How Worm Charming Really Works

How does worm charming trick earthworms to rise up to the surface? Researcher Ken Catania of Vanderbilt University found the answer: worm charmers create vibrations similar to that of the worms' predator, the mole:

"Hundreds of large earthworms rapidly emerged from the ground for a distance of up to 12 metres from the vibrated stake," says Catania. The closer they were to the stake, the more earthworms emerged, and the worms stayed on the soil surface for between 4 and 15 minutes before beginning to burrow back down again. [...]

Finally, Catania compared the vibrations produced by worm grunting and those of a mole burrowing.

He found considerable overlap between the two, although moles produce a wider range of vibrations that peak at around 200 Hz and worm grunting vibrations are more uniform and concentrate near 80 Hz. Playing a recording of mole digging through a speaker into the soil, also drove worms to the surface.

"The results support the hypothesis that earthworms have a stereotyped escape response from foraging moles, and that bait collectors have unknowingly learned to mimic digging moles to flush worms," says Catania.

Link - via Scribal Terror (with YouTube video of how worm charming works)

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Just so everyone knows, there's also a Canadian researcher who investigated the same phenomena... his paper came out almost the same day as Catania's...
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My mom once demonstrated a "worm shocker" her hubby made. It was a thin copper rod that had a standard electrical wire attached to it with black electrical tape. (The wire had been cut from an old lamp and only half of it was attached to the rod. The other half was taped up to itself.)

She pushed the rod a few inches into the ground, plugged the cord in and within a few seconds, the ground around it began to shivver. Suddenly earthworms were popping up everywhere!

It was truly awesome.
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