Send your “early bird” jokes to Norway where half the country could use a cheering up after being covered by a rain of live earthworms. Scientists and meteorologists are at a loss when asked for a cause by Norwegians wiping worms from their windows and Winnebagos and wondering if the Icelandic worm monster known as Lagarfljót has learned to fly and reproduce.
The worms were first reported by Karstein Erstad who encountered them on April 12 while skiing in the mountains outside Bergen on the western coast of southern Norway.
I saw thousands of earthworms on the surface of the snow. When I found them on the snow they seemed to be dead, but when I put them in my hand I found that they were alive.
Bergen was convinced the worms fell from the sky since the snow was up to a meter deep on the slopes. After a local news station related his discovery, reports began coming in from across southern Norway of worm rains – from Lindås and Suldal near Bergen to Femunden on the Swedish border. A resident of Nordvestlandet, a city where houses with grass roofs are common, reported finding worms digging into his roof.
Trond Haraldsen, a scientist and expert in soil and environment at the Norwegian Institute for Agricultural and Environmental Research, says the slime on the worms indicates they were probably flown to the ski slopes and other areas while riding on leaves. The slime helps worms spend the winter months glued to leaves and blades of grass in fields. That makes it easy for a strong spring storm or tornado to lift them up and carry them for huge distances. Haraldsen also said that earthworm rains like this are only seen after very mild winters.
While Haraldsen is confident that this is how the worms rained down by the thousands on Karstein Erstad and southern Norway, he’s baffled by where they came from and what local weather conditions lifted and carried them. He and other researchers will continue to look for clues.
Meanwhile, the rest of Norway will continue to dodge falling worms, early birds and bad jokes.