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Winter rains are sources of terrific fun at my house. My daughter and I love rain walks, and now that she is getting used to a larger bike, rain bike rides are becoming another fun activity to add into the mix.

Earthworm 01During a recent rain walk, we were peering into puddles to see what we could see when we spotted a few earthworms submerged in the water.

“Uh oh,” I said “Let’s rescue those worms so they don’t drown.”

“Worms don’t drown.” Said my daughter.

“They don’t?” I asked.

“No, they don’t drown when it rains.” She answered.

I will confess, I was doubtful about this. I have grown up knowing that earthworms come out of the soil when it rains because all their tunnels are flooded. I have also grown up knowing that if earthworms wander into a pool of water, they will drown. So, asked my daughter where she had heard that earthworms don’t drown. She told me that she had been watching a nature show, and that it included a section on earthworms, and it included the information that earthworms don’t drown in water. I was surprised to hear this, and was still a little skeptical.

When we got back to the house, we were telling my wife about our adventures, and the worms came up. My wife also said how sad it was to see worms drown in the rain, and my daughter jumped in with the information about worms not drowning. My wife was as surprised as I was having grown up with the same information on this topic that I did.

But, my daughter was sure she was right, and when we did a little online search it turned out she was absolutely right to be so sure.

Earthworms Don’t Drown!

I could not have been more proud of my daughter at this point. She knew she was right and stuck to her guns. And she taught me that something I had believed was true was actually false, and replaced that false information with truth. So proud!

Here is the new information I learned.

Earthworm 02Earthworms need moisture to breath, which they do through their skin. As long as there is sufficient oxygen dissolved in the water, worms can survive for extended periods of time (we are talking three days or more) completely submerged with no ill effect. No one is completely sure why earthworms emerge from the soil when it rains, but one of the leading hypotheses is that they are taking advantage of the moisture above ground to disperse into new habitats and find new mates. The rain allows them to move across areas that would otherwise be too dry and/or too far away for them the reach when it is not raining.

So, if you see some worms wandering around on the surface the next time it rains, maybe crossing the sidewalk, give them a hand and help them on their journey. But, don’t worry that they have been forced out of their burrows by the threat posed by all the water. Because, as my daughter taught me, they don’t drown!


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