Here is a little lesson in the worm’s body anatomy for you. I hope this will help you understand just how those kitchen scraps end up as worm casts for your gardens.
Running through the worm’s body is the alimentary canal or gut. It starts with the mouth, called the buccal cavity, and moves to the back with the pharynx, esophagus, crop, gizzard, intestine and anus, respectively.
The buccal cavity contains specialized sensory cells which allow the worms to locate food and minerals. The cells detect and recognize sucrose, glucose and saline chemicals from the environment. This allows them to identify and select the foods they eat.
The pharynx works like a suction pump, drawing particles farther in from the mouth. The esophagus, which opens from the pharynx as a narrow tube, leads to the crop. Worms and birds both use their crop as a food storage chamber.
Next is the gizzard, the food grinding chamber. It contains sandy grit from the soil to pulverize the food into small particles, including leaf litter, mulch and soil organics.
The intestine is a tube going straight back to the anus, taking up almost two thirds of the worm’s body or it’s length. The intestine performs the final digestion and absorption of the life sustaining nutrients from the worm’s food.
So, you ask: Is this how worms really eat? Here is an example for you:
Let’s say banana peels are on the worm’s menu for today and into the bin they go. Back to the house we go, happily skipping, knowing the worms are feasting on yummy peels.
Two days later out you go again, with pail in hand to feed your worms, what do you see when you lift the lid? Your banana peel is still there, a little moldy, but still there. You sigh, and still no worms are feasting on their wonderful foods!
What is going on here? Why aren’t they all diving in, wiggling around and taking big bites? But wait, you say to yourself, take a bite with what? They have no teeth!
That’s right, the worms have no teeth. Like a bird the worms’ crop and gizzard, as mentioned already here in another post, serve as the primary food grinding mechanism. At least the birds have beaks to brek off pieces!
But, the worms are not alone. They have those helpers in the bin in the form of the molds, fungi, bacteria, sow bugs and macrobiotic organisms. These are the creatures who are the pre-digesters of the banana peels.
Without these organisms, the worms would go hungry. These organisms provide the vital service of pre-digesting the organic waste which becomes the worm’s food, breaking down large bits of particulate matter into small materials.
Next time I am here, I will write about the enzyme benefits the worms provide to your gardens and their respiratory system. The enzyme importance in the garden is a benefit we all can share and learn from.
Until then: enjoy your worms!