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Garden Worms


Summary: Garden worms, or field worms, are endogeic worms, meaning they will burrow far down into the soil. Watch your step after a heavy rainfall, or you may end up with garden worms on your shoes.

You may observe many worms in your yard or driveway after a rainy day. Try not to step on them! One of those worms may be a garden worm. A garden worm, also known as field worm, is one of the lengthiest known worms. It can grow up to 7 inches. The longest garden worm ever recorded was found in South Africa and measured 22 feet.

If you wish to control where earthworms inhabit, you can apply diatomaceous earth to discourage their movement. Remember, earthworms are benefical to your lawn and garden, so use this product sparingly.

During the summer, a garden worm is dormant because of the warm temperatures. It is most active during the spring and fall, but will only be seen

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in moist soil, especially after a rainfall. Moisture allows a worm to breathe through its skin. So when conditions are dry, a field worm will burrow further into the soil to try to find damp soil. It is an endogeic worm, which is different from others because it rarely comes up to the top of the soil. A garden worm may burrow down in the soil up to 7 or 8 inches, where it hides among the roots of plants.

All worms have male and female reproductive parts. This means that all worms can mate with each other. When they do so, they release a type of mucus called albumin. The offspring form in the albumin, which eventually grows to a cocoon. Anywhere from two to 21 offspring can develop in the cocoon. It takes about 21 to 73 days for a worm to develop in the cocoon, and about one to two months for it to fully mature into an adult.

The body of a worm is segmented and consists of a posterior and anterior. The mouth is located in the anterior. The worm has an organ called the prostomium, which is a sort of lip above its mouth that it uses for sensing food. A garden worm also has at least five hearts. Surprisingly, the blood of a garden worm is very similar to human blood in that the blood cells carry oxygen throughout its body. Fact of the day: If you cut off a garden worm's tail, it will grow a new one! However, if you cut off its head, it cannot grow a new one.

Garden worms do not have eyes, so it relies heavily on its senses. It is extremely sensitive to light. Turning on a yard light at night will deter them. Worms also react to ground vibrations. Mowing the lawn will cause them to avoid you.

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Extreme closeup credit: Stuart McClure, CSIRO Land and Water

The main physical difference between a garden worm and any other type of earthworm is that it has a raised band around its body called the clitellum. A typical garden worm likes to eat rotting plants and leaves. It brings its food down in the soil into its burrow and eats the human equivalent of a Thanksgiving dinner.

It travels by inching each segment of its body forward along the ground. The hairs on its body, called setae, also aid in travel.

After a heavy rain, you may see earthworms all over your driveway and you may even accidentally squish them under your shoes. (Yuck!) Here are some tips to avoid the squiggly pests:

  • The day after a heavy rainfall, worms will come up to the surface of the soil to look for mates. If you do not expect rain for a few days, then putting the sprinkler on your grass will also do the trick. This is the best time to fertilize your grass to get rid of the worms.
  • Another option that could help but may not always work is to spread cornmeal over your grass. However, if you choose to do this, you may have a lot of birds swooping down to eat the cornmeal and the worms. At that point, you have to choose the lesser of two evils: bird droppings or wriggly worms.
  • If you observe worms around your trees, you can try acephate or insecticide soap to get rid of them.
  • Mixing two cups of detergent in a bucket full of lukewarm water is a way to make your own anti-worm recipe. Stir the mixture until it is blended, and disperse it over your lawn. When the worms come to the surface, you can either scoop them up with a small shovel or apply fertilizer to your lawn.
  • If earthworms are digging small holes throughout your yard, try over-seeding your lawn in those holes. Make sure that you properly irrigate the spots that you are over-seeding so that they will grow evenly.

Other than the occasional mess worms make after rains, I do not advise trying to get rid of garden worms. They do way more positive than negative.





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