Soil’s super hero

I don’t know about you but worms are not generally something I tend to give a second thought. Until the other day when my brother pointed out a seagull doing what looked like a nifty tap dance but was actually the gull drumming the ground to fool unsuspecting worms below into thinking that it was raining. Lunchtime!

Then there was March’s Super Worm Moon, the last full moon of winter. So called because, with the thawing earth, earthworm casts start to materialise, heralding the return of robins and other birds eager to feed after the privations of the long hard season. As a side note, the March full moon is also known as Chaste Moon, signalling the imminent purity of spring.

Many of the names for full moons were assigned by Native American tribes like the Algonquin who used them to track the seasons. The Dakota Sioux gave the March moon the beautifully poetic moniker the Moon When Eyes Are Sore From Bright Snow. But I digress, this is meant to be about worms, not moons…

Giving good soil

According to Charles Darwin, a lifelong fan of the humble invertebrate: “Nobody and nothing can be compared with earthworms in their positive influence on the whole living planet.” The world’s most celebrated naturalist even wrote a book about them six months before he died.

These early adopters of recycling effectively hold up our ecosystem by doing all the donkey work. Without a healthy soil nothing can flourish. Earthworms chomp through debris like dead leaves and in turn their faeces enrich the earth; they let the oxygen in and – with their burrowing – carbon dioxide out.

In March, as part of World Worm Week (for yes there is such a thing), around 100 UK farmers took part in a survey to check the worm count in their soil and to identify whether their worms were the surface, top soil or burrowing kind. A mix of the three types is needed to keep the soil fertile and the count helps farmers to know if they are over-cultivating. The previous year’s survey indicated that only 58% of participants found the presence of all three.

The unbelievable truth

The Earthworm Society of Great Britain (for yes, once again there is such a thing) reckons that there are 27 distinct species. Thanks to their website, I also learned that:

  • Earthworms have no eyes and no head!
  • In keeping with our gender fluid times, they are hermaphrodites
  • The size of a football field is home to around two million worms
  • Moles, which need 50g of worms a day to survive, create ‘zombie’ stores of live worms that have been immobilised by a bite to the head.

You’re welcome!

Photo by Lukas on

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