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Clear Worms in Soil: Identification & Things you should know

You’re probably reading this because you have seen something strange just under the surface of your soil, and are worried it might be worms.

Clear worms in soil are an important part of a healthy garden as they eat plant matter, producing worm castings. They can aerate the soil, improve drainage, and add organic matter. However, a large number of clear worms in the soil may indicate a problem that needs to be addressed.

When left uncontrolled, some types of clear worms can cause damage as they tunnel through the roots and stems of young plants. 

In this article, you will find out how to identify tiny clear worms in the soil, determine if they are good or bad and what advantages their presence can provide.

Identifying Tiny Clear Worms in Soil:

While gardening, you might have seen tiny, transparent worms in your garden soil. Here are a few species of worms and pests that have the appearance of “tiny, clear worms”: 

Pot Worms:

Pot worms are translucent worms significantly bigger than roundworms. They closely resemble smaller species of earthworms and are visible to the naked eye. They are primarily found in compost soil and are not harmful to the plant. 

Pot worms play a positive role, and there is no need to remove them from the ground. They decay organic matter and vitalize the soil. They are found in masses.

Nematodes:

Nematodes (also known as roundworms) belong to the phylum Nematoda and are identified by their unsegmented bodies. They are tiny in structure and can or can not be seen by the naked eye. 

Some of the types of roundworms are so small that you might require a light microscope to view them. These transparent worms are mostly known for causing infections in plants and animals. 

Although some nematodes do cause illness, they are harmless and somewhat helpful. The prey for different types of nematodes are plants, small animals, bacteria, etc. 

Types of Nematodes:

  • Plant Parasitic Nematodes
  • Free-living Nematodes
  • Fungivorous Nematodes
  • Predatory Nematodes
  • Omnivorous Nematodes

Plant Parasitic Nematodes:

Nematodes that feed off of plants are called plant-parasitic nematodes. Plant-parasitic nematodes use plants as their host to live and reproduce. In return,  they cause various severe diseases in plants like root-knot diseases and cysts. 

In root diseases, these clear worms grow near the roots and harm them. The affected plant suffers from slow growth and may die. 

If you notice chlorosis (yellowing of the leaves), it might be due to the infestation of plant-parasitic nematodes. Another indication of these clear worms is wilting of the plant. 

Here are a few examples of such nematodes:

  1. The burrowing nematode (Radopholus similis)
  2. Ditylenchus dipsaci
  3. The pine wilt nematode (Bursaphelenchus xylophilus)
  4. Soybean cyst nematode

Free-living Nematodes:

Contrary to plant-eating nematodes, free-living nematodes are the types of clear worms that are good to keep in your garden. These tiny, transparent worms are essential for plant growth.

They increase the fertility of the earth and improve drainage. 

Furthermore, free-living nematodes act as insect control, and plants thrive in their presence. They prey on fungi, bacteria, insects, and other nematodes and lower their number in the soil. 

Some examples of free-living nematodes are: 

  1. Aphelenchus avenae
  2. Caenorhabditis elegans

Following are the types of free-living nematodes depending on their nutrition: 

Fungivorous Nematodes:

These types of nematodes depend on fungi for food and nutrients. They penetrate the cell wall and release all the inner material from the mycelium body. 

Fungi cause many diseases in plants. These tiny worms regulate the population of fungi and hence benefit the plant. 

Fungi also contain nitrogen which is released in the soil after the attack of nematodes. An example of these fungi-eating nematodes is Anguinidae.

Bacterivorous Nematodes:

Bacterivorous nematodes prey on the bacteria. They decrease the population of bacteria in the soil and stop the spread of disease caused by them. 

Most nematodes have a mouth or a stoma for consuming food, but bacterivorous nematodes don’t. In the case of these clear worms, the mouth modifies to form a hollow canal used to engulf bacteria. 

Examples of this type of roundworm are Sydney Brenner’s Model Nematode (Caenorhabditis elegans) and Chiloplacus symmetricus.

Predatory Nematodes:

The type of nematode that preys on other nematodes, small animals, protozoa, or insects is called a predatory nematode. 

These clear worms are beneficial for plant growth as they also feed on parasitic nematodes. This is an excellent way to kill off the plant-harming nematodes from the soil. 

An example of predatory nematodes is Heterorhabditis bacteriophage.

Omnivorous Nematodes:

Omnivorous nematodes are different from other types of nematodes. They do not have a fixed prey throughout their lifecycle. They feed on different prey in varying stages of their life. 

Omnivorous nematodes can eat other smaller nematodes and can become prey to bigger ones. This property of omnivorous nematodes makes them exceptionally effective for plant growth. 

Some examples of omnivorous nematodes are Aporcelaimidae and Dorylaimidae

Fungus Gnat Larvae:

Sometimes, clear worms are not actually worms, but the larvae of the fungus gnat. 

Fungus gnats fly lays pale, whitish eggs on moist soil. These eggs hatch and fungus gnat larvae are released from them. Fungus gnat larvae have white bodies that look colorless or transparent, with a distinct black-colored head. 

Fungus gnat larvae are pests and are harmful to the growth of plants. They depend on plants to survive and keep doing so until they turn into a fly. The affected plant can be damaged by these pests and die. 

You can easily find fungus gnat larvae around the roots of the affected plant. Then, you can use a chemical pesticide to kill them.

If you are hesitant about using chemicals on your plant, you can try natural remedies like neem oil or DIY pesticides to eliminate fungus gnat larvae. 

Where Do These Clear Worms Come From?

Soil is a natural habitat for many species of animals and plants. Worms are also one of the species that commonly live in the soil. Nematodes are found in all types of soil naturally. 

On the other hand, pot worms only colonize compost ground. They can migrate to garden soil if they find traces of organic material to decompose. 

Fungus gnat larvae come from hatched eggs. They remain in the soil until they grow into fungus gnat fly. The transport of affected soil can cause the spread of fungus gnat larvae in clean soil. 

Benefits of Clear Worms in Soil:

Adding clear worms to your soil can be helpful. Here are a few benefits of clear worms in soil

Enhance Soil Quality:

Clear worms like nematodes and pot worms are well known for improving soil quality. Clear worms play an essential role in the decomposition of organic matter and add various nutrients to the soil. 

Regulate Growth Of Harmful Species:

Some species of nematodes feed off of parasitic and disease-causing species found in soil. By doing so, they decrease the population of such species in the ground. Therefore, making the soil more ideal for plant growth. 

Provide a Food Source:

Some tiny roundworms act as prey for various insects, soil arthropods, and other bigger nematodes. Fungi and microorganisms found in the ground also feed on these clear worms. Hence, clear worms also provide a food source to the soil biome. 

Recycle Nutrients:

Clear worms act as natural decomposers in soil. Both roundworms and pot worms work on organic matter to decompose it into simpler forms while releasing nutrients into the ground. 

This is one reason why topsoil may have a darker appearance.

Bactervorous and fungivorous nematodes kill bacteria and fungi and release additional ammonium into the soil. Plants use these nutrients for their growth. 

Drawbacks of Clear Worms in Soil:

Clear worms in soil have a few disadvantages. Although most clear worms are not harmful, some can be lethal and toxic to plant health.

They drain nutrients out of the plant and depend on them for food. This weakens the plant and slows its growth. 

Some clear worms can attack the outside of the plant. They damage the stem, root, leaves, flowers, and the plant’s overall appearance. The plant can show signs of chlorosis and may wilt. If the situation does not get better, the plant might die. 

Are Worms Good For Both Garden and Potted Plants?

Yes, most worms are suitable for both garden and potted plants as long as they are present in reasonable quantities. Excessive worms can do more damage than good so adding a fair amount of worms to your garden plant is the key. 

The moderate amount of worms can benefit the soil, decay the organic matter in the ground and release nutrients. It can also improve the quality of the soil and improve your plant’s growth. 

Worms found in soil

Will Worms Kill the Plants?

In most cases, worms will not kill the plant. But if the pot or garden has excess worms, the organic matter in the pot might not be enough to feed them. They may start to eat the underground parts of plants and may even kill the plant. 

Other Worms in Soil

There are many types of worms found in soil. They can have a variety of colors depending on the species. For example, topsoil worms are green, blue, slightly pinkish, even grey, while the surface worms are mostly vibrant red or reddish-brown. 

The Takeaway:

Clear worms can often be seen in soil, whether in gardens, potted plants, or plain ground. These worms may or may not be dangerous, depending on the species.

They can be profitable for the soil and may increase its vitality. However, if a parasitic worm infects your plant, it can ruin your plant.

It can be challenging to determine if a worm is causing the poor condition of your plant or any other factor.

Searching for worms in the garden soil might not be the best idea to check for worms. It is better to get your soil tested. This way, you might be able to save your plant from dying.

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