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Study Shows Worm Grunters Imitate Moles 110

Science_afficionado writes "In the southeastern US, fisherman have an unusual way to collect earthworms for bait. The practice is called worm grunting, fiddling, snoring, or charming. It involves pounding a wooden stake into the ground and rubbing the top of the stake with a long piece of steel to produce a grunting sound that causes earthworms to come to the surface where they can be easily collected for bait. A study published today in the open access journal PLoS ONE shows that the technique works because the worm grunters are unknowingly imitating the sounds created by burrowing moles. Full text of the paper is available at PLoS ONE."
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Study Shows Worm Grunters Imitate Moles

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  • gotsilly (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I think that works for worms in more irradiated locations, but then you'll always be known as the 'worm-guy'.

  • Not news for nerds (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Iamthecheese ( 1264298 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:43AM (#25380231)
    I protest! I protest mightily!
    • by RuBLed ( 995686 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:47AM (#25380257)
      It's news for nerds...

      Come to think of it, I noticed that my mom is doing this method whenever I instinctively go up from the basement...
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Rubbing a stick in the ground to make five hundred earthworms crawl out over the space of half an hour must surely be news for nerds.

    • You read it, you can't unread it!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Ever since the term "hack" came to be applied to things like "lifehacker" and "funhacker" etc, I got liberal on the term "nerd" as well. For all you know, these fine folks are "wormhackers."
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by weber ( 36246 )

      Actually it is very much news for nerds, just not for computer nerds. There are other kinds of nerds, you know! We're a diverse, colorful and lovingly bunch.
      (...insensitive clod...)

    • by Gewalt ( 1200451 )

      I protest! I protest mightily!

      You have been judged as "not a nerd". Please surrender your uid and depart the website immediately.

    • It's a scientific study, and therefore qualifies as news for nerds.

      Besides, this nerd enjoys drowning a few worms every now and again.

      On a side note: My step brother used to claim that sticking two wire coat hangers in the ground and connecting them to a wall outlet would yield a bunch of worms. I never tried it.
      • Probably not in the immediate vicinity of the coathangers, but yeah, I've heard of that trick too. The worms think it's lightning, and come out of the ground just as they would in a storm.
    • Not only is this news for nerds, it's new for fisherman, earthworm admirers, birds, fish, and the mighty wormavore.
  • FTFA: (Score:5, Funny)

    by cosmocain ( 1060326 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:43AM (#25380237)

    But what do the earthworms do if not collected?

    And, guess what:

    Worms that were not collected began to burrow back into the ground after traveling some distance.

    Damned, and i always thought that disgruntled grunted worms do a kind of lapdance. Puh, another dream not come true.

    • by Inda ( 580031 )
      I have not and will not read TFA.

      I own a wormery and, funnily enough, after giving the worms a good feed, they breed. Dig them up out the ground? How medieval is that?
    • Damned, and i always thought that disgruntled grunted worms do a kind of lapdance. Puh, another dream not come true.

      Don't you mean gruntled worms?

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:44AM (#25380243)

    Worm sign detected.

  • If someone could just conjure up a way to imitate money and put that thing in a volcano or something we could make earth a better place in notime.

    • ...and potential legal problems with imitating money?

      Just get a couple of adds... umm.. I mean articles... in the papers about lava bringing up diamonds and gold and oil and iPods to the surface.
      At the same time take out another series of adds stating you will pay a premium for freshly hand-squeezed lava juice.
      Follow that up with a series of adds about benefits of fresh lava to sex life and penis size.
      Finally, take out another batch of adds for books and DVDs about the best ways and locations for lava colle

      • Also, hire washed up has-beens for some infomercials: just like synthetic hormone replacements got Suzanne Sommers, you could maybe go dig up Catherine Bach [wikipedia.org] or somebody like that, saying how she managed to make herself look and feel 20 years younger just by drinking some fresh lava everyday.

    • I hear that a similar technique involving puppies & babies will cause women to suddenly appear and make sounds resembling, "oooh how cute".

  • When I stick my spade in the ground to do a little digging, then the worms come crawling out too.

    When I just stick it in the ground to and move it back and forth, even then the worms come crawling out. Probably due to the fact that friction of the spade with the ground creates other noises than only the thud from the spade.

    • by TheLink ( 130905 )
      I read the article and it says the grunting doesn't really sound like moles, and they react differently - while they surface for both, they move away from the moles but they do not move away from the "grunting".

      Question: do earthquakes harm worms significantly? I'm thinking not likely.

      Or is it just for the "grunting" the worms can't tell where the "mole" is.
  • Noooooooo! (Score:5, Funny)

    by argent ( 18001 ) <peter.slashdot@2006@taronga@com> on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:55AM (#25380281) Homepage Journal


    http://www.vanderbilt.edu/exploration/resources/wormgrunt_harvest_800.jpg [vanderbilt.edu]

    • by weber ( 36246 )

      Maybe it's just me, but there's something odd about someone smiling so happily holding so many worms... I can't really put my finger on it...

      • I wouldn't want to put my finger on it... worms are slimy and dirty...
      • Well, there is a jackoff technique used by sailors involving a jar filled with worms. It's sort of symbiotic -- their slithery action helps blow your load, your load is their food source.

      • Maybe it's just me, but there's something odd about someone smiling so happily holding so many worms... I can't really put my finger on it...

        Here in the UK, we call pedos 'kiddie fiddlers'. Perhaps his smile is the 'worm fiddler's' equivalent of 'pedo-smile':

        http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=spot_the_pedo [thebestpag...iverse.net]

      • Maybe it's just me, but there's something odd about someone smiling so happily holding so many worms... I can't really put my finger on it...

        Not to worry, this is a normal human reaction; one Richard Dawkins fittingly called "The Principle Of Least Horror". Your subconscious recognizes any grinning southern madman holding a huge ball of writhing tentacles as a devotee of The Old Ones and you run screaming from the eldritch terror, even if it means running to Slashdot where the angles and corners are some
        • "For it is of old rumor that the soul of the devil-bought hastes not from its charnel clay, but fats and instructs the very worm that gnaws, till out of horrid corruption life springs, and the dull scavengers of earth wax crafty to vex it and swell monstrous to plague it."

          From memory, my apologies to HPL if I quoted it wrong.

      • worms are money, in some segments of the population. Those look to be some premium nightcrawlers worth at least a couple of bucks a dozen.

    • Yum (Score:3, Funny)

      by Akardam ( 186995 )

      Fresh Gagh

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Zebedeu ( 739988 )


  • by Xest ( 935314 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @05:55AM (#25380283)

    It's been known for a long time that noises/vibrations bring worms to the surface. The only news here is that they're imitating the sounds created by moles (if that's really even true).

    Even when I repot a plant in the garden and take it out of it's old pot and crumble the old soil mix away from it's roots the bits of soil falling off hit the floor and make worms come up because of the tapping sound of small objects hitting the floor presumably being much like the sound of rain hitting the floor.

    I know this because the plants I repot are usually cacti and with the spikes resting on the floor and the rootball up in the air the worms have at times been dumb enough to come up underneath the cacti and ended up getting themself impaled on the spikes. I don't particularly like worms, especially ones I have to extract cactus spines from.

    • by Dr La ( 1342733 )
      I agree, this hardly seems news-worthy. Using vibration to bring out worms by sticking a pole, shovel or pitchfork in the ground and shaking it is hardly "unusual" either. Fishermen everywhere on the world have used this method for ages (I've always been told as a kid that the vibrations make the worm think it rains).

      Maybe it is unusual only for city-dwelling academics...

      Some bird species use the technique too by the way, they trample the ground to bring worms up.
      • So because something is commonly done, but the reasons it works aren't known - there are competing explanations, your rain one was the one shown to be unlikely in the study - means those reasons shouldn't be looked at to determine if any of them are correct?

        Much better just to stick with whatever random explanations we have. The dirt god does it!

        • by Dr La ( 1342733 )
          I was talking about whether it is news-worthy, not whether it is research-worthy. And commenting on some of the odd aspects of this /. news item - such as suggesting that this technique for worm-hunting was somehow unusual and geographically restricted while in fact it is a commonly used one, or at best a variation on a theme.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by nedlohs ( 1335013 )

            I'd hazard to guess that most slashdot readers are city-folk who had never heard of such a thing before.

            So objectively newsworthy since the research has shown one of the explanations to likely be true. And subjectively newsworthy since the bulk of the readership will have never heard of it before.

            Yes the original articles language might be a bit on the hype it up side. Then again, maybe that particular technique of a rubbing a stake with a piece of metal is uncommon elsewhere? And the study only looked at

    • Re:Really news? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @12:24PM (#25384453) Homepage

      I sit in a cube all day. The fact that I could stick a broom handle in the ground, rub a server rail on it, and summon my own army of earthworms is news to me. It is also useful and practical, should I ever get attacked by an dirt monster.

    • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )

      I'm guessing you've named your cactus Vlad?

    • worms have at times been dumb enough to come up underneath the cacti and ended up getting themself impaled on the spikes

      If only these self-impaling worms would voluntarily crawl on the hook for us, one of fishing's major obstacles would be overcome. Next, we just have to figure out how to convince the fish to unhook and gut themselves.

  • by mjmjmj ( 1386071 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:02AM (#25380313)
    Thumpers have been known to work as well... (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thumper_(Dune)#T)
  • Birds step on the ground to make the same noise and where I come from they do it for ages.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    When i went fishing with my father we often got worms like this. He told me it represented moles. News at 11.

    Better recipe:
    take a metal pole
    stick it in the ground (first!)
    take a long (15ft) thick wire
    wire the pole to a connector with one pin
    stick that pin into the phase of your home ac

    You'll see the worms jump out of the ground.

    disclaimer etc: Of course you all are smart enough to pull the plug first and then collect the worms.

    • by RuBLed ( 995686 )
      Ohhhhhh... wormssss... *bzzzztt*
    • by tsa ( 15680 )

      Hehe, that reminds me of that program I saw on National Geographic recently about people who collected electric eels for a scientific study. Those guys did a lot of jumping and shouting: AAAAH! OOOH!! You can't switch those eels off fortunately; if you could it would not have been so much fun to watch those guys.

    • He told me it represented moles.

      So, the wooden stake is actually the mole's attorney? The worms think a lawyer is coming, and that's why they jump out of the ground? Now it makes sense!

    • by mikael ( 484 )

      Somebody was awarded a Darwin Award for doing similar:

      A 63 year old man in East Germany (Zingst)electrocuted himself when running high-voltage lines (380V) through his yard in an effort to get rid of a mole on his vacation property. Apparently he put several metal rods into the ground and connected these to high-voltage lines. The police had to remove all circuit breakers before they could get on his property. They do not know yet how long he had been lying there before they found him on Wednesday. No word

  • by thrill12 ( 711899 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:41AM (#25380471) Journal
    into the ground and hit it a few times (softly) to get the same effect. This is old knowledge, so now suddenly a scientific paper comes out and makes this Nerd News ? Then I know a few more:
    Next week in the headlines:
    * water drains the other way if you're in Australia
    * put a magnet near a needle and you can make a compass !
    * your coffee will be warmer if you put in the milk *before* you walk to the door and return to drink it

    Any more lessons ? Please add them to my post, I think we all have few.
  • by tsa ( 15680 )

    We always got worms by sticking a rake or a shovel in the ground and shaking it. Even seagulls know the trick: they trample the ground with their feet. The worms are alarmed by the moving ground, thinking a mole is coming. They go to the surface and are grabbed.

  • My grandpa (Washington State / Kent, WA) used a pitchfork. Stick it in the ground and wiggle it very quickly.
  • by 2Bits ( 167227 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @07:25AM (#25380641)

    Different living things react to different things differently. That's nature. It's actually fun to observe, when you have time.

    We did similar things to crabs too.

    There is a kind of smallish crab living in the rice paddies. After harvesting season, we let the paddies to dry up. And those crabs would dig holes and live in there, to keep them wet and cool.

    How do we get them? We dig the holes. But that's hard work, as some go as deep as one meter. And we were losing to our main competitor, some crab-eating egret. Those egrets could get the crabs many times faster than we could.

    So, one day, we just sat there, watching how the egrets get them. We saw the egrets knock on the top of the hole with their beak or their foot, in certain frequency, and the crabs would just come out of their holes.

    Ah hah, we just imitated the egrets, knocked on the hole too, and they came out. No more digging. I was nine.

  • Beware not to wake the big worms...
  • water drains the other way if you're in Australia

    This is actually a myth - it may be true for huge objects like weather systems, but the direction water goes down a drain is determined more by its shape.
    I actually did an experiment with a friend in NZ to confirm this...

    Also, hasn't just about everyone in the world seen a seagull doing a little dance [youtube.com] to bring worms to the surface?
  • The technique works because they unknowingly imitate moles? What happens when they find out what they're doing?
  • I normally collect worms with a firewall and a good anti-virus program, but to each his own.
  • ...for the two and a half slashdot readers who like worms.
    • Yes, but remember that when you cut a slashdotter in half, each end grows into a new slashdotter!

    • Quite interesting for the slashdot readers who go fishing.
      Worms are an excellent natural bait and tend to attract bigger fish than other baits.

      Also unlike maggots they don't stink after a few days.

      Also worms are excellent at composting food waste which would tend to be thrown out in the trash, which goes into landfill.

      The compost is an excellent food source for your plants which gives you a nicer garden without spending money out on chemical fertilizers and the worms will improve your soil quality.

      And you c

  • by NewsWatcher ( 450241 ) on Wednesday October 15, 2008 @06:36PM (#25391405)

    If the worms are indeed fleeing what they believe are burrowing moles, I wonder if the technique would work in places where moles do not exist?

    In Australia for instance, we have plenty of earthworms, including the world's largest (which grow up to three metres long) yet we have no native moles. Logically you would expect the worms not to react, but perhaps worms in Australia would be trying to flee bandicoots or bilbies.

    The thing is I don't know whether bandicoots or bilbies sound like burrowing moles. Perhaps you would need a smaller stake, or a longer saw. Could be an interesting experiment though.

  • Case closed .....

  • the technique works because the worm grunters are unknowingly imitating the sounds created by burrowing moles

    If the worm grunters learn about the results of this study, will the technique stop working?

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"