3 Types of Earthworms (With Pictures and Facts)

Earthworms are present in the soil, and since soil can be everywhere, so do these worms. In fact, many of us encounter these invertebrates without even paying attention to them. Still, it can be surprising to realize that there are many species of earthworms.

Yep, you heard it right. There exist thousands of earthworm species. In particular, there are over 2,700 species of it. Still, all these earthworms fall into three main types. These are the compost worm, the earth-worker worm, and the root-dwelling worm.

Let’s take a good look at each of these types and get to know earthworms a little bit more!

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Earthworm Types

As I said, there are three main types of earthworm; the compost worm, the earth-worker worm, and the root dwelling worm.

Before we get into each, it’s important to remember that composting worms are not the same as garden worms you can find in the soil of your garden.

It can be quite confusing to differentiate between the two, but they are two different worms nonetheless.

The Compost Worm

The compost worm is a type of earthworm that lives in the first 12 cm of topsoil on a rich diet of rotting vegetable matter. The main thing to note with this worm is that it doesn’t eat soil.

You can find such worms in manure heaps and leaf piles. However, you won’t find them in typical garden soil.

Since worms don’t eat soil, they can’t live underground, and they would find it difficult to dig. Further, they won’t produce castings as a typical earthworm would.

If they are in the ground, it’s usually easy to dig and navigate around. Moreover, compost worms like to eat protozoa, bacteria, and fungi.

These worms also don’t build permanent burrows in their habitat. Instead, they prefer to dig randomly through the topsoil and in the rotting matter.

Depending on the weather, they would go deep down or can go up near the surface. When it’s cold, these worms either go deep down or ball up. They are also likely to hibernate to conserve energy.

compost worm

The Earth-worker Worm

The Earth-worker worm is the type of earthworm you’ll likely find in your garden. From the name itself, earth-workers would till the soil all day, making it more airy and pleasant for plants to grow in.

Moreover, earth-worker worms make long and vertical burrows of up to a few feet deep. They would also leave their waste at the entrances.

Such wastes are what we call worm castings, and these things are perfect fertilizers since they are rich in nutrients for plants.

Earth-workers eat the soil in front of them, taking only the nutrients and releasing the excess dirt as castings.

These worms come up to the surface at night to look for food. However, they stay underneath during the day to avoid getting dried up by the harsh sunlight.

Earth-worker Worm

The Root Dwelling Worm

The root-dwelling worm is the kind of earthworm that inhabits the areas around roots. Be it plants or trees, the fields are rich with decaying roots and fungi and are typical in farmlands.

Since the ground is rich in nutrients, the earthworms in these areas won’t go above the surface. Thus, you’ll only see one if you would dig the place up.

Root Dwelling Worm

How to identify the type of earthworm?

The best and quickest way to identify an earthworm type is through the area where they thrive or live.

Of course, all earthworms live in the soil. In the first place, their name suggests they dwell on the earth. Still, the three different types of earthworms differ.

For instance, the compost worms thrive near the surface, and they are usually in compost soil. Thus, you can’t find such worms deep beneath the ground since they don’t eat dirt.

On the other hand, the earth-worker worms tend to leave in garden and farming grounds. These worms eat the soil, tilling them in the process. Moreover, you can see their castings on the surface, indicating they are earth-worker worms.

Lastly, the root-dwelling worms thrive near trees and plants where there are roots below. Further, these worms tend to remain beneath the ground, so you’ll only see them if you dig the soil.

In general, the compost worms live near the surface, the earth-worker worms live in garden and farming grounds, and the root-dwelling worms live near plants or trees.

Related: Types of Worms

How many types of earthworms are there?

Earthworms are one of the segmented worms, and they already make up about 2,700 species. Overall, all worms fall into about 22,000 species.

Still, while there are thousands of species and varieties of worms, they roughly fall within the three main groups. These are the compost worms, earth-worker worms, and root-dwelling worms.


Earthworms come in many types, roughly around 2,700 species. They can still fall into three main groups: compost worms, earth-worker worms, and root-dwelling worms.

In general, earthworms are our partners in improving the soil. Thus, it is true that whenever there are earthworms present, the ground there is rich and healthy.

True enough, earthworms have a specific lifestyle that’s compatible with the environment. Thus, it’s quite fascinating to think that many kinds of worms benefit different types of environments.


Image credits – Canva, Wikimedia, FreeImg.net

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