Thursday, May 5, 2011

Aquatic Worms in Our Pond

by Donna L. Watkins

I was digging around our little pond awhile back and came across some worms. I was so excited since this was something new for our ponds. I generally get some red-spotted newts when I put the net in there, but worms I've never seen. With the first one I wondered if a bird had dropped it in.

© 2011 Donna L. Watkins - Aquatic Worms
We've had robins bobbing along out back digging up our earthworms. But it was alive and well and seemed quite content in the water. When I put it along the concrete side of the pond, it didn't head for the dirt. After I pulled out several more, I figured I should take pictures and check it out online.

Aquatic worms! I'd never heard of them, but these worms matched the pictures online. It was also mentioned that they tend to curl up when they feel threatened.  Obviously one of them knew I was safe and the smaller one just wasn't assured.

I am thrilled not only to have another new species on our property for the health of our little pond, but to have another adventure as I edge toward the mark of 60 new experiences in my 60th year of life. Gee, every time I type that I think 60 sounds so old.

Back to the worms ...

Aquatic worms are generally found in soft mud bottoms, and in high numbers, are considered indicators of very poor water quality. We like to leave a lot of leaves in our pond for the frogs to winter over in and also for dragonfly larvae which is generally placed between layers of leaves in a pond. We have mostly oak trees around the pond which are high in tannins, so we try to keep as many scooped out as possible without turning the pond into something other than a woodland natural pond that we created it to be.

These worms are generally found in "organically polluted" water, so that makes sense. It's great to know that God's watching over our pond as well as the sparrows that may drink from it. The balance of nature amazes me.

I believe these worms belong to a group Oligochaetes. Oligochaetes are a diverse group, occurring in a wide spectrum of water including nutrient heavy and oxygen deficient. I'm hoping ours isn't oxygen deficient, so we're going to be finding out how to tell if it is. The frogs seem to be laying a bunch of eggs this year and the American Toad males have made many visits. I have a bucket of eggs that I'm giving a head start by putting them in the kitchen until they hatch, eat the mass surrounding the eggs and get ready for the release into the pond as tadpoles.

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