What Do Earthworms Need to Live?

By Michelle Benningfield

Earthworms are important to the Earth's ecosystem and varieties of them live all over the world. They may be found among the different layers of the Earth's soil, including the surface layer. However, they may also be found in rotting logs, trees or the soil around bodies of fresh water, such as lakes, streams and ponds. Earthworms don't need much to survive, but a few things such as food, proper soil environments and darkness are essential.

Food for Earthworms

Earthworms assist our ecosystem by eating decaying animals and plants.

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Like any animal on earth, worms need food. Earthworms like to stay close to their food supply. Earthworms will eat anything, including decomposed plants and animals. Earthworms eat large quantities of food. In fact, in just 24 hours, one earthworm produces dung equal to its own body weight.

Earthworm Environment

Earthworms need moist---but not soaked---soil to survive.

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Earthworms do not have lungs; therefore, they breathe through their skin. For this reason, they must live in a moist environment. If you're starting an earthworm farm, you should make sure their soil is moist to help them breathe. You should also make sure the soil is free of toxins. However, too much moisture, such as a heavy rain, pushes the oxygen out of the soil. This is why after it rains you see earthworms above ground, crawling on your driveway or sidewalks.

They also prefer soil that is a little warm. When the soil freezes, earthworms burrow deeper into the Earth. They then enter a state called aestivation, which is similar to hibernation. During this time, they curl up in a knot to preserve their body temperature and moisture. They enter the same state when the climate is too dry or hot for them to endure.

Earthworms and Light

Earthworms cannot live long in the sunlight.

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Sunlight is deadly to earthworms because it dries out their skin. Earthworms must be able to maintain moist skin in order to breathe. Therefore, they prefer to live and reproduce in dark, moist places.

Earthworm Friends

Earthworms need other worms in order to reproduce.

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Earthworms require mating to reproduce. They are hermaphroditic, which means they have both male and female reproductive parts. However, this does not mean they are capable of self-reproduction. Some species can, but most need others to assist in the reproduction process.

Although earthworms produce both sperm and eggs, fertilization of the eggs cannot take place without a process through which two earthworms share their sperm with each other.

Importance of Earthworm Survival

Earthworms are important to the Earth's ecosystem.

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Earthworms play a role in breaking down decaying matter and recycling it into fertile soil containing nutrients that plants need for survival. Earthworm burrows help rain enter the soil, which means less erosion. Therefore, earthworm survival is important to maintain the delicate balance of earth's ecosystem.