Anglers looking to find their own bait–or in the mood to take up a new hobby–can turn to a strange yet ancient method of harvesting earthworms: worm charming, also known as worm grunting.
For generations, worm charmers have used this peculiar method of acquiring “organic bait” for their rods. This age-old practice is now in decline, but is being kept alive by worm charming festivals and seasoned professionals. The methods used to draw worms to the surface can vary but often involve the use of a wooden stake. Popular techniques include driving the stake into wet soil and running a long piece of iron over the top of it, causing vibrations in the ground. Another method uses a dull saw which is then dragged along the stake.
The results of these methods are the same. Scientists believe that by using the stake to cause vibrations, worms are duped into rising the surface. This is because the worms identify the vibrations with those of moles and other underground predators. In a case of trial and error, veteran worm charmers can emulate the frequencies caused by a digging mole. Humans are not the first species to discover this trick, some birds also peck the ground for the same effect. Certain species of seagulls and turtles have developed a “dance” to draw worms to the surface.
Competitions are commonly held in Britain, where the World Worm Charming Championship draws large crowds every year. Smaller events take place in Florida and Ontario, where different towns vie for popularity among worm grunters.
A demonstration of worm grunting can be seen below: