Practise the ancient art of worm charming for soil health this May

Families can become citizen scientists using the “surreal” art of worm charming to help the Soil Association create a UK-wide worm map and celebrate this vital but declining species.

Running across the country in May, the Soil Association Worm Hunt comes with a free guide to inspire people to dance on the soil, soak the earth with water or use the power of vibrations to attract the worms to the surface.

The findings will be used to create a worm map of the UK, showing where the healthiest and most biodiverse soils are, as an abundance of worms is an indicator of healthy soil.

Our wriggly friends help soil by repairing damage, producing a sticky mucus that binds it together. This helps water drain and prevents flooding, and soils with plenty of earthworms are up to 90 per cent more effective at soaking up water. But a recent study found that earthworm populations have declined by a third over the past 25 years.

Soil Association Head of Worms Alex Burton said, “It might sound wacky but dancing on the bare earth can help with science. Worm charming is fun and a little surreal, but scientists and farmers use worm counts to understand soil health. We depend on soils for 95% of our food production, and they hold more carbon than the atmosphere, so it is crucial for us to know what’s going on under the ground and worms help to tell us that.

“The data we get for the worm map will help us build a better understanding of the health of soils in gardens, allotments and green spaces across the UK. This will show where they need help to restore their numbers.

“Worms are in our news, films and our gardens, where children love uncovering them. We’re calling for people to become citizen scientists for our valuable pals, and if they don’t find as many as they were expecting, we have plenty of advice to help them improve the soil.

“From Falmouth to Falkirk, we’re excited to celebrate worms and learn more about their work from the ground up.”

The study aims to get findings from as many places as possible, recording the number and type of worms found – a fun activity for children and families that will help develop a deeper understanding of soil health.

Searching for worms can take as little as half an hour, and only requires a small area of land – so hunts can take place in gardens, farms or local parks.

To support the study, Soil Association have partnered with the Falmouth Worm Charming Championships. Taking place during the Worm Hunt month, they help people of all ages connect with these celebrated creatures.

With prizes awarded for the most worms charmed and the most creative charming methods, the team has built a place to respectfully engage with the world under our feet, and will be collecting data for the worm map.

Organiser Georgia Gendall said, “Worms are our colleagues – whether I’m farming or working as a gardener or artist, they’ve always been part of my work. We had over 1,000 attendees last year to the intergenerational event, including kids coming in with their parents and grandparents, students and teenagers. Thanks to the Worm Welfare Wardens, the worms are kept safe before being returned to their homes. Everyone has a part to play in helping nature and it’s great to see people so excited about worms. We want to use that energy to develop long-term success with the worm map.”

The Worm Hunt takes place throughout May – more information here

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