Watch your step during and after a spring or summer rain, because the ground is often liberally sprinkled with earthworms. You’ve heard about it “raining cats and dogs”? Well, some people wonder if it doesn’t “rain earthworms!” Why else would they be lying all about?
A heavy rain will often flood the earthworms’ burrows. The worms risk drowning if they don’t come to the surface. There are plenty of dangers there, however. Sunlight is harmful to earthworms, and of course there are robins! These and other worm-eating birds have a field day after a rain. (And so do anglers, who collect worms both after a rain and at night when the worms crawl out of their burrows in search of the plant material they eat).
Construct a Wormery
With a simple set-up you can observe earthworms in your home. Make your own wormery from two panes of glass (or rigid plastic) and some 1″ wide wood strips. Glue or screw the panes to the wood, and fill the wormery with layers of various soils, such as garden soil, peat, and fine sand. Water the soils thoroughly, and add a dozen or so worms that you have dug from the garden. Take care to shield them from the light. Scatter the worms on the soil’s surface, and cover them with some dead leaves or grass clippings. Cover the entire wormery with a lightproof cloth.
Check the worms now and gain (sprinkling some water on the surface occasionally) to see how their tunnels are progressing. can you see how the layers of soil have shifted? Look for the mounds of rippled soil on the surface. Earthworms burrow underground by eating the soil and eliminating it, resulting in these mounds, known as casts.
When you are done watching the worms, return them and the soil to the garden. There they can continue to work the magic which gives them their nickname: “Gardeners’ best friend.”
[Image: Courtesy of Flickr user John D Hardy]