Worms are one of nature's most effective forms of recycling. This form of recycling is called vermicomposting. This type of composting is the most natural method and also the oldest method of composting. The worm does this as part of its normal life cycle, forming a symbiotic relationship with the plant life above it. The earthworm can do many things when added to a new composting operation. There are six things worms can do in compost which are most important.
Worms create tunnels in the bedding and material they live in. The compost created becomes soil. Worms aerate the soil by turning the soil and allowing airflow through the compost. The USDA Yearbook of Agriculture states that worms living in one acre of ground can produce 20 tons of soil.
Worms leave behind castings in the compost after digesting organic material; these castings are full of minerals and nutrients which enrich the compost. The castings and liquid left behind by worms are useful as an organic fertilizer. Worms can produce their own weight in castings in 24 hours if the conditions are right.
Worms break down organic material into simple elements and proteins. Worms remove all dead organic matter from the compost, thereby reducing the occurrence of odors, mold and rotting, which can cause health issues for plants, animals and other creatures.
Worms live in a symbiotic relationship with micro-organisms that feed on bacteria and raw organic material. These micro-organisms help worms turn the material into the simple proteins; the micro-organisms help the worms break down dioxins and chemicals that are harmful to the soil and plant life into simple elements that can be used as nutrients for plants. The air that is brought into the soil by worms acts as a cleaning agent and kills off bacteria living in the compost.
Worms create actinomycete bacteria, which is a natural antibiotic according to Peter Cundall, author of "Organic Growing with Worms." Worms produce microbes, enzymes and plant hormones, which help plants grow. This compost also helps reduce the pathogens found in chemically treated soil.
Worms also deposit water molecules into the compost, helping the soil retain moisture. The water molecules provide liquid nutrition and hydration to plants and other forms of life. The tunnels worms create help hold water in the composted soil.