A strange tornado of worms dubbed a “Wormnado” by LiveScience has left scientists unsure of what happened. The swirling shape of earthworms formed on a sidewalk in Hoboken, New Jersey, on March 25, 2021. Days later, there was a Super Worm Moon, a strange coincidence, to be sure.
As seen in a Facebook post, the large swirl of worms seemed to happen on a flat area of sidewalk near lamp posts. Now, some have speculated if the pattern was due to receding water after heavy rainfalls the night before the wormnado. However, the area seems flat, and without more evidence, scientists can only speculate what caused the cyclone of worms.
Tiffanie Fisher, a member of the Hoboken City Council, shared the pictures after another woman shared them with her.
“Has anyone ever seen anything like this? This is a tornado of worms that were out this morning near Maxwell Park in Hoboken. Clearly, worms come out after it rains, but this is something I’ve never seen!” wrote Fisher.
Fisher told LiveScience that the worms were still alive but weren’t actively forming a spiral at the time of the photographs. Nearby, more worms were strewn about, clinging to a nearby wall, curb, and down into the road.
Most likely, the rains forced the worms to leave their underground tunnels or drown. In other instances, worms have been observed grouping together in herds, using their sense of touch to come together. By herding, they can avoid predators and navigate to safer ground. However, worms generally form “Worm Blobs,” not wormnados.
What Caused the Wormnado?
Scientists speculated about what caused the pattern, suggesting the swirl may have formed due to a dip in the ground where water drained after the rains.
Harry Tuazon, a doctoral candidate in Georgia Tech’s Interdisciplinary Bioengineering Graduate Program, suggested a possible sinkhole.
“I think the circular pattern is much more indicative of water draining and the worms being swept, rather than a type of behavioral locomotion,” Tuazon said. “Perhaps a sinkhole is forming? It would be interesting if a bunch of earthworms provided telltale signs of a forming sinkhole!”
Perhaps, the city should investigate further if there is a hole beneath the sidewalk?
Without specimens, the scientists couldn’t be sure what species worm was present, and the photographer found the worms mostly gone a few hours later.
See more from LiveScience below:
The Super Worm Moon
Interestingly, the first full Moon of March is called the Worm Moon, also called a supermoon. This year’s Worm Moon happened on Sunday, March 28, also Palm Sunday. It was the first supermoon of the year.
Thus, it took place shortly after the wormnado in Hoboken.
On that night, the Moon is at its closest point to the Earth along its elliptical orbit, the perigee. Since it’s closer, it can appear as much as 30% brighter, illuminating the night.
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, this year’s Worm Moon was also the Paschal Full Moon.
“This year, because it is the first full Moon to occur after the spring equinox on March 20, March’s full Moon is the Paschal Full Moon. This means that its date determines the date of Easter (April 4, 2021)!” states the Almanac.
The Moon may be so named because it coincides with when earthworms are often seen wriggling out of the warming soil after winter. As birds like robins appear to eat the worms, it’s a sure sign of spring.
However, an alternative story goes that the Worm Moon is named because of Captain Jonathan Carver’s writing.
The 18th-century explorer wrote that the Worm Moon was named for beetle larvae called worms often seen emerging from tree bark in spring.
See more about the Worm Moon and other notable astronomical events in 2021 from The Secrets of the Universe: