When I saw some leaves disappearing down an earthworm midden, I was inspired to do a hands-on homeschool science project on earthworms for the kids. I called it, "The Case of the Missing Face". I thought it would be a good way to illustrate the answer to the question, "What do earthworms eat?"
|Leaves in a earthworm midden|
We laid a "trap" to catch the culprit who was disappearing the leaves in our yard by placing a leaf face on the ground one evening. The next morning most of the leaves had been pulled to surrounding earthworm middens.
They were obviously placed there on purpose and not blown away by a breeze. Some of the leaves were anchored by fresh earthworm castings.
Another night we caught the earthworms "red-handed" as they pulled some leaves of the missing face into their middens. We also observed other earthworms harvesting various leaves and plant material.
Another way we observed what worms eat was by peering down a wormhole.
In these photos you can see some grass blades and tree leaf parts that the earthworm has pulled down into its burrow.
I lifted off the midden to reveal more of the worm's underground stash.
The worm's hole is on the left. There extending to the right, in what used to be the worm's tunnel, is some of the worm's hoard...grass, sections of fresh green leaves, and a whole leaf that had fallen from a tree. I believe that fallen leaf was once part of the "face".
I've been known to cross-section insect burrows and even Indian middens, so why not an earthworm midden? Here is a cross-sectional picture of an earthworm burrow and midden. The midden mound at the surface has some leaves positioned there by the worm for some reason. The worm's tunnel extends down the center of the picture and continues to an unknown depth.
|Cross-section of an earthworm burrow and midden|
I took these earthworm pictures at night when they were out feeding. Taking a picture of a worm at night is a bit difficult. I had to hold the flashlight, manually focus the camera, and snap the pictures... all without scaring the worms back into their burrows by wiggling the light too much. Therefore these pictures aren't the greatest, but hey, they will suffice to share some information on earthworms.
In the photo below, the earthworm is stretched out of its burrow and is pulling a leaf. The leaf slowly gliding across the yard caught my attention in time to get a snapshot.
|Picture of a worm pulling on a leaf|
In the picture below, the earthworm was working at dragging the yellow leaf to its burrow.
I guess you could say, "Something is raking my yard for me".
The photo shows why leaf faces disappear, and why soon this leaf won't be blowin' in the wind
|Picture of a worm that was dragging a fallen tree leaf|
a blade of grass wiggles...
a fallen leaf glides a bit, then stands on end...
over there a plantain leaf suddenly jerks upright.
The word for this slow, almost invisible process happening beneath our feet isn't exactly "creepy" nor is it "dramatic".
This nightcrawler phenomenon is "deep" and "moving", so perhaps the word is..."profound".