Worms Of The Earth, And Garage

Richard has an interesting story in the Chicago Tribune about vermiculture:  that is, worm composting.  I’m all in favor of composting and reducing our waste footprint, and using the lowly worm to accomplish that important goal seems like a good idea to me.

As always, I learned something from reading Richard’s story.  For example:

Worms eat about a third of their body weight a day, and great compost packed with nutrients comes out the other end.

Charles Darwin was a big fan of worms, and wrote that he doubted “there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world.”

Worms are temperamental, and one lazy worm can turn an entire worm colony into a bunch of malingerers.

Worms apparently will eat just about anything, including burlap and scrap paper.

Remember the useful aspects of our worm friends, and be sure to sweep them off the driveway after the next big rainstorm rather than pulverizing them into the asphalt!

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Worms Of The Earth, And On The Driveway

We’ve had a huge snowmelt, and yesterday we got a fair amount of rain.  The ground is a soupy, muddy mush, and an an inevitable result we’ve seen the worms come out.  On this morning’s walk they were coating the driveway, causing me to tiptoe through them to avoid unnecessary worm-flattening.  (I admit that doing that is a bit silly, because when I back my car out of the garage in an hour or so I will pulverize many of them — but I least I won’t feel like I could have avoided it.)

Why do worms appear in wet weather?  The conventional story is that they drown underground in such conditions, but that turns our to be incorrect.  According to various “we answer weird questions” websites, worms come out when it is wet because the surface finally is favorable for them.  Worms are covered in mucus that facilitates their approach to breathing.  If they come up when it is hot and dry, the mucus dries out and the worms then becme dessicated and die.  That is not a problem when the weather is wet.  See here and here.

It turns out that there is another crucial reason:  sex.  Worms like to mate above ground.  Because all worms tend to come above ground when it is wet, the surface is fertile territory (pun intended) for finding a worm willing to exchange bodily fluids and propagate the species.  It is like a giant, free-for-all worm speed-dating opportunity.  The space above ground also helps the worms attain a comfortable “mating posture,” which probably would be interesting to learn more about because worms are simultaneous hermaphrodites, with each mate exchanging sperm.

So we should all be careful walking after a rain, so as not to disturb a worm’s moment of romance under the stars.