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Worms


by Richard Jones

What do you get if you chop an earthworm in half? I've been asked that question many times by small children and I always have to give them the rather unfortunate answer: mostly a dead worm.


Worm on soilWhat do you get if you chop an earthworm in half? I've been asked that question many times by small children and I always have to give them the rather unfortunate answer: mostly a dead worm. Many don't believe me, so deeply ingrained is the myth of worm regeneration.

The trouble is that if a worm is cut in two, both halves wriggle, and they may continue for some time. The head end, the bit with the fat broad saddle segments about one-quarter down the length, may even burrow off into the soil again. The good news is that, with luck, the head end may survive, and the tail cut might heal, if it can cope with infections, huge loss of body fluids and all the other problems associated with major injury trauma. The tail will eventually stop moving and die.

So there I am digging up at the allotment last week and there are worms all over the place, much to the amusement of nearly 3-year-old who examines them all. We find the biggest and the smallest, the fattest and the thinnest, the reddest and the darkest. It's a great game, although it becomes slightly surreal when we have to decide whether there are 'goody' and 'baddy' worms - too much watching Power Rangers I think.

Suddenly, there it is, the survivor worm of deeply ingrained myth, the one who had its tail chopped off and then grew a new one. It was easy to spot with its delicate pink newly grown tail contrasting with the old dark purple body. We looked at it thoughtfully for a while, and let it go. I decided not to launch into a lecture on worm bisection. I could just picture it ... very curious small boy sitting in the garden holding up a pair of scissors saying: "But daddy, you told me ...".



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Gardeners' World Web User 10/03/2008 at 16:31

I really love worms! They rock! They are sooo wriggly.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:30

Reply to Lillian: Good to hear it. My three-year-old took in more than I thought. Now whenever we see a worm in the garden he tells me that if you cut it in half it goes pink at the tail. I won't let him have scissors in the garden though.