Most people see earthworms only when the crawlers are "scared to death ... and are trying to crawl away. That's no time to get acquainted with them," says scientist Yulia Sayapina of Moscow.
One way to get to know worms better is to raise them at home. But you have to follow these rules, Ms. Sayapina says.
1. You can raise worms in a flowerpot. But an aquarium is better because you may be able to inspect their tunnels. (If you can, use an old aquarium in which you can drill some drainage holes. See No. 4.) Cover the outside of the aquarium with black paper, because worms don't like light. Remove the paper only when you're looking at the worms.
2. Fill the bottom of the aquarium with an inch or two of pebbles and sand for drainage. Put soil on top of that. Use rich black soil (humus). Worms dislike sandy or clayey soil.
3. The top of the soil should be two to four inches below the top edge of the aquarium. Now go collect some worms. Look in loamy, black, moist soil, and under fallen logs. Carefully put the worms in the aquarium. Note: The worms may try to escape in the first few days. Ms. Sayapina suggests putting the aquarium in a tray of water. The escapees will be in the tray the next morning. Worms can survive a short while in water. Put the escapees back outdoors.
4. Make sure the top of the soil is always damp, but not too wet. (A spray bottle might be good for this.) Worms die if they dry out. If you can, make a hole in the bottom of the tank. Put a tray under it so the water can drain out when you moisten the soil.
5. Feed the worms by putting some decaying leaves, fresh cabbage leaves, or perhaps a piece of onion on the soil. Worms have varying tastes. You'll discover what they like best by what they drag into their holes.
6. Make sure the worm tank doesn't get above 80 degrees F. or below freezing.
* Do you have questions, comments, or suggestions for Kidspace? Write: Kidspace, c/o The Christian Science Monitor, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115.
Or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org