Eww! They Are So Slimy

Earthworms are icky! I think most people will agree that they are not attractive and most of us do not like to touch them. What on earth are they good for? Actually, earthworms are probably the most important part of your garden. If they are that important we need to find out some more about them. Why are they slimy? What is it that they do for the garden? How big are they? Read further and I promise I won't make you touch one unless you want to.


One of the most well-known earthworms is the nightcrawler. It is not native to North America. It is believed that they were carried from Europe in potted plants. They now thrive here. 

Night crawlers are usually only a few inches long, but there have been cases where they grew to around 14 inches.

There are approximately 6,000 species of earthworm in the world. 

The two types of earthworm that are good for a compost pile are the European Nightcrawler and the Red Wiggler.

Earthworms are both male and female at the same time. They reproduce by joining with another worm at the clitellum and exchanging sperm packets. They then produce eggs, fertilize them, and release a cocoon of fertilized eggs. When the eggs hatch, the new worms are able to care for themselves. A few species self-fertilize.

Earthworms have no eyes, arms, legs, or teeth. They also have no bones.

The reason earthworms are slimy is because they need to keep their skin moist. If the skin dries the worm will die.

Most native North American earthworms died during the last Ice Age. That was about 10 to 15 thousand years ago. 

Earthworms have sensory organs that make their skin sensitive to touch. That is why they wriggle when we pick them up. However we have no way of knowing if it hurts them or how much when they are put on a fish hook. They have no central nervous system.

Earthworms are cold-blooded.

Earthworms are prey for many animals. Birds, snakes, insects, moles, and even foxes are just a sampling. 

Perhaps the most dangerous animal for the earthworm is the human. Pesticides sink deep into the soil and kill the worms there.

There are more than one million earthworms in one acre of land. 

The largest earthworm of record was found in South Africa. It measured 22 feet long.

Earthworms can replace segments of their bodies. The ability varies greatly depending on where the segment was detached, what species of earthworm it is, and how much damage is done to the worm.

Earthworms have been kept alive for 6 to 10 years, but in the wild they usually only live for a couple of years.

The slime produced by earthworms (known as worm casting) is full of nitrogen. Nitrogen is plant food.

After rain you will often see earthworms crawling all over the place. Some say it is because they are getting away from the water that has soaked into the ground. Others believe it is because they come out to feed.

The bump in the middle of an earthworm is the clitellum. In times of drought some species of earthworm lose all secondary sexual characteristics, including the clitellum. Favorable conditions will bring it right back.

Earthworms do not like acidic foods such as citrus fruit and pineapples. They will leave the area where these items are.

Is this more than you ever wanted to know about earthworms? There is even more if you want to take a look at the links below. 

Comments

  1. Not too much information for me, earthworms are fascinating. There are many facts on your list that I was not aware of Emma. Thanks for the info.

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  2. Earthworms are good, but never look beautiful to me.

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  3. What on earth are they good for?

    sandwiches?

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  4. I remember as a kid walking to school on rainy mornings trying to rescue earthworms from puddles and robins at the ready eyeballing those same puddles .

    I also remember searching dewy grass late at night for worms for an early morning of fishing.

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  5. I don't mind hanndling worms at all and I like nothing better than to turn over a forkful of soil on my allotment and see lots of worms habitating there knowing how much good they do for my soil and growing. I don't use any sort of pesticides on my allotment...only natural manures so the worms will always be perfectly safe with me. I like to keep them happy so I know they'll stick around and help me out!!

    After the rains I often see wroms squirming on the pavements and i always chuck them back onto soft land so that they cn burrow down again. I think they come to the surface with the rain and then kind of get lost on the wet pavement when it has turned into a wet surface so I like to give them a helping hand

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  6. when I was a kid, I actually love playing with earthworms, I love seeing them when I garden, and would pick them and talk to them to nourish the other part of the garden too :)

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  7. My, oh my! I did not dream that so many people would be interested in earthworms. I thought I was a strange one. Thank you all for commenting. Squirrel Queen, they are indeed fascinating. Rainfield, it's true they are not beautiful, but they are important. Wiseacre, a raw earthworm sandwich may not be to your taste but maybe a worm burger would feed you nicely. Thepowmill, my aunt used to keep a little patch of dirt that she farmed the earthworms in. We always had plenty for fishing. Allotments4you, the things you spoke of tells me one of the reasons you have such a productive garden. Betchai, I never played with earthworms. I could close my eyes and see them tangling around each other in the container we used to take them for bait when fishing, Ick!

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  8. One of my best feature films was how to dissect an earthworm, still hopefully used at Iowa State.I use a lot fishing, and have been to a few cook-offs.

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  9. I had to disect an earthworm in high school biology. Mr A was strict but we learned a lot in his class in spite of ourselves. I have not eaten one and I don't believe I will if I know what it is. Thank you for commenting.

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  10. I don't hate earthworms but I don't love them either, I just don't feel comfortable touching them ... I really have this weird feeling every time I see crawling animals.

    Thanks for a very informative post.

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  11. Thank you for commenting. I must admit that holding creepy-crawlies is not my idea of fun. I can bait my own fish hook and if a ladybug lands on me, I welcome the good luck she brings. I guess I am not squeamish, I just prefer not to initiate contact.

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  12. Emma, I grew-up on a farm in NC. My Dad (who was an avid fisherman) "planted" a few nightcrawers. With a flashlight we would go out at night and catch them. The average length was about 10 inches.
    Thanks for bringing up a wonderful memory.:)

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  13. Thank you for commenting. Isn't it funny the things we remember from childhood? Usually it is something so seemingly trivial and everyday. We don't automatically think of the huge expensive trip to the Grand Canyon. We remember hunting worms. These intimate things are the most important.

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