We received a photo from a reader that appears to depict a few dozen dried worms on some concrete surface, perhaps a driveway, or maybe a sidewalk leading up to a front door. (“Dried worms” sounds almost like some sort of snack, so maybe “dried-up worms” or “dried-out worms” is a better way to describe them.) Normally, we would say the reader asked a question about the dried worms on the driveway or sidewalk or whatever concrete surface we are looking at, but no question was asked. In fact, no text was supplied whatsoever – the picture was submitted and nothing else. We can’t divine exactly what our reader is looking for from us, but context suggests we take his message as an unspoken question of identification. What are the dozens of worms on the concrete, and how did they get there?
We’ll begin with the reader’s picture, in part because we always do this, and in part because there is nowhere else to begin:
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We we aren’t certain of this, but this appears to be an aerial photograph of the ground, with someone pointing the camera directly at a horizontal surface. We say this because this is a common place to find a congregation of worms, and also because the bricks in the lower right corner look like a step. However, these bricks could also form a ledge on a concrete wall, with the worms plastered to the side of this wall. The picture almost seems primed for some sort of psychological evaluation – do you see the ground or a wall? – with the results of the test perhaps supplying deep insights into human perception and consciousness. Again, though, we think this shows some sort of horizontal concrete surface, and we will proceed accordingly.
The image we were sent doesn’t depict the worms in great detail, but they look like regular earthworms to us. Moreover, the concrete appears to be wet with water but drying, which explains why the earthworms came out on the concrete in the first place, and it also explains why they are dried out – they couldn’t make it back underground in time. The skin of worms needs to be remain wet to facilitate the absorption of oxygen – basically, they can’t breathe if they aren’t moist – and so worms are particularly susceptible to desiccation. Earthworms emerge from the soil while it’s raining because the falling water gives them cover, but once it stops, they need to get back to a moist environment or they will perish. Clearly, many earthworms do end up dying, as is evidenced by the dried-out bodies of earthworms that litter sidewalks after a rainstorm. For more on this general phenomenon, our reader can check out our article “Long, Brown, Skinny Worms After Rain.”
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We’ll conclude by noting that it is a bit strange that our reader found so many worms in such a compact area. However, we have received questions from readers who found hundreds of worms on their patio after it rained, so the reader’s situation isn’t new to us. Plus, it could be the case that this concrete surface is near an area that is rich with worms, like a garden, so the overflow of worms is more understandable.
Hopefully we have both intuited our reader’s question and answered it correctly.