What Do Earthworms Eat – Types Of Earthworms And Their Food

Earthworms are tube-shaped, segmented worms that you can find in soils all around the world. They play an essential role by providing food for both small and medium-sized animals such as fish, birds, raccoons – to name a few.

Earthworm populations help with soil aeration, which helps break down organic matter so vital nutrients will be available when plants need them most. Let’s see “What Do Earthworms Eat” and how their digestive system works to process the food. Read on this article to know all about this exciting topic.

What Do Earthworms Eat
vermicomposting via Flickr

Earthworm Digestive System

Earthworms have a particular lisping extension over the mouth that helps direct food into their throats. They do this by making use of a muscular pharynx and salivating before swallowing food for later consumption. The food is then ground up using teeth-like grit plates in the esophagus known as gizzard.

Gizzard can also be known as earthworm’s teeth. After going through the grinding process in the gizzard, the food moves to the intestine. Different enzymes excrete here to process the food further so that the nutrients get absorbed directly into the bloodstream efficiently.

The remaining material is passed down to the anus. Finally, the earthworm passes its castings into the soil. The casting resembles dirt and is packed with nutrients that help enrich the soil.

4 Types Of Earthworms

Earthworms are a vital part of nature’s recycling system. They help improve your garden by adding essential nutrients to the ground. Let’s see what the preferred food of the following four different types of earthworms is.

1. Composting Earthworms

These earthworms are an integral part of any compost pile because they feed on the decaying plant matter and manure.

2. Epigeic Earthworms

They can be found in leaf litter and under logs, eating up organic matter that partially decay microbes. These microbes decay through aerobic or anaerobic fermentation processes to form vermicompost for new plants.

3. Anecic Earthworms

Anecic earthworms are a crucial player in the cycle of life, recycling dead plant matter and returning them into circulation.

4. Endogeics Earthworms

Endogeics earthworm is another nature-friendly insect that spends its whole life eating highly organic soil.

Earthworm’s Classification Based On Their Diet

Earthworms are classified into omnivores, detritivores, fungivores, and geophagous.

Omnivores

As earthworms feed on both plants and animals, they are commonly classified as omnivores.

Detritivores

However, some researchers have referred to earthworms as detritivores, which eat decayed plants and animals.

Fungivores

Studies also revealed that earthworms are preferential fungivores (eat fungi).

Geophagous

Earthworms are a valuable source of organic matter for the earth and a geophagous (feeding on soil) species. It means they feed on soil particles and can significantly improve our planet’s ecosystem by recycling nutrients back into plants.


What Do Earthworms Eat In Captivity?

Worms feed on their favorite things: dead plant matter and microorganisms like bacteria or fungi. However, confined to just a bin, the worms will still eat what’s available, but they may want more variety. So here is a list of things you can feed your worms that are in captivity.

1. Eggshells

Earthworms enjoy an otherwise indigestible diet of eggshells. The hard shells provide the earthworm’s grit and calcium to break down other foods, while their alkaline pH balance helps keep it running smoothly.

2. Paper

Paper is also a rich source of carbon for earthworms. The paper you might feed them with should not be coated or plastic-coated. They cannot digest these substances and will only end up blocking their digestive tract. It’s vital that before adding paper for composting, it has been soaked first.

3. Rotting Fruits/Vegetables

Fruits and vegetable waste are perfect additions to the diet of any worms. Banana peels, apple cores/stems, or leaf stalks make for tasty treats that can be fed upon in moderation by your earth-dwelling gastronomes.

Worms have an appetitive towards food wastes which includes moldy bread-soaked grains etc. Also, the discarded watermelon is a favorite food of earthworms which come out in droves for the feast.

4. Coffee Grounds

Earthworms love to eat coffee grounds and the contents of tea bags.

5. Manure

Earthworms are a vital part of the soil ecosystem. They eat manure, and they especially love cow and horse dung.

6. Leaves

Decomposed leaves and other plant parts are a favorite food of earthworms. It’s the way they get nutrients, fiber for their diet as well. However, they never eat poison ivy leaves.

How to Feed Captive Worms

Earthworms are amazing creatures that can turn dirt into gold. They eat about half their body weight each day, which means they keep on eating most of the time. Under favorable conditions, they’ll multiply quickly, and a significant number of earthworms means a healthy yard with enriched soil.

To feed worms, you should have a feeding bin placed under moderate environmental conditions. Worms love a good diet of decaying leaves.  Make sure that both brown and green matter goes into their bin at all times. You can choose any of the above favorite diets of earthworms to fill their bin.

To keep earthworms happy and healthy, feed them only with safe food. Human foods like meat, dairy products are harmful to them. Salt, pasta, and other such foods will kill the worms right away. Here is a list of things which you should not feed earthworms:

  • Meat
  • dairy products
  • pasta
  • salt
  • poisonous plants

Conclusion

Earthworms are a vital component of the soil, converting large organic matter into rich humus. Their job in our ecosystem includes eating up all types of matter and converting it into nutrients that can be reused instead of being sent to waste.

  • These tiny decomposer animals eat almost all matter. It is classified into omnivores, fungivores, detritivores, and geophagous.
  • They eat a rich, diverse diet of rotten fruits/vegetables, decomposed leaves, flowers, or bark full of microorganisms.

We’re always on the lookout for new gardening tips. So, if you have any questions about earthworms or want some advice, leave a comment below!

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