What do earthworms eat?

Earthworms eat a range of matter. In Earthworms, by Sims and Gerard (1985), most earthworms are described as omnivorous (eating plants and animals).  However they better described as detritivores (eating decaying plant and animal matter).

Since then the study of earthworms has shown that they may be preferential fungivores (eating fungi). There are studies to suggest they eat a fungus called mycorrhiza which grows on the roots of some plants. Some species have also been described as geophagous (soil eating).

In the UK there are four different ecotypes, they show the diversity of different feeding niches:

  • Composting earthworms feed on decaying plant matter and manure that is near the start of the decomposition process.
  • Epigeic earthworms live in leaf litter and rotting logs and feed on organic matter that is partially decayed.
  • Anecic earthworms pull decaying plant matter in to their burrows.
  • Endogeics earthworms eat soil which is high in organic matter.

To find out more about different Earthworm ecotypes please look at our Earthworm Ecology page.