Earthworms are free-living terrestrial and aquatic worms. There are 2,700 known species of earthworms in the world varying in size from less than an inch to nearly ten feet in length. Although some live in arid areas, most prefer to live in environments such as humid forests and other moist vegetated habitats where they are found in soil and leaf litter and under stones and logs. Earthworms do not have lungs, but breathe through their thin skin, which must be kept moist for this exchange of gases. In order to stay moist, earthworms coat their skin and burrows with mucous. They are sensitive to light and heat, so they must stay underground during the day. The worms are blind, but have light sensitive tissues near their heads, which help them avoid daylight. Earthworms come out of the ground at night when it is moist and humid, especially after rains, to feed and mate and to travel to new areas in search of food. They retreat deep underground in hot, dry weather and stay below the freeze zone in winter.
Being scavengers, earthworms feed on dead organic matter that they locate with chemo receptors (taste receptors) which cover their entire body. They feed by passing soil through the gut or by eating organic debris, such as leaves, which accumulate on the soil surface. Earthworms have gizzards where they use tiny stones to grind up the organic matter so it can be digested more easily. After the organic matter and soil pass through the worm, the waste is deposited on the surface of the soil in the form of castings.
Earthworms do wonders for the physical and chemical structure of the soil. The soil is “cultivated” by being ground up in the worms’ gizzards. Organic matter and nutrients are introduced to the soil by the worms pulling leaves and other matter underground and by the addition of excretory waste from the worms. Their castings are rich in nitrogen, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus which are important for soil fertility and, along with their burrows, aerate the soil, improve drainage, and increase the soil’s water-holding capacity. Other positive influences on the soil by the worms are the mixing of surface and subsurface soils by their burrowing and ingestion of the soils. Scientists estimate that there can be over a million earthworms per acre in healthy moist soils, which can cover the soil’s surface with up to 18 tons of rich castings in a year.
As the earthworms cultivate the soil, building and improving it, so we as Christians need to cultivate our powers toward the building and perfecting of our characters. “All heaven has been looking on with interest, and ready to do whatever God might appoint, to help fallen men and women to become what God would have them. God will work for His children, but not without their cooperation. They must have indomitable energy, and a constant desire to become all that it is possible for them to be. They should seek to cultivate their powers and develop characters that will be meet for a holy heaven. Then and then only will the servants of God be bright and shining lights in the world. Then they will bring energy into their Christian life, for they will put all their powers to the task, and respond to the efforts that have been made to uplift, refine, and purify them, that they may shine in the courts above. They will bring all their powers under the control of the Spirit of God; they will study His Word, and listen for His voice, to direct, encourage, strengthen, and advance them in their religious experience.” Reflecting Christ, 296.
David Arbour writes from his home in DeQueen, Arkansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.