Do Worms Eat Dirt?

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They are an important part of our ecosystem and although some people think of them as being gross, you wouldn’t believe just how important worms actually are to our lives. You have undoubtedly seen worms on and in the soil and may find yourself wondering about what exactly these fascinating little creatures eat. You might even be wondering; do earthworms eat dirt?

Yes, worms eat dirt. As you can imagine, dirt is pretty unavoidable for them. To be more specific, earthworms eat the soil which contains nutrients and dirt.

Worms are creatures that we have all come across multiple times in our lives. Maybe you see them often in your garden, at the park or when you’re strolling through a forest.

These places naturally pick up dirt whether from rubbish accumulating from humans or naturally. Worms eating dirt is inevitable.

Do worms poop dirt?

Yes, worms do poop dirt. Worm poop, also known as worm castings, is partially formed of soil particles and other undigested matter.

Worm poop is very rich in nutrients which makes for a great environment to grow most plant matter.

You may hear experienced gardeners and/or farmers praise those wonderful earthworms for the main reason that they are making their soil or compost richer with their castings and therefore better for the plants, flowers, trees and grass.

They are of course more useful to the gardeners and farmers as long as they are not eating their young plant roots and seedlings. That’s why many will set up a compost bin or worm bin where the critters can poop at their hearts content and create beneficial vermicompost. 

How do worms digest?

After eating their favourite dinner made of soil and other organic matters, the food is transmitted through the pharynx, then through the oesophagus into the crop.

It is within the crop that the food will rest for a while before moving on to the gizzard. The gizzard’s job is crushing and grounding the food before it reaches the intestine, where it is then broken down even more.

Just as with us humans, some of what is consumed by the worm is used for energy and the rest becomes the castings (i.e. worm poop).

It is indeed that very worm poop that is so useful to your vegetation, so next time you see an earthworm, you may want to thank it for the job it is doing for your crops!

The worm poop is absorbed by the flowers, plants, trees and grass and are vital nutrition for them in order for them to prosper.

Although it may seem a bit odd, you should be very glad to have worms in your garden and you should be especially happy that they are pooping in it!

By living the way that they do, anything that we are growing on our lands will only benefit by the worms living beneath them.

Why do worms like eating dirt?

Worms like eating dirt because it contains nutrients and sometimes fully or partially rotted foods that worms need and enjoy.

Whilst dirt and compost does not look appetizing to us humans at all, it is a gourmet dish for an earthworm! So, what is it exactly about the dirt that worms enjoy so much?

Worms love to eat dead plant matter, various fungi and roots which the soil just happens to be filled with.

Fallen leaves and petals, amongst other things, laying outside on the dirt are all making their way back into the soil, which then feeds the worms, whose excrement nourish the soil, which then feeds the plants, trees and grass with the wonderful nutrients of the worm’s poop!

It is the very definition of the circle of life.

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In more recent years people have become more and more interested in composting by themselves – by keeping all of their fruit and vegetable peelings, and various other organic things in a special bin outside.

Perhaps you are interested in starting too. You should know that doing this not only provides a treat for your flowers and plants but also to the worms beneath them.

The decaying particles making their way down from the fruits and vegetables are providing a very special treat to the worms who will happily consume it and make it into even better soil for your garden.

Worms also tend to avoid spending too much time on the surface of the ground due to their lack of a tough skin and their soft bodies underneath.

Unlike creatures such as snails which can hide within and be protected to a certain degree by their shell, a worm has nothing to protect itself from predators and the harsh circumstances of the land above ground!

You have no doubt at one point in your life seen an earthworm be hunted and taken away to be eaten by a bird, maybe played with by a cat, even picked up and played with by children.

Worms are all but defenseless and therefore choose to stay free and as far away from the action as possible.

Living in the soil provides a somewhat safe-haven for the worm, and manages to keep them properly hydrated thanks to the moisture in the soil, too.

Do worms need dirt to survive? 

Yes, worms do need dirt to survive. Well, it depends on what your definition of “dirt” is. Technically, they need soil to survive.

Worms cannot live for long out of soil, as they depend on it for multiple reasons. First of all, it is interesting to note that worms do not have lungs.

They do not breathe the same way as plants and animals do with air, at all. In fact, worms breathe through their skin!

In order for them to survive, worms should be in nicely hydrated soil. If the soil is too wet then the worm will be forced to get out and make its way to the surface.

However, the other extreme can be just as dangerous for our friend, the worm. If the soil is too dry then the worm will not be able to live in it, as it could suffocate, due to the lack of moisture. 

The way species of worm breathe is certainly different – but it’s part and parcel of their life cycle.


Yes – most species of earthworms certainly do require and enjoy soil (hence, EARTH-worms…duh!) Without it, they’d be without all kinds of nutrients. This is the same all over the world.

What’s more, you’ll soon find that your average worm will provide amazing support to your garden. Why not set up a new worm bin where they can support you as much as they please?

If you are interested in plants and animals and are keen to look more into what foods and plants would be good for the worms in your area, please take a look through our other articles, posts and guides.

We have plenty of articles about the various worms around the world and their habits/habitats.