Slimy Worms Not Native

The recent rainfall brought earthworms out onto the sidewalks. Countless earthworms. Interestingly, these ubiquitous, slimy worms are not native to the Americas.  They actually were brought here from Europe by early European settlers.  They came in ship holds and in transported root balls.  And while they may be good for gardens, they have dramatically changed the American forest scene.

Prior to 1492, the absence of these lumbricus rubellus (worms) left the pre-Columbian forest floor hard-packed with a deep covering of leaves and pine needles.  This near-sterile environment was hostile to all but ferns and saplings.  Since then, earthworms have stirred up and enriched the soil, creating a perfect environment for other invasive species.

It’s not that earthworms are all bad.  They are good for flower gardens, after all.  But we shouldn’t need to feel guilty about crushing a few on our way home from work on a rainy night.

Meteorologist John Wheeler