Savage Worms: Week 2

It’s Monday, and that means worms here at green.mnp! The Savage Worms have settled into their comfortable home underneath our kitchen sink. After a few days of inactivity, they picked up on the fact that there were two mountains of delicious food waiting for them. We refrained from checking in on them every day (despite our curiosity) so as not to disturb them too much, but on Thursday night Andrea took a peek. The worms had devoured one of the two piles of food we left them and were working their way through the second. By Sunday they had eaten every last scrap (except the egg shells, but this is normal) and it was time to feed them more. This is our food scrap bin – looks yummy, right?


Below, you will see that Andrea has demarcated 8 regions in the worm bin. This will help us keep track of where we have fed them and what kinds of food mixtures they particularly like or dislike. Week 1 we fed them in zones 2 and 7. This week we fed them in zones 1, 4 and 8.



Another sign of healthy life: Andrea caught a couple of the worms getting it on. That’s right my ninjas – worms have sex too. Now, it is not the same kind of mammalian sex that we are used to; for a nice G-rated explanation of the worm reproduction process, here is an excerpt from FOSSWEB, a site for children’s science-based education:

Reproduction. Like all animals earthworms have effective strategies for begetting their own kind. With earthworms it is not a matter of boy meets girl, but rather a simpler matter of worm meets worm. All worms carry two sets of sexual organs, but they cannot fertilize their own eggs—mating is still a necessary part of reproduction. Mature earthworms have an enlarged band some distance from the head. This enlarged clitellum plays an important role in reproduction.

In mating, two worms approach each other nose to nose. With their bodies touching, they slide past each other until their heads are a bit past the clitellum. Both worms pass sperm through an opening located between the head and the clitellum, into a temporary holding receptacle in the other worm. The two worms separate. The clitellum secretes a liquid that solidifies into a flexible tube. As the tube lengthens, the worm backs out of it. Soon the tube covers the front part of the worm. The worm lays a few eggs inside the tube, deposits some of the stored sperm, and withdraws from the tube, leaving the eggs and sperm inside the tube. The ends of the tube pinch off to form a cocoon, and the whole thing shrinks to a tidy package about the size of a fat grain of rice. The cocoon is left alone sitting on or just under the surface of the soil. The worm continues to produce cocoons until the sperm is used up. Cocoons are durable, can overwinter in cold climates, and can wait out hot dry spells in arid environments. After 3 weeks (ideal conditions) or longer the cocoon opens, and out sallies the next generation.

Unfortunately, we did not catch the worm mating on camera – though that might have been a violation of our worms’ private space anyway. Here are a couple diagrams of the act:



If you are new to the series, check the previous installations in the Savage Worms archive.
Thanks for tuning in!

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