Monday, January 03, 2005

Earthworm suicide

A provocative title but not quite true.

Everytime we have a hard rain or when it has been raining for a few days and the ground is saturated, earthworms appear all over our driveway and sidewalks. I think the worms are trying to keep from drowing so technically it isn't suicide, where one has the intention of killing themselves. They're trying to save themselves only to be stranded on the pavement and eventually get stepped on, run over or dry up and die anyway. I have not noticed this phenomenon anywhere we've lived but here in central New Jersey.

My wife tries to rescue them by throwing them on higher ground but there are just too many of them--you literally can't take a step without mashing a few. And they're hard to pick up, wriggling and squirming. You end up injuring them by scraping them along the rough pavement or squeezing them too hard, pinching their soft bodies. I've since learned that other kind hearted souls try to do the same but it is a Sisyphean feat.

I think this happens because we have a few and I mean a few inches of topsoil the builder trucked in, overlaying hard or mucky clay depending on whether it is dry or wet. The water just lies on the ground if we get too much rain and only slowly gets absorbed or runs off.

We've lived in Hawaii, the left coast, the midwest and in Maryland but I haven't noticed this phenomenon. Maybe I haven't been observant enough or have forgotten but it only seems to happen here. Anyone notice this where you live?

Here's an interesting worm blog: Worms of Endearment. I believe an article was written about the blogger, Amy Stewart, in the New Yorker magazine? It was about growing worms to get rich schemes. Or maybe it was about someone else.


Blogger Kathy said...

The earthworms do the same thing here. I am sure soil drainage is a factor, plus how much rain you get in how short of a time span. Not sure if Hawaii has earthworms, or if they do, they might be a different species. And if you don't have sidewalks they might not be as noticeable when they come out.

7:53 AM  

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