Capturing earthworms by electric shock poses environmental hazards

August 21, 2023 - 10:22
Experts say using electricity to catch worms not only kills them instantly, but the current can damage soil, trees and plants
Using electricity shock to collect earthworms has been recently reported in the north. — Photo courtesy of

HÒA BÌNH — Using electric shock to collect earthworms for sale to Chinese traders has become increasingly popular in the north recently, causing headaches to managers and farmers.

Experts say using electricity to catch worms not only kills them instantly, but the current can damage soil, trees and plants.

This practice has recently been reported in specialised farming areas, particularly in northern Hòa Bình Province – the large growing area of Cao Phong oranges and some other northern provinces such as Bắc Giang, Sơn La and Tuyên Quang.

The worm hunters use easy techniques which do not cost money and offer a big revenue to catch worms.

Fresh worms are sold at about VNĐ70,000 per kilo. Many worm catchers can gather 100-120kg of worms in a single night, reports Nông Nghiệp Việt Nam (Vietnamese Agriculture) newspaper.

The collected worms' organs are extracted, then the worms are dried, and sold to traders transporting to China for about VNĐ600,000 per kg.

Worm-drying kilns have also proliferated, with massive purchase activity.

Many individuals have disregarded the danger, lurking day and night to capture worms using electric shocks, and sell for profit.

Worms are a source of concern for Cao Phong orange garden owners. Not only worms are removed from the soil, but electrical shock to the earth will also alter the plant's hairy roots. As a result, orange leaves turn yellow and die, resulting in a lower yield.

Many orange garden owners have to erect wire fences, set cameras around the garden, and stay up all night to watch people collecting earthworms to prevent electric shock methods.

Some gardeners even put up warning signs or give out rewards to individuals who catch earthworm hunters using electricity.

A farmer known as Phương, an orange garden owner in Bắc Giang, claimed her family paid over VNĐ20million on steel to build a sturdy fence, yet earthworm thieves still trespass on her orange patch.

Many Cao Phong orange garden owners have petitioned the local authorities, including Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Lê Minh Hoan. Because worm catching is so widespread, orange growers suffer and risk losing everything.

Nguyễn Như Cường, Director of the Department of Crop Production under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, agreed that striking the soil with a strong current will kill the worms, harming the soil, fauna, and microorganisms, and causing plants to die. This unit and communities are seeking solutions.

This is an action that must be halted immediately, but there is presently no specific penalty for such damaging practice, Cường told Vietnamnet.

Cường said the department had sent a request to review and impose punishments on people who use electric shocks to capture earthworms.

The Crop Production Department requested that the local departments of agriculture and rural development examine, evaluate, detect, and punish the violations, at the same time, raise public knowledge, particularly among those who directly engage in using electric shocks to catch earthworms, as well as businesses and households that process and trade earthworms.

Cường confirmed that earthworm is not a rare animal. In case of market demand, we need large-scale breeding programmes and initiatives, which might potentially be a new economic development path. — VNS