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Collecting Kits and Earthworm Collecting Information

Are you looking for more information about the earthworm collecting kits or how and where to collect earthworms? If so, you've come to the right place! Please browse the questions below. If you have further questions, please contact us.

What's in the kit?

Where should I collect earthworms?

How should I collect earthworms? How long can/should they be out of the soil? How do I kill and preserve them?

What if I want to collect earthworms with multiple classes?

I found this cool bug while I was looking for earthworms! Can I put it in the container so you can tell me what it is?

The earthworms are so cute! Do I have to kill them?

What happens to the earthworms after I send them to K-State?

Is it safe to collect and handle earthworms?

Will I be able to use this exercise next year also?


What's in the kit?

Everything you need to properly preserve one or more earthworms and return them to us: four specimen containers with preservation fluid, 4 specially prepared collection labels, a pencil, an instructional booklet, return packaging, and return label with pre-paid postage.

Collecting kit

Where should I collect earthworms?

At this time, our project welcomes earthworms from anywhere in Kansas (outside of Kansas, email us for more information). Always make sure you have permission of the property owner before going onto a property and collecting. We suggest areas near your school where you can take students to help with the process. Please do not purchase earthworms or move earthworms or soil from one location to another to avoid spreading invasive species.

How should I collect earthworms? How long can/should they be out of the soil? How do I kill and preserve them?

The easiest collection method is by digging a shallow pit with a shovel and sorting the soil. Some earthworms live in mulch or leaf litter, and you can also search through this material. Keep in mind that earthworms like soil moisture and organic matter, and some times of the day or year may be better for collecting earthworms than others. See our recommended collecting procedures.

If you are keeping earthworms alive for students to observe for more than a few minutes, you can put them into a shallow dish or tray of water. This will prevent the earthworms from drying out.

Earthworms will be killed and preserved for shipping by placing them into the provided specimen container, closing the top tightly, and shaking gently to get the earthworm into the preservation fluid.

What if I want to collect earthworms with multiple classes?

Each collecting kit will contain four specimen containers and four collecting information labels. It is ok to combine collections made with multiple classes into one container IF these earthworms are taken from the same general location during a relatively short time period (days to weeks). We need to be able to know where and when each earthworm was collected. We'd like that to be as specific as possible, but we understand everyone's limitations. Here are some examples:

  • I teach multiple classes each day, and I took them all to slightly different places on my school's property during the same day. - Put these all in one container. On the collection label, be as specific as you can while still including all of the areas (e.g., "around Lee School" or "K-State campus, near Ackert Hall").
  • I teach multiple classes each day, but if the weather is bad in the afternoon I may have to take wait until the later in the week day for those classes. - Put these all in one container. On the collection label, indicate the range of dates (e.g., 26-28 Jan 2010).
  • I only teach one class, but near our school we have very different habitats, like a creek-side, an agricultural field, and a restored grassland. - It would be preferable to keep specimens from separate locations or very different habitats separate.
  • I want to take some of my classes in the spring and some in the fall, to see if I find different things. - These collections should be kept separate and have different labels since they are from different times of the year.
  • I found this cool bug while I was looking for earthworms! Can I put it in the container so you can tell me what it is?

    We're glad you are enthusiastic, but please only send us earthworms! Soil has a lot of biodiversity, and we do not have the resources to identify everything you might find. You might consider directing those questions to your local extension professional.

    The earthworms are so cute! Do I have to kill them?

    To participate in the project, yes. This is necessary for us to determine which species they are. In addition, your specimens will become part of a large collection Kansas earthworms for biologists to continue to study. Some museum specimens are hundreds of years old and are still useful to biologists.

    Even if you are unwilling to kill any earthworms, you are still welcome to use our curricula and lesson plans. However, we cannot send collecting kits to instructors who do not plan to collect earthworms. If you do keep earthworms alive, please return them to exactly where you found them.

    What happens to the earthworms after I send them to K-State?

    Project personnel will identify each earthworm and prepare the specimens for permanent storage in the Museum of Prairie Arthropod Research. Part of this process will be collection of a tissue sample from each worm for future genetic studies.

    We will upload the identification and collection information into a mapping feature on the website, which will be freely accessible to you, your classes, and any other interested parties. If possible, we will also provide a method for instructors to upload pictures associated with the collection, such as the collection site or students looking at earthworms.

    Is it safe to collect and handle earthworms?

    In short, yes. Earthworms are not known to transmit any diseases to humans. However, soil is full of bacteria and fungi, and we recommend washing your hands after sampling.

    The preservation fluid included in the kit is not harmful on skin or to clothing, but it should not be ingested, inhaled, or put into anyone's eyes.

    Will I be able to use this exercise next year also?

    The curricula and lesson plans will be available on the resources page for anyone to use. At this time, we do not have funding to send kits for future school years.