We were recently asked “When do earthworms die?” We think it is a little peculiar that someone would phrase the question like this rather than asking how long earthworms live. However, it really is the same question, and no matter how it is asked we are happy to answer it.
Earthworms are segmented worms that range in color from light pink to dark brown. Their most prominent trait is their clitellum. This is a thickened, glandular, unsegmented portion of their body near their anterior end in which their eggs are deposited. Earthworms live underground in moist soil, but sometimes appear in large numbers after heavy rains.
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The lifespan of an earthworm depends on the species type and the environment. Generally, it is believed that some species of earthworms can live 4-8 years. However, in an environment with no predators and ideal conditions, some worms have survived upwards of 10 years! Worms grow in size and weight until they reach sexual maturity. Once they reach sexual maturity, they continue to grow, however it is at a much slower weight increase until their clitellum disappears. The disappearance of the clitellum indicates the onset of old age. Then, there is a slow decline in weight until the earthworm eventually dies.
Some people believe that if an earthworm is cut in half it can continue to live. This is somewhat true! The anterior end (the head end) will survive under some conditions, but the amputated portion will die. In order for the earthworm to live on, the anterior end segment must be long enough to contain the clitellum and at least 10 segments beyond it. The new posterior segments will grow to be smaller in diameter and sometimes slightly different in color than the original earthworm was.
In summary, a reader asked us when earthworms die. We have answered this question, as well as provided some other interesting facts about these worms!
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