Nature Notes from Common Ground
Week of November 16, 2020
Weekly Nature Note
What's happening in nature this week?
Worms in Winter
The weather has been unseasonably warm, and last week I went out to look at the red wigglers in our worm bin to see how they are doing. The bin is dug into the ground, and as winter approaches, I put insulation over each tub to keep them warm. We've had a consistent population of red wigglers in our bin for the last 4 or 5 years, so I’ve been pretty proud of my system. Each tub in the bin has holes in it that allow the worms to move into the soil below, and from tub to tub. Once one tub gets full, I add food to another, and the worms move to where the meal is. Some amazing kid diggers even helped created two “worm condos” - tubes dug about 5 feet into the ground. The tubes extend below the frost line (the line below which the soil doesn't freeze), so I thought the worms could crawl down there to survive the winter.
In researching more about worms and winter, I’m beginning to suspect that, although we've had worms in our bin year after year, they probably aren’t surviving the way I thought. Apparently, red wigglers tend to stay near the surface of the soil, and don’t dig very deep down, and their shallow-burrowing makes them susceptible to our cold Northeastern winters. In fact, most vermicomposting resources suggest bringing your worms inside each winter!
But if the worms aren’t tunneling down below the frost line, or taking advantage of my “worm condo,” how are they surviving? It turns out that the worms themselves might not survive, but their babies do! Red wigglers lay their eggs in tiny cocoons that can hold up to 20 eggs. These cocoons can freeze during the winter, and when the temperature warms up again in spring, the babies will hatch out!
Night crawlers, another type of earthworm, do burrow into chambers below the frost line, where they curl up into a little ball and cover themselves in a mucous that keeps them from drying out and helps them breathe. They can even emerge before spring, if they temperatures get warm enough, though they will return to their chambers when it gets cold again.
Nature activity of the week
There are so many cool earthworm activities that you can do!
Here are some great science activities, exploring what worms look like, what they eat, and how they behave.
This website focuses more on crafts, games, and snacks centered around worms.
Want to create your own worm bin? You could be turning your kitchen waste into black gold in no time! While Common Ground’s worm bin is outside, I’ve known plenty of people who keep worm bins in their kitchens or classrooms! Check out these instructions from the EPA.
Some Worm Facts:
There are 2700 species of earthworms
Worms breathe through their skin - so they have to stay moist!
Worms can eat their weight each day
- Check out The Adventures of Herman from the University of Illinois to learn more about worms!
- Earthworm information and pictures from National Geographic
Hike of the Week
Abe Stone Park
Each week we will share a kid-friendly hike or other outdoor adventure.
Click here to visit Abe Stone Park in Cheshire!
Common Ground Pop-up Market
Common Ground will have a Pop Up Mini Farmer's Market November 20/21st with Fall veggies, decorative corn bundles, yarn, honey and more! Cafe Rebelde and the Glass Jar will also be there with coffee, tea and herbal skin care products.
Worm-y socks to support KidsGardening
About this series
In this time of virtual learning and social distancing, we seek to support teachers and families in getting outside in safe and healthy ways. We hope this series provides content and activities to help your students or your family engage in nature-based learning, whether you are learning in person or virtually.
Some of the funding we rely on to keep Nature Notes free comes from the Robert F. Schumann Foundation and The Claire C. Bennitt Watershed Fund, established by the South Central CT Regional Water Authority.