Yesterday I picked up a chunk of loose sod dug up by the snowplow and tossed in my yard.
A big, juicy earthworm was coming up underneath, but he ducked his head back into the ground in a flash.
Perhaps I look like a hungry robin.
Most of us have been taught that earthworms are great soil builders, and thus, they are our friends.
You might be surprised to know that earthworms may be welcome in the garden, but most of them are distinctly unwelcome in the forest. According to Lee Frelich, a scientist at the U of M Center for Hardwood Ecology, at least 15 species of earthworms have been introduced here from Europe and Asia. At least seven species are a nuisance in forest soils, where they can destroy tree seedlings, wildflowers and ferns. Worms, or worm eggs, probably hitched a ride on plants or soil brought from other places.
The biggest problem comes from those worm species that eat fallen leaves. Native Minnesota forest soils are generally covered with a thick layer of leaves, and native forest plants and creatures are adapted to this leafy covering, not a bare forest floor.
When you buy worms for fishing, you often get a mixture of two kinds of nightcrawlers, Lumbricus terrestris and L. rubellus. The last one damages soils in maple forests – which we depend on for fall color, maple syrup and lumber.
So, in short, don’t spread earthworms around, and when you are done fishing, dump unused worms in the garbage. Without our help, earthworms don’t travel very far, unless of course, they are inside a formerly hungry robin…
You can learn a lot of interesting stuff about your yard and garden at www.extension.umn.edu”www.extension.umn.edu. Click on yard and garden.
U of M Extension, Office Building, 202 W. Third Street, Winona. Mon-Fri 8 -4:30, (507) 457-6440.