All earthworms are not created equal

All earthworms are not the same! Really? Yes really! 🙂 I often find myself clarifying this notion during my encounters with different people but don’t worry, I once held the same view.

There are currently over 3600 species of earthworms reported and they also vary in colour and size. These are further subdivided based on their distribution in the soil profile and how they feed. Epigeic earthworms live in the uppermost 5-10 cm of the soil surface and are considered as phytophagous because they feed primarily on decaying organic matter. They are typically found in areas with high organic matter deposits and good soil cover. They are usually dark pigmented and sensitive to light and touch. They are not considered as the burrowing type because they have minimal direct influence on soil structure. Epigeic earthworms are however highly suitable for vermicomposting.  Endogeic earthworms live beneath the soil surface in lateral burrows as deep as 30-40 cm and a are considered as geophagous because they primarily thrive on humus rich soil.  They play an important role in detoxing the soil of contaminants and excreting pH balanced soil which helps improve soil fertility. Anecic earthworms live in vertical burrows which go deep (90cm) into the soil profile. They consume both soil and organic matter and are therefore regarded as geo-phytophagous. Their feeding behavior greatly contributes to soil fertility as they continuously pull organic matter to lower soil horizons. Some studies have mentioned their use in the field of vermicomposting, however, the most suitable are epigeic. It is important to note however that not all epigeics are suitable for vermicomposting. I guess you may be asking, “Which ones are the best for vermicomposting?” Well, look out for our subsequent article which will characterize these worms.

M. Martin

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