Earthworm Life

A little earthworm does not have eyes and does not have much of a brain, but it has five hearts and the strength to help gardens grow well. By creating tunnels underground, the worm allows water, air and minerals to circulate in the soil, much like the effects of a farmer plowing a field. All of the waste the worm produces helps to make the soil richer.

Earthworms match well with their earthy environment. They are dirt-colored, reddish-brown. They have tiny legs, called setae, that grip the sides of a tunnel. They stretch out, grip the sides of a tunnel with the front of their bodies, and then pull the back part of their bodies forward.

Earthworms breathe through their skin, simply by absorbing oxygen. However, their skin is so permeable that they absorb water as well. They can nearly drown when heavy rain causes underground tunnels to flood. Cells in their skin detect light, and they head up out of the storm-soaked tunnels. Then they emerge only to be found on sidewalks as the sun comes out.

Earthworms on the sidewalk are in danger of drying up quickly. Although it is a slimy prospect, I often try to move earthworms from sidewalks after a storm back to an area where they might find their way back into their cool, moist tunnels.

In areas, like California, where summers are hot and dry, earthworms go into a state called estivation. They knot themselves up inside clods of dirt and wait to become active again only when rains return.

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