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Dew Worm, Vancouver Island, BC
Dew Worm, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

It seems strange to think of earthworms as immigrants. After all, they seem to be everywhere, performing their lowly task of working the soil. It seems impossible that they could not always have been here and yet, in many parts of North America there were no worms until they were transported here from Europe and elsewhere by yet another invasive species, the humans. At least since the end of the last ice age, for the most part, North America has been an earthworm-free zone.

Altiostus Vancouveris, Vancouver Island, BC
Arctiostrotus Vancouverensis, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

In North America, the ice age glaciers scraped away the topsoil along with most of the worms it contained. When the glaciers retreated about 10,000 years ago, the northern forests grew back without the help of worms.

Then came the Europeans, bringing with them plants, as well as the dirt those plants were growing in and the worms that dirt contained. Worms were also introduced intentionally, as a way to fertilize and improve the productivity of European-style vegetable gardens, they were transported in the ballast of sailing ships too.

Now, anyone in North America who turns over a rich shovel full of garden dirt is likely to find that dirt literally crawling with at least one non-native earthworm species. For instance, the dew worm that is so prized by fisherman are native to Europe, not North America, and so are the several species of red wigglers that are so common to our gardens and compost bins and in terms of sheer numbers, the migrants thoroughly overwhelm the natives in most places.

Snow Worm, Vancouver Island, BC
Snow Worm, Vancouver Island, BC

Despite their green card status, however, most people view earthworms as beneficial, especially when they are tilling and fertilizing a garden or rendering compost into black gold. But in ecosystems that developed without worms can actually cause harm. for instance, the ecology of northern forests often depends on a thick layer of leaf litter remaining on the ground throughout the year. But earthworms remove that leaf litter by converting it to topsoil and that seemingly benign action has so completely changed the chemistry and biology of the forest that some native plants and trees are no longer able to grow there.


Arctiostrotus Vancouverenis Worm

Arctiostrotus Vancouverenis Worm, Vancouver Island, BCIt has only been observed in parts of Washington State and on Vancouver Island. It has been seen in several areas of the west coast of the island and in a few spots around the Cowichan Lake area. There are quite a few in the Campbell River area. Read More….




Common Earth Worm

Common Earth Worm, Vancouver Island, BCThe Common Earthworm is sometimes called the nightcrawler because they come to the surface at night. it is a very common worm in gardens and lawns. Common earthworms (Lumbricus Terrestris) are indigenous to European countries but is an invasive species in North America. Read More….



Dew Worm

Dew Worm, Vancouver Island, BCThe Dew Worm is found in great numbers all along the coast of the Pacific Northwest. They are a common species of earthworm that is active at night but will also come to the surface during wet or rainy weather and crawl about. They will often leave casts on the surface which makes lawns bumpy and uneven. Dew worms are more common on older, shaded or heavily watered lawns. Read More….



Red Wiggler Worm

Red Wiggler Worm, Vancouver Island, BCThe Red Wiggler Worm is also known as red worms. They live in the top 25 cm of the soil, thus making them epigeic earthworms. These worms do not burrow, are non-migratory, and they require oxygen to survive. They live for about one year. Red wigglers feed on decaying organic matter. In fact, for millions of years they have been busy making natural fertilizer. Read More….



Snow Worm

Snow Worms, Vancouver Island, BCThe Snow Worm looks quite a bit like Ice worms, except that ice worms are never found away from glaciers and are usually a much darker color, some that l have seen were almost black. These worms were at least thirty km from the nearest glacier. Read More….


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2 thoughts on “Worms”

  1. The name under one of the above pictures states the worm is Altiostus Vancouveris. There is no such genus or species, but you already mention Artiostrotus vancouverensis so I am assuming there is no confusion here.

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