Worms come in many different forms
On a recent visit by my 4- year old granddaughter, Addie, suggested we dig some worms and go fishing.
While we didn’t make it fishing, we did try digging some worms, only to find that they must still be deeper in the ground.
Not being able to freeze solid like some of the recently emerged frogs, they must go below the frost line to survive. However, after a brief rain the next day, a night crawler appeared on the sidewalk, got squished and became ant food.
Night crawlers and angle worms belong in a group called segmented worms. Close examination, will reveal multiple rings encircling their bodies.
From personal experience I know closer examination, such as a ninth-grade biology class worm dissection right after lunch, may also cause one to faint.
We all grew up hearing how good both worms are for aerating the soil. However, like the Zebra Mussels and Buckthorn trees, they are both invasive species.
While worms may aerate our garden soil, they have been discovered to have serious effects on the forest ecology. By essentially consuming most of the leaf litter in the forest floor duff, they make it hard for wildflowers and ferns to take hold, and they eliminate homes of many little critters.
Most of us have also heard worms come out during rains so they don’t drown. This is probably another "wives tale,'' as fishermen know they can live in water for days.
However, there is some speculation as to why they do emerge onto roads and sidewalks during rains. Some think it is to move to new habitats, or to avoid carbonic acid in the soil that the rainwater unleashes.
Others suggest it is because the pelting rain vibrates the soil and makes them think a mole is coming to eat them. I’d opt for one of the first two, but would bet we really don’t know, which is fine with me.
Even though we didn’t go fishing, a later walk around the nearby pond revealed a worm not much bigger round than a piece of heavy sewing thread wriggling around in the water. I recognized it as a horsehair worm, most of which spend half their lives in the gut of a grasshopper and the other half in water.
Grasshoppers eat the worm eggs on grass along the shoreline, grow the worm in their gut, and then expel them later where they will hopefully be able to crawl into water.
Since these horsehair worms are smooth and round, and don’t have segments like the earthworms, one might think they belong in the group called roundworms or nematodes.
Although they are in their own group separate from nematodes, it is worth noting the Nematodes are the largest group of animals on the face of the earth.
Nematodes are found in almost all environments, whether it be land, water or the guts of ourselves and our pets. Scientists suggest if everything on earth disappeared but nematodes, astronauts in outer space would still easily see the outline of the earth from outer space.
So, when the next rain comes, go out and collect a few crawlers and take a kid fishing. It will do you both good and be another way to enjoy our great spring weather.