The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Do we have native earthworms?

Map of native earthworm populations in the U.S.In gardening circles, worms are considered a panacea.  In ecological circles, though, you'll hear talk of the dangers of invasive earthworms.  So, what's the dirt on wrigglers?

I've heard it bandied about that there are no native earthworms in the U.S.  Wrong.  The Wisconsian glaciation, which ended 12,000 years ago, did wipe out earthworms under the ice, but this only affected the northernmost states.  Since then, the native worms have advanced back north a bit past the glaciation line. 

Here in southwest Virginia, we've got native worms.  Unless you live out west or way up north, you probably do too.


This post is part of our Earthworms in the Garden lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:





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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.



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I was wondering what constitutes native. How many generations must a yankee worm have lived in an area, for instance, to be considered native. Presumably the nonnatives worms that Mom and Aunt Ruth played with growing up were born right there in Massachusetts, right? Just interested.
Comment by Maggie Ellen Robin Hess Mon May 18 17:28:17 2009
Well, it definitely takes a lot longer than 60 years for a new species to get sucked into the ecosystem. Stay tuned for tomorrow's lunchtime post which will enumerate all of the evil things the invasive worms do.
Comment by anna Mon May 18 21:10:34 2009
How do you tell a native earthworm from an invasive earthworm if you don't understand their language or get them to come up and tell you?
Comment by Sheila Tue May 19 21:49:20 2009
I'll be posting a link today to a key which you can use to check whether your earthworm is invasive. I wish there was one simple answer, but unfortunately there isn't!
Comment by anna Wed May 20 08:05:50 2009

I have had some construction done on my homestead and the soil was highly compacted in places. I would like to use mulch and NATIVE earthworms to loosen the soil. Can you tell me which species are native (I have read that there are a couple of species but I can't find their names), and where I may be able to buy a couple thousand of them to get things started.

Thanks Stewart (also in southwestern VA)

Comment by Stewart Colley Sat Mar 25 09:30:04 2017





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