Do Worms Eat Roots? (and Will Earthworms Cause Plant Root Damage?)

Are worms likely to chow down on and eat your plant roots?

This is probably a question you’ve asked if you’ve considered a worm farm of your own.

Worms eat almost any decaying or dead organic matter that can provide them with the nutrients that they need. Dead roots are a wonderful source of food for them. They will not, however, eat live roots!

Yes, worms love eating roots, but only dead ones. Live roots tend to be too rich and hard for them to digest and don’t offer much interest to earthworms. They are only keen to eat the decaying, dead roots from your flowers and plants. By eating them, they will in turn produce rich worm castings (worm poop), that will help to nourish your new plants, flowers, vegetables and various other kinds of vegetation! However, certain types of worm do eat live roots (more on this later)

Do earthworms eat live roots? 

No, earthworms do not eat live roots. 

They will never find any use in eating your plants’ live roots as they are too rich, not to mention, too hard which makes it impossible for an worm to digest since an earthworms mouth doesn’t have teeth!

What’s more, a live root just doesn’t have the same nutrient balance as a dead one.

Earthworms will only ever eat dead, decaying matter within soil, such as bacteria and nutrients that will be introduced into the ground from the dead roots.

Earthworms live mainly off of the soil in which they live as it is full of bacteria, algae and nutrients that have passed through from the elements of the surface of the ground.

Earthworms will even consume the bacteria that comes from the decay of a dead animal. Gross, but completely true!

There’s no need for you to worry about your plant harvest. At least, there is no need to worry about the worms.

The truth is, generally worms are beneficial to your soil, as their castings (or worm poop) are absolutely full of fantastic nutrients for the soil that will supercharge and grow your vegetation.

Earthworms are a wonderful representation of the ‘circle of life’ on their own, as they feed on dead matter to create rich food for the new life forms to thrive upon.

Was this what they were talking about in The Lion King? Probably not, but still! 

Do worms damage roots? 

No, worms do not damage roots. You have no reason to worry about a rogue worm causing harm to your precious plant or garden crop.

As a gardener or farmer, you may have come across people complaining about ‘worm damage’.

We can confidently tell you that that the whole idea of worm damage is completely wrong! (unless they’re talking about a different type of worm)

Worms will greatly improve the quality of your soil and by extension, anything you are growing in it.

They will not damage your root system as they have no need to eat through it.

What’s more, they are small enough for the earthworms to pass through/around without causing any harm to your garden.

If you find that your plants are not growing well or are in fact dying, then the ‘root’ of the problem lays somewhere else!

Many things can cause significant root damage, but earthworms are not responsible – though other worms who DO eat roots, might be responsible, including grub worms or root maggots.

We think it’s time worms got top respect from gardeners everywhere – they’ve had bad press for years and years now.

Do red worms eat plant roots? 

Yes, red worms do eat plant roots. 

Red worms, also known as red wigglers, are a small species of earthworm that are typically chosen for vermicomposting. Their main characteristic is that they tend to eat compost in the top layers of your worm bin.

They thrive off of decaying organic material such as rotting vegetables and fruits, manure, bread, etc. They do not, however, show any interest in live material.

They turn our unwanted, organic waste into good quality food for our plants, flowers, etc.

You may have come across some red worms in your garden, maybe even in your potted plants, but there to no need to fret.

The presence of the red worm in any of your soil is a very good sign. Especially so, if they are in potting soil or in a pot on their own.

If an environment is not conducive for a red worm, it will simply leave.

Therefore, their presence must signify that the soil surrounding your vegetation is healthy.

The red worm will consume the bacteria of the dead organisms and turn it into castings, which will further nourish the soil.

Castings retain water very well and will help keep your plants hydrated as well as nourishing the soil in other ways.

A red worm leaves all kinds of wonderful nutrients behind. However, it won’t make off with your living plant root system – it won’t take you long to see this isn’t the case.

Summary

Earthworms could use some good press. Their place in the garden is to enrich soil – not to damage and eat roots or other plant life!

If you hear people worrying about worm damage, they’re likely talking about grub worms or root maggots.

Earthworms eat all kinds of things, but only after they have died – therefore, your plants are safe.

Did you know you can technically feed meat to a worm? <— though it’s not the best idea and better to avoid it. See our guide in the link.