It rained and rained last week. But it’s spring, and warm enough to ward off snow. So all we’ve had is submerged river banks, and some downed trees and branches. The ground is saturated, so worms flee to the surface to avoid drowning. Sadly, once up top it’s still wet and they die en mass out in the driveway. I once knew a naturalist who tried to save the drowning worms as she walked through a rainstorm, but to my thinking this is misguided. As far as I know, worms haven’t yet made it to the endangered species list, and dead ones make fine food for scavengers.
Children love worms. They love drowned worms that they can “save” by putting them in the grass, and they love the water-logged ones they find on the sidewalk because they can yell, “eeewwww!” and run away from them. Worms not experiencing a flood are also popular with kids. When I take groups around our grounds to look under bug boards, regardless of whatever else might be under there, the kids will shout, “a worm!”. There could be a rare specimen of some kind under the board, but nothing holds a candle to a worm. Mostly, kids want to hold them. If I’ve come across a mother lode of worms, I pass them out like peppermints to all the little cupped hands reaching toward me. This scene is repeated no matter how many bug boards have worms under them, and they pretty much all do. The pinnacle of worm discovery is finding worm “castings”, a polite way of saying worm poop. Nothing tops that. It really spices up a nature walk!
Charles Darwin thought so, too. He spent thirty-nine years studying the “lowly” worm. As a matter of fact, despite their choice in housing, worms are not in the least lowly. Like every single thing on this earth, worms are sensational once you get to know them. Just as we do, a worm needs air, food, an amenable temperature, and some moisture. If these elements are lacking, they up and wiggle away. Cold-blooded, these helpful though homely creatures bring fresh soil to the surface, mixing it with nitrogen they hold in the slime covering their bodies. For this gardeners prize them. The healthiest gardens are chock-full of worms. An acre of land can hold about a million, a goal for every home gardener.
If only people were more like worms! They are perhaps one of the most practical animals on earth, possessing not only the ability to reproduce (and that’s another story!), but also the ultimate party trick of self-regeneration. As children everywhere know, if you pull off a little section of a worm, you have two new worms! The replication is not completely fool-proof, depending on the species of worm and where the “disengagement” occurs on the body. It’s pretty easy to lose a tail, but not quite as easy to lose a head!
Oh, to remake oneself anew following slings and arrows of assault, to enjoy the endless approval of children, and the eager appreciation of those who tease life and beauty from the soil. I envy the worm.
See you on the trails,
Diane Tucker, Estate Naturalist
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