What is an earthworm?
An earthworm is a tube shaped, segmented worm found in the phylum Annelida. Their body is characterised by this tube within a tube construction. They are found living in soil, feeding on live and dead organic matter. They are known as night crawlers in North America.
Earthworms do not live in deserts or extremely cold, permanently frozen regions. Their size ranges from 7 to 8 cms to sometimes almost a foot or so. They are vital to soil health and to plants growing in it because they transport nutrients and minerals from below the earth’s surface through their digestive system.
How are earthworms useful to the environment?
Earthworms form the base of many food chains and are a source of food to numerous birds, rodents, toads and are also used as fish bait in recreational fishing.
They are used in vermiculture, which is feeding organic waste to earthworms to decompose food waste. This particular species is known as the Red Wriggler, and is a compost worm and does not survive in the open.
What are the advantages of Vermiculture?
Vermi – compost is an ecofriendly natural fertilizer prepared from biodegradable organic wastes and is free from chemical additives. Encouraging vermiculture ensures a good supply of vermi – compost.
Vermo – compost makes the soil healthy in nutrient content (marco and micro nutrients) and improves the water retaining capacity of soil, because it is rich in mineral content, both organic and inorganic.
8 Interesting facts about earthworms
- Earthworms have no eyes, but they have light receptors, so they can detect between light and dark.
- Earthworm sense vibrations from the ground and of other movements of animals and their environment. They do not have ears.
- Their nervous system is highly evolved and helps it to survive against predators.
- An earthworms’ digestive system is a long tube that extends from its mouth to finally end in the anus. It is divided into the buccal cavity, the pharynx, easophagus, crop, gizzard and intestine and helps it to digest minerals along with plant matter to convert it into nutrients for the soil.
- Earthworms do not have special respiratory system and breathe through their skin, which is why their skin is moist.
- They are hermaphrodites, that is, they have both male and female sexual organs and do not require to produce a partner.
- Because of their well developed muscular system, earthworms can burrow around into the ground and help to turn the soil, which replenishes it, drains and airs it and also increases soil fertility.
- Earthworms are considered a delicacy by the Maori tribes of New Zealand.
Click here to understand how earthworms help farmers.