Did you know there are at least 7,000 types of earthworms that exist on every continent except Antarctica? Earthworms play an vital role in composting organic materials and aerating soil for plants.
Let’s learn more about these fascinating creatures. Keep reading to learn all about the different categories and types of earthworms.
3 Categories of Earthworms
Before digging into the different kinds of earthworms, let’s take a look at the 3 categories they fall into: those that live just below the soil’s surface, on the surface, and deep underground.
Here are the 3 categories of earthworms we will explore:
Endogeic earthworms spend most of their life in the top 20 cm of soil, where they eat organic matter. Some species occasionally come up to the surface to look for food, which causes them to form shallow semi-permanent burrows.
Epigeic earthwoms live on the surface of the soil. They’re often found in areas with leaves and debris. They do not make burrows like other types of earthworms, and instead feed on the organic materials on the topsoil.
Anecic earthworms can live in soil as deep as 3 meters in permanent burrows below the surface. They collect food from the soil surface, ingest dirt and organic matter, form extensive tunnel networks.
13 Types of Earthworms
Earthworms offer numerous benefits to soil. They play an important role in breaking down decomposing materials and adding nutrients to soil. Let’s learn more about examples of 13 types of earthworms.
1. Red Wiggler
Scientific name: Eisenia fetida
Red wigglers are a very common type of composting earthworm. Composting worms are found in the top layer of soil, where they help to aerate and loosen the soil. They are great for gardens.
They help to improve drainage and makes it easier for plants to take up nutrients. Composting worms also help to break down dead plant matter and other organic material, which further enriches the soil.
2. Redhead Worm
Scientific name: Lumbricus rubellus
Redhead worms are a reddish-brown colored earthworm and can sometimes have a violet color. They’re the largest species found in Europe and the British Isles.
They mostly live on the surface of the soil. They enjoy areas with dung and decaying organic materials that they feed on.
3. Gray Worm
Scientific name: Aporrectodea caliginosa
The gray worm is a pale-colored earthworm that burrows deep into the soil. They eat soil and replenish nutrients. Gray worms are found in Great Britain.
The gray worm can be up to 2.5 inches long and saddle pad ridges on the front segment of its body. The saddle is usually lighter colored.
4. Green Worm
Scientific name: Allolobophora chlorotica
Green worms can be identified by the wide yellow ring they have around their body. They also have 3 sucker-like discs that excrete yellow fluid when you handle it.
Green worms spend most of their time beneath the soil surface which makes them lack color. They’re pale colored with a slight green tint.
5. Asian Jumping Worm
Scientific name: Amynthas agrestis
The Asian jumping worm gets the name from its movements that look like jumping. They are considered an invasive species in North America and originates from Japan and the Korean peninsula.
Asian jumping worms are reddish-brown in color with a distinct light-colored wide ring. They feed on leaf litter and ground debris that native organisms need to survive.
6. Kentucky Earthworm
Scientific name: Komarekiona eatoni
The Kentucky earthworm lives in forests throughout the Appalachian Mountains and eastern United States. They can be found from Pennsylvania to Illinois and south to Tennessee and the Carolinas.
They are useful in breaking down organic plant materials that pile up in deciduous forests. Kentucky earthworms exist in the top 12 to 18 inches of soil and are an important part of the ecosystem.
7. European Nightcrawler
Scientific name: Dendrobaena hortensis
European nightcrawlers are a very common earthworm that makes a good composting worm. They’re also commonly used as fishing bait.
European nightcrawlers are usually pinkish-brown colored with pale tips. They’re smaller than their North American counterparts.
8. Canadian Nightcrawler
Scientific name: Lumbricus terrestris
Canadian nightcrawlers are also called grandaddy earthworms or dew worms. They are native to Canada and can grow to be over 10 inches long. They are significantly thicker than other earthworms which makes them great for fishing.
Canadian nightcrawlers are anecic worms. They rarely surface but when they do it’s usually at night for mating.
9. African Nightcrawler
Scientific name: Eudrilus eugeniae
African nightcrawlers are from tropical regions of west Africa, but they’ve spread to other areas. They are a solid purple-gray color and grow to be up to 12 inches long.
African nightcrawlers eat a lot which makes them great for composting. In fact, you can order them online to add to your garden.
10. Louisiana Swamp Worm
Scientific name: Lutodrilus multivesiculatus
Also called the Louisiana mud worm, this earthworm is endemic to the United States. They are popular for fishing bait in the southern US.
Louisiana swamp worms are very hardy earthworms and can survive all kinds of soil and mud conditions. They have a distinct odor, so it’s hard to mistake them.
11. Oregon Giant Earthworm
Scientific name: Driloleirus macelfreshi
Growing to over 4 feet in length, the Oregon giant earthworm is one of the largest earthworms in North America. It’s a rare species and was only discovered in the 1930s.
These giant earthworms are found in wet soil with good drainage. They live in areas with dense conifer growth and feed on organic materials that are near the soil surface.
12. Giant Gippsland Earthworm
Scientific name: Megascolides australis
The giant Gippsland earthworm comes from Australia and live in burrows deep beneath the soil’s surface. These massive earthworms can reach upwards of 10 feet in length.
Giant Gippsland earthworms require moist soil to burrow in so they avoid areas with a lot of tree roots that soak up the moisture. They mostly live in pastures and along stream banks.
13. Washington Giant Earthworm
Scientific name: Driloleirus americanus
The Washington giant earthworm is also called the giant Palouse earthworm because it’s found in the Palouse region of the western part of Washington state. It’s anecic, burrowing up to 15 feet below the soil’s surface.