The ordinary, everyday earthworm you might happily tread on (accidentally!) is often overlooked, especially if you are over 6 feet tall, but this mundane chap is a lot more interesting than you might think.
There are a lot of amazing facts about worms but I would like to start by showing you worms on YouTube that have become a viral sensation.
Joe Myers from Ohio recently posted a video of a bunch of Leopard frogs going crazy over worm movies on his phone, and it’s had over 2 million views already – there are a lot of frogs out there with the internet – who knew!
At one point over 17 frogs were clamouring to get their greedy tongues on the worms, hence the plate of glass to stop them changing the channel!
Okay that’s got you all paying attention now here’s the boring bit: I’m kidding I’m kidding.
Well not exactly. There are over 6000 species of earthworms.
The US and Canada alone have over 180 species of which the most common are the Angleworm much beloved by fishermen, the Rain Worm is the one you see coming up after heavy rain (surprisingly) and the Nightcrawler, which also does what it says on the tin.
Think that sounds a lot? If you count up all the different types of worm, not just earthworms, that figure is nearer 35,000! Some of them you wouldn’t see unless you had a microscope.
The biggest earthworm is about 10 feet long or as tall as an Elephant. The Giant Gippsland worm is Australian, naturally, and comes from the Victoria region. Most of them are around 3ft long but some bad boys can reach 10 feet, weigh nearly as much as a bag of sugar and can live up to five years.
But this isn’t the biggest worm, there is a species of South African worm that can grow up to 22 feet long which bizarrely was found by the side of a road in 1967, that’s about the length of two cars. No wonder it couldn’t hitch a ride.
The longest worm ever was a tapeworm reckoned to be 82 feet long. Okay this is slightly off earthworm topic because tapeworms are a parasite that grows in the human guts. They are pretty sneaky, they get in through undercooked food and can hang around for as much as 25 years, yeugh! It’s pretty common too with as many as 25 million people in the world believed to be carrying tapeworms.
Next time you are taking a walk in the country you might like to consider the fact that an acre of land under your feet could contain nearly 2 million earthworms. This would be on top quality soil. On poorer ground the earthworm density per acre can drop to around 250,000 worms per acre. So there is a good chance that the worms under the soil weigh more than the cows, sheep, pigs or humans walking their dogs that are on top of the soil.
Those worms are pretty busy too. An average garden earthworm can much it’s way through about 10 pounds of vegetable material material per year. That’s like two big shopping bags of broccoli. In fact a worm can eat its own weight in organic material, minerals and soil a day and then push out the same weight in castings from the other end.
Castings is a posh name for worm poo! Also known as vermicast, the stuff that worms produce is an excellent fertalizer and is really good for your soil. If you are a gardener then worms are your best friend.
Fancy a cup of Worm Poo Tea? One of the latest trends in gardening and commercial growers is to use Castings Tea, made by soaking a sock full of castings in a bucket of water, to condition and fertalize the soil. That’s right you put the tea on the soil – you don’t drink it! As well as helping plants to grow it also suppresses some parasites and fungal spores. Who knew!
The answer is no. Worms are both sexes rolled into one, how clever is that. In science that’s called being a hermaphrodite or having both male and female reproductive bits. Pretty handy really, although they do still need two to tango.
If you’ve ever wondered what that lump is halfway along a worm, well that’s the bit that carries the worm eggs and is called the Clitellum – a great fact to casually drop into the conversation.
It’s been said that a worm is relatively speaking 1000 times stronger than a human – cue the next Marvel Blockbuster, move over Ant Man here comes Worm Woman. Who actually spotted a worm bench pressing a squirrel we’ll never know, but it’s another great statement to shock your friends with.
You can cut a worm in two and both parts will survive. In fact only the front half will repair itself, that’s the one with the Clitellum or pink lump. The other bit will die and if you let a worm dry out it will also die. That’s because a worm breathes through its skin and the skin needs to be damp to transport oxygen.
Worms don’t have a skeleton or a shell to protect and support them, but they do have fluid filled chambers that help them to keep their shape. This is called a hydrostatic skeleton.
Worms are about 600 million years old that’s more than 3 times older than the dinosaurs. So when your parents tell you to eat your greens you had better do as they tell you and perhaps you will have a long life too. But don’t worry eating veg won’t make you want to dig a hole in the compost heap and crawl into it.
Dr Who has two hearts but worms are well better than that. Earthworms have no less than 5 hearts. They need all that pumping power because they are so long and having five hearts in a row helps to get their blood right down to the tail and back. I bet you didn’t know that.
If you liked this wormy article even a little bit then please share it so that more people get to know that worms aren’t really boring after all (am pretty sure there is a joke buried in there somewhere).