The Fate of the Good Worm

Thank you all for your concern about The Good Worm. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how once you get to know a worm as an individual you start to be concerned about its fate? (I know, you’re thinking, “Wow, she doesn’t even realize we were just humoring her.”)

Anyway, The Good Worm spent the day in somewhat larger but still cramped accommodations—one of those disposable Glad containers like you’d take your lunch in—and tonight I ran out to the drugstore and bought a big Rubbermaid tote, drilled some holes in it for drainage, dug a big hole in the middle of a vegetable bed that is not in use right now, and sunk the tub about halfway in the ground. I filled it with dirt, dropped The Good Worm (who seemed no worse for wear despite its adventures with the garden club ladies) into the tub, and sat the lid loosely on top.

It’s almost impossible to raise nightcrawlers in captivity. They just don’t take to it. That’s why there are still people out there who make a living picking nightcrawlers for bait. So I don’t expect this worm to settle down a raise a family in this bin, but I’m hoping it will be comfortable there for a month or two so I can use it again at one of my talks. If I find any more good worms, I’m going to toss them in the tub, too. There’s nothing worse than not being able to find a good worm a couple of hours before my talk’s scheduled to start.

(Feels strange to call the critter “it,” but to assign it a gender would be to overlook its versatility as a hermaphrodite.)

I often think about those bait pickers in Canada who spend the night outdoors, pulling nightcrawlers from their burrows to sell as bait. Some pickers can collect as many as 10,000 nightcrawlers on a cool, damp night, earning up to $300 by selling the worms to a wholesaler. That’s only three cents a worm, no great fortune. But to someone who enjoys working alone, in the solitude of the still night air; to someone who would rather make their living in the dark dewy pastures than in a cramped fluorescent-lit office, those worms are a livelihood. To bait pickers, an abundance of worms in a grassy pasture means one thing: a paycheck.