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14 Types & Species of Earthworms to Know About (2022 Updated)

Earthworms are present in both poor and rich soil. Not surprisingly, earthworms are much rather seen in rich soil where they can find nutritional ingredients that encourage their growth and development. Types of earthworms can be listed based on their category but also the different species that they may belong to. Although all earthworms may look the same to you, you’d be surprised to see how many types of earthworms as well as species there are.

We wrote this article that will help you understand and recognize different types of earthworms. How can you know that some worm is an earthworm?

Well, there are thousands of different worm species, and not all of them are considered earthworms. Still, those that we may occasionally see on the side road, in our garden, or lurking around our house are also known as earthworms.

That being said, recognizing that some worm is an earthworm is fairly easy. However, recognizing which species it is exactly is more than difficult for most people.

Don’t worry, if you continue reading this article, you’ll be able to classify the earthworms based on their category. You will also be able to recognize which species it is if you see it often enough in your garden.

That being said, continue reading this article to immense into the truest definition of earthworms and learn more fun facts about the types of earthworms that we will list.

What Are Earthworms?

There may be different types of worms in the world, lurking beneath the soil, inside some animals, trees, or under the rocks. Needless to say, given this number, it can be quite difficult to tell a difference between earthworms and other types of works.

With over one million species, the difficulty just increases, as well as the list of newly-discovered species. But, let’s properly define earthworms. Just like most other worms there are, earthworms can be recognized as tube-shaped. It’s commonly found in the soil, which is why they got their name.

It’s also worth mentioning that earthworms are segmented worms, which means they consist of different sections that make their organism. They’re not too picky eaters. They’ll nibble on any kind of organic matter, be it living or dead. Being segmented, its entire digestive system is made through its body.

You may probably wonder what exactly organic matter entails, their food can include anything from eating dirt that surrounds the soil they live in, to eating the leftovers of fallen leaves and other organic material.

Because they don’t have a respiratory system like other, more developed animals, earthworms can breathe through their skin, which is also how they get rid of toxins.

What makes earthworms fascinating animals is that they are capable of having two roles in their reproduction system. They can release the eggs, but they can also release sperm, which means they’re ultimately take place of both biological sexes.

Earthworms need to tightly attach their bodies, and once they’re done exchanging sperm they go their separate ways. It’s however, important to note that the reproduction process takes place on the surface.

What makes these worms quite difficult to differentiate compared to other types of worms is their length. While some of them can barely grow past half of an inch, some can grow up to 14 inches in length. In some areas with an adequate climate that promotes their growth, they can grow anywhere from 5 to 10 feet in length.

You’d be surprised to know how many worms there are, but first, it’s necessary to learn everything about the three main categories:

Main Types of Earthworms

After thoroughly looking at all the details about earthworms, it’s time to identify the three main categories that they’re grouped at. Based on these three main categories, you’ll be able to recognize other types of earthworms that fall into those categories.

Also, each type of earthworm is important to the ecosystem it inhabits, studies show, which will also help you learn more about your soil, and the environment you live in. Continue reading to learn more.

Endogeic Earthworms

Endogeic earthworms were named after their ancient Greek name which means “within the earth.” Their name is highly suggestive of the way they live and dwell on the Earth. They rarely go above the surface and prefer spending most of their time buried within the top levels of the soil.

Thanks to the composition of the topsoil layers, they can make horizontal burrows that they live in until they migrate to some other location within the soil. Sometimes, they will also hide under the rocks and trees that are placed on the soil.

On rare occasions, some of them well dwell even deeper beneath the Earth unless it rains. When it rains, they’re encouraged to go out of their burrow and collect some of the rain as rain promotes their health and prevents them from drying out due to lack of moisture.

Key traits:

  • They’re quite small compared to other types of earthworms, they will measure from 1 to 12 inches in the best chances.
  • They rarely appear above the surface and like to make burrows in the top layers of the soil. However, they do like to go out in the rain and grab some extra moisture.
  • You’ll easily recognize them because they’re pale white and usually translucent, as they don’t have a pigment that could give them some particular color. Sometimes, they can come in gray, green, blue, or pale pink colors.
  • They’re slow travelers, compared to other types of earthworms, they move significantly slower.
  • They’re quite helpful when it comes to aeration, which contributes to mixing minerals and air.
  • They are not picky eaters and mostly feed on the soil.
  • They make horizontal burrows, unlike other worms that make vertical ones. They’re only semi-permanent, however.

Epigeic Earthworms

Unlike the endogeic worms that are famed for building horizontal burrows, epigeic earthworms are not praised for such matters. Instead, they appear above the earth and spend most of their lives there, hiding and resting in the organic matter that started its decaying process.

There are other names for this type of earthworms, sometimes they’re called surface-dwelling earthworms, as well as compost earthworms, which are all appropriate translations for their original Greek names. Most commonly they can be found among the leaves or heaps.

They prefer to stay surrounded by a lot of organic waste that they can feed on and use for their protection. Living in the leaves also sounds like a great idea for them because they have a dark coloring that prevents them from being seen easily. More importantly, they adapted to life above the surface to the point their pigment protects them from strong UV rays.

Key traits:

  • Thanks to their strong muscles they can move much faster than other worms in the categorization list. The muscles are quite strong compared to their size.
  • Dark pigmentation not only protects them from predators and living on the surface, but it also gives good protection when it comes to UV exposures.
  • Play a great role in composting, especially because they help break material down quite fast.
  • One of their main traits is that they can reproduce quickly, compared to other species.
  • They’re smaller worms with sizes from half an inch to 7 inches
  • They mostly live among leaves and compost heaps.
  • The epigeic worms don’t make burrows but spend most of their lives on the surface.

Anecic Earthworms

We believe that Anecic earthworms take the best of both worlds. They can be found living deep below the soil. However, whenever they get hungry, they’ll dwell in the soil level or above the ground in search of nutrients that will help them thrive.

So, while endogeic earthworms create horizontal burrows, these are famed for making vertical burrows that can travel deep within the soil. Their burrows usually reach up to the mineral level of the soil that can help them feed also.

Unlike the endogeic earthworms, these worms create burrows that are mainly permanent. Sometimes, their burrows can reach down to 6 feet underground. Their burrows are quite big and wide, which is likely why they’re considered permanent places for nesting.

Still, it’s worth noting that they feed similarly to the endogeic earthworms. As they have to stretch above the ground to feed, they’ll eat organic waste, but mostly leaves that have fallen off the trees. They are also quite strong, which allows them to drag the collected leaves deep into their burrows where they create food stacks. More often than not, you’ll also find them eating soil and litter as part of their diet, but they’re most known for grabbing the leaves off the ground.

Key traits:

  • They create vertical burrows that dive deep underground.
  • They, however, climb up to eat leaves, soil, and litter, as well as other organic compounds.
  • Anecic earthworms are the most common types of earthworms, even though they are buried within the ground. They’re commonly used for baits and nightcrawlers.
  • They’re the slowest-moving earthworms, even slower than endogeic earthworms.
  • Their sizes are different, they can start at one inch and grow as big as 15 inches.
  • Although they’re not completely colorless like the first of the mentioned earthworms, it’s worth noting they have some weak pigment that helps people distinguish between different types of earthworms, it’s mostly their size that makes the final word.

Other Types & Species of Earthworms

All earthworms are native to some area or the other. That being said, while they can easily be found in some certain part of the world, a place with a different climate is not guaranteed to be their home. In this list, we compiled other basic types of earthworms, as well as different species. Continue reading through, to be able to recognize them easily.

Compost Worms

Compost worms can be found living above the surface or the first few inches under the surface. That being said, you’re unlikely to see them dwell deep. They’re commonly found in the garden soil. However, what’s interesting about compost worms is that they won’t be found eating the soil too much.

They build small, temporary burrows among the top levels of the soil and mostly around the bacteria and fungi, and they commonly feed on leaves and vegetable organic matter. They’re also known for hibernation so they can keep their energy levels optimal.

They’re not particularly fond of extreme weather conditions. That being said, they’re more likely to hibernate in the hot or cold months of the year and do their best to keep themselves moist.

Earthworker Worms

Earthworker worms are commonly found in your garden, be it floral, fruit, or vegetable garden. They are known for digging holes and building burrows deep underground, and only coming out to eat. They are not picky eaters so they will likely eat leaves and other compost material, but will accept to eat soil too. They are nocturnal dwellers when it comes to food and you’ll rarely see them feed during the day.

Gray Worm

Gray earthworms can be found anywhere around the world, it’s considered one of the most abundant types of earthworms. Still, it can be most commonly found in the United Kingdom. It doesn’t live hidden deep into the soil, but usually atop of it where it feeds and reproduces. It has a special color that is often coming in different shades depending on the segment. This type of worm feeds on leaves and other organic matter in its surroundings.

Brandling Worm

Brandling worms are true surface dwellers. You’ll find them close to your plants in the garden where they are most abundant. That being said, they’ll avoid diving into the deep layers of soil, unless they have to protect themselves for some reason.

Other than the organic waste, they’ll also feed on different vegetation, compost, and occasionally, manure. It is packed with various traits, but one of the most important ones is that it has strong muscles that allow it to move swiftly. This trait has been an important asset when it comes to escaping bigger predators.

You won’t have difficulties recognizing this earthworm. Its segments are equipped with special structures that closely resemble bristles which help them pull the food with it and also move fast.

Green Worm

The green worm is abundant in Europe. However, it’s most commonly found in the UK, where it makes for about 35% of all earthworms. Just like its name suggests it’s green thanks to the pigment called bilin, which is responsible for its green color. It’s worth noting there are exceptions where these types of worms have bright pink textures.

These worms aren’t too large, at only 2-inch of the average length for adult growths. They also come equipped with special discs that help them drag food or suck the matter they need to feed.

Common Earthworm

Although it was widespread around the world thanks to plant transportation and is commonly used as fishing bait, common earthworms are the most abundant in Europe, Western Europe to be precise. Their most favorite food is leaves where they like to spend most of the time feeding on and hiding from the predators.

Like other agile and mobile earthworms, the common earthworm is also packed with quite strong muscles that allow them to move effortlessly and drag the food with them. However, nature gifted them those strong muscles thanks to the numerous predators that they have, starting from birds to foxes and other forest predators.

Being common, you’ll hardly make a distinguishing between them and other worms, but the red-brown pigmentation will help you catch the resemblance.

Red-head Worm

Red-head worms are common earthworms that sport red-purple pigmentation and are common in different parts of the world. However, it’s not a commonly desired worm to have in your garden. At first, it may be hard to spot because it burrows itself in the upper top layers of the soil.

Its specific habits when it comes to feeding might anger a lot of gardeners who want to see their plants thrive healthy and big.

According to ecologists, this type of worm represents a big threat for different ecosystems and communities no matter where it is in the world, as it’s hard to find food that won’t compromise the health of the plants you’re growing. It can grow from 4 to 6 inches in length by the time it reaches adulthood.

Root-dwelling Worms

As their name suggests, these types of worms can bury themselves very deep into the soil, creating vertical burrows where they’ll spend most of their life. They’re abundant in various places in the world, and burrow deep enough to reach the roots of trees and plants. It will eat soil, but it’ll also go out to feed, mostly nocturnally which is why a lot of gardeners face difficulties when it comes to discovering them.

Nevertheless, they are quite rare, so if you think they’re hard to discover it’s likely that they’re not even in the garden.

Eiseniella Tetrahedra

Eiseniella Tetraedra is a small worm that can grow from 2 to 4 inches in length by the time it reaches adulthood. It’s recognizable thanks to its red pigment that flatters their moist skin. You likely won’t notice them in your garden unless you live near some lake or a marsh as they are aquatic.

They can commonly be found in the mud or under some rocks that are located near or in the water. They feed on various organic waste that they can find in the abundance, they’ll also feed on the mud.

Giant Gippsland Earthworm

Remember when we talked about earthworms and said that some can grow extremely large thanks to the conditions they’re in? Well, the giant Gippsland earthworm is one of them. It’s one of the largest worms in the world, in fact, and it lives in Australia. That shouldn’t surprise you given how many giant spiders, reptiles and other creepy animals can be found there.

Its pigment is usually pink-grey but some segments can be dark purple, or almost black. When it comes to their colossal length, they can grow anywhere from 30 to 50 inches long. It prefers moist areas. It’s not exactly aquatic, but it can be found near the rivers in deep soil that is moist thanks to the water nearby. They will only ever get above the soil to feed.

African Nightcrawler

Although it’s native to Western Africa, thanks to the warming planet African Nightcrawler can more commonly be seen around the tropical areas around the world. It needs to be constantly moist, which is why you’ll easily notice it thanks to its characteristic gloss.

It usually resides in places where the temperature is around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s especially popular with composting because it’s capable of rapidly processing the entire composition process which helps deal with waste.

Also Read:  What Do Earthworms Eat? What Gives Them Their Nutrients?

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