June 25, 2009—In a Florida forest, worm "grunters" use an unusual technique to catch earthworms to sell for bait.
© 2009 National Geographic (AP)
Worms usually come out when it rains, but this man knows another way to get them out of the ground.
Gary Revell is worm grunting - an unusual method that helps him catch worms.
He pounds a wooden stake, called a stob, into the ground and levels his 10-pound flat iron over the top.
Then he slowly, rhythmically, rubs the iron over the stob, back and forth.
He's making the ground vibrate, and after a short while, earthworms start to climb out of the soil.
SOUNDBITE (English) Gary Revell, Worm Grunter: "There's an art to it, you know. I've tried to teach people how to do it, you know, and they just give up. They say they just don't understand how we can get these worms out of the ground with this stuff."
He and his colleagues are up before sunrise every day, working deep near the Apalachicola Forest by the Gulf of Mexico in north Florida, in Tate's Hell State Forest.
It's a well-earned name because its swarming with hungry mosquitoes, pestering gnats and poisonous snakes.
The vibrations bring out the worms, slithering everywhere on the forest floor.
They are like pink gold to these grunters and the men gather up the harvest in plastic buckets.
A researcher at Vanderbilt University wanted to understand the science behind worm grunting.
So he watched Gary work and concluded that rubbing the stob mimics the vibrations of a mole digging in the ground, trying to prey on the worms.
The worms climb out of the earth to avoid being eaten.
Ironically, they end up as bait.
Revell is a professional grunter who makes his living by catching worms for bait.
The worm grunters make about $25 a bucket.
SOUNDBITE (English) Gary Revell, Worm Grunter: "You have to be really determined, you know. It's got to be in your blood to do this kind of work and be comfortable in the forest like we are."
Gary has been catching worms here for some 50 years, so it's no wonder it's in his blood, the art of worm grunting.