Electric Catching Earthworms, Tens of Thousands of Tons a Year? | The Problem Cannot Be Ignored: Behind the Underground Industry Chain Lies the Soil Ecological Crisis (I)
2020/5/12 10:06:00 本站

[Editor’s Note:] Earthworms in Hainan are commonly known as “Guangdilong”. However, over the past 30 years, a complete earthworm industry chain of “catching, purchasing, drying and transporting” has been formed in many places. In recent years, a large-scale electric catching of earthworm has been formed by using medicine and water to irrigate and inserting capture tools into the soil. Not only in Hainan but also in many parts of China. Recently, volunteers of the “Wildlife-free E-commerce” working group have repeatedly reported to Taobao and other e-commerce platforms selling earthworm catching tools, but they haven’t received any feedback from e-commerce for a long time. We found that the main production location and delivery point of such capture tools are in Zhongshan City, Guangdong Province.


Dr. Wang Fei, an expert of China Water And Soil Conservation Academy, pointed out that soil is an important part of the natural geographical environment of the earth’s surface system, the multi-layer interface of the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the biosphere, and the human sphere, the most abundant biodiversity in the earth’s surface system, the most active life layer of energy exchange and material cycle (transformation) in biogeochemistry, the basis of the earth’s green space ecosystem, as well as the agricultural production and human life. Furthermore, the earthworm is the key factor in soil formation and function maintenance.


In 2015, an article in Yangcheng Evening News once reported the phenomenon of excessive earthworm catching in Hainan, pointing out that its harm is huge. However, five years have passed, is it better now? The fact is that instead of getting better, things are getting worse. The article of Yangcheng Evening News is forwarded as follows.


Li Xiaoling, a volunteer, said that people often describe the earth as a mother, but few people know that earthworms are the soul of the earth. Ten years ago, by chance, I once saw all the popular science materials about earthworm and was shocked by its greatness! So I am always grateful to earthworms. If there were no earthworms, there would be no fertile soil and no mulberry fields full of fruits. An earthworm is “the soul of mother earth”. It is a “recluse” who works silently. It deserves a badge of honor. Maybe set up an “earthworm day” to remind people to better understand and protect earthworms.


Who will protect our soil health? By the Wildlife Protection Law? However, earthworms are not included in any protection list. Moreover, as the basis of species protection, the list of National Key Protected Wild Animals has not been updated for 30 years since it was published in 1989. We hope that there will be laws to also protect biodiversity in the soil.


How harmful are over-catching earthworms?


“We just took a cart of dried earthworms away recently", said Li Ming, a farmer who catches earthworms in Hainan, told reporters.


Earthworms in Hainan, commonly known as “guangdilong”, are famous for their large size. There is a tradition of catching earthworms in Changpo, Dalu, and Penglai town in the east of Hainan Province. Over the past 30 years, a complete industrial chain of catching, purchasing, drying, and transporting earthworms has been formed. In the past three years, people have developed from pouring medicine into the land to inserting electric rods into the soil to catch earthworms. A farmer can catch hundreds of kilograms of earthworms in the morning. More and more farmers join in, catching earthworms in their fields and then going to the mountains and roadsides in the distance. According to local media, there are said to be millions of tons of earthworms caught in Hainan every year.


In recent years, Hainan local public security, agriculture, and other government departments have begun to crack down on large-scale electric-catching earthworm harvesting: they cleaned up and reorganized the earthworm operation and processing dens, confiscated and seized tools and dried earthworm products, and educated the rebellious masses through conversation. And the earthworm buyer also began to turn to Wenchang and other places.


Earthworm industry goes underground


"There are many people who are secretly electrifying earthworms. The best time for them is four or five o'clock before the sun comes out every morning”, said Li Ming, a farmer who catches earthworms in Yantang.


The surname Li is the surname of Yantang village, Changpo Town, Qionghai City. The residents came from the mainland to settle down 100 years ago, mainly living in betel nut and rubber forests. Farmers in Yantang began to catch earthworms in the 1980s and formed a complete industrial chain in more than 30 years. At first, farmers just dug earthworms with harrow and hoe and then developed to irrigate earthworms with medicine: farmers sprinkle medicine water on the soil and force the earthworm that sensitive to environmental pollution out of the ground to catch them.


In the past three years, catching earthworms has become more and more popular. The most powerful is the use of batteries and electric rods, commonly known as the “Dilong machine”. The operation of the tool is very simple. Farmers insert electric rods into the soil and use electric current to directly electrify earthworms within three meters of the soil. When the earthworms climb out of the land, they clamp them up one by one with iron tongs. Farmers in places where there are many earthworms can catch up to one hundred pounds of earthworms at a time.


There are three ways to deal with earthworms after electricity: fresh earthworms are fed to fish, half or fully opened to dry. The process of half open and full open earthworms drying is very simple. If the earthworms are cut well and washed in a water basin, they can be put on the wire through one by one. In the sun of Hainan, the cut earthworms can be dried in one day. Some farmers in Yantang have made their fortune by catching earthworms by electricity and built beautiful buildings on the local streets.


The farmers told Yangcheng Evening News that catching earthworms is very common among the villagers. There are more than a few hundred people catching earthworms in the small place of Yantang. Just Yantang village, there are a lot of earthworm acquisition sites.


In recent years, the local government began to crack down on the behavior of catching earthworms after the situation of excessive catching earthworms intensified. At the end of August, the local public security just carried out a special action to crack down on the indiscriminate catching of earthworms, which scared the villagers in Yantang: the behavior of catching and drying earthworms in the past has disappeared now.


Over-catching earthworm causes the crisis


“There are too many people catching earthworms, and now the catching technology is too powerful. But earthworms are not easy to catch now”, the villagers in Yantang mainly use 200 RMB “earthworm machine", which is sold at the local store.


Over the years, over-catching of earthworms has made it difficult for local earthworms to survive. In the past, people could catch 100 jin or even hundreds of jin in any morning. Now even on rainy days, they can only catch 40 jin or 50 jin. As the government's crackdown is very severe, people can only go to the roadside, hillside and other unmanned areas to catch earthworms. "We have to go out early every day since we cannot dig earthworms when the sun is big. Also, now when the villagers see the behavior of catching earthworms, they will call the police. Therefore, many people can only go to remote fields to catch earthworms."


According to the insiders, as there are fewer and fewer earthworms, the people who catch earthworms are driving everywhere or even going to other provinces to get electricity. Sometimes, if you find a place with more earthworms, you can get hundreds of kilograms of earthworms a day, which is not very easy in Hainan.


According to the reporter’s interview, the earthworm catchers are mainly at the junction area of Ding' an, Qionghai, Qiongshan, and Wenchang. And over-catching of the earthworm is just to make some people rich. For most of the farmers who catch earthworms, it's just to subsidize their families. Most of them are poor villagers who are catching earthworms.


As a result of the over-catching of earthworms, many local villagers who do not catch earthworms are dissatisfied. "The people of the electric earthworm ran to the rubber forest and betel nut fields of other people's houses and the household will call the police." Qionghai local villagers told reporters that the rubber forest soil caused soil hardening due to the absence of earthworms, resulting in a poor harvest of rubber forest. Therefore, farmers who grow crops such as rubber and areca will certainly not let electric earthworms catch them on their land.


As early as 2012, netizens posted on Tianya forum that: “recently, I heard an elder saying that some people catch and sell earthworms, and they can catch for more than 50 jin. Earthworms can loosen the soil and help to protect the environment. If the earthworm is gone because of electricity catching, the water storage of the land will be affected. It’s a matter of looking only at the present and harming the future. It is said that some ordinary people have spontaneously resisted this kind of behavior and adopted the method of confiscating tools. I hope this post can attract people’s attention, and we can remind people around us that we should resist this kind of behavior. Warning those who have electric earthworms, electric earthworms also have potential safety hazards.”


(Photo credit: ycwb.com)

Original Chinese article:


By / Xue Tongtong