Weird anti-worm post I read today

Joyousfree(6a)May 29, 2014

I intend to fact check this soon, but there are at least a couple of odd statements in it (even if worms could speed up the job of microbes, the microbes are still doing a necessary task that benefits the plants, etc.). But I am posting it anyway, since I know that many of you are way ahead of me in your knowledge about worms in general.

If anyone has info regarding the truth of ANY of these claims, I'm interested. I'm going to peruse the academic findings and will post a summary of what I find.

"As gardeners, we are well aware of the pro-worm propaganda that has been engrained into our psyche from an early age. While the benefits of worms in an agricultural setting have been well documented, it would seem that worms in North America have a downside. Unless you live in the southeast or parts of the Pacific Northwest, your region has no native worms. Wiped out by the Pleistocene glaciers, vast regions of the continent have evolved without worms present, which has left a considerable legacy on the soils as well as the plant species that rely on them. Originally introduced in ship ballast during the first European excursions to this continent, worms have since invaded wild areas around North America and are wreaking ecological havoc. That's right, worms are bad for our native plants. The negative impacts of worms are first felt in the most obvious place, the soil. Their burrowing activity mixes organic and mineral soil layers and allows for greater infiltration of water. This leaches valuable nutrients from the soil that plants, especially forest herbs, desperately require. It also increases runoff and erosion. Worm feces, or casts, speed up microbial activity as well, which eats up vital stores of nitrogen in the organic soil layers. Worms also speed up decomposition of soil litter by pulling leaves and other organic materials down into their burrows. The loss of carbon from areas where worms have invaded has been likened to a complete functional loss of the forest floor. Even trees suffer as the microbial community and the rhizosphere are permanently altered. Worms have also been shown to eat vast quantities of small seeds, especially those of our dwindling orchid species. Recently, evidence is coming in that worms also serve as disease agents. The can be either primary or intermediate hosts to a wide array of viruses and parasites that affect small mammals, birds, and even humans. One high profile case has shown that worms are even a vector for the virus that causes foot and mouth disease. Currently the US has no restrictions on the import of worms. Because of this, new invasions are happening every year. Research has shown that epicenters of worm invasions are significantly correlated with roads and fishable streams. The best way to slow the spread of worms into new areas is to not release them. Worms are very slow to expand their populations, often moving less than 5 meters a year. Humans are the most considerable vectors for worm movement. Simply by not discarding worms used for bait, composting, or around the soil of potted plants, we humans can at least slow their rampage across this continent." ~ Facebook post by a page called "Prairie Moon Nursery"

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I've recently seen stuff like that too. There is a new study that came out of UW-Madison (5 square miles of crazy surrounded by normal) that is saying that soil is causing global warming; earth is bad for the Earth.
My professional opinion is there were worms in North America prior to the Pleistocene glaciers, so they are in fact a native species and it just took them a while to revive. If they are invasive, then so are all living creatures that are unable to survive under a few miles of ice for a few thousand years.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 10:57AM
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That's patently insane. Soil is the most productive carbon sink that we have. I will definitely have to look that one up.

It looks like a page from the Minnesota DNR (Dept of Natural Resources) is most of the basis for the paragraph I posted. Oddly, worms up north (of me) do seem to deplete the foamy top layer of the forest floor, by speeding up the decomposition of fallen leaves. Bummer for them. Their page is actually somewhat convincing, as far as not releasing non-native earthworms into forested areas.

I did find quite a few studies that document the (indirect) changes that worms cause, but they were all based in those northern forests and in Canada. I did not find any good evidence to convince me not to release red wigglers into gardens in an urban area of the Ohio River valley. We already have scads of worms here, and they've been here for a very, very long time already.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2014 at 8:11PM
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When that bulls### convinces my soil (formerly clayish, worthlessness) and vegetation (formerly a chemical dump) that it is so, I'll treat it with more respect than I do today.

Today, if I had a copy of it, I'd shred it to give it a modicum of bedding material.


    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 7:35AM
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The poster is right...but there's nothing to be done about it now...and since thats the case I worm away guilt free. I first learned of this from the pennsylvania native plant society (in philly) at a plant sale they were having...I put a link

Here is a link that might be useful: invasive worms of north america- Wikipedia entry

    Bookmark   June 6, 2014 at 4:23PM
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Interesting perspective. I guess I could "buy" this theory pertaining to forest floors and changing the way the soil is structured and the leaves decompose. I think we have far greater worries on this earth than that, though. Every gardener/vermicomposter who uses worms to dispose of garbage and enrich their soil is preventing heaps of trash from filling up landfills as well as enriching their local soil without the use of harmful, unnatural fertilizers. The widespread "evangelism" of this worms-are-bad message would have a far more detrimental effect than the worms are having on forest floors, in my opinion. What a shame if this message became widespread and prevented people from discovering the good of vermiculture.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2014 at 10:44PM
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Yep! And what Chuckie said, too. Our gardens around here are nothing but clay if we don't amend the heck out of them. The ones that have worms and functioning soil ecosystems going are the only ones that produce anything.

I don't garden myself, though (condo living). I'm mostly in this to see how much I can divert from the landfill. That and because it's interesting and fun... Although it was more fun before I noticed my worms are dying off (different thread).

    Bookmark   June 7, 2014 at 9:52AM
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My takeaway: don't release worms in forests or near lakes.
As long as they are in bins, it's gotta be a plus. Of course if I put castings in the garden I will add some wigglers. But they are here now and doing good work in city yards and in countries that are growing more food by cultivating worms. There are threads on this. I'd link it but this site is too **** slow. So look for it if you are interested.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2014 at 12:12AM
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buckstarchaser(5 MI)

Worms as environmental wrecking balls is something I read about several years ago. At that time, it was Canadian scientists measuring the massive forest destruction caused by US 'night crawler' worms (as opposed to the Canadian night crawlers, which are presumed to be respectful and polite to the forest floor). The pictures were very telling, but if 'before and after' pictures are all it takes to do science, then late-night infomercials are the pinnacle of scientific enlightenment.

I remember a respected worm expert stating that worm bin leachate should be disposed of as hazardous waste because it contains alcohols, phenols, and turpines, or something to that extent. You can buy a substance called humic acid to put in your garden. It's considered to be a healthy product of composting, and a benefit to plants. If you look up humic acid on Wikipedia, you will find:

" Substances identified include ... linear alcohols, phenolic acids, and terpenoids.[4]"

We all know that earthworms accelerate the breakdown of trash materials into fertile components of soil; and that plants can only absorb nutrients after they've dissolved in water, which can just as easily wash away if there are not enough plants to take it in, or absorbent materials to hold it.

The argument that worms degrade the forest environment is usually from the standpoint of a forest without worms or understory growth, and lots of floor debris. Inclusion of worms will change the forest floor just as they do in your worm bin, but you also need to bring the plants that are compatible with the worms. If you don't, the nutrients and soil will very likely wash away. If the worms got there artificially, then the plants that take advantage of them may also need to be brought in. Since worms tend to speed up the breakdown of materials, they support fast growing plants, and animals that go dump in the night.

Scientific papers are generally written on very narrow subjects, as it's harder to get published if they include broad statements and subjects. In contrast, a journalist gets their papers published by being interesting, shocking, and scary. Neither publisher benefits from giving the whole story.

Though I haven't read the paper on dirt causing global warming, it sounds rather straightforward. I suspect the average gardener would agree that dark soil is preferred for food crops, and that plants require porous soil so the roots can get fresh air. ...well, dark soil - when exposed to the sun - warms up fast, and the dark compost releases carbon dioxide. It sounds like common knowledge that has been republished in a scientific paper and then republished by a journalist, each time exchanging some scientific integrity for political bias.

Here is a link that might be useful: Wikipedia: Humic acid

    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 12:10PM
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It amazes me when people put together "scientific" studies indicating that the ecosystems are being laid to waste by worms.......but empirical data continues to show that HUMAN destruction of the environment (global warming/climate change) is destroying our environs much faster, more totally and we just ignore all that crap.

But we have got to solve this worm catastrophe!

Oh, and BTW......clear-cutting vast forest regions causes total, immediate, and unrecoverable damages to those destroying the habitats of those terrible worms.


    Bookmark   June 9, 2014 at 8:32PM
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This is almost stunning in it's stupidity if it weren't simply ANOTHER example of the corruption of the scientific community as a whole.

First, what I have personal, first-hand knowledge of: Alaska is part of North America. Alaska has NATIVE earthworms. Alaska was covered by glaciers during the last ice-age. That in itself renders the rest of the 'article' not simply suspect, but basically unbelievable in the literal sense of the phrase.

Second: Wikipedia's topic (from the link in the fifth post) states: "Of the 182 taxa of earthworms found in the United States of America and Canada, 60 or almost 33% are invasive species." Which flies directly in the face of "Unless you live in the southeast or parts of the Pacific Northwest, your region has no native worms." 66% is not "no", in fact, it is THE MAJORITY by a large part! Furthermore, those areas of North America are not the only places void of glaciers in the last ice-age.

This is too stupid to even discuss. I don't know what their agenda is, but they are idiots or liars or both.


    Bookmark   June 13, 2014 at 4:50AM
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Another anti-worm article:

These 'Crazy Worms' Are Poised To Wreak Havoc On The Midwest

Not sure about being able to identify them by the white band around their middle.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 5:41PM
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Oy ve. Why does all stupid stuff come from my state?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2014 at 10:28AM
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