A year ago
All hail the super worm. Earthworms feed on soil and plant debris, using their digestive system to concentrate the organic and mineral constituents into a nutrient-rich, readily available form. Their movement in soil mixes organic matter and creates channels that improve aeration, root growth and water infiltration.
Centipedes and millipedes are an essential part of the soil food web and work in tandem, but in different ways, to benefit the soil. Centipedes are the hunters, and millipedes are the gatherers. Centipedes move through the earth like an earthworm by expanding their length forward and then contracting to bring the hind part of their body towards the head. This tunnelling improves the aeration of the soil, allowing water and nutrients to reach the roots of plants. They also help keep some pests in check and specialize in killing and eating snails and grubs, but they also eat earthworms and spiders. To keep things fair in the compost battleground, spiders and beetles, in turn, eat them!
Millipedes are the centipedes’ distant cousins. They consume organic materials, are considered shredders, play an essential role in breaking down plant and animal debris, and are excellent for the soil, eating up to 10 per cent of the leaf litter in compost. Millipedes work in much the same way as earthworms, moving nutrients through the soil; their tunnelling aerates the soil and assists with water penetration. Millipedes also benefit other soil organisms, working together to turn mulch and debris into nutrient-rich soil. They recycle nutrients at a much higher rate than natural decomposition. Like centipedes, millipedes don’t live up to their name in the number of legs. Milli means one thousand, but most millipedes have only 80 to 100 legs.
They are all seriously cute!