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Worms might be very slimy and sometimes irritable creatures, but they are just as vital to the ecosystem as humans themselves. From being great allies for your soil to being a source of life for your plants, your garden would just not be the blooming beauty it is without them.
But how do these worms survive? What do worms eat and drink? Would they devour my seedling? This article entails in comprehensive detail everything you need or want to know about earthworms and their feeding habits.
What do earthworms eat?
Earthworms feed on many forms of organic material, e.g., garden clippings, vegetable peelings, decaying leaves, coffee grounds, eggshells, and many types of living organisms such as nematodes, protozoa, rotifers, bacteria, and fungi.
An earthworm can consume the equivalent of its own bodyweight on a daily basis.
Primarily, the diet of earthworms mostly consists of decaying plants (grasses, leaves, plant debris), rich in cellulose, but they also enjoy bacteria and fungi. By leaving hay or dead leaves on the ground, you allow them to acquire all the necessary resources and keep their role as soil decomposers.
Vermicomposting makes it possible for earthworms to transform our kitchen waste into quality vermicompost, subsequently producing organic liquid fertilizer.
Vermicomposting consists of placing earthworms in a “vermicomposter” where they feed on the waste brought to them. Their droppings accumulate and constitute vermicompost which blends perfectly with the odorless soil.
Due to their body composition, earthworms are great indoor organisms and are perfectly suited to the needs of city dwellers: they do not emit odors and ensure rapid decomposition.
The earthworm depends on the abundance of decomposing plant and soil matter for its survival.
Worms help the process of breaking down the already deteriorated matter into even smaller pieces, digesting them, and re-depositing them in the soil. While earthworms mainly consume the roots of dead and decaying vegetable plants, they eat live red clover (Trifolium pratense).
In addition to dirt, other earthworm delicacies include manure and dead animals, as well as the dead leaves of trees such as maple (Acer), birch (Betula), and ash (Fraxinus).
How much do earthworms eat?
It depends on how many worms you have. Earthworms can eat their weight each day and can double their population every 3 months. If you start with 1000 earthworms they will consume between 250 and 500 grams of waste per day.
After a few months, you should have 2000 earthworms and you can subsequently double their feeding ratio. Baby earthworms (small earthworms) will not eat much and will take about 3 months to reach adulthood.
How do I improve the appetite of the earthworms?
Earthworm populations are capable of consuming two tons of organic waste per hectare in one year. However, to be possible, organic materials must be present in sufficient quantities and of a certain quality to sustain them.
In soils that contain a lot of carbon and not enough nitrogen, vegetation takes longer to break down, providing less material for the worms to process. Adding manure to the soil improves digestibility, giving the worms a more ravenous appetite.
What is the ideal living condition for earthworms to maintain a ravenous appetite?
Earthworms must be kept within a temperature range of 15 °C and 25 °C and have a humidity between 75 and 85%. The pH should also be between 6.5 and 8.
Also, you might want to tell your neighbors that they don’t like noise, and are photophobic in nature.
Do earthworms excrete after eating?
After eating, the digestive system of the worms is so well-structured that the worms eject the result of their consumption in the form of castings, small twists on the surface of the ground. The good news is, the more castings you have in your garden soil, the better the soil in your garden.
In order not to disturb the earthworms, it is better to avoid turning the soil in depth (forget the old-fashioned “Plows”) or the fork-spade which could sink too deeply to turn the soil and thus disturb the micro-organisms.
Use tools such as the “broad fork” if you want to work the soil in the garden, especially in a vegetable garden.
The worms defecate on or near the surface of the earth. Their feces or racks are rich in nutrients and make the soil more fertile.
When is the best time to feed the earthworm?
Autumn is the best season to bring the organic matter to your soil to enrich it, and therefore to earthworms which break down this organic matter and make it assimilable by plants.
During this season, the favorite food of earthworms is cellulose. Place on the surface of the ground: dead leaves, grass clippings, kitchen peelings, and weeds. If you run out of raw material, then opt for cardboard boxes (preferably brown with no tape, no inscriptions) will do, it’s practically pure cellulose!
Autumn catches earthworms fully active. Take advantage of this to enrich your soil and prepare it for the coming year’s crops. The soil will be easier to handle, loose, airy, and perfect for your seedlings and plants.
What kind of food is harmful to earthworms?
Materials such as plastic, synthetic fabric, metal, cement, snack bags, tetra pak and glass are not ideal feeds for your worms.
Among other things that you should never have to add is: bread and its derivatives, cooking oil, diseased plants, paper with color printing, human or animal feces, meat products, dairy products, and rice.
If you have any questions about what to put or not, this site is the ideal place to leave your questions, I will gladly answer them.
What do earthworms drink?
Nothing. As off as that might sound, not even water is ingested by these little slitherings. But put into proper context, this is not as incredulous as it sounds.
Unlike vertebrae, who need lungs to respire, worms breathe through their skin, which is the same medium they get the water they drink.
However, for worms to inhale oxygen, the skin has to be moist. To moisturize, worms create a mucus coat beneath their skin that aids to retain as much water as they need, all of which is gotten from the surrounding soil.
However, since too much of anything is bad, worms will drown if the ground is too wet. Hence the reason why worms come out of hiding in their numbers onto your driveway after a rainstorm.
On the other hand, if the soil gets extremely dry, these worms will possibly suffocate due to dehydration, if they can’t find moist ground quick enough.
Will worms eat my plant?
Earthworms also called nightcrawlers or rain worms, eat leaves and other plant matter. However, they do not eat the fresh plants and leaves directly, rather they prefer to eat decomposed leaves and plants in the ground.
What kind of worms should I be feeding?
There are around a hundred species of earthworms in the US, distributed according to the area they occupy in the soil.
The piglets (less than 5 cm deep), dark red, live on the surface, in leaf litter or decomposing plant waste (particularly compost, leaf litter, etc.). It is the worms in this category that are used for vermicomposting (Eisenia fetida and Eisenia Andrei).
Endogés (1 to 20 cm deep), pink, whitish, even translucent, live in networks of horizontal galleries in the first 20 cm of the soil and eat dead roots. For example, the cutworm (Nicodrilus caliginosus).
The anecics (10 to 30 cm deep), large, red, gray, or brown, come out of the earth every night to look for the organic matter on which they feed, empty their intestines by making a “cast” (which is rich in nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and calcium – easily assimilated by plants), then descend into their vertical galleries, burying organic residues with them.
Among them, the common earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris) is the best known. They thus participate in the bioturbation of the soil by intimately mixing organic and mineral matter and by promoting microbial activity. More stable and better structured, these soils are more fertile and less sensitive to erosion. Thanks to their network of galleries, these tireless ploughmen aerate and drain the soil.
How do worms digest food?
The organic matter that is ingested by these invertebrates is mobilized directly through the pharynx to reach the esophagus and on getting here, passes to a structure called a crop, which is a simple sac that serves as storage.
The process continues to transport the material stored in the crop to a compartment or structure that resembles a simple stomach called a gizzard, where particles are crushed and simpler nutrients are obtained to allow better absorption of them in the intestinal tract.
Like all digestive systems, unprocessed foods that are mixed with mud or swamp are excreted through the anus, which is when they expel the so-called humus, which is a mixture of mud with organic matter.