Night Crawlers

There is no real definition of “night crawler” except that it is a worm that comes to the surface at night. It’s generally agreed that night crawlers are larger than other worms, and can burrow deeper. In some areas harvesting night crawlers is a profession; the worms are sold for bait fishing because the worms wriggle and attract fish. Night crawlers are one of the worms used in composting. The worms most often called night crawlers are not native to North America. Night crawlers and angleworms appear to have come to the US in the 1800s in soil and plants. Some of the worm species may have come over in colonial times. One species, Lumbricus terrestris, outcompetes native species. It has become a major problem in some areas, such as forested parts of Minnesota. A large portion of the Great Lakes states were scoured clean of worms by glaciation. The ecosystem built up in some hardwood forests since the glaciers retreated was partly built on an accumulation of leaves and debris on the ground. Invasive night crawlers emerge at night and have consumed this accumulation. By destroying the “duff,” as the layer is called, the worms have changed the pH, moisture content and other important aspects of the soil, changing the characteristics of the forests. That also changes the numbers and kinds of birds and has other kinds of impacts.

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