How worms reproduce!
Worms are ‘hermaphrodites’ which means they have both male and female reproductive organs. When a worm is about 4 – 6 weeks old, a white band forms around their anterior (head). This is called a ‘clitellum’. The clitellum’ has both sets of organs in it, which means the worm is neither male or female, but both.
Despite having both sets of organs, worms do need another worm to mate with. Worms join together with their heads facing in opposite directions and sperm is passed from one worm to another and stored in sacs.
A cocoon is then formed on each of the worms clitellums. As the worms back out of the narrowing cocoons, sperm and eggs are deposited in the cocoons. The cocoons then close and fertilization takes place.
The cocoons are tiny and yellow-coloured and can hold between 1 – 5 worms. Conditions have to be just right for the cocoons to hatch. If it is dry, the cocoons can lay dormant for years and hatch when conditions have improved.
When the baby worms hatch, they are only about half an inch long and a whitish colour. Parent worms do not nurse their young, the babies are on their own as soon as they are born. It takes about 6 weeks for the baby worm to grow to adult size, they are then able to mate with other worms and begin the reproductive cycle again.