What Animals Eat Worms?

Written by: Annemarie Dutton
Last updated on:

Most people think of a worm as the wriggly creature hanging from a bird’s beak or the end of a fishing hook.  

Many other animals also bear that name — a silkworm is the moth’s larva, and the heartworm is a parasitic nematode — even though they are not related to those that we call worms (Annelidae). 

Predators, however, don’t care about scientific nomenclature. If it moves and looks appetizing, they eat it. 

Animals from many different groups prey on worms and wormlike creatures.

This article will explore some of the different animals that feed on worms.

Aquatic Worm-Eating Animals

Not all worms live on land. Aquatic worms (Oligochaetes) are related to earthworms and live near or in the sediment at the bottom of water bodies.

Flatworms, horsehair worms, roundworms, and wormlike leeches also occupy water habitats. 

Aquatic animals, including fish, frogs, crayfish, and turtles, eat worms and similar creatures that live in water. 

Some insects, such as dragonflies and dobsonflies, live a portion of their lives underwater as nymphs. These predatory insects also eat aquatic worms.

Flying Foes

Perched in a tree or circling in the air, flying animals have a visual advantage when finding food. 

Birds are common predators of worms and insect larvae. Robins particularly favor earthworms and can easily detect them underground. 

Warblers and cuckoos, birds that spend most of their time in the tree canopy, feed on caterpillars like webworms and inchworms that eat tree leaves. 

Other flying animals also eat worms. 

Bats help farmers by eating millions of rootworms, corn earworms, and cutworms. 

Flying insects, including beetles and wasps, prey on worms by either eating them or laying parasitic eggs on them.

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Ground Crawling Predators

Soil is a typical habitat for worms. Animals that spend most of their time close to the ground, including insects, amphibians, and reptiles, often feed on worms. 

Small lizards, salamanders, and toads eat worms and wormlike insect larvae. 

Ground-crawling insects, particularly ground beetles, centipedes, and flatworms, prey on worms and similar creatures.

Furry Enemies

Several mammals consume worms and often mess up your property when they do. If you notice holes in your turfgrass in the morning or small piles of soil, they are likely the result of worm- and grub-eating raccoons, skunks, or moles. 

These animals dig through the soil and feed on protein-rich worms and wormlike grubs. Other mammals that prey on worms include mice, rats, and foxes.

What Animals Eat  Earthworms?

Many different animals feed on earthworms which is one of the reasons they spend so much time burrowing in the dirt.

Medium Omnivores

Medium omnivores such as pigs and raccoons are two of the most common examples of animals eating earthworms.

Carnivores

A wide variety of small carnivores prey on earthworms when they hatch from the ground. It includes animals such as weasels, otters, stoats, minks, and frogs. Spiders are almost the only small carnivore that do not eat earthworms.

Reptiles and Amphibians

The Eastern worm snake is just one species of snake that will eat earthworms. Other members of this group include centipedes and toads. Also, turtles and frogs will eat them as they forage.

What Animals Eat Tent Caterpillars

Tent caterpillars build large nests in branches of trees. The nest provides them with some protection, but they are most vulnerable during the day and are eaten by various animals. They leave the nest during the day to feed on leaves and return to the nest at night.

Insect Predators

Flesh flies attack forest tent caterpillars. These parasites lay eggs on the caterpillar’s bodies. The larva hatches out and then consumes the eggs or caterpillars from the inside out. 

Parasitic wasps attack eastern and western tent caterpillars in egg and larval forms. 

All species are attacked by hornets, stink bugs, and yellow jackets. 

Once on the ground, they are also attacked by predatory beetles. These predators eat the caterpillars directly by seizing them in their jaws or stinging them and carrying them back to their nests to be consumed. 

Mammal Predators

A few mammals include tent caterpillars as part of their diets. Squirrels sometimes eat the caterpillars off the tree branches, while foxes, raccoons, white-footed mice, chipmunks, and shrews eat them once they fall. 

Bats will eat both the caterpillars and the moths. Some species eat both caterpillars and moths whole, while others leave the moth wings behind.

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Bird Predators

Bird predators consume the tent caterpillars when they leave the nest and as moths. 

Songbirds pick the caterpillars off branches and leaves. Robins, blue jays, red-winged blackbirds, and cardinals eat tent caterpillars. 

When the caterpillars crawl to the ground to pupate, they are also picked off by ground-dwelling birds such as wild turkeys. 

If they fall out of the tree over water, they may also be consumed by ducks and fish. Birds usually swallow them whole.

Reptile and Amphibian Predators

Reptile predators of tent caterpillars include Eastern box turtles, garter snakes, copperheads, and skinks. 

Snakes and lizards can climb into the trees to go after tent caterpillars and sometimes even invade the tents. 

If the caterpillars fall in the water, water turtles may also consume them. 

Many frogs feed on the tent caterpillar moths, including the wood frog and American toad. 

Reptile and amphibian predators eat tent caterpillar moths and caterpillars whole.

Fish Predators

Carp eats a variety of foods. They favor insects, aquatic worms, crustaceans, and mollusks and consume algae and other plant matter.

Worms are classic catfish bait. They perform well suspended under bobbers or resting on the bottom behind a sinker. They’ll catch catfish in creeks, rivers, ponds, or reservoirs.

Can Humans Eat Worms?

The short answer is yes. These squiggly creatures can be eaten raw or cooked, especially for small children who are invariably drawn to earthworms. 

Worms that are farm-raised for eating are fed pest-free food that helps keep them clean and parasite-free.

What happens if you accidentally eat a worm in fruit?

Accidentally ingesting maggots does not generally cause any lasting harm. However, if a person has ingested maggots through eating spoiled food, they may be at risk of food poisoning.

Symptoms of food poisoning can range from very mild to severe, and they can sometimes last for several days.

Conclusion

A wide variety of animals eat worms, including rats, birds, foxes, moles, shrews, snakes, frogs, snails, salamanders, skunks, fish, and toads. 

Some insect species, such as ants and beetles, also feed on earthworms. Earthworms play a significant role in the food chain.

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