names- redworm, bloodworm, red wiggler
  • Color: dark red to maroon, no strips, and light yellow underneath
  • Length: up to 105 mm
  • Ideal working temperature range: 18-23°

Eisenia Andrei

  • Common names: reg tiger worm
  • Colour: dark red to purple with maybe some stripes
  • Length: up to 130mm
  • Ideal working temperature range: 18-23°

Earthworker Worms

These are the most common earthworm types that you’d find in your garden. They make long vertical burrows that are a few feet deep, leaving their poo, known as worm casts at the entrances.

Earthworker worms do eat large volumes of organic matter (leaves) but prefer to munch on soil instead. They mainly come out at night to look for food.

Root-Dwelling Worms

There are two extremely rare earthworms; the didymogaster sylvaticus (the squirting worm) and the Austrailan megascolides australis. You won’t ever happen upon any of these root-dwelling worms as they never come up to the surface.

The didymogaster sylvaticus can squirt its slime over 30cm while the megascolides australis can squirt slime up to 10cm. The megascolides australis can grow up to 12 feet long and they use their slime to lube their tunnels to protect their sensitive skin.

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