Though nightcrawlers can burrow down to a depth of 6.5 feet, they generally stay close to the surface. This increases the chance of running across one when gardening, playing in the dirt or landscaping. These worms receive their name because you can usually find them feeding above ground at night, but they’re really just your common earthworm.
When you examine a nightcrawler up close, note their red-gray color and ring-shaped segments called annuli. Tiny bristles called setae cover each annuli. Nightcrawlers use their setae to slither and move as well as burrow into the ground. If you dissect one of these worms, you will discover that it does not possess a backbone, making it an invertebrate. Nightcrawlers can grow to be a whopping 14 inches long and can weight up to 0.39 oz. In the wild, the average night crawler can live to be six years old.
The first segment of a nightcrawler’s body contains the mouth. As they burrow, they feed on soil. The dirt contains decomposing leaves and roots, and the worm’s body extracts these nutrients from the soil. The fact that they eat plants for energy makes them herbivores. They can eat up to a third of their body weight in a single day. These worms also function as food for many creatures such as birds, rats and toads. Commercial and recreational fishermen often dig for nightcrawlers in order to use them for bait to catch fish.
While some areas consider nightcrawlers to be an agricultural pest, they provide a valuable service to gardeners, farmers and the earth. Their tunnels introduce air to the ground and allow the soil to breathe. Aerating gets oxygen to roots to aid growth, helps fertilizer and water reach roots and loosens up compacted soil which helps roots grow. Plus, their waste transports important nutrients and minerals from the underground to the surface.
You can divide nightcrawlers into two types: European and Canadian. European nightcrawlers usually measure around 3 inches in length. People use these worms for fishing and composting. People pour their household food garbage into a compost bin where worms eat it and produce compost through their waste. They then use the compost to fertilizer their lawns and gardens. Others feed these worms to their pet lizards and turtles.
Canadian nightcrawlers grow larger than European nightcrawlers, up to 14 inches. This makes them great for fishing because they can easily be secured on a fishhook. The worms also remain alive for approximately five minutes while under water. This means their movements can attract fish. They make good bait for freshwater fish such as large-mouth bass, trout and catfish. However, Canadian nightcrawlers don’t like warm temperatures and will die in temperatures above 65 degrees Fahrenheit.