We are all worms, but I think I am a glow-worm.
You may have heard of worm charming. Essentially, you can lure a worm by thumping on the ground. It seems to work because the worms interpret the vibrations as an approaching mole. Their best strategy is to surface and put some distance between themselves and the mole, which won’t pursue them above ground (although of course this does place them at risk from other predators). In America, worm-charming by vibrating the ground is called 'grunting', and it’s a serious business: a good professional worm-grunter can collect 5,000 worms in half a day. That'll be worth $150 to bait shops, which they can then sell to anglers.
In Britain, the sport of worm-charming involves dozens of competitors in a field trying to lure as many worms as possible out of the ground within 30 minutes. The world record is 567, though the sport hit a low spot in August 2010 when none of the entrants at the Woodhall Worm Charming Festival in Lincolnshire managed to lure a single worm.
You can use any technique you want other than digging or pouring water onto the ground (although pouring water wouldn’t work in any case: worms seem quite happy in saturated soil). The traditional, and still most popular, technique is to stick a garden fork in the ground and vibrate it by hand ('twanging') or hit it with a stick to cause vibrations. But the sport is rapidly evolving, with new methods emerging all the time. One competitor at Woodhall tap-danced on a plank to the theme from Star Wars, while others planted cricket stumps and hit them with a bat, or created a xylophone out of bottles.
A technique which involved sticking a lot of knitting needles into the ground was criticised as likely to impale as many worms as it charmed. Others tried blowing a vuvuzela or running an electric back massager over the grass, with equally disappointing results.
Perhaps this spirit of breezy innovation was to blame for the poor results at Woodhall; the World Worm Charming Championship in Nantwich, Cheshire, has never had a worse winning round than 40 worms.
God gives every bird his worm, but he does not throw it into the nest.
Cutting a worm in half won’t result in two worms. Some species of worm can regenerate amputated tails, depending on how many body segments they've lost, and some species jettison tails to escape predators, but the headless part will always die, as will the head if it hasn't retained sufficient body. The death throes of the severed sections can go on for hours, and could easily be mistaken for lively wriggling.
The ‘both ends become a worm’ idea seems to have been made up as a way of fobbing off small children, and nobody ever seems to get round to telling you that it isn't true after you grow up.
The common earthworm is Lumbricus terristris. The smooth band a third of the way along is called the ‘clitellum’ which is responsible for secreting the sticky clear mucus that covers the worm.
There is a freshwater flatworm called a planaria or cross-eyed worm, which has the extraordinary ability to regenerate itself when damaged. T. H. Morgan found that a piece of planaria 1/279th of its original size could regenerate into a full-sized planaria, and a planaria split lengthwise or crosswise will regenerate into two separate individuals.
You can decapitate planaria flatworms, they will grow a new head and retain all their memories indicating that their memory is stored outside of their heads.
There are many, many kinds of worm in the world. There are roundworms, flatworms, segmented worms, spoonworms, peanut worms, ribbon worms, horsehair worms, velvet worms, acorn worms, paddle-worms and, of course, earthworms.
Earthworms are the most famous, but even then there are 3,000 different species of earthworm. Charles Darwin was a huge fan of them, as you'll see from the quotation box above. He spent days counting the worms in his garden while his son played the bassoon to them. Good soil contains a million earthworms per acre, so Darwin's son was guaranteed a good audience, at least.
An average earthworm has no lungs, teeth or eyes, but makes up for it by having ten hearts. A worm's skin also fulfils the function of eyes – it uses it to detect changes in levels of light. Worms are hugely important because their tunnelling aerates the soil and allows plants to grow. Cleopatra made it illegal to remove earthworms from Egypt.
Worms have played a more important part in the history of the world than most persons would at first suppose.
There are 36,200 known species of worm.
Ribbon worms will eat their own bodies if their food supply runs out. They can eat up to 95 per cent of themselves and still survive.
South African earthworms can grow as large as 22 feet long.