why we love earthworms
Far from being slimy and insignificant, earthworms are hugely important.
they help our veg grow
Worms eat leaves and other organic matter and incorporate it into our soil. They then work with bacteria in the soil to break down this material, making it easier for plants to absorb nutrients through their roots, and flourish.
they protect our precious soil
Worms create burrows in the soil which allow rain water to percolate deeper underground. This helps prevent soil erosion and flooding during heavy downpours.
they support other wildlife
Hedgehogs, moles, badgers, foxes and birds are just some of the animals that depend on earthworms as part of their diet. We often see buzzards snacking on them behind our ploughs.
they are biologically fascinating
They breathe through their skin, often have five hearts, are hermaphrodites (both male and female at the same time) and produce baby worms from little cocoons (eggs) underground.
our earthworm experts
Dr Kevin Butt and Dr Chris Lowe are scientists from the Earthworm Research Group at the University of Central Lancashire. They specialise in studying the role of earthworms in soil ecosystems both in the UK and overseas; see www.uclan.ac.uk to find out more about their work.
Kevin says: Without earthworms our soils would soon become inhospitable and require major chemical and mechanical interventions, as seen in many conventional farming systems. This is perhaps best summed up by Charles Darwin who wrote, "The plough is one of the most ancient and most valuable of man's inventions; but long before he existed the land was in fact regularly ploughed, and still continues to be thus ploughed by earth-worms. It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures."