The humble earthworm is a truly amazing creature. Did you know that:
- They recycle organic waste into a high quality soil conditioner. They aerate, till and fertilize the soil, improving the soils structure, nutrient and water-holding qualities while also breaking down organic waste into plant-available forms. The castings or compost that earthworms make has up to 10 times more nutrients in it than ordinary soil and in a form more readily available to plants, which is good news for your veggies!
- Earthworms kill bad bacteria and make lots of good bacteria. Everything that passes through the gut of an earthworm is coated with beneficial microbes and bacteria which continue to break down organic matter into plant-available nutrients and also suppress the growth of pathogens. This means healthy soil and healthy plants.
- They can reduce the composting time from 240 days to 30 days.
- Researchers have identified and named thousands of distinct species of earthworm, but to date only around six have been identified as useful in vermiculture systems. Eisenia fetida, its close relative, Eisenia andrei, and Lumbricus rubellus are the earthworm species most commonly used in vermiculture. They are referred to by a variety of common names, including red worms, red wrigglers, tiger worms, brandling worms, and manure worms. They are often raised together and are difficult to tell apart.
- Most earthworms are either composters (digesters) who make soil conditioners out of waste, or Earthworkers (turners) who live in the soil, improve soil conditions and promote plant growth.
"What happens to an earthworm
that tunnels too much?
He gets in-dig-estion!"
- The longest earthworm in the world was found in South Africa in 1937 and was 6.7 metres (22 feet) long!
- Some can live up to 15 years (how do scientists know this?).
- They are greedy little blighters and can consume the equivalent of their own body weight in food every day.
- They eat just about anything that was once living including food waste, torn up newspapers and cardboard, crushed egg shells, meat, coffee grindings, teabags and even doggie poop.
- In just one acre there can be a million or more earthworms, eating 10 tons of leaves, stems, and dead roots a year and turning over 40 tons of soil.
- Ironically, Earthworms are killed by inorganic fertilisers which are an expensive method of trying to do the very thing that wonderful worms do for free. Along with other organisms which are beneficial to the soil they are adversely affected by pesticides and over-tillage. Intensive agricultural practices have led to the depletion of soil health (minerals and good micro organisms) and poor structure resulting in, amongst other things, soil erosion.
- An earthworm is made up of 90 to 150 muscular doughnut shaped segments lying side by side. They breathe through their skin, have 5 hearts and a circulatory system. There is also a brain, nervous system and several hundred kidney type organs. Each earthworm has both male and female organs and abilities (no gender issues for these guys). They have a "saddle" which secretes mucus for the egg capsules that they produce. They have glands for neutralising food, a crop and a gizzard with stones for grinding food, and a digestive system.
- They are hermaphroditic, when they mate both parties lay a cocoon of eggs that hatch in about 3 weeks.
- Worms are 97% protein, but we take no responsibility for what you do with this information!
- Worms can feel vibrations on the ground such as a bird landing. In response they will disappear down their burrows quickly enough to survive.
- Worms have been around for 120 million years.
- They cannot regulate their body temperature and will burrow deeper or move to another location in response to uncomfortable conditions. They tolerate a temperature range of 0 - 35 degrees C.
- Earthworms are basically nocturnal.