Mission Printemps – Spring Mission: Counting Worms

This spring there’s a worm census going on in France. Urbanisation, intensive farming, pesticides and global warming – these are all having an effect on the French earthworm population. And since there hasn’t been a census to map their type and population density since the 1970s, scientists at the University of Rennes have decided that now’s the time to remedy that situation. And so this new survey has been started.

There are over 100 different types of worms in France, and back in the 1970s the weight of worms in France’s soil was greater than the weight of all the humans then on the earth! That’s truly amazing.

Until 28th March, people are being asked to carry out worm counts. They’ll do this by measuring out an area of 50 cm and then watering it with a dilute mustard solution. Poor worms! Amora is the brand of mustard recommended – some astute product positioning there! Anyway, that will make them pop out of the ground so they can be counted, photographed (some of them), carefully rinsed and allow to burrow back down into nearby unmustardy earth. The protocol on carrying out the survey is here. To find out what type of worms you’ve found, you need to check them against this notice.

There are: Épigés – up to 5 cm long; Engogés – 3.5 to 6 cm long and uniformly coloured, and Anéciques – 10 to 100 cm long (not sure I’d like to find a metre long worm …)

You need to sign up to the site and then you can send in your data. Sounds a fascinating and very worthwhile survey.

There are more spring missions coming up. On 7th March a study of nut blossoms begins, on 14th March a survey of wall-dwelling lizards, and on 21st March we must all start listening out for cuckoos. The full list is here.

Rors and I shall be getting busy doing some worm counting later this week. But tomorrow, we’re off to watch the 70th Paris Nice cycle race which is passing fairly close by … Come back tomorrow to find out how we got on.





0 Replies to “Mission Printemps – Spring Mission: Counting Worms”

  1. Fascinating post. Who knew there was a worm count going on..? I’m eager to see your photos from the boys tomorrow, too, as you can imagine.

  2. Very interesting – I didn’t have any idea that there are so many worms crawling around under the ground. Let’s hope that it never starts to rain mustard and that they all come out at the same time. It sounds like the makings of a horror film!

    I look forward to reading about Rors’ and your findings.

    1. It says 75g per 1.5 litres which seems mighty powerful to me. I did mine at less than half that, but perhaps I went too weak since I didn’t want to harm them. Back at school eons ago, we did a survey using water with washing up liquid in. I wonder if that would be less harmful to the worms. I’ll have to do some research.

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