Whether you like them or not, worms are an essential part of our eco-system and are incredibly interesting creatures. Our little friends in the soil provide us with a service that we too often take for granted.
Now, we know that worms live in the soil, but do earthworms EAT soil?
The answer is, yes, worms do eat soil.
To be more precise, worms eat the decaying particles within the soil.
Indeed, they enjoy the decaying matter that comes from what is on the surface and what is within the soil.
Anything from decaying fruits, vegetables, flowers and other greenery, to the very roots in the soil that are dead, the worms will happily eat and turn into nutritious castings.
Do all Earthworms eat soil?
No. In fact, only two kinds of earthworms actually eat the earth.
Anecic and endogeic earthworms are the two kinds of earthworm that actually feed on the soil itself. They feed on the decaying matter within the soil.
They do not feed on anything that is still living, so there is no need to worry for your green plant friends, growing in the garden.
Epigeic types of earthworms tend to live within and feed on decaying plants and other organic materials instead of inside soil.
What do worms do to the soil?
Earthworms are an essential part of a prospering garden or compost bin.
Simply by eating and pooping, they are nourishing your garden’s soil far more than you might imagine!
The earthworms feed on the various bacteria, fungi and other decaying organic materials. They are full of the nutrients that a worm thrives upon.
Once they have consumed the decayed matter, the worms turn the matter into worm castings (i.e. worm poop), which then is used to nourish the soil again and the greenery that grows on it.
Earthworms’ castings are full of nutrients that are great for plant growth.
Unlike certain fertilisers, worm castings are rich in nutrients but not so much as to burn the flowers and plants.
In fact, they feed the plants without causing any damage whatsoever. (Except in really rare scenarios and in very concentrated quantities of worm casting)
They also retain water very well, keeping your greenery well hydrated for longer.
Do worms like eating dirt?
Yes, earthworms do like eating dirt.
In a perfect setting, an earthworm will happily eat its’ way through the dirt, eating approximately its’ own weight in dirt, everyday.
It is not exactly the dirt itself that the worm enjoys, but rather the nutrients that enter the soil from the decaying organic matter on the surface, and within the soil.
That is to say that any fruit, vegetable, flower, or other organic material, that has decayed on the soil, is actually passing nutrient through the soil, thereby feeding the worms underneath.
Even the roots from dead plants are a great source of food for the earthworms.
- On the other hand, should the dirt not be fitting for the worm that lives in it, then it will leave as quickly as possible.
- For example, if the dirt is too wet, then the worm runs the risk of drowning and will make its’ way to the surface of the ground as quickly as possible.
- This is why you will notice worms in your garden more after it rains, or if you have been watering the plants.
- The soil should also be as natural as possible. Covering it with harsh chemicals such as pesticides, will not do the soil any good, and will definitely not please the worms.
They enjoy organic matter, as anything harsh and unnatural could harm or even kill them!
Do worms poop out soil?
In a way, earthworms do poop out soil and other organic matter, just not in its original state.
Once the earthworms have consumed the nutrients from the soil, they poop out what are called castings.
The castings are full of the transformed nutrients that, in their new state, will feed the soil anew and all of the things growing with it.
Castings are not essential to your soil but they do make a big difference. They aid in the growth of plants and flowers by keeping them hydrated and nourished.
If you do find that your soil has earthworms then you can be happy in the knowledge that your soil is generally healthy.
Worms will not stay in an environment that isn’t good for them and they will only reward you for maintaining your dirt!
Don’t let it get to the point where you see your earthworm buddies asking for help on top of the composting pile, or worse, trying to escape.
Check out our further guides on keeping earthworms in your compost and garden to learn more.