Ok, time for a tolerance test. We embrace nature in all her glory, right? We understand the interconnectedness of the natural world and honor even the tiniest contributors to the grand scheme. We realize that even the house fly has a mysterious purpose.
I’d like to invite you, loyal readers, to embrace worms. Let me explain.
I’ve recently been given the responsibility of caring for approximately one hundred red wrigglers at the greenhouse. They were delivered to me in a rather snazzy white bag that claimed to contain one pound of worms.
I deposited them, half and half, in two worm bins prepared with homemade bedding. Worm bedding is shredded paper, peat moss and vermiculite with a trowel full of soil tossed in to get the microbes simmering. The bedding is kept nice and moist because worms like things wet. They are clammy little beings, with skin slime that performs important duties, such as lubricating the passage of the worm through the soil, and sealing the walls of the worm’s burrows as it goes.
Red wriggler worms help at home by eat rotting stuff. Kitchen throw aways like potato peels, egg shells, coffee grinds and apple cores are tucked into the worm bin along with the bedding. Microorganisms on these food wastes are swallowed by the worms and take up temporary residence inside their guts. In the digestion process nutrients are released by the bacteria and taken into the worm’s bloodstream for energy.
Red wrigglers are of the classification epigeic, worms that live near the surface where there is the most microbial activity. The microbes that aid their digestion pass through the worm alive and are excreted in tiny dark pellets called castings. Worm castings are packed with nutrients and beneficial microorganisms that feed life.
If you feel the need to wash your hands, just reading these words, I think that’s normal. Our society worries about germs and wants to wipe them out forever. But microorganisms are everywhere and they aid many aspects of life. Worm castings are a critical link in the lifecycle of healthy soils and make terrific compost.
So, people keep worm bins under their kitchen sink. There in the warmth and dark of the cozy kitchen, the worms live happily, munching away on food scraps and paper. Meanwhile, the home garden thrives with the addition of worm cast compost.
Technical information abounds online about how to keep worms and how to harvest the compost. Progressive cities across the nation supply homeowners with worm bins or information on how to make one. California even has an online interactive game to teach residents about vermiculture, called The Adventures of Vermi the Worm.
Let’s wrap up with a few fascinating worm facts:
Worms have no need for eyes, ears, teeth or limbs. They do have a mouth, a lip and taste cells.
Worm bodies are divided into segments called somites. Each segment is heavily muscled and lined with tiny bristles called setae. The bristles are used to pull the worm through soil, or to hold it in place when a bird tries to tug it up for a meal.
A worm’s actions are directed by a brain made up of sensitive nerve cells that detect light, moisture and vibrations and coordinate muscle movement.