Earthworms are eating my carrot tops!

falldowngoboomJune 10, 2010

I've always heard earthworms are the sign of a healthy garden. I have a lot of worms in the soil - which sounds like a good thing, right? The problem I've been having is that something eats all the leaves off my carrot seedlings. I keep planting more and they keep getting eaten. I thought it was a neighbour's cat or a squirrel - but during a light evening shower I went out with a red bike light and I saw a worm come out of his hole and take a bite out of the carrot leaves. This fat guy was stripping my carrots bare!

What to do? I dont think sitting out in the dark with a flashlight trying to catch worms is going to be much use. Should I plant some companion plants for the worms to eat? Or use mulch to make it harder for the worms to get the seedlings? Anyone had any negative experiences with earthworms in the garden?

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

I'd bet on several things before I'd put any money on earthworms.

Slugs. Rabbits. Chipmunks. Groundhogs. Even deer or squirrels. Not to mention birds.

Dave

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 11:00PM
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heather38(6a E,Coast)

Check the join date and Bye bye! nice to see you now Piss off :)

    Bookmark   June 10, 2010 at 11:19PM
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dicot

This has got to be the 1st parody thread I've ever seen on GW!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 12:20AM
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falldowngoboom

I know, it was hard for me to believe too. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of worms (even have an indoor composting worm bin). Maybe I have some kind of agressive worms - they seem to live in hole and then pop out and eat anything in the radius from their hole. (They keep their tail in the hole so they snap back into their hole if they feel threatened.) I snapped some pics recently (before I saw them munching on my carrots). I always thought worms ate bacteria, fungus and other small things - but apparently they can eat big pieces of organic matter.



Not sure what the big deal is about having a new account. People can read the forums without an account, so it makes sense that someone would create an account right before wanting to post something, right?

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 9:11AM
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jonhughes(So.Oregon)

I'd also bet the farm they are "Cutworms" and not earthworms and also,you don't need to plant more carrots,they will grow back,just go out at night with your flashlight,grab up all the cutworms,put them in a container with a top (or they will escape),
wait until morning and put them on the sidewalk,the birds will have a field day,and you will exact some measure of revenge ;-)

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 10:34AM
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anney(Georgia 8)

Mini-Shaitan or Shai-hulud!!!!!

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 10:36AM
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makete(U.P. of Mi.)

Your earthworms have teeth? Boy oh boy, I want to take them fishing with me.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 12:20PM
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curt_grow

Calm down people! Now I know Canadian Night Crawlers Will grab onion sets and pull them out of the ground and into there holes so is it a stretch to think that they like carrots. Charles Darwin records them taking leaves I think I shall do a little research before I jump. Why jump on this poster? If you do not agree with it. Has no one but me lost seedling carrots and not known the answer why?

Curt~

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 12:30PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Those are HUGE earthworms!!! Even huge C. nightcrawlers. We have a worm bed we keep them in for walleye fishing and even my hand raised nightcrawlers ones don't get that big.

But worms that big are likely to eat just about anything.

Dave

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 2:24PM
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namfon

I'd like to know what kind of camera you used to get those pictures, very nice.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 4:11PM
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falldowngoboom

@johnhughes - I looked cutworms while doing research, but they're more like green catapillars aren't they?

@anney - ha, yes definite worm signs. Must be spice nearby. ;)

@curt - thanks for sharing your experiences with onion sets getting pulled into worm's holes. Good to know I'm not hallucinating!

@dig dirt - yes, I guess they are big fat worms. The camera makes them look ginormous but they are still the diameter of my little finger. And they can stretch out more than a foot. I'll upload another photo later.

@namfon Re: camera - it's an older canon rebel with a sigma 50mm 1:2.8f macro lens. I'm actually not too happy with it - these worms shots are about the best results I've gotten so far. Very hard to get a crisp shot.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 6:48PM
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jonhughes(So.Oregon)

Try this link ;-)

Here is a link that might be useful: Cutworms

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 8:03PM
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heather38(6a E,Coast)

I AM SO SORRY, I had, been had on another forum, just before I saw this, an was in a pissed off place so very sorry, as we had wasted alot of time and energy on someone.
I think it could be a UK worm called Grufflo toclofaneious, actually no idea, either you are the greatest prankster to date or on the Darwin note you need to send a worm to your local University biological dept, insects are vastly unrecorded.
I am sending this OP to my Hubby a biologist, cousin who is a forensic computer type person, for people like you and me that means he can look at pictures, hard drives, anything and find the abnormalities, also my nephew who loves to fake up with his best mate on the internet, ironic if it is Kyle and Adam :) but they are hay, look what we have done :)
So in a way I want it to be true but I am a bit even with photo evidence not convinced, but hey, I am English, we are cynical by nature :) we can't help ourselves, sorry, I do try to change, but you can take the Girl out of England, you can't take the English out of the Girl:) :(

    Bookmark   June 11, 2010 at 11:16PM
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borderbarb

That worm picture reminds me of pictures of Planarians
or hammerhead worms. They give me the creeps. That picture may be of a worm that is in the earth, but it is not a standard earthworm.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hammerhead worm - videos

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 12:20AM
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californian

There is a vermicomposting forum on this website. Maybe you should repost on it and see what the replys are.

Here is a link that might be useful: vermicomposting forum

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 3:31AM
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californian

This article says scientists have discovered earthworms do indeed eat live plants and seeds.

Here is a link that might be useful: earthworms eat live plants and seeds

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 3:38AM
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organicislandfarmer(9)

perhaps there is a nuclear power plant nearby? I just hope they are the adults and not the babies!!!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 5:14AM
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anney(Georgia 8)

falldowngoboom

Where are you located? You don't list your growing zone or state.

Earthworms from Brazil, South Africa, and Australia can be as large as snakes! Think any of them could survive if transported to the US?

If it's any comfort, I believe I recall a woman posting something similar a couple of years ago, with no pictures, about a huge worm that was in her garden in a hole that would appear and disappear into the hole without ever completely leaving it. Nobody believed her!

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 9:41AM
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borderbarb

The worm mentioned in that study - Lumbricus Terrestris - Night Crawler,Dew Worm-- is a burrowing worm. Not to be confused with the surface-dwelling composting worm.
///
...snip...Lumbricus terrestris is an anecic worm, that is, it forms temporary deep burrows and comes to the surface to feed, as opposed to burrowing through the soil for its food as most other earthworms do. An unusual habit of this species is to pull leaves into the mouth of its burrow where they partially decay before being eaten.

Here is a link that might be useful: Pix of Lumbricus Terrestris

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 11:22AM
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calliope(6)

OMGosh.....ten inch long night crawlers are not unusual. I went out to check my chickens to see if I'd shut the door to their exercise yard since we have some coyotes about and I shone the lamp on the garden. There were literally thousands of worms out and partially out on the surface of the ground after the rains, and a good percentage of them were night crawlers who snap back into their holes like someone sucking in a strand of spaghetti. On a good night, you can hear hundreds of them in unison like a chorus.

My Daddy taught me how to 'shine' crawlers and also taught my son, who used to harvest them and built a worm farm in our barn and lay down bedding and opened himself up a fishing worm business when he was about twelve. Anglers around here will pay a couple dollars for a dozen nightcrawlers, and he used to sell them to the little general store in a nearby village. I worked night shift then and I would remind him to take down his sign in the mornings when he left for school so I could sleep uninterrupted in the day. He sometimes forgot and I got awakened to go fetch a dozen crawlers.

They are indigenous to our garden soil and have caused not problems since I've had a garden every year. I still would consider them normal and a beneficial.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 12:35PM
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curt_grow

californian; Interesting study but Charles Darwin ran studies a few years ago for the diet preference of Lumbricus terrestris. This is not all new information. Also the link to the Minnesota study is flawed. The Minnesota study is on Lumbricus rubellus . A worm Half the size that lives in the soil, and of different feeding habits.

Curt~

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 7:17PM
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imstillatwork(8-9 Oregon Coast / Ca Border)

Re: The camera / lense: You've got to use a tripod to get a crisp image with that combo. Macro lenses magnify everything, even the slightest shake that would not be noticeable on a normal or zoom makes blur and general loss of sharpness.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2010 at 11:54PM
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curt_grow

californian; I may have stuck my foot in my mouth,not for the first/last time. I have had 7 out of 18 yellow bush beans destroyed while under 1 inch poultry fence for bird protection on closer inspection It looks like a possibility that C. nightcrawlers may be the culprits. I believe that beans were on the list of goodies in the study you posted. I am doing a red light night observation, and will replant the empty spaces (square foot)
Falldown; have you checked your beans, if you have them that is

Curt~

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 12:21AM
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falldowngoboom

@anney: I'm on the north side of Lake Ontario. (Zone 5?)

@jon: nope, definitely not a cut worm. Looking at the pics borderbarb linked to, they're definitely a common Lumbricus terrestris - maybe just a bit bigger than normal. Here's a couple more pics -- showing you how long they can stretch out.


@californian - That research paper was a hoot. Nice to get confirmation but also funny to think that of scientists are still researching basic things like what earthworms eat!

@curt: I do have some beans that are coming along nicely. They are going up a tripod and are about 8 feet high now, so I'm assuming your worried that the worms are eating the roots or lower leaves? I'll watch out for that.

I'm still wondering what to do about the worms. Sure, i can plant more seed and hope that most seedlings will grow up before being eaten. But I'm wondering if more compost or mulch will feed and distract the worms. Or if I should be planting some sort of companion crop like clover with my carrots.

One thing I have learned in all this - it's worth going out in the garden at night or after a rainstorm to see what's *really* going on out there!

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 12:54AM
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scarletdaisies(6)

Man! That is a scary worm! I was going to add in, like someone else already has, that I have huge earthworms in my garden as well, not like the amazon one above, but they are huge, maybe that's where my carrot sprouts went? Laugh!

That english person needs to mellow out, she's even got scientists looking into fake photos and all! There are some strange things going on in some of these gardens. I'm still in awe of the vulture/hawk perched in a tree over mine, hopefully eating the groundhogs instead of my sunflower plants again.

If I cared to look I might find one, as big as that, but not if it's a Canadian variety, you're from Ontario.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 11:14AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Lumbricus terrestris is often 6 inches long when at full stretch so the size is not a surprise.
Nor is the fact that they can pull food down into their burrows. I've seen them do it and when the leaves fall from the trees in Autumn lawns are often covered in little bunches of leaves half sticking out of the soil with their lower parts pulled down into the ground by worms.
But I've neve heard of an earth worm eating healthy living plants. That doesn't mean they don't though. Were these the seed leaves which might have been starting to decay after the true leaves had begun to grow?
As for what to do about it I think giving the worms something else such as grass clippings or leaves might divert them from your carrots.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 12:52PM
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scarletdaisies(6)

Read the article below, similar to the one in the Ethiopian article in an above link. Now I have a good reason not to sow directly. This really may be the reason all of us are having problems with direct sowing. I'll plant in trays, they transplant when the plant gets about 3 inches tall.

Here is a link that might be useful: Worm eating Seeds and Seedlings

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 4:15PM
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heather38(6a E,Coast)

hello :) the Jury is in, and they all point out that the 2nd pic is a blunt nose creature, and the 3rd is a beak nosed one, so 2 different worms, so thank you geek Guy's , I Know and Love :) I saw it but couldn't, special thanks to Spike :)
If you live In WV, Love his WEEKEND show of 80's music :)

    Bookmark   June 14, 2010 at 11:49PM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

Heather - worms are streeeetchy. They can be blunt or pointy depending on what they are doing.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 5:06AM
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glorygrown(PA/6)

Interestingly, earthworms are NOT native to North America but arrived in ballast soil with Europeans. The result of their introduction (worms and Europeans) was a dramatic change in the soil and forest structure on the entire continent. Alfred Crosby's books -The Columbian Exchange, and -Ecological Imperialism, make great reads.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 3:38PM
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scarletdaisies(6)

How did Americans have improved soil, if there were no earthworms? That is interesting, what bug in the worms place can do as much?

    Bookmark   June 15, 2010 at 4:13PM
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curt_grow

Fall down; my beans are a replacement crop in a square foot garden? Pock Choi was in the square in early spring until it bolted and was pulled that is why the beans are small and I did see a crawler grab a damaged plant and pull the plant into it's hole I do not know if the bean was dead but it sure is now. Did you see the size of stick they can move? One pulled an inch long stick as thick as a pencil. How can they be so strong? Last night I tried used coffee grounds they came to the piles I put out and ate but they did not stay. Tonight I am trying cut up cabbage leaves for bait . I found three more destroyed bean seedlings, they were just up. the last one was wedged in a crawler hole? I misplaced my red led headlight so need to find it before I can observe garden to see if the cabbage will work. Have you tried anything new? I wish I had a camera that would make good night closeups like yours.

Curt~

    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 1:45AM
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gardengeek36091(8)

I've got these big earthworms all over my place. I've attached a picture I took a couple of months ago, but I've dug them up a lot bigger than this. But so far, I haven't noticed them eating any seedlings.

Mark

    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 10:35AM
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scarletdaisies(6)

Put heavy mulch around your seelings that is heavy enough the worms can't lift, even gravel around them.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2010 at 6:04PM
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heather38(6a E,Coast)

I am not going to go into details, you can infer. but you will notice, on a month to month bases, I get a little crazy and paranoid, for about a week, so sorry people, I can't control it. and no drugs can sort it out, actually they can, if I am prepared to have a whole life without emotion, which I am not prepared to do for 4 to 5 weekly occurrence, I am all over the place at the mo, so hoping for Change, sorry! I am A Psycho hose beast for a week and in the run up! I came of anti D'd in Nov last year for a real reasons, I realised I felt nothing, so with my Doctor, I came off them real slow. But I am a slave to my hormones, so sorry, and be thankful you are not my Hubby :)
it is sooo annoying to be out of control, you have no idea, although I am sure some will. please forgive :)

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 1:20AM
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curt_grow

Earth worms are not native to North America!
Europeans are not native to North America! Duh
Last post on this I promise. I have solved my Problem! I now have the only cattle panel arched arbor with a overhead light In town.Yes sir a drop cord from the garage and a compact florescent 15 watt/60 equivalent. The Night crawlers hide from the white light. A week of light all night and my beans will be to big for the worms to destroy. In other good news the rainy nights have stopped and crawler activity has slowed down. The light on at night? well my neighbors think I am weird anyway. I think they are right.

Curt~P.S. I am going out to the garden for a Midnight coffee and brownie

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 1:45AM
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heather38(6a E,Coast)

Curt, you are Nutso as me :) thankyou :)

    Bookmark   June 17, 2010 at 2:14AM
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