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Attracting and Collecting Earthworms – a Simple Technique

Earthworms are one of the most nutritious food items available for amphibians, and for those reptiles, invertebrates and fishes that will take them.  Collecting them (in one piece!) can, however, be frustrating, and they are quite costly at bait stores.  One trick I stumbled upon years ago has greatly simplified the task of supplying my collection with earthworms – I hope you find it useful.

Earthworm Explorers

EarthwormI did not set out to uncover this earthworm collecting technique…rather I just realized its value gradually.  Over time, I’ve noticed that piles of leaves and rocks located on top of concrete or other hard surfaces, and separated from nearby lawns or gardens, are often home to large numbers of earthworms.

On damp or rainy nights, earthworms often leave their burrows and move surprisingly far overland.  Piles of decaying leaves, especially if located among rocks or other cover, seem to be very attractive to the nocturnal wanderers and are quickly colonized.  I believe at least some of the earthworms remain and reproduce, as I usually find numerous small individuals in such situations.  I’m not sure if the piles represent an untapped food source or are extra-rich in nutrients due to the concentration of food present, but in any case I’ve found these isolated habitats to be fertile hunting grounds.

Creating an Attractive Habitat

Eventually, I began creating my own “earthworm reserves”, and invariably found them occupied within a short time.  I’ve had good luck with leaf piles (covered by wood or rocks) located anywhere from 1-10 feet of a garden or other patch of earth.  These areas will also attract large numbers of other herp favorites, such as sow bugs, earwigs and beetle grubs, and there’s always the possibility of an interesting, unexpected visitor (I found a wolf spider that was new to me this year).

I especially like the fact that, since the leaf piles are located atop concrete, the earthworms are unable to escape into burrows (please see photo of deep burrow) as is possible when collecting in more typical habitats…as all worm hunters know, the little beasts can be very quick!  Also, small earthworms, which are very difficult to locate in other situations, are often in abundance.

During stretches of dry weather, misting the pile with a hose or watering can will assure that your “guests” do not seek shelter elsewhere.    



Further Reading

An indoor earthworm colony is a worthwhile undertaking for those with large collections.  Please see Rearing Earthworms for more info.

Mimicking Moles to Collect Earthworms (please give this article a try – very unique!)

Earthworm image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Michael Linnenbach


  1. avatar

    Thanks for this tip! I will have to try this out.

    In your experience, do any herps have trouble with earwigs? They have those nasty pincers on their rear ends, I was afraid they might harm my dart frogs.

    • avatar

      Hello Amy, Frank Indiviglio here.

      Thanks for your interest in our blog. I’ve used earwigs for Gray tree, green and other frogs, larger salamanders, many lizards, and they show up in stomach content studies of many species. I feel as you do re dart frogs…nymphs would likely be ok, but I’ve not tried. You might be interested in these articles on Termite Traps, Leaf Litter Inverts and those linked there as well.

      Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

      Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  2. avatar

    I’ve found that if a worm is stuck halfway in the ground, that if I grab the half above the ground, then gently stop pulling it, then yank it carefully, I end up getting the worm

About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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