The early bird soars above the mountains and fjords, attempting to catch the worm. Except in Norway, the worms are flying too.

From the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder to the residents of Shirley in Croydon in 1998, the rainfall of frogs, fish and even apples has caused a sensation. Yesterday (local time), worms joined the cast of unlikely objects to descend from the heavens.

The claimed phenomenon of "raining earthworms" on the mountains of Norway was viewed, by some, as a precursor for the end of days. "Repent," wrote one social media sage, "the apocalypse is nigh."

It is thought the earthworms - numbering several hundred, according to reports - were lifted from the ground by up-currents of wind, possibly a tornado. They were then deposited on top of ice many miles away from their original resting place. The worms may, meteorologists say, have been in the upper atmosphere - almost space worms.

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Biology teacher Karstein Erstad is reported to have been skiing near Bergen when he stumbled across the worms last weekend. "I saw thousands of earthworms on the surface of the snow," Mr Erstad told European news website, The Local.

"When I found them on the snow they seemed to be dead, but when I put them in my hand I found that they were alive. In many places, the snow thickness was between half a metre and 1m and I think they would have problems crawling through the cold snow."

Since then, sightings of flying worms have been reported in Lindås and Suldal near Bergen, and as far away as Femunden on the Swedish border.

The worms are thought to have been brought aloft by the wind, carried on leaves, and fallen down with the rain, reported Norway's NRK.

Flying worms have been recorded before, including in Sweden in the 1920s. In 2007, in Jennings, Louisiana, police department employee Eleanor Beal was crossing the street when clumps of worms fell from above.

"When I saw that they were crawling, I said, 'It's worms! Get out of the way!'" she told news channel WAFB.

The poet William Blake foresaw the flying worm - "invisible... that flies through the night in the howling storm" - in "The Sick Rose".

Dr Kevin Butt, head of the Earthworm Research Group, told The Independent: "It's very peculiar indeed. Going as I can only on the evidence presented: earthworms would find it highly unlikely if not impossible to burrow up through a metre of snow. So that more or less rules out the idea of them coming from below. If they're on the surface of the snow and there is no unfrozen soil nearby, they must have come from somewhere else."

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Liz Bentley, chief executive of the Royal Meteorology Society, added: "There have been reports of lots of types of living creatures falling from the sky. They get drawn up in huge drafts. For example fish, frogs and things like that have been reported to fall from clouds. It's happened for hundreds of years."

She added: "Typically, you're looking for a huge updraft that could be in the form of something like a tornado. You get them over the sea as well over lakes. So it can pick up living creatures out of the water and transport them; they're called water spouts.

"It would be interesting to see when they were spotted and what the weather conditions were like at the time to see whether there were any significant stormy events.

"A thunderstorm has the potential to lift small creatures like worms up from the ground, transport them quite a distance. They can get transported into the upper atmosphere and then, depending on the strength of the wind, [carried] hundreds of miles and then dropped down to earth. It's fairly reasonable for something like this to happen."

-The Independent