Worms have gotten a bum rap. So what if they're slimy? Their mucous keeps them moist -- so they can breathe through their skin! So what if they eat leaves and dirt -- that's their hamburger and fries! Does that give people the right to call them yucky? OR to scream when they see one?
Earthworms have been around for 120 million years. In the time of the Egyptian Pharoahs, Cleopatra said they were sacred. Aristotle called them "the intestines" of the soil. The scientist Charles Darwin studied them for 39 years in the last century!
Earthworms are underground farmers who turn the soil over like a plough. In just one acre there can be a million or more worms, eating 10 tons of leaves, stems, and dead roots a year and turning over 40 tons of soil. Imagine them all over the world -- billions and billions of earthworms, tunneling through soil, chewing up fallen leaves and animal remains, pushing heavy stones. And don't forget pooping! Their poop, called castings, contains the recycled nutrients from the debris they ate. Their tunnels add air and their poop is fertilizer. They change the dirt right under our feet!
Earthworms face possible death or mutilation every step of the way. You can only imagine what they go through every day dodging bird beaks, garden forks and stabbing fish hooks. And moles? They eat three times their weight every day. Shrews? They're even worse! They have to eat every hour. Know what one of their favorite foods is? Earthworms!! No wonder the majority of them probably don't make it much past a year!
Did You Know: Earthworms in South America can grow up to 8 feet long and weigh over a pound!