The arrival of the New Zealand flat worm in the UK, beware!
New arrival flatworm – You may have already read our blog about the importance of the earth worms for UK soil aeration and quality. Unfortunately they are threatened by the arrival of the New Zealand Flat Worm. It is thought to have smuggled itself into the country on the underside of a leaf from a contaminated plant. Looking to feast on our earth worms it probably stuck itself to an out-of-sight surface waiting for an opportunity to slither away.
Will this new pest upset the balance of nature in the UK?
So, should we be worried about their impact on our worm population? Our worms are so important for the health of our soils so is this a new threat to all of our famous gardens and parkland?
Moreover, the flat worms sole food is earthworms. Like our own earth worms they can be found in compost heaps, plant pots, in the roots of containerised plants. All the same hang outs as our own earth worms. Their prey can be found in garden lawns, feeding on, and aerating the soil.
They have a slightly macabre way of immobilising and eating their pray. Initially, they wrap themselves around them tightly using their sticky mucus as an enzyme to break down the earth worm from the outside in. Then, the last stage is to feed on the liquid that is left behind.
Birds & other wildlife species….
There is some concern about the native birdlife and other animals that feed on our earthworms. The fears of a flat worm annihilation of earth worms seems to have not happened yet. Thankfully, there still seem to be a lot of earth worms about. I have seen plenty on the top of turf stacks in the field! Maybe there could be other insects out there that enjoy the rather unappetising appeal of the flat worm, like centipedes and frogs.
The flat worms stick to the same sort of climates in which they are known to live in New Zealand. The colder, wetter climes of the north of the UK (similar to the South Island of NZ). The Australian flat worm has also been spotted in the Isle of Scilly and the south-west coast of the UK.
For those of you reading this that do not know what a New Zealand flat worm looks like, they are about 20cm long, flattened and covered in a sticky mucus. The main colour is dark purple brown with a speckled pale yellow margin. The spend most of their time curled up in a spiral.
Our advice to anyone who sees a flat worm in their garden is to take a photograph and let us know. We will then notify the relevant authorities. They are trying to track the spread and impact of these worms on our environment. We would also ask you to dispose of the worm if possible.