Segmented worms (earthworms)

Identification: Adults can reach 60 to 150 mm in length and 4 to 6 mm wide. The back side is purplish or reddish-brown with an iridescent sheen, while the belly is pale in color.

Earthworms feed on plant waste, stirring and aerating the soil as they tunnel. After they digest decaying plant matter, they excrete worm casting which are very high in plant nutrients, such as phosphates, potassium and nitrates. Worms eat their own weight each day. A pound of worms eats a pound of food each day.

Native earthworms in the Northern United States were wiped out by glaciers during the last ice age. Here forest development relies on a large amount of undecayed leaf matter. When worms decompose that leaf layer, the ecology may shift making the habitat unsurvivable for certain species of trees, ferns and wildflowers.