Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Worms and You! The Worms...

The most common worms for composting (in North America) are Eisenia fetida, otherwise known as red wigglers.

It is extremely important that you use only surface worms, or epigeic worms (also called manure worms) for composting. The common earthworm, Lumbricus terrestris, is not a surface worm; it is a deep burrower, an anecic worm. Anecic worms build permanant borrows. Not only will they not do the job, they are likely to die in a bin.

True fact! Earthworms such as Lumbricus terrestris and Eisenia fetida are not native to North America, and are considered an invasive species. They are currently and actively decimating many US northern and Midwestern forests, because well-meaning fishermen "return" unused worms to the wild (they "dump out the can" after a day's fishing).

Adding to the problem, a lot companies now sell worms to gardeners. Not only are the worms likely to just crawl off if the environment isn't to their liking (a likely scenario if a gardener purchased worms to try and improve the soil in the first place), they reproduce like crazy.

Even so, Eisensia fetida and Lumbricus terrestris are both long and well-established species on the North American continent. They established a foothold (so to speak) in North America almost as soon as Europeans began settling here. They were introduced accidently, via ship ballast and tangled up in the roots of plants.

So, what's a conscientious worm farmer to do? Never release your worms into the "wild". Even if your environment is urban, don't release your worms. In the ground, worms are the megafauna- the "whales" in their ocean of soil. They are far larger than almost any creature under there; fungi, springtails, bacteria, nematodes, arthropods. They quickly overtake a biosphere and can radically change it. If you have to get rid of your worms, donate them to a school or give them to a community garden, where they will be welcomed.

8 comments:

Rabbits' Guy said...

I declare ... you are single handedly creating a world of worm afacionados and at the same time saving the planet from worms!

I suspect to see you on Oprah sometime soon.

Yellow said...

I thought of you yesterday, Ilex. I was watching a Simpsons episode where Lisa meets a young, blonde, dreadlocked environmentalist. She's trying to win his heart and tells him how she's started a compst heap at home. He declairs "What, only at home? You mean you don't pocket compost", whereupon he reahes into his jeans and pulls out a handful of rich, crumbly compost. See that compost! That's you, that is!

ilex said...

I love that Simpson's episode.

L.Bo Marie said...

lol, me too! The pocket compost line had me giggling....

drb said...

Remarkable -- I never knew any of this, thanks for the info.

L.Bo Marie said...

@ilex, the first was "sonny" a rescue from the meat auction, he was owned by this cute old lady who was afraid of him, so it was my job to play around with him every day (and take him to the summer camp where I worked). The second was a "part board" named Chief (it's like owning a share in a horse) in university... I didn't tell my parents till well after I'd graduated. ;)

FRITZ said...

So, I must ask: do we euthanize worms? What to do? Flush them? Oh, heavens...

More wormy education, if I do say so myself.


And I do.

XOXO.

Anthony said...

I didn't know that these worms weren't natives to North America. That's pretty interesting. What a great blog! It's right up my alley. Looking forward to your future posts.