Saturday, July 12, 2014

Dearth of Earthworms in Ontario

The Wall Street Journal reports “Worm Shortage Bites Fishing Trade” (2014, July 12-13), p. A5

Apparently Ontario is the center of commercial picking of the earthworms (nightcrawlers) used as fishing bait.  The worms are actually “hand-picked in the wild” and then shipped south in the millions.

This year has been the biggest collapse in Ontario’s nightcrawlers in at least 26 years, according to the article.  Bad weather in Ontario caused a delay in Spring (March-May) picking and the shortages due to delays were exacerbated by “a dry May” that “kept the moisture-loving creatures burrowed deep underground.”

In my opinion, something doesn’t make sense about the dry May as the sole explanation for earthworm scarcity. Bad weather in the spring was wet weather. I would think the soil would have remained reasonably wet into May from all the “bad weather.” I know my Northern Minnesota inlaws have had far too much precipitation in snow and rain this year.

An alternative hypothesis is that some environmental change or changes caused the reported dearth in earthworms. One possible variable is radiation given these creatures known radiosensitivity:
Viktorov, A. G. (1995) Differential Reactions of Lumbricids to Radioactive Pollution in Various Biotopes of Chernobyl Region. Soil & Environment Volume 5, 1995, pp 265-266


The distinctive property of high radioactive pollution within 10-15-km protective area around the Chernobyl APS is a irregular pattern of distribution of radionuclids on soil surface. Among soil invertebrates, earthworms have proved to be the most sensitive ones since in radiation-polluted soils they are irradiated both from within (by intestine contents) and from the outside (through the environment).
I've read that animals that live in the soil were most directly contaminated by Chernobyl fallout so this finding of earthwork radiosensitivity is not surprising.

Many commentators at Enenews have observed a dearth of earthworms in diverse places in the US located under the jet stream at least part of the year, including people in California and Minnesota.

Fukushima may not be the culprit as no testing will likely be conducted and reported to the public.

I wonder though....

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