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Wonderful Worms: Did You Know?

  • Earthworms have no eyes or ears, but they have light-sensitive cells that help them tell the difference between light and darkness. Their bodies are sensitive to vibrationsñand worms may "outrun" the shovels of anglers digging worms for fish bait!

  • Worms can be good for gardens and farmland. By tunneling through soil, they drain water, bring in oxygen, and create space for plant roots.

  • At night worms often come to the surface and deposit mounds of castings("worm poop")ñ small pellet-like piles of organic matter that have passed through the wormís digestive tract.

  • Charles Darwin was one of the first to tell about the value of earthworms to soil. He estimated that the earthworm castings on an average acre could provide 1/5 inch of new surface soil per year.

  • An acre of good garden or farm soil may be home to a million earthworms.

  • Were earthworms always here? Yes and no. During the time that glaciers covered much of North America, earthworms disappeared from the frozen soil. It would have taken centuries or longer for earthworms to become re-established on their own, but human actions speeded up the process. Farmers and gardeners brought potted plants from other places for planting, inadvertently releasing earthworms that were in that soil. And when farmers tilled the soil to make it easier for tiny roots to grow, they also made it easier for the worms to tunnel through the soil. As worms increased, so did robins. In 1932, a scientist named Frank Farley found that robins had increased 100 percent in Alberta. Canada in the 50 years since the 1880s.

  • Earthworms get their nutrition from many forms of organic matter in soil. They eat decaying roots and leaves, and tiny organisms such as nematodes, protozoans, rotifers, bacteria, and fungi. Worms also feed on the decomposing remains of other animals. An earthworm can consume up to one-third of its own body weight in just one day!

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