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The sex life of a redworm

By John Pohly, Colorado State University  Cooperative Extension, Horticulture

Redworms speed the process of breaking down kitchen scraps into compost, but when we learn how rapidly they reproduce, we often think they'll take over the earth. Not likely. The availability of food, space requirements and the fouling of their environment keeps the worm population in check.

An earthworm has both ovaries and testes -- in other words, it is both male and female. Sperm from each worm passes to the other and is stored in sperm sacs. Then each worm forms a cocoon, a hard band that forms a small ring around the worm's bodies. As the worm slides out of its cocoon, it deposits eggs and sperm in the cocoon. The baby worms, about one-half-to-one-inch long, hatch from the cocoon in about 3 weeks. In 4-to-6 weeks, the hatchlings are ready to mate to begin a new generation of worms!

Photo: Judy Sedbrook

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Date last revised: 01/05/2010