A big Water Babies welcome to our new friend – Riverford – and their guest blog all about why worms matter and how to get involved in their Big Worm Dig!
As organic farmers here at Riverford, we depend on the work of earthworms to help maintain both the fertility of the soil on our organic farms, and the health of the fruit and vegetables that we grow on them. That’s why we like worms so much!
Yet not all earthworms are the same. There are actually around 30 different species of earthworms in the UK, and while scientists know lots about most UK wildlife species, there are no comprehensive species distribution maps of British earthworms. This is actually a real problem for us, as without knowing which earthworms live where to start with, we won’t know when the earthworm population changes, or that we need to react to protect them.
So with this in mind, every year we carry out a fun and accessible survey that we’ve designed with earthworm experts which means adults and children across the UK can survey the earthworms near them and send us their results, contributing to real science. And we all know how much children love being scientists!
Riverford’s Big Worm Dig survey focuses on the ten most common species, and we’ve produced a handy booklet which makes it simple to identify which ones you find just by looking at their size and colour and comparing them to others on our chart. You can do the survey anywhere – in your garden, at nursery, in a local park (though get permission to dig) - and it only takes half an hour or so to do the survey and send us your results. We’ll also be holding worm digs at all of the Riverford Farms across the UK at our Pumpkin Days in October.
But the best thing about the survey is how much kids enjoy it. You get the odd squeamish individual, but they soon get over their uncertainty when they see the other children getting stuck in. Perhaps it’s because worms are so accessible (or maybe it’s because it’s a bit like digging for treasure), but their delight when even the smallest worm is found is clear!
We always get lots of questions when we’re doing worm digs, like: “Do worms have eyes?” (no, they have light sensitive cells though); “Why are worms slimy?” (because they need moist skin to be able to ‘breathe’ through it – it’s how they get the oxygen they need to live); “If you cut a worm in half, do you get two worms?” (no, but the half with the saddle on it will survive and regrow!).
So if you like the sound of it and want to get involved, you can get a free Big Worm Dig booklet either via download or in the post by visiting www.riverford.co.uk/bigwormdig. We’re running the survey until November 2nd 2014, and then the results will be analysed by our earthworm experts at the University of Central Lancashire. Make sure you send us your results, as we need your help – worms really do matter!