How to Repel (Not Kill) Earthworms

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If you consider earthworms a “problem” in your garden or backyard, there are several possible ways to keep them away without killing them. The reason earthworms should not be destroyed is: these tiny little creatures help keep plants, crops, and trees alive. In fact, they help keep earth’s plants vibrant and thriving. If your garden or backyard looks plush and green, chances are, the earthworms you would like to exterminate helped make it that way.

So how do earthworms benefit the earth? For starters, earthworms aerate the soil, which means they dig tunnels in the soil, which allows air to get to the plant roots. Worms also eat organic matter, digest it, and excrete the digested material. This digested material is called “castings,” which basically means, excrement. Worms eat so much that they typically produce excrement equal to their own weight every 24 hours. The excrement is so rich with phosphorus, calcium, and potassium. Worm castings are so valuable and ten times richer in nutrients that commercial topsoil, that many gardeners and farmers use the composting method to fertilize plants and crops. Worm castings also help create channels within the layers of the earth’s soil, which helps to hold water better and keep moisture in the soil longer.

If you still want to keep earthworms away, there are several things you can do to make them leave. Worms have no lungs, so they breathe through their skin. This means that the worm’s environment and skin must be moist at all times. This allows the worm to breathe in oxygen. If the worm’s skin dries out, the worm will die from suffocation. While worms need moisture to survive, too much moisture can be fatal. If too much water is present, it takes the place of oxygen, which will cause the worms to flee to the surface. Once on the surface, worms will be exposed to sunlight. If worms remain in the sunlight for too long, they can become paralyzed. If you create the opposite conditions for worms, particularly at night when they are active, the worms will come to the surface of the soil and migrate to other areas – hopefully by morning.

In addition to needing a moist environment for survival, worms must also remain close to their food supply. Worms feed off of leaves and dead grass, which contain organisms that provide a healthy diet of bacteria, algae, and fungi. Worms feast on dirt as well, especially if they live deeper inside the earth. Worms also eat plants, fruits and vegetables. If you limit the earthworm’s food source, it will seek out other places that will provide a constant food source.

It is important to note that the earthworm’s moist, sustenance rich environment plays an extremely important role in reproduction as well. Worms prefer to mate and reproduce in warm moist soil, away from the light. If the conditions are not suitable for reproduction, the worms won’t reproduce. This will also decrease the number of worms in your yard. Unfortunately, if you limit water and earthworm activity, again, you will end up killing your plants or crippling your crops.


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Author: The Top Worm

1 thought on “How to Repel (Not Kill) Earthworms

  1. This is true, except in forests. Earthworms are actual an invasive species in North America. There were no earthworms when the colonials got here originally. Why? Glaciation scrubbed the earth to bed rock and pushed them south. Now the earthworms here are either European or Asian earthworms. That being said, two studies have shown that earthworms change soil chemistry (lowers pH, adds nitrogen to soil), destroy important tree root fungal relationships, and decrease leaf litter. The decreased leaf litter has forced out several important insects that are food for salamander species thus causing a decline in the salamander population. The change in soil properties has a high positive correlation with the appearance of invasive plan species such as Japanese barberry, and winged fire bush. This is all unfortunate for native species. Managing the problem requires management of the earthworm.

    Maerz J.C., Nuzzo V.A., and Blossy B. 2009. Declines in Woodland Salamander Abundance Associated with Non-Native Earthworm and plant invasions. Conservation Biology 23:975-981.

    Nuzzo, V.A., Maerz, J.C., and Blossy, B. 2009. Earthworm Invasion as the Driving Force Behind Plant Invasion and Community Change in Northeastern North American Forests. Conservation Biology, 23:966-974.

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