“When you hold soil
in the palms of your hands,
you are holding more life
in your hands than
there are people on this planet.”
- There are approximately 2,700 different types of Earthworms.
- “Earthworm” refers to any species of terrestrial annelid worm that burrows in the soil.
- Earthworm bodies are made of rings, or segments.
- Each segment is surrounded by a set of muscles that help earthworms move.
- An Earthworm has no teeth, arms, legs or eyes. Even though worms don’t have eyes, they can sense light, especially at their anterior (front end). They move away from light and will become paralyzed if exposed to light for too long (approximately one hour). Earthworms possess light- and touch-sensitive organs (receptor cells) to distinguish differences in light intensity and to feel vibrations in the ground.
- Worms have specialized chemoreceptors or sense organs ("taste receptors") which react to chemical stimuli. These sense organs are located on the anterior part of the worm.
- An earthworm can grow only so long. A well-fed adult earthworm will depend on what kind of worm it is, how many segments it has, how old it is and how well fed it is. An Lumbricus terrestris (Night crawler) will be from 90-300 millimeters long.
- The largest earthworm ever found was in South Africa and measured 22 feet from its nose to the tip of its tail.
More Earthworm Fun Facts to Research:
- Worms live where there is food, moisture, oxygen and a favorable temperature. If they don’t have these things, they go somewhere else.
- In one acre of land, there can be more than a million earthworms.
- Worms tunnel deeply in the soil and bring subsoil closer to the surface mixing it with the topsoil. Slime, a secretion of earthworms, contains nitrogen. Nitrogen is an important nutrient for plants. The sticky slime helps to hold clusters of soil particles together in formations called aggregates.
- Charles Darwin spent 39 years studying earthworms more than 100 years ago.
- Worms are cold-blooded animals. As with invertebrates, their body processes or metabolism slow down with falling temperatures. Earthworms will hibernate at near freezing temperature. If frozen they will die. Earthworms react to advancing colder winter weather by burrowing deep (up to two meters) in the soil to avoid the extreme cold.
- Earthworms have the ability to replace or replicate lost segments. This ability varies greatly depending on the species of worm you have, the amount of damage to the worm and where it is cut. It may be easy for a worm to replace a lost tail, but may be very difficult or impossible to replace a lost head if things are not just right.
- Baby worms (wormlets) are not born "live". They hatch from cocoons smaller than a grain of rice. The bump is the clitellum, the saddle shaped swollen area 1/3 of the way back containing the gland cells which secrete a slimy material (mucus) to form the cocoon which will hold the worm embryos.
- Young worms hatch from their cocoons in three weeks to five months as the gestation period varies for different species of worms. Conditions like temperature and soil moisture factor in here...if conditions are not great then hatching is delayed.
- The Australian Gippsland Earthworm grows to 12 feet long and can weigh 1-1/2 pounds.
- If a worm’s skin dries out, it will die. Earthworms respire (breathe) through their skin, and therefore require humid conditions to prevent drying out. They coat themselves in mucus to enable the passage of dissolved oxygen into their bloodstream.
- Worms are hermaphrodites. Each worm has both male and female organs. Worms mate by joining their clitella (swollen area near the head of a mature worm) and exchanging sperm. Then each worm forms an egg capsule in its clitellum. (The term "hermaphrodite" derives from the combination of the names of two Greek gods: Hermes, a male and Aphrodite, a female. So, something with both male and female characteristics is a "herm-aphrodite".)
- Some research indicates that earthworms can eat their own weight each day while other research suggests that earthworms may eat about 30% of their weight each day. Earthworms derive their nutrition from many forms of organic matter in soil, things like decaying roots and leaves, and living organisms such as nematodes, protozoans, rotifers, bacteria, fungi. They will also feed on the decomposing remains of other animals.
- Water- ex. water spray and wet food
- Air- create air holes
- Food - make a list (The worms eat my organic garbage- banana peels, paper, coffee grounds, etc. Worms recycle food scraps turning it into compost/plant food a.k.a. worm poop or castings.
- Shelter- the box and the paper bedding
- Space- If the worms have too many babies or wormlets, there will be too many worms for the size of the bin and for the amount of food, etc., so they will cut down on having womlets.
Bob and Otto
Robert O. Bruel with Pictures by Nick Bruel
Just click on these link names below.
THE LIVING SOIL: EARTHWORMS
Science Museum of Minnesota Online Worm Project
See first graders at the Museum Magnet School exploring the world of worms.
Worm Words Glossary for Teachers
Learn the words that pertain to worms and worm composting.
List of worm sellers in the United States and Canada
A Guide to Worm Composting
Tips for making and using a worm bin