Worms are fascinating creatures that play a crucial role in maintaining soil health. They burrow through the soil, breaking down the organic matter and improving soil structure.
However, after a rainstorm, it’s quite common to see worms crawling on the sidewalk. They seem lost and confused.
So, why do worms crawl on the sidewalk and die? The answer could be one of several possibilities, including that the sidewalk is too dry and they couldn’t make it back to the soil or they were already drowning after rain.
While it’s not a huge issue, worms are an important part of the ecosystem. That’s why it could be good to rescue dying worms on the sidewalk if you’re able to.
Here’s everything you need to know about worms coming out to the surface.
There are plenty of reasons that worms crawl on the sidewalk and die. The main reason isn’t to die. So, why do they do it in the first place?
When it rains, worms typically escape to the surface and onto sidewalks to escape the flooding of their tunnels, and therefore, their drowning.
After raining, the water saturates the soil, making it difficult for the worms to breathe.
So, they escape the flooding by going up to the surface to breathe more easily.
Some would argue that since worms breathe through their skin, they would be able to absorb some oxygen even when the soil becomes saturated.
So, the other possible explanation is that the rain makes it easier for them to migrate to other areas, so they use this opportunity.
However, sometimes their migration efforts lead them onto a hard surface like a sidewalk. Then, they become stuck, stranded, and vulnerable to predators.
Another common explanation for why worms crawl up to the surface when it rains is that the sound of raindrops imitates the sound of moles.
Worms end up thinking that a predator is trying to make its way to them, so they scurry up to the surface to run away.
Worms try to burrow through the concrete, however, they’re sometimes unable to. With sun exposure, the worms become dehydrated and end up dying.
It’s important to note that worms aren’t intentionally crawling onto the sidewalk to die. They’re simply trying to survive and find new areas to live in.
Therefore, you should try taking steps to help them when possible.
According to a study in Invertebrate Biology research, some species need more oxygen than others.
In this study, Taiwanese researchers followed two earthworm species with differing histories.
One of them breathed more oxygen during the night than the day, while the other breathed lower amounts of oxygen throughout the day.
The species that breathed more oxygen at night had a tougher time tolerating immersion in water. This was even more amplified at night, as it became even more intolerant to rainfall and quickly raced to the surface.
On the other hand, the second species never went up to the surface. Since it generally consumed less oxygen, it had a higher ability to withstand rainfall.
So, not all worms will crawl to the surface when it rains. It depends on the species. However, there’s a lot more to the explanation than the species and its oxygen intake.
If you come across worms dying on the sidewalk after a rainstorm, you may feel compelled to help them. Here are some tips on how to rescue them:
- Use a flat object, such as a piece of cardboard or spatula, to gently lift the worm from the pavement.
- Place the worm on a moist surface such as soil or grass.
- Avoid touching the worm with your bare hands as they’re sensitive to the oils on the human skin.
- Make sure to handle the worm gently as they’re extremely fragile creatures.
- If the worm seems to be injured or appears to be distressed, it may be best to leave it alone and let nature take its course.
Remember that worms play a vital role in the ecosystem. By rescuing them, you’re helping to maintain a healthy environment for all living organisms.
Besides being an essential part of the ecosystem, worms play an important role in maintaining the soils they live in. These roles include:
- Aerating the soil
- Breaking down organic matter
- Improving soil fertility
What if you walk out and find that there are many worms already dead on your sidewalk?
You should remove them right away to prevent the attraction of other critters, rodents, and birds.
Dead bodies don’t look nice anyway, but they can also leave behind fecal matter that messes up your yard.
Scrape the dead worms and place them in a waste bag to keep your area clean and secure.
Worms aren’t hardy creatures, and many factors can expedite a worm’s death. Let’s delve into some of them.
Moist conditions influence a worm’s longevity to a high degree. Moisture is necessary for worms to thrive, and they can do that better in wet environments than in dry ones.
However, too much moisture in their homes can pack the environment too tightly, preventing good air circulation and obstructing their oxygen intake.
Temperature is another important factor as it shouldn’t be too high or too low—worms aren’t good at withstanding extreme temperatures.
That’s why you’ll find more dead worms when the day is hotter and the sun is shining stronger.
Worms in the wild can’t always find proper food and water sources.
Sometimes, they end up eating something bad for them or rotten food, which causes repercussions to their health and they end up dead.
Not to mention, they can get protein poisoning if they overfeed and have a lot of leftover scraps.
Worms can’t endure much. Under ideal conditions, they can live up to around four years.
During that period, they aren’t that resilient, and they can die from unbalanced moisture levels, temperatures, or air circulation. They also die from taking too much or too little food.
Almost all species of worms can regenerate parts of their bodies, especially the head and the tail.
Sometimes, however, when you cut the worm in half, the tail end regenerates a new tail segment. In that case, the worm is unable to feed and eventually dies.
So, while the answer isn’t a direct no, it’s still not exactly a yes. It just depends on which end of the worm’s body you’re looking at.
Now that you understand the reasons behind worms appearing on the surface, you can invest in saving them if you do find them dying on the sidewalk.
If it’s not after a rainstorm, they could be dehydrated in the sun, so make sure you check on them and get them back to a safe space.
I have a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and over 10 years of experience working in IT. As a homeowner, I love working on projects around the house, and as a father, I love investigating various ways to keep my family safe (whether or not this involves tech). I’ve also played guitar for almost 20 years and love writing music, although it’s hard to find the time these days.