Photo: Grandnephews, grandnieces, and nephew’s girlfriend’s daughter returning home from a visit to our greenhouses to see the fish. Our German Shepherds, Oso and Maya, are providing escort and security.
Our nephew Devin Rokyta, his girlfriend Anndrea, Anndrea’s daughter, and whole passel of grandnieces and grandnephews (I have trouble keeping up with my grandbrats, so don’t give me a hard time for not keeping up with my sister’s) came over to check out the fish and greenhouses. Devin and Anndrea live in Moscow, Idaho where Devin is the managing editor of the Moscow Pullman Daily News and Anndrea is a freshwater invertebrate taxonomist at EcoAnalysts, Inc., an aquatic bioassessment company. They were in Goliad visiting my sister and brother-in-law, who live a mile away on their half of my grandparent’s farm, for spring break.
As it turned out, Anndrea knows someone who reads my blogs (I have a readership of at least one!). It also turns out she is a general invertebrate taxonomist and works with others who identify invertebrates. Sensing an opportunity, I offered some of our scuds (a Gammarus species possibly) and litter worms to see if they could identify them. She was surprisingly enthusiastic. It’s nice to have another life sciences geek in the family.
We’ve raised scuds for just over 10 years now. We got our start from Dr. Caitlin Gabor of Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas. Dr. Gabor studies mate selection in mollies, primarily using the Amazon Molly, Poecilia formosa, an all-female species (see my blog for more information about this fish: https://goliadfarms.com/poecilia-formosa-amazon-molly/). I placed them in a vat and they quickly colonized the entire system, hitchhiking on plants, nets, and water. Our fish loved them, but it soon became apparent we could without much effort raise a lot more than we could use. We started to sell them to retail customers.
Today, we ship scuds every week across the country, despite not knowing the scientific name of our scuds. We simply call them “Gammarus sp.” Gammarus for one of the larger genera of scuds and “sp.” for “species.” Many of them have gone to universities, and when shipping to universities, I always ask to have them keyed out. I really want to know what species we are raising. So far, despite promises, we have not gotten them identified. I’m hoping Anndrea’s group can change that.
For a bit more information about our scuds, read my blog: https://goliadfarms.com/shop/gammarus-scuds/.
We got our start of litter worms in 1997 when our hatchery was in Santa Fe, New Mexico. They were sold to us by a supplier whose name I don’t remember. The supplier identified the worms as Lumbricus rubellus. But we’ve had some researchers tell us they aren’t L. rubellus or Eisenia fetida, other common “red wriggler.” So, what are they? The researchers who said what they weren’t never told us what they were. I’m hoping Anndrea can fix that.
For more information about these worms, read my blog: https://goliadfarms.com/shop/lumbricus-rubellus-litter-red-worm/.
We raise E. fetida in compost piles consisting of excess plants from the greenhouses and “gunk” from the bottom of vats. Gunk accumulates in the vats and when we process the fish every three to four months, we collect the gunk using 10” brine shrimp nets. The gunk is netted out and placed in five-gallon buckets and then dumped onto the compost piles. The worms convert the gunk and plants into a wonderful garden soil. We’ve raised these worms in Goliad since 2000, but after we started raising scuds in 2008, we noticed a few worms showing up in vats. They live both in the gunk in the vat and around the edges where algae and duckweed form a layer of damp “soil.” They also like to coil around the base of the faucets providing water the scud vats. I always assumed they were our litter worms on walk-a-about. Now I’m not so sure. I think I’ll have Anndrea check them out as well.
I planned to send scuds and two sets of worms back to Idaho with Devin and family, but Devin was concerned about weight limits on luggage. I should have appealed to Anndrea (I’m sure she would have agreed that the luggage could have been lightened by removing unnecessary clothing or the such), but instead I’ll ship them to her this week.
As soon as I get results, a new blog will follow.