Q: I don't hate worms, but when they come up at night they leave a mounded hole. I have a LOT of nightcrawlers and they are making walking through the grass an ankle-turning event. How can I kill them? B. K.

Nightcrawlers actually help the soil but may make it difficult to mow in extreme cases, particularly in southern lawns that typically are grown at much shorter heights than most cool season grasses.

Getting rid of the middens will be difficult. Rolling the lawn while the middens are soft may help temporarily, but mounds will be rebuilt when the nightcrawlers become active again. There is nothing labeled specifically for nightcrawler control. Most gardeners want to protect nightcrawlers due to their positive effect on the soil.

Pesticides used for other pests vary widely in their toxic effects on earthworms. Those that have NO effect include diazinon, Dylox (Proxol), Merit and Oftanol. Dursban and malathion may be slightly toxic, while Sevin, Benomyl, copper sulfate, and the arsenicals (MSMA, DSMA) are extremely toxic as they are to just about everything else that walks, crawls or files.

A less drastic method would be to extract the little guys by hand. Yuk! I can hear you saying. Of course I meant that you should invite a couple of not-so-squeamish neighborhood kids over some evening for pizza and sodas and to play your little game of who can catch the most nightcrawlers. You have to be fast to nab them—the worms, not the kids.

Water your lawn just before dusk on pizza night. Wait for a couple hours after sunset, more if it's really hot. Then go out with a coffee can and flashlight. Quietly stalk your lawn moving just a few inches at a time scanning the light slowly across the grass right in front of you. Once you catch site of an outstretched nightcrawler, don't keep the light shining on it, but move it back far enough so you can still see him, but not shining directly on it. They are easily frightened by footsteps and bright light. Carefully bend down and slowly move your free hand in behind it till you're about 4" away and then strike, grabbing the worm between your thumb and index finger. This requires a bit of practice and dexterity. Once you've got the little guy slowly pull him out of his hole (S L O W L Y !). Once free from his earthly abode, drop him into the coffee can. Some people claim these worms are good bait for fishing. You could also take them to your local park and set them free there, but don't leave them in the can overnight without taking additional precautions, or you'll wind up with a smell mess that will just really turn your stomach.

I certainly don't recommend getting rid of the worms— they are far too beneficial for the long term vitality of the soil. Think about the unintended consequences of killing the little slimy critters.