Worm extraction

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If you are wanting to categorise or build your own worm jars, you’ll need some worms to look at and utilise. Worms operate at different levels in the soil and not all soil makes appealing or suitable habitats for worms.

Those with imported soil (top soil is commonly placed on amenity areas or recently landscaped) may find that the soil is not deep enough for the deep burrowing worms. While you may also struggle to find any of the composting types of worms in a soil with little organic matter.

For those who need to import worms it is possible to buy composting worms as it is the anecic worms which are sold as fresh water fish bait. However, it is worthwhile examining your own soils prior to spending money. These simple methods for extracting worms can be used with learners of all ages, with fun aspects such as a rain dance incorporated for younger learners.

Specific learning outcomes

  • Understanding the physiological and environmental needs of worms
  • Examining the worms that exist in a soil environment

Equipment for a group of 5

  • ~4m of string
  • 4 stakes
  • Warm water
  • Watering can
  • Mustard powder
  • Collection pot/s
  • Trowel


None required.


Introduction 2 minutes.

Mark out 1m2 with the string and stakes, 2 minutes.

Apply water, 5 minutes

Wait and collect worms, 10 minutes

Apply water, 5 minutes

Wait and collect worms, 10 minutes

Total timing 30 minutes.

Background learning needs

  • None


  1. Mark out a square, 1m on each side with the string and a stake in each corner.
  2. Warm water is preferable, apply 10 litres gently over the marked area. A watering can with a rose is preferable.
  3. Wait a number of minutes and some worms should begin to appear at the surface.
  4. Collect those worms that appear.
  5. Add a teaspoon of mustard powder to another 10 litres of water and apply again to marked area.
  6. Wait and collect the worms that appear.
  7. After 10 minutes, use a trowel to remove a chunk of the turf in the marked area, if there are many worms present in this extracted soil, consider digging a few holes and extracting the worms present in these.

Potential extension

A simple worm divider can be made with a laminated sheet with the 4 groups of worms marked out and yogurt pots attached beneath, this allows learners to separate the worms into their categories at collection. See ‘Types of worms’ activity for more information [hyperlink!].