The Washington Times-Herald

Columns

March 25, 2014

Those hard working worms

When the word “worm” comes up in conversations, there is often a wide range of ideas as to what people think about worms. Someone may think of a worm as a creepy, crawly thing that wiggles around in the earth, that young boys used to tease young girls and try to make them scream and run. Another has a picture in their mind of going out with a tin can and digging up worms to go fishing with Dad, always a day to remember.

Later in life the same person does not have time to go dig worms and will go to a bait shop for a box of worms for a quiet day of fishing for pan fish. A farmer or gardener will have a different picture of an earthworm. It is his or her friend that helps to make the earth they till more productive.

Without the earthworm I’m afraid the world of nature would be a different place. In the soil, the several varied species of what we call earthworms or night crawlers are hard at work loosening and aerating the dirt to make it easier to work and receive rainfall. They also leave behind castings and they mulch the organic matter that is their main source of food.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that worms are hermaphrodites, meaning that they have both male and female reproductive organs which is an aid in mating in the dark, underground world they call home. The earthworm lays its eggs in small cocoons that will hatch into baby worms that are a little larger than a very fine thread.

Earthworms, and there may be as many as 15 different species living in the United States, live to eat. They are said to eat half their body weight each day in the plant matter they consume. The castings they leave behind as they move through the soil is some of the most valuable fertilizer available. A garden full of worm castings is almost a sure bet to produce a bumper crop of the good things we like to eat.

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