There are over 2,700 species of earthworms around the world. Earthworms are fascinating creatures. The average size of an earthworm, depending on the continent and species, is about 10 mm to 3m long. But it’s amazing how they can bury themselves underground for such a tiny sized organism. It does not have a skeleton or limbs, but it can slide through tough soil.
Why do they bury themselves underground? One reason is so they can’t be attacked or eaten by predators like birds because they are so deep below the ground. So how deep do earthworms go? Let’s find out!
What Does An Earthworm Eat?
First, where do worms live, and what do they eat? They eat dirt. More specifically, they eat animal and plant matter that are found in the soil and eliminates the rest.
It can even eat smaller microorganisms. Above ground, they eat dead leaves and grass. They’re not picky eaters and will even feed on fruits and vegetables. The great thing about this creature is that the earthworm’s waste helps fertilize the earth, which is why gardeners love to have them in their compost pile. And whenever they burrow, they tend to eat bacteria, algae, and even fungi. They can even eat biodegradable materials like paper, paper egg cartons, and cardboard.
Knowing how deep do earthworms go comes from the reason as to why they burrow deep in the first place. They burrow because they are searching for carbon-rich zones – where dead plants and other biological matter are found.
Do Earthworms Burrow During The Winter?
What do earthworms do in the winter? Some species of earthworms prefer to live in the upper layer of earth and would never burrow deep enough. Before winter temperature kills them, they would lay eggs in tiny sacs that will not freeze.
Some species, like Nightcrawlers, will burrow deeply to avoid ice and snow. Nightcrawlers can burrow as deep as six and a half feet underground while eating organic matter along the way. Once they have buried deep enough, they curl up tightly and moisturize themselves with slime. Once the earth thaws and it senses moisture, it will move upward and greet spring.
Different Varieties Of Earthworms
Learning about the different varieties of earthworms can help answer how deep do earthworms go. There are over two thousand species of earthworms, and each can have different burrowing patterns based on what they eat.
- Epigeic – These worms rarely burrow into the ground and feed on surface matter like dead leaves.
- Endogenic -They burrow up to a half-meter deep and feed on the mineral found in the soil.
- Anecic – They can burrow for up to two meters but feed on surface matter that they pull down into its tunnel.
How Do Earthworms Dig?
Knowing about how an earthworm digs can also help answer the question, “How deep do earthworms go?”
The worm’s whole body is divided into segments, and the first segment contains its mouth. Earthworms eat its way through the earth, and it creates a tunnel of slime and excrement as it continues to burrow. Each millimeter they dig, they extract nutrients from decomposing matter and small microorganisms.
- To move forward, it grips the soil with its tiny hair-like projections called the setae from the back.
- It then squeezes its circular muscles to elongate its body and, in turn, moves its body forward.
- It uses the front setae to grip the soil and lets go of its back setae.
- Lastly, it squeezes its longitudinal muscles to shorten its body so that the back segment moves forward.
Their tunnels help aerate the soil and provide moisture to the ground when rain falls through them. A single earthworm can eat up to a third of its body weight in a day. An acre of good soil may hold up to a million earthworms and can eat as much as 10 tons of leaves and other organic matter in a year.
How Do Earthworms Survive?
Earthworms have the same needs as most creatures. It needs air, food, water, and warmth. These four factors are the reasons why they need soil to survive:
- Air – Earthworms do not have lungs, and they breathe through their skin.
- Water – They need moisture to keep their skin moist so they can breathe.
- Food – They feed on dead leaves, fruit, and other microorganisms.
- Warmth – They thrive in temperatures between 45 to 80 degrees F. Worms can freeze at 30 degrees F.
When you have them in your garden, you can be sure that your garden is healthy. They need soil to survive, but your garden needs it more. Their major role is to break down organic matter and leave behind excrements that are useful as fertilizer for your plants and flowers. They aerate and help moisturize the soil with its tunnels. Their tunnels allow oxygen and water to penetrate to the roots and soil microorganisms.
Nightcrawlers vs. Earthworms
They look the same but are practically different! What’s the difference between Nightcrawlers and earthworms:
- An earthworm can live in the ground all its life while a Nightcrawler likes to surface at night.
- An earthworm is small and can grow up to three inches while a Nightcrawler can grow up to 14 inches.
- An earthworm is reddish-purple in color while a Nightcrawler is grayish in color.
It’s amazing how these tiny creatures can move the world. Some earthworms can tunnel horizontally and some vertically, but one thing is for sure. Without them, the Earth would be very dense, and plants would have a hard time growing. Knowing how deep do earthworms go can help us understand the importance of these little crawlers. If you’re planning to keep earthworms as pets or as a helper in your compost bin, make sure to give them enough room in their bins and enough soil to work with. Find out more about earthworms.