What do earthworms eat in nature

It is very simple to explain where the name “earthworms” came from. Creatures of a reddish hue crawl and squirm on footpaths, in parks and gardens after rain, risking being trampled on by passers-by. They are not very pleasant in appearance, and they even inspire fear in small children. In addition to horror, children have a question: “What do earthworms eat in the soil?”.

What are earthworms?

By biological science, these representatives of the animal world are classified as annelids. If you look closely, you can see that their thin bodies (a little more than 50 mm in diameter) 15-30 cm long form rings, the number of which sometimes reaches 300. There are tiny two-centimeter earthworms. But few people know about the existence of giant worms, reaching two meters in length. That’s how terrible earthworms can be. What these representatives of the fauna eat is also interesting.

Only when viewed from a very close distance can one notice that one end of the worm is thicker and darker. It’s kind of like a head.

How do worms move?

Due to the opposite ends of the body, the worm moves. The front end lengthens, clings to the rough surface of the soil. Then comes the turn of the back, which, resting on the ground, is pulled up to the head. In this case, the body has to alternately stretch and contract, changing its length. Directly under the skin is a well-developed system of muscles, which has a two-layer structure. Changes in length propagate along the body in waves, which is easy to see.

The respiratory organ of the earthworm is its entire skin. A prerequisite for the respiratory process is the presence of mucus on the surface of the body. Dry skin leads to death of the animal. The worm can live in the aquatic environment for several weeks. What do earthworms eat and how do they reproduce? – this question is asked by many people.

The lack of hearing and vision is compensated by an excellent sense of touch, which helps the worm to find food for itself.

What do earthworms eat?

It is worth raising the earthworm, and then lowering it again onto loose earth, as it immediately disappears somewhere. The front end, which takes the form of a wedge, helps him quickly hide. With this “tool”, he easily pushes soil particles, the body gradually deepens into the ground.

For dense soil, the worm chooses a different tactic – it swallows those particles of soil that prevent immersion. Nutrients are extracted from it by the digestive tract. The anus removes the rest of the useless mass from the body. Behind the worm stretches a thin earthen thread. What earthworms eat at home, all fishing enthusiasts know. These creatures can be bred in a metal bucket of earth, into which tea leaves and branches from the street are sometimes poured.

Worms’ favorite treat

These animals prefer soil that contains a lot of humus. The diet includes a variety of plant residues (for example, leaves that have fallen from trees and shrubs), including rotting ones. The worm takes them with it when it deepens into the lower layers of the soil. Many more are interested in what earthworms eat on worm farms. There they are given humus and prepared food from old foliage and branches.

It is obvious that, by “drilling” many tiny holes, the worms loosen the soil, making it possible for oxygen to enter it, and enrich it with nutrients. Ultimately, this increases productivity. Experienced owners of summer cottages, taking into account the invaluable benefits of these tiny inhabitants of the soil, treat them with care, try to create conditions for reproduction and increase in the number in gardens and orchards.

Earthworms in the garden or in the garden are the most desirable inhabitants. They bring many benefits to the soil, loosening and enriching it. Therefore, it is so important to know whether earthworms are useful, the features of their life and methods of breeding in their summer cottage.

Life cycle of an earthworm

The life cycle of an earthworm is the same as that of other oligochaetes. These representatives are also hermaphrodites. When mating, two individuals join and exchange spermatozoa, this is how cross-fertilization occurs. They find each other by smell. Fertilized eggs are collected in a special cocoon, wrapped in a shell of mucus. This is the very belt visible on the body of the worm. It occupies several segments in the anterior part of the animal’s body.

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After the egg is fertilized, the worm sheds the cocoon over its head. A worm develops in this shell, which emerges from it as a fully formed individual. Most often, only one earthworm is born from one egg. This happens 2-3 weeks after fertilization, and after 3 months the babies grow to the size of an adult. The newly hatched worms reach a length of 1-1.5 cm, they immediately begin to look for food and eat it. The average life expectancy of these animals is from 5 to 7 years. What makes an earthworm a long-liver among its own kind.

What is useful earthworm

It is impossible to overestimate the importance of these creatures living in the earth. Considering how useful worms are, first of all, it is worth noting that their presence in the soil is the first sign of its fertility.

Earthworms perform many important functions:

  1. In search of food, they make passages in the ground, which significantly loosens it, contributes to the penetration of air and water into the soil.
  2. They eat organic remains, parts of plants rot faster.
  3. Enriched with humus. This is the main soil benefit of earthworms.
  4. Contribute to the increase of potassium and phosphorus in the soil.
  5. They mix the soil with plant residues, and evenly, in the form of small particles, they significantly increase soil fertility.
  6. In the passages dug by worms, the roots of plants move more easily, constantly finding nutrient reserves in them.
  7. In addition, considering how earthworms serve the soil, it is worth noting that large stones gradually sink to a depth due to the movement of soil layers, and small particles are ground almost into dust in the intestines of earthworms.
  8. On the walls of the passages dug by these animals, colonies of beneficial bacteria and fungi settle.

Digging passages, earthworms swallow the earth. One adult individual passes through itself up to 5 g of earth per day, which is equal to its weight.

With the help of these hard workers, any organic residues can be turned into biohumus – fertilizer for vegetable gardens and flower beds. That is why earthworms are so actively bred on special farms in the world.

In addition to their importance to the soil, earthworms are the main source of food for birds in early spring. This is a kind of bait for them in the gardens. As the weather gets warmer, they turn their attention to insect pests. Anglers also specifically breed worms to use as bait for fish.

Earthworms: a way to feed

An earthworm can safely be called an omnivore. He is able to consume a huge amount of food. Often, earthworms drag food underground and then eat it or store it in special burrows. There they fold the leaves, tamping them down and smearing the spaces between them with earth from their intestines.

These animals are nocturnal. The method of feeding the earthworm is very peculiar. Getting out on the surface of the soil in the dark, he tears off a small piece of food, holding it between the prominent upper and lower lip. Meanwhile, a powerful throat protrudes forward, creating a fulcrum for the upper lip. Food is first ground in the pharynx, after which it enters the intestines, where it is exposed to special enzymes. Part of the nutrients is absorbed and provides the body with the necessary energy, while the remaining components are released along with the earth and enrich the soil.

The famous scientist Charles Darwin devoted a lot of time to studying the life of earthworms. In his work, he described how these animals consumed the meat left to them beforehand. In addition, they even ate pieces of their dead counterparts. For which the scientist called cannibals.

Eating worms in nature

Many are interested in what earthworms eat in nature? Under natural conditions, these animals consume mainly plant foods, therefore, when artificially bred, it is not recommended to feed them with animal protein.

Earthworm’s Favorite Food:

  • fresh leaves, except for very hard veins;
  • fallen leaves, which they actively store in burrows;
  • rotted parts of the stems;
  • fallen flowers.

They settle in soil that is rich in humus. They eat leaves, biting off small pieces.

How to breed worms in the garden

These animals are found everywhere. Depending on the species, they inhabit soil layers at a depth of 10 cm to 1 meter. Since it is not difficult to breed worms in the garden, they are often grown in personal plots.

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In order for the worms to settle in the required territory, you need:

  1. Dig a small hole in the ground, approximately 30-40 cm on a side.
  2. Place leaves, waste paper, old newspapers at the bottom. Pour abundantly with water or any slop with organic residues.
  3. After about a week, a few worms collected in a damp place (under foliage, stones) should be placed on the prepared surface.
  4. After a few days, the “pets” begin to be fed. Any organic matter is suitable for these purposes: animal manure, bird droppings, food waste, vegetable and fruit skins, wet paper, bread crumbs, drunk tea or ground coffee. Top dressing is carried out at least 1 time in 2 weeks, each time covering the nursery with a 5 cm layer of food.
  5. The soil is regularly moistened. It is better to use settled or rain water, watering the nursery with it from a watering can. The optimum humidity for keeping earthworms is 80%.
  6. Twice a week, the compost heap is gently loosened to enrich it with oxygen.

Worms can be bred in special boxes in any technical premises (basements, sheds). They are not kept in residential premises due to the specific smell. The contents of the box turns into vermicompost in a few months. To extract the worms, the easiest way is to spread the bait on the surface. For example, paper soaked in sweet water. Collected worms are populated in a new portion of compost.

When breeding worms, you should protect them from moles, which are their main enemies in their summer cottage.

Where and how do earthworms hibernate

With the onset of cold weather, these animals descend into deeper layers of soil that do not freeze through. Earthworms hibernate in special rookeries lined with foliage, feathers, and wool. The exit is closed with an earth plug. There they practically fall into “hibernation”. With the onset of spring, the earth warms up, the animals feel the change in temperature and again head to the surface of the soil, which is especially wet at this time.

With artificial breeding, the nursery is not watered in cold weather, and with the first frosts, the place where earthworms winter is insulated, covered with a layer of manure and straw (about 50 cm) on top.

Earthworms are considered one of the most ancient inhabitants of our planet. For millions of years, they have made the land more fertile, contributing to the emergence of abundant vegetation.

Instructions for breeding earthworms – video

In this article, we will find out where the name “earthworms” came from, what they eat and what are their features. We all have noticed more than once that after a good rain on the roads, in parks one can observe creeping creatures that have a reddish tint and run the risk of being trampled by people or animals. In appearance, they are not very pleasant, small children, as a rule, are frightened of them. But, besides fear, it’s still interesting for kids and adults to find out what earthworms eat. We will try to answer this question in detail in our article

What are these creatures?

Biology classifies these representatives of the animal world as annelids. If you look closely at them, then on their thin body (50 mm in diameter, 15-30 cm long) you can see rings, the number of which can sometimes reach 300. There are also very small worms about 2 cm. Few people know that there are giant worms reaching up to 2 meters in length. But they, like the rest, are completely harmless and harmless to humans.

What are the benefits?

To begin with, let’s find out what the earthworm eats in nature, and what benefits these creatures provide. The role of these individuals in nature is very large – they are engaged in the processing of all kinds of organic waste, turning them into humus. They swallow particles of biomass along with the earth and scrupulously mix them during digestion.

Humus is the organic basis of the soil, consuming it, plants acquire the necessary and nutrients. 90% of all humus are products for the existence of worms.

What do earthworms eat in the soil?

Just want to note that earthworms are omnivores. Since they feed on what is on the surface of the earth, at the same time they swallow a large amount of earth, which gives them the organic elements that they so need. In addition, the worms eat a large number of half-decayed leaves. It is important to note that earthworms do not have teeth directly in the mouth – they are located in the stomach. In order to receive food, the worm sucks it in with its special organ – the throat.

Thanks to the muscles of the body, food goes further, pushing first into the crop, and then into the stomach. And already inside the food is rubbing with tooth-like protrusions into small particles. After that, the food is digested in the intestines by enzymes, useful substances are absorbed, and waste products are eliminated from the body. Since worms have small mouths, this explains why they eat rotten leaves and plant debris. Fresh sprouts can damage the delicate and small body of the worm. Usually such worms live under last year’s foliage, where the soil is rich in humus. In such places, they are provided with delicious food – pieces of plants, rotted organic matter.

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How is the process of eating?

Half-rotten or fresh foliage is dragged into their hole by earthworms and eaten there. Usually they try to tear off small pieces, grabbing the edge of the leaf between the protruding upper and lower jaws. At such a moment, his pharynx, protruding, creates a reference point for the upper lip. But if the worm stumbled upon a wide plane of the leaf, it will behave a little differently. The front rings are slightly tightened into others, thereby expanding the body. At this time, the pharynx is pressed against the plane of the leaflet, then it stretches back and becomes a little wider. As a result, a kind of “vacuum” is created in the dimple on the front of the body. The work of the pharynx at this moment is comparable to a piston, and the worm sticks very tightly to the leaf.

In addition to using leaves in food, these creatures cover the entrance to their hole. To do this, they bring there pieces of stems, dried flowers, paper, feathers, and what else they find. When a worm has swallowed the earth for food or making passages, it comes to the surface to free its insides. The earth that the worm throws out of the body contains a lot of secretions from the intestinal tract and therefore becomes viscous.

Where do they live?

It is a great honor for worms to choose humus-rich soil under last year’s leaves as their habitat. They feed on rotten fragments of vegetation. The food that is not digested in their stomach is deposited by them on the surface of the soil. On one hectare, the number of earthworms can reach up to four million. In a day, one worm can process about half a gram of earth.

What to feed the worm at home?

If you are not aware of what earthworms eat at home and what diet they need, then the following information is just for you. After all, it is necessary not only to create optimal conditions for life, but also to provide the necessary nutrition for these individuals. Consider the food that can be used for an earthworm:

  • Food waste (shells, peelings).
  • Horse or goat dung.
  • Tea brew, coffee grounds, leaves, grass.

It is worth paying attention to what earthworms eat and what is unacceptable for them. You need to know that manure for feeding should not be fresh, but rotted, otherwise the worm will simply die. All this is due to the large amount of ammonia that is found in fresh manure and is very harmful to your pets. There is no oxygen in the ammonia environment, so sometimes individuals die.

What should not be done?

Also, when breeding pets at home, it is not recommended to feed them with fish, meat and dairy products. Also eliminate salty foods from your diet. In addition, neither canned cucumbers, nor tomatoes, cabbage will bring benefits. It must be remembered that feeding the worm is enough once a week. To do this, crush the food and put it on the ground. A layer of feed is allowed up to 10 cm.

On the question of what earthworms eat, you need to know that they usually get used to the same food, and it will take them some time to switch to a different diet. If you decide to change their diet, then you need to do this gradually, adding new food to the usual in small portions.

As a rule, the feed mass is placed in boxes 5-7 cm thick once every 3 weeks, depending on the number, size and appetite of the worms. When they process one layer, they soon leave it and rise higher to a new one. After processing, humus remains in the lower layer, which can be used as a fertilizer.

It is not only important for us to know what earthworms eat, but we should also remember that these individuals are inconspicuous, quiet workers who make the soil fertile. They are the most important friends and helpers for gardeners and gardeners. They need to be protected and helped in every possible way.

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