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Hawkinsville, Georgia

The Eerie Earthworms of Hawkinsville, Georgia

Beneath the surface, something slithers. And if you find it, prepare to be slimed and glowing. 

Easily reached for a day trip from Atlanta, Hawkinsville is small town in rural Georgia. Originally the capital of the Creek Indian Confederacy, it was given to the state of Georgia via treaty at the end of the 18th century. Today it’s known for harness horses and and a large freight terminal. Hawkinsville is also home to an earthworm with a strange ability — it secretes glowing blue slime.

Named Diplocardia longa by scientists, its translated name sounds like something the Creek would have used: “long two hearts.” But long is right: at nearly two feet, it’s one of the longest annelids in the US.

When confronted by a predator such as the voracious Eastern Mole, the worm will writhe and contort and produce a sticky slime that glows blue with luciferase, the same chemical found in fireflies. This encounter likely takes place underground, where the blue light can overwhelm the senses of an attacker. The slime’s stickiness gives the worm a chance to escape while the hungry predator tries to deal with the fact that it’s covered in glowing worm snot.

Should you choose to collect one of these critters for yourself, head to Hawkinsville or any similar area with sandy soil. Hammer a stake into the soil and make it vibrate. Worms will likely come to the surface, including our long glowing friend. This practice is called “grunting,” and if you get good at it, you can even make money by collecting the various species and selling them to anglers. This video might help.

Glowing worms are also found in New Zealand and Australia.

Know Before You Go

Look for sandy soils with castings

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