Slimy, brainless…and dangerous? Growing up, most of us were told that worms are good for the soil, which is true, but only for gardens, in gardens they eat organic matter which is good for the soil. Over the past few weeks, our class has been learning about the effects worms have in forests, I was very surprised when I learned that worms are bad for forests and that they are an invasive species. Our class was interested in seeing which area had a greater worm density. Then we got into groups and went to the WCC Pinewoods to a trail near a pond to test that using liquid-mustard extraction, which is an extraction that is put on worms to irritate their skin and let them come out of the soil.
We started out in the WCC Pinewoods, which we predicted would have fewer worms because the soil wasn’t as moist. I was excited to see how effective the liquid mustard extraction would be and to see how many worms would come out. It was a pretty long process since we had to use two gallons of liquid mustard extraction and each gallon took thirty minutes. When we poured the extraction, it took a few seconds until we saw the worms heads poking out and moving quickly trying to escape. It felt to me that the worms noticed our shadows because every time they would poke their heads out of their hole we would stick our hands to grab them quickly, and they would go back in. Eventually, most of them came out because the liquid extraction would really irritate their skin. We threw the worms into a bucket and we watched them trying to escape it. After we poured the liquid mustard extraction, I noticed that there was a lot of smaller bugs and tiny spiders that would come out too; I wonder if they got irritated from the liquid mustard extraction too. I think it was very pointless how we waited all that time then dumped the worms back in the soil. We had just learned about the harmful effects worms have in forests, they damage tiny roots that plants use to absorb nutrients and water. “Earthworms consume seeds, which decreases their viability or lead to deep burial in the soil.” (Great Lakes Worm Watch) They are harmful to many other things which is why I think we should have transferred them somewhere outside of the forest, like a garden.
Once we finished conducting our tests in the Pinewoods we went to the area near the pond, which was on a trail. The soil on the trail was compacted but after we did our soil sample, we found out that it was moister than the soil in the Pinewoods. We were all stunned when we did our first two gallons and ZERO worms came out. We thought it could have been because we did it on a trail or because the soil was too moist for the worms to live in. According to the website homeguides, “ …damp soil allows the worms to live below ground and receive the air they need to survive,” the information on this website doesn’t seem to match our results, which was very puzzling. Generally, however, they vacate wet soil, preferring soil that is only moist.” I felt like it was a waste of time doing all the gallons of liquid mustard extraction when we were positive our results weren’t going to change by the third gallon. After we did all of our gallons for the area near the pond we saw that all our numbers stayed the same. We got zero every time.
Overall I think it was an interesting experiment, I enjoyed dealing with the worms and seeing how they react when we try to touch them. I think we should have spent more time figuring out ways to stop these worms from affecting the WCC forest. Doing this experiment helped me become more aware of how much damage something that small can do to an ecosystem.