Is it raining earthworms in China? The truth behind the bizarre videos

Viral video footage has spread online in the first few weeks of March 2023, showing what many appears to look like millions of earthworms scattered on cars and along streets in Beijing during a rain downpour.

“Rain of worms floods Beijing” wrote the Rio Times, sharing a video of the so-called earthworm rain. Other predominately Indian-based media outlets also shared the video, before western media outlets also picked up the story.

The New York Post, titled the video “worm rain”, as did major Australian TV network, Channel 7.

“China pummelled by ‘rain of worms’ as residents asked to carry umbrellas,” said the New York Post.

Screen Shot 2023 03 14 at 8.02.16 pm raining earthworms in China

But was it really raining earthworms in China?

Asia Markets can categorically confirm there was no China earthworm rain. However, the video is not fake.

What appears to be earthworms, are actually wet cotton catkins that fall from cottonwood poplar trees in Beijing and other parts of China every spring.

The Beijinger blog covered the phenomenon in this great post written last year. Here’s some of it:

If you’re a newbie to Beijing in the spring then you might be mistaken for thinking that the oft-muttered “airpocalypse” has actually stepped it up a notch, starting to rain down unruly insta-cancer-clumps of PM2.5… The cotton-like material is actually a mass of airborne seeds produced by catkins, or aments, prior to the cottonwoods’ bloom in spring, a trait that both the male and female poplar trees exhibit.

raining earthworms in China
Catkins on Poplar trees in Beijing. Image:

So, no earthworms, just the usual spring annoyance of Catkins in the rain.

But there is an emerging pattern of misinformation about China spreading – initially from Indian media sources then to western media – in recent years.

The case of China’s so-called self destruct helmets has been a repeat viral fake news story stemming from Indian media sources.