Worms are really just dirt processing factories toiling away underground night and day. They eat dead organic material such as plant debris, bacteria, algae and fungi found near the surface of the earth, and, deeper underground, raw dirt and mineral materials in which some organics exist.
What comes out the end of the worm factory assembly line is well-digested soil, good for growing in because the worm processing has made the minerals that plants need available in a form that can be absorbed through their roots. The worm castings contain auxins, a plant hormone that stimulates root growth.
For inquisitive kids who are fascinated by worms and are wondering if they sleep, the answer is, not in the way people and pets do, but they do have periods of inactivity. This happens when the soil is too dry, which is death to earthworms. In periods of drought, worms go deeper underground, curl up and enter a phase called “aestivation”. In cold weather, they will burrow as deep as two meters or six feet to keep from freezing.
And it isn’t true that the reason worms come to the surface in a wet year is to avoid drowning – they can live in pretty wet conditions very comfortably – but they don’t like sunlight. They probably just enjoy the rain as a chance to go courting. They do seem to multiply in wet years.
What happens when a worm gets cut in half? If you just cut a few segments off the tail end, it will grow them back, but if you sever any vital organs in the middle, it’s game over. And only the part with the head will live – the tail end segments will simply die.