Q: What do "worm grunters" know that you may not about scaring up fishing worms by the hundreds or even thousands? Would waiting for a good downpour do it?

A: The rain strategy turns out to be folklore.

New experiments have verified the approach of these professional bait collectors in Florida's Panhandle, says Kenneth Catania in "Scientific American" magazine.

They've mastered the art of getting worms out of their burrows to be collected and sold as bait.

The practice has been handed down for generations and today celebrated with annual worm-grunting festivals, worm-grunting T-shirts and the crowning of a worm-grunting queen.

Ground vibrations are used to drive worms to the surface via pounding a wooden stake into the soil and then rubbing it with a flat piece of metal called a rooping iron.

Studies have shown that the worms feel the ground vibrations and interpret them as a predatory mole coming from below and so out they crawl — at a lighting speed for worms.

So effective is grunting that the National Forest Service in Florida, worried about possible overharvesting of the large earthworms (Diplocardia mississippiensis) now requires a yearly permit for operating in the area.

Send STRANGE questions to brothers Bill and Rich at strangetrue@cs.com

© Bill Sones and Rich Sones, Ph.D.