If you’ve just come out of your house to see lots of dead worms in your yard or on the driveway or patio, the first thing to spring to mind is how they got there. The next thing to think about is how to clean up the dead worms from the ground in what seems like a scene from an apocalyptic horror movie.
But first, here’s a short answer that explains possible reasons in brief for why there are dead worms all over your driveway, yard, or patio.
There will often be dead worms on your driveway, patio, yard, or the sidewalk after rain. Worms will come to the surface of the ground after rain, and this then makes them more susceptible to predators and being stepped on. Some worms can even play dead during a drought when there is no rain – more about that later though!
Why are there so many dead worms after rain?
You will find dead worms in your yard or on the patio after rain. There’s a common belief that too much water and rain into soil can drown worms, meaning they come to the surface to escape the water.
Why are there so many dead worms in my yard?
There’s also a theory that worms come to the surface into yards and onto sidewalks and driveways because they think the sound of rain is an underground predator coming.
When the worm comes to the surface, it’s to escape that threat.
The predation escape theory is based on the idea that raindrops on the surface of the ground might sound like moles approaching. Moles eat worms, and worms are scared of moles.
That can drive worms to the surface, and make them want to find less risky ground to live in. This might mean that they use your driveway, patio, yard, or sidewalk as a route to new earth which will be mole-free.
There could also be dead worms on your patio when worms have come to the surface to cover longer distances – and not just to escape a predator. It could be mating season, so the worm comes overground to cover distances quicker.
As you can probably imagine, a worm can travel quicker above ground, than it can underground.
But, once worms are exposed, that are at more risk of harm.
So, another reason why there so many dead worms on your driveway or a sidewalk is that they have been trodden on.
Alternatively, they could then find that there is nothing to sustain them above ground. Those dead worms all over your patio may have perished due to a lack of food and nutrients.
But what about when it’s sunny and it’s not because due to rain that you are finding dead worms all over your driveway or yard.
Well, it’s this that can kill them too.
If for whatever reason, the worms came to the surface and started to cross the concrete for a better life, the heat of the sun can dehydrate them and kill them. The heat of the concrete can also be too hot for them, meaning you see lots of dead worms on your patio or sidewalk.
Another reason for lots of dead worms on the ground or sidewalk is that the lawn near it has been over-fertilized. This can be toxic to the worms, who have tried to escape, reached the sidewalk, and died there – for you find and wonder at!
FAQs on dead worms
And now the fun part, just what do you do about there being so many dead worms on the ground? Well, you can leave them there and let nature take it’s course, or put them to good use.
This tip and more is explained below.
What do you do with dead worms?
Now we know why there are there so many dead worms on the driveway, you should consider what to do with them.
If you don’t want to attract other critters to your driveway, patio, or yard, scrape the dead worms off the ground and dispose of them securely in a bag then the waste.
What happens to dead worms if you leave them?
If you leave a dead worm on your driveway, it will either become a snack for another animal, or eventually decompose. Dead worms will disappear quicker in warm weather as it will accelerate the decomposition phase.
Can worms play dead?
Whilst I am not suggesting that the worms you found on your driveway or patio were pretending to be dead, it is something that worms can do.
Research published in 2002 found that tiny soil worms can place themselves into a state of suspended animation, in other words, play dead. Worms play dead during dry times of drought by using a gene that appears to be also found in seeds and plants.
You can read more about worms playing dead as a survival mechanism on the Irish Times.
“The process is known as anhydrobiosis, and the newly discovered gene works in a similar way whether in plants or animals. When things get really dry the gene comes into action, triggering changes inside the cells.”
How do worms die?
Worms die for a huge range of reasons, but some of the more commons reasons for death include extreme temperatures (either too hot, or too cold). Worms are also prey for several other animals including birds.
Worms can also die when they are exposed to too much moisture. This is most typically seen in worms that are kept for composting in yards and gardens.
Another reason why you might have found dead worms on the ground is poisoning. For example, if you’ve used a toxic product on your lawn, it could kill the worms.
Worms are also prone to disease too and parasites. Here’s what parasites earthworms can get according to Cambridge.org.
“Two common parasites are Monocystis (Protozoa, Sporozoa) and Rhabditis (Nematoda); these infect earthworms only. Monocystis is the commonest protozoan genus to infect earthworms, but another nine genera have been recorded in Britain.”
What does it mean if you have a lot of worms in your yard?
Putting aside the sight of finding lots of dead worms on the ground in your yard or garden, think about how the worms got there in the first place.
It could be that you have a lot of worms in your yard because you’ve got such attractive and healthy soil. Worms like soil that is rich in nutrients and organic materials. Earthworms like loamy soil, which is fertile, not too dry, and not sandy.
Handy Hint: If you’ve ever discovered empty snail shells in your yard, then here’s another mystery I can solve for you! It’s fascinating to find out where they came from.
Is it good to have a lot of worms in your yard?
Whilst finding so many dead worms in your yard what the initial concern, if we go back a moment and consider whether it’s good to have (alive) worms in your yard.
I believe it is, because when you have a lot of worms in your yard (not dead ones), it can be a great indicator that you have very healthy and fertile soil under the lawn.
More worms in your yard will help to further improve the soil structure. Worms will break down thatch which in turn will release nutrients that plants will love and thrive on.
If you want to find worms (living ones!) then follow this guide.
How do I get rid of worms in my lawn?
But what if you don’t want worms in your lawn?
Finding so many dead worms on the ground is a sign that nature’s battle has already started if you want to get rid of them. The Lawnsmith website offers the following tips:
- Remove grass clippings whenever you mow.
- Do not use organic fertilisers or composts on your lawn.
- Try to keep off the lawn during the winter months.
- Clear autumn leaves immediately as this attracts worms.
- Avoid excessive or unnecessary watering of the lawn in summer.
- Keep the late autumn/winter mowing height on the high side.
- Brushing worm casts (image) to disperse them helps but only works on dry casts.
It’s not unusual to find so many dead worms on my driveway that you just cannot imagine where they all came from.
But consider this…
An earthworm can produce 900 eggs a year. That’s a lot of worms, and potentially a lot of dead worms in your yard too!