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The Strangest Event You Never Knew You Needed To See: The Worm Charming Championship

Images shows a team representative offering information about the event,

Although it may never become an Olympic sport, the art of worm charming has a huge following in England, where it originated in 1980. Perhaps one of the most prestigious “small” competitions is the annual worm charming championship at the Wageningen campus in the Netherlands. I’m wondering when this will find its way across the pond to the United States.


The annual worm charming championship! An event of importance at the Wageningen campus 🪱 #wormcharming #wur #wageningen

♬ original sound – ResourceWUR

The goal at the Wageningen event is to lure the most worms above ground using only a pitchfork to vibrate the ground. Creative worm charmers employ a variety of additional means, including dances, chants, and general silliness. “Additional means” are open to individual interpretation and “should” enhance the vibrations of the pitchfork. What works for one team might not work for the next.

Images show the "Carbon Team" playing the Lord of the Rings theme song on a flute to increase the heartbeat of a team member on the ground to entice the worms to the surface.
Images from TikTok.

Each competing team works on a plot of land. The Wageningen event uses 3 by 3 meter plots, slightly larger than 3 by 3 yards in US measurements. That makes it around ten feet wide and ten feet deep. The inaugural Wageningen Worm Charming Championship was in 2017. The event has become a campus favorite.

Images show teams using different methods to enhance their worm gathering. Left image is a man tapping objects. Right image shows a man doing "The Worm" dance.
Images from TikTok.

The Boring Part Of The Wageningen Worm Charming Championship

Jan Willem van Groenigen, Professor of Soil Biochemistry, is the driving force behind the competition. His overall goal is to stir interest in Soil Biochemistry as the group studies links between worms and soil quality. The professor also has an ulterior motive. He has a “worm hotel” in one of the Bornsesteeg (a flat dormitory-type building) and is looking for extended-stay guests. He is trying to fill all the “rooms” of his hotel with each species of worm living in the Netherlands. These worms also serve as research subjects for students and scientists at the university.

The field is part of the orchard of the Organic Experimental and Teaching Farm at Droevendaal. Teams are made up of ecologists and soil scientists. Costumes, camaraderie, and creativity are encouraged. Team members are free to display their many talents on the field. The first competition consisted of ten teams of scientists, mostly from Wageningen. As the competition progresses annually, Professor Van Groenigen hopes to branch out to include secondary school students. We might have one of the professor’s future students right here!

You can find the source of this story’s featured image here.

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