How Do Worms and Earthworms Dig? (All You Need to Know)

Worms and Earthworms are famous for being professional diggers. It’s an obvious fact since that’s what these animals do all day. With a curious mind, you may also wonder how they do it, especially since they don’t have hands or feet. Thus, it begs the question: 

How do worms and earthworms dig? Worms and earthworms dig by eating up the soil in front of them. Since they don’t have hands or feet, they use their mouth to consume the ground and dig through, creating a tunnel. The waste they release upon eating soil is castings. This soil perfect as fertilizers for plants.

It may be true that earthworms and other kinds of worms seem icky and dirty. Still, they remain to be one of the beneficial animals for plants and even for us. Their wastes are rich soil that’s perfect for plants’ growth. Further, they add up oxygen and air in the ground, making it ideal for farmers and gardeners.

In this article, we’ll tackle how they dig and the effects of their activities on the environment.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

How are worms digging?

As I said earlier, worms dig by eating up the soil in front of them. Since they don’t have hands or feet to break and remove the ground, they use their mouths and eat it to pass through.

While they do it to move around, they also do it to eat and gather nutrients they need. In the process, they also collect nutrients from the ground.

Among these are nematodes, protozoans, rotifers, bacteria, and fungi. 

Sometimes, the ground also has buried animals. Its decomposing body also provides an ample amount of nutrients to worms.

As worms eat dirt, they also poop rich soil, which is excellent for growing plants. This waste is what we call castings.

Castings are wastes and dirt clumps excreted by worms. These wastes show up on the surface, looking like tiny bunches of grapes.

The castings are nothing but rich soil that works as perfect organic fertilizer. For this reason, many farmers want many worms in their ground.

Related: How Do Worms and Earthworms Move?

How deep do worms dig?

On average, worms can dig up to 6.5 feet deep. These animals usually burrow during the day, and they try to keep close to the surface.

Worms have light and dark receptors, which means they can detect light even though they have no eyes. Still, they usually dig during the day as they try to keep close to the surface.

While they seem to get attracted to light, they can’t stay long on the surface. Direct sunlight can dry up the worms’ moist skin, leading to suffocation and death.

On the other hand, they can only dig up to 6.5 feet deep since digging deeper means it would be darker. Further, the soil below 6.5 feet may not have many nutrients.

Since many nutrients like carcasses are always within a few feet beneath the surface, that’s where they can get their food. It’s also within this depth that they can find leaves, roots, and other organic matter.

digging worm

How fast do worms dig?

Worms aren’t fast diggers. Since they eat the soil in front of them, it can take a while to gather some distance.

Further, they usually dig only during the day and not that much at night. While the reason behind it is uncertain, it may have to do something with the light.

Setting their digging prowess aside, they can be fast when it comes to reproduction. Worms can double their population within 60 days since they lay eggs once every seven days.

Moreover, worms grow fast enough, only taking a few days or weeks to become mature and reproduce.

What do worms do with the rest of the dirt?

Worms only take the organic matter which their bodies can break down. The excess dirt would turn out to be their waste. Still, it’s not just any kind of excess.

As worms eat soil, they tend to secrete wastes called castings. This kind of organic matter is none other than dirt but is rich in nutrients.

Castings are perfect fertilizers for plants, improving their growth and maintaining their health.

Aside from the castings, the digging itself is beneficial to the ground. It helps increase the amount of air and water that gets into the soil. It’s all because digging creates some space in a once compressed earth.

For this reason, many people, particularly farmers and gardeners, want their area to have many worms. In general, the more worms they have, the richer their soil can be.


Worms may not be attractive animals like our pets. It can seem icky to hold and even have one around. Still, they remain to be one of the beneficial animals to have.

If you have a garden or a farm, you can consider worms as your best friend, since they help till the soil for you. Further, they provide castings, which are organic fertilizers for all sorts of plants.

In the end, worms may seem like pests, but they do nothing but help you improve the ground in your area.


Image credits – Canva

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