Mass Exodus

Jane RaffertySeptember 5, 2010

I bought 3 yards of mulch this summer and still have about 1.5 yards left. There must have been worm eggs in it as it is just full of nightcrawlers. I've been relocating them to the garden as I put down the mulch. But in the last two weeks I'm suddenly finding dead and dehydrated worms in the drive way. This morning I rescued more than a dozen who were headed away from the pile.

Why are they fleeing? Most seem to end up in the driveway and die before I can find them. I'm going out now on a worm rescue mission to try to get as many out as I can even if I can't put down the rest of the mulch yet. I don't want more to die before I can relocate them. Each death is a little tragedy and I hate seeing those tiny dry bodies in the drive.

Any suggestions?

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That is normal night crawler behavior,It happens even in established populations. Nothing is wrong. Birds love it.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2010 at 10:34AM
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Jane Rafferty

The birds aren't eating them and I have to pass their dessicated little bodies on my way to the car. I'm now going out several times a day to rescue them. The neighbors must wonder what I find so fascinating about my drive way. I wonder why they feel the need to leave. I guess they aren't deep thinkers but this suicidal toot they are on lately is making me nuts.

Thanks for the response. :)

    Bookmark   September 7, 2010 at 7:25PM
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plumiebear(z9? CA)

I've heard nightcrawlers wander when there are extreme changes in barometric pressure. They also don't care for vibrations. But I doubt that would be happening over a 2 week period. Did something happen in your mulch pile? Some insect or animal invade it? Did anyone throw anything toxic into the pile? You might try spreading the pile out a bit.

Good luck. Hope you find a solution. It's sad they're dying, but it might be a totally natural phenomenon.


    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 2:27AM
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Hi Janegael,

My deepest sympathies go out to the widows and families left behind.

Now for some perspective.

Imagine a worm bin that contains 1.5 yards of material. Imagine that it has been left to it's own devices for several months. I'll bet there are many thousands of worms in there, not to mention eggs by the bucket load. Now if a few (even hundreds) venture out into the wilds of your driveway, that's a sign to me that there must be many, many thousands of worms there.

Try not to sweat the small losses (I did when I started. I still dont like seeing 20 or so dryed out carcasses on the shed floor once every week or two). Focus on the massive potential you have there, and don't beat yourself up over a few intrepid souls who gave themselves for the greater good. Some heathens even dump piles of compost worms out in the dirt, hoping that they will improve an impoverished vegie patch. "Sacrificial worming" I call it. Given just how fast they breed, I'm not against this idea either.

Food for thought.

So endeth the lesson.

M :-)

PS I also pick up the survivors from the floor. LOL.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 6:12AM
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gardenfanatic(MO zone5b)

I would suspect it might have heated up. Yes, a pile of mulch can heat up. Especially if it was previously dry and has been rained on, thereby starting the compost process. Dry materials will not compost - they have to be moist. If you can, you should go ahead and get the rest of the mulch spread out on your gardens so you don't lose the rest of the worms.


    Bookmark   September 8, 2010 at 1:15PM
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I think it's Mercury Retrograde. We are in it now and this has been one OF THE WORST episodes I have live through since I heard about it. Sad it's affecting the worms also.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2010 at 10:40PM
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Jane Rafferty

Given that the mulch feels cool and moist when I put my hand in, doesn't appear toxic and there haven't been constant barometric changes I'm inclined to go with Mercury in retrograde. It seems as logical an answer as anything else. Something is telling them to move and I'm seeing them moving from the established beds, but not in such great numbers. Maybe they are just looking for greener pastures, or have a death wish.

I went out, moved the entire heap and sifted for worms. I think I must have found about 100 nightcrawlers that are now in my gardens. Hopefully they will be happier there and not feel the need to pack their little worm bags and leave home.

I had thought about raising some worms for release in the garden but realized that they weren't "outdoor" worms by *gasp* actually reading up on the subject. Getting native worms along with needed compost was a real deal and I'm sure my plants will be happier for it. Weird child that I was, worms were my first pets (they couldn't outrun a 2 year old) and I've always had a fondness for them. It's important to me that they be comfortable.

Thanks for the great feedback, I appreciate it.

    Bookmark   September 12, 2010 at 7:30AM
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