Do you know everything about your wiggly friends in the bin or garden? With their simple life underground, worms can remain mysterious creatures! Let’s open a can of worms and answer some popular questions about the life of a worm.
Q: Do worms have mouths?
A: Yes! A worms mouth is located in the first segment of its anterior (front) end. When the anterior end contracts, the mouth is covered by a very small and sensitive patch of flesh called the prostomium. Then, when the worm looks for food, the prostomium can stretch out, sensing suitable food particles and allowing the mouth to open wide to take in a surprising quantity of food. This is why your worms can eat up your food scraps in no time!
Q: Do worms need oxygen?
A: Yes, worms need oxygen from the air to survive. They breathe by receiving oxygen through their moist skin through a process of diffusion. Worms may even live underwater for a significant amount of time if the water is very well aerated. Additionally, worms give off carbon dioxide, which is also diffused through their skin. It is important to have a good circulation of air throughout your worm bin bedding for this exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide to successfully take place.
Q: What is the typical lifespan of a worm?
A: Most earthworms die within the same year they were born. In natural environments, the effects of extreme weather, lack of food or water, and presence of predators all shorten the lifespan of worms. In controlled culture, some varieties of worm have been shown to live longer. Worms of the Eisenia fetida species have been able to live for four and half years, and the Lumbricus terrestris species even longer. But an average lifespan is much shorter. In a healthy worm bin, worms will reproduce, replacing themselves and increasing the worm population.
Q: Do worms die in the bin?
Worms will, of course, die wherever they happen to be. But you probably won’t see many dead worms in a well-maintained vermicomposting bin. This is because the process of decomposition happens quickly. Other organisms in the bin will break down dead worms, likely before you even notice. However, if you find a large quantity of dead worms, you need to diagnose and fix the problem quickly. This could be as simple as adding or replacing some fresh bedding toward which the worms can crawl, but likely requires you to correct a larger problem, like temperature or pH balance in the bin, to prevent mass worm die-off.