ANIMALS – The earthworm forages! But beware, foraging is not pollinating. Foraging comes from loot, pollinating from pollen. To pollinate is to fertilize with pollen. The wind pollinates without foraging! “The soldiers disperse to forage. Let us hasten to forage.” Voltaire. To forage is to pilfer, to make loot, but it is also to glean or peck. It is in this sense that the earthworm forages.
It forages, but without storing part of its loot like the honey bee. I specify with honey, because it is one of the rare bees to make some on the approximately 1000 species which lodge in France.
There are almost twice as many species of bees as birds, but only one produces honey for heating or feeding. The others consume on the spot like the earthworm. Or transport their loot to feed their brothers and sisters, or their descendants. What the earthworm does not do. He is a loner who abandons his eggs to their own fate!
His only social activity is sexual. But there again, he is very sober, only mating between fellows like all protandrous hermaphrodites. And for the detail-oriented, they ejaculate each other at the base of the neck in comparison to the morphology of a horse. And almost all of them practice the head-to-tail position. Almost all of them, because even among earthworms, diversity reigns.
If only at the level of the reproduction rate. When some lay a lot and live a short time, others lay little, but live as long as a fox in its natural state! Reaching their sexual maturity at the same age as him, we now call their burrow galleries! The comparison stops there, the fox remains a formidable predator of earthworms which can swallow up to four per minute!
In short, all earthworms share in abandoning their eggs unlike the majority of bees. And to abandon them too often to their disastrous fate, because they only have enemies. From the stork to the blackbird, the mole or the green lizard, the hedgehog or the toad, the list would be too long. Without forgetting the world champion, the badger, which can consume up to 100 kg per year. Even slugs eat it.
All species of earthworms lay eggs without brooding, but not all forage! Not that they are wingless, they could very well climb along the stems as some climb to nest in the cabbages during the winter. Or climb trees so as not to drown in floods! A surprising behavior observed in the Marais poitevin and in the Amazon. Professor Lavelle, one of the great specialists on the world stage: ” In the Amazon, a worm of the genus Andiodrilus, which lives in floodplain forests, climbs trees, when they are flooded, to clump together in Bromeliads, plants of the same family as pineapple. When the water recedes, the worms drop to the ground. How do they know that there are refuges in these trees? How do they know the water has receded? »
To find out, you would have to put yourself in the head of an earthworm. Living your life… not very exciting to put yourself in your shoes! So we will never know, just as we will never know how, in the darkness of the ground, two earthworms know that they have the same desire at the same time! Knowing that they only mate between individuals of the same species. Let’s not ignore this evidence, at a time when many continue to believe that cutting an earthworm in half makes two!!! Or cut two in half to make four. When you slice one, you simply cut off its brain from its second brain, the gut.
However, in certain flat marine worms of the Platyhelminthes phylum, primitive worms that have nothing to do with our earthworm friends, if you cut off their heads, they grow back! And she would grow back with all the memories of the old!!
In short, everyone will have understood that earthworms do not visit flowers! So what are they foraging for? Another nectar secreted by the roots of plants, a viscous liquid and rich in sugar, but low in protein, a mucilage called: root exudates. And through the biochemical process of photosynthesis, plants can devote up to a third of their carbohydrate production to making it. Root exudates and floral nectar whose sole function is to whet the appetite: bait pollinators to reproduce, bait to feed.
Indeed, constrained by the fixity and the tough food competition that they engage in underground, by creating a dynamic in their “legs”, they attract microbes, mycorrhizae and other invertebrates, including earthworms, thus recovering nutrients for their growth. They also accelerate, and thus, the mineralization of soil organic matter and the availability of nutrients, and (also) recover the urea which is loaded with the mucus of earthworms. They create their own nourishing ecosystem.
On Sept. 15, 2014, researchers published in Nature that earthworms stimulate plant growth. And more than stimulating it, their presence had led to a 25% increase in yields. Even if this study is the first published on the subject, more than 300 experiments had previously concluded that earthworms have an effect on plants! And among them, the idea that earthworms would also favor certain bacteria specialized in the production of growth hormones.
In conclusion, we know so little about all the mechanisms taking place under our feet. The soil remains a great unknown, a black hole where everything suggests that it is still the plants that lead the dance.
See also on The HuffPost: Composting your bio-waste at home with earthworms, we show you how easy it is