pnbrown

Do earthworms eat fresh plants?

pnbrown
November 27, 2012

Here ya go, Curt.

You are only the second person on these forums in at least 10 years that I have been perusing to make this claim. Your evidence seems pretty convincing: you say you have actually seen them physically moving growing plants under the soil.

Is that correct?

The other person was Martin "pacquebot". Anybody remember him? A very entertaining and knowledgeable fellow, and quite the curmudgeon which eventually got him banned.

Comments (31)

  • curt_grow

    Thanks pn; Yes as crackpot as it seems. I have indeed seen them do this and would sure like to find out if any others have seem the same thing. It kinda makes me feel like I seen a ufo lol. Now most people have seen their young onion sets pulled out of the ground into a Night crawler hole. We just replant the sets and go on gardening not taking the time to see what would happen to the set if we left it in the hole. Well I have watched a young ( about 3/16 inch diameter) leek pulled out of the ground and pulled down the hole and apparently consumed over about a three day period. I have no pictures simply because I never expected to be posting about this. I to remember only one post and a few pictures, someone was having trouble with their carrot seedlings a year or two back.

    Curt

  • david52 Zone 6

    My garden has a gazillion night crawlers, and all I have to do is scrape off the grass clipping mulch with a trowel to see a dozen heads rapidly retract and disappear. They eat the heck out of the mulch, but I've never had them go after seedlings.

    Birds? yup, plenty of times. Chipmunks? @@#$!!%-yup. Squirrels - thats rare, but I had one who loved his greens. As well as a fox one summer.

    But there are I dunno how many species of night crawlers out there, and if Curt has a variety that pulls down his onion and leek starts, I'll believe it.

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  • RpR_

    Hmm, just how do they grab it?

  • RpR_

    Addendum:
    As alliums, due to their chemistry, are among food nightcrawlers would rather not eat, this makes no sense.

    Paquebot is still floating his Frankestein worms on other forums.

  • curt_grow

    On Night Crawlers (Lumbricus Terrestris)
    Darwin calculated that there were 53,767 earthworms recycling away per acre. He carried out experiments indoors, where they worked the earth inside pots in a worm-littered room. He experimented with stimuli at night: strong light would send them into their burrows ("like a rabbit" said Darwin's grandson Bernard), but heat and sound had no effect. Their food preferences were also tested, raw carrots being their favourite. [13]

    An photograph of Darwin around the time the book was published.
    Darwin was fascinated by their behaviour, from enjoying "the pleasure of eating" (based on their eagerness for certain foods) to their sexual passions, "strong enough to overcome... their dread of light", even to their social feelings ("crawling over each other's bodies").[14] Their foraging was especially intriguing: they dragged leaves into their burrows, pulling them in the most efficient way, by their pointed end. On these semi-intelligent creatures Darwin wrote that they obtained a "notion, however rude, of the shape of an object", perhaps by feeling it out. Worms, "five or six feet" below the ground ploughed farmers fields. Darwin felt we "ought to be grateful" to these little recyclers, which he compared to "a man... born blind and deaf". He was wondering how long it would be until he would be consumed by worms himself." Does this help?

    Curt P.S. photo of Darwin did not copy

  • maplerbirch

    Earthworms eating raw carrots.:)

  • Tiffany, purpleinopp Z8b Opp, AL

    There are many videos on youtube about worms doing all kinds of things, probably eating leeks and carrots too... I've seen vids of them pulling dead leaves down into holes.

    this person's channel has a lot of relative vids, but I haven't watched them all.

  • pnbrown

    dead leaves is what they live on, so no surprise there.

  • curt_grow

    Note that it was only in the early spring or fall when I had this problem Seedlings were slow to grow and the ground was saturated with rain. I plant with pattern boards,3/8"x11.5" with 9,16,or 25 equally spaced holes for my small plants. The small confined spacing of plants makes the loss of one plant evident. On normal plant and thin it would not be evident, just a small space where the seedlings didn't survive

    Curt

  • RpR_

    I still have not read how they grab these things or should BC make a new proclamation "WORMS GOT ARMS!"

    Darwin said a lot of thing, not much of it was true.

  • RpR_

    What video?

    Worms can grab grass and leaves that is a long way from grabbing an onion which scientists say worms do not like.

  • timherron

    I am not a Scientist, But have raised earthworms for over 40 years. Never ever have I had any earthworms eat any live plant or the roots. not saying it cant happen, just I have never had it happen.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Herron Farms

  • curt_grow

    OK; So we need science. That makes sense to me. After all I just reported what I had seen and had no opinion One way or the other. I just thought someone Might have an idea to help me with damage control. I have tried feeding UCG in piles I put in leaves from weeds and trimmed vegetables,still no luck.

    Curt. check this out www.bbc.co.uk/earth/hi/earth_news/newsid.../8694377.stm

  • RpR_

    That is not the type of "nightcrawler" we have in Minnesota.
    So the video is interesting but not applicable.

    Nightcrawler is a generic term not a certain type of worm.

    I deal with them all the time and have been for over fifty years.

  • maplerbirch

    The first step of damage control, is to know your enemy and their lifestyle. Exploit their weaknesses and nullify their strengths. Blaming earthworms for eating carrots and other preposterous things doesn't advance our understanding of the real world at all.
    What's up, Doc.? :)

  • Tiffany, purpleinopp Z8b Opp, AL

    I don't know anything about one worm vs. another, but the videos show that some worms can clearly grab things and drag them around/under. Which worms or where they are, I don't know. But assuming that all worms don't like a certain food seems the same as saying no other worms but those in the vid can do what we see being done.

    Isn't vermicomposting based on giving worms basically live plants? If I pick a veggie from my garden, peel it, give the peels to the worm bin, it seems logical they would eat the same thing if they encountered it still attached to the plant, or alive in the ground. AFAIK, it's not necessary to wait for material to go brown and crispy before feeding it to a worm bin.

  • pnbrown

    Manure worms love all kinds of decomposing matter, the red-wrigglers, including fairy fresh stuff but I don't think they are equipped to deal with live or very fresh plant material.

    You know how you leave a box or piece of wood on wet sod and then pick it up days or weeks later and big night crawlers are there right at the surface? What are they eating? Probably the grass just after it starts to decompose from the damp and darkness, the conditions that kill the plant very quickly favor the worm.

  • albert_135   39.17°N 119.76°W 4695ft.

    The Darwin, of fame or notoriety depending upon you predisposition, wrote a book on earthworms. It is available online if you are inclined to find and download it. Anyway, Darwin said that earthworms eat animal fat too. Modern vermicomposting people say that is not true. Did Darwin make a mistake or did he have different worms?

  • pnbrown

    I would suspect that Darwin did not have the instruments and techniques required to know for sure what worms metabolize, vs what may simply pass through them unaffected or what it may appear like they are eating.

  • david52 Zone 6

    Re worms and alliums - when I pull my garlic, almost all the plants have a worm or two entwined with the roots. Year after year. I've come to the conclusion that there must be some symbiotic relationship, but I have no idea what it would be.

    Onions, it depends on how big a clump of dirt I pull up with them or if the roots tear off. But again, generally one or two worms in the roots.

  • RpR_

    If you search the net on earthworm, you will find that, at least they admit, they know very little about earthworms. (EXCEPT THEY ARE THE NEW INVASIVE SPECIESf AS OF 1996, WITH A FEW THROWING THE WORDS "GLOBAL WARMING" IN.)

    Besides the last statement about, they also say more study is necessary.
    Red Wigglers are compost heaps best friend and are "not invasive" because they cannot with stand cold temperatures.
    Red worms, eat more stuff than "nightcrawlers" but are not junk eaters as much as the Red Wigglers are.
    The type most commonly called "nightcrawlers" is a far more picky eater than the above.
    You actually learn more from the worm farm places than most govt. sites.

    You find most government sites say we have x number of invasive worms (number depends on state) but they do not list all the types. (forget about pictures)

  • curt_grow

    To me it makes little difference whether the Crawlers are eating my plants or just pulling them back to their holes. The plant is dead and gone. I will Winter sow the untilled beds of my hoop house about Feb. 15. Spinach will sprout the first or second week of march and the Crawlers will show up about the time the lettuce sprouts.

    Am I the only one who has planted onion sets and had a rain and found some of the sets out of place and upside down in the soil. Am I the only one that seen it was a worm hole that the set was stuck in?

    Curt

  • david52 Zone 6

    Am I the only one who has planted onion sets and had a rain and found some of the sets out of place and upside down in the soil. Am I the only one that seen it was a worm hole that the set was stuck in?

    I think so :-)

    When I moved into my place, there was some species of night crawlers that started by the driveway. These things would leave a soil mound the size of a golf ball. Over the next 3 - 4 years, they spread all around the 2 acres, even over the dam on my pond - moving pretty fast, I'd say.

    Then they all disappeared.

  • wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

    Here is a link to a book about earthworms...circa 1947.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Cornell Library

  • curt_grow

    Hear me out on this, I think because I went two growing seasons with out tilling in organic matter in the hoop house, and only top dressing the soil. Perhaps the Crawler's ate all the organic material that was available. That left only my seedling for food. I am working in rabbit manure to see if this might be the case

    Curt

  • flowergirl70ks

    Is Martin still alive? I haven't heard a word about him for a long time.

  • pnbrown

    Supposedly he is curmudging away on other fora :-)

  • ladyrose65

    All I know is they like seaweed and alfalfa meal. I've never seen them take down a plant. But that video shows a worm breaking off a piece and going about its business. Strange Wonders of the World!

  • livelydirt

    Yup... Nightcrawlers have been decimating my carrot seedlings for a couple of years now. I have ruled out other things such as slugs, damping off, earwigs etc. I mulch my garden pretty heavily, but the carrot beds were intentionally left clean to avoid competition for the emerging seedlings.. The poor worms were just hungry. They came up, looked around - nothing to eat except carrot seedlings - oh well, better Garth's carrots than nothing... chomp - chomp - replant - chomp - chomp... So I started mulching the bed with grass clippings and more seedlings survived. Ready to do war again this year. Perhaps I will string bright lights over the carrot bed. I simply have too many worms in my ultra rich organic soil. They know a good thing when they find it. I have photos of the stockpiles of debris over their holes. Amazing critters.

  • HU-494109637

    Use a really bright light to shine down at your garden at night it worked for me so far but it has only been one night I have done that. So not sure if they will get use to it but I don’t think they would Considering they would think it’s day time out and stay underneath like they do normally at day time.

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