My first flatworm :(

This is a first that isn’t a cause for celebration: my first flatworm.

Australian flatworm - underside
Australian flatworm – underside

Last year, I thought I found some flatworm egg cases, but I didn’t see any actual worms. Today, when I was moving a pile of bricks in the yard, I found what is definitely a flatworm. I think, from looking at photographs on the internet, that it is an Australian one (Australoplana sanguinea).

It probably stretched to about 8cm when it was trying its fastest to escape!
It probably stretched to about 8cm when it was trying its fastest to escape!

These flatworms are bad because they eat earthworms. Fera (the Food and Environment Research Agency) has factsheets available to download on the Australian* and the New Zealand flatworm*, as well as a “Flatworm code” for nurseries.

Apparently you shouldn't touch these flatworms as their mucus can be irritant (it dissolves worms after all!)
Apparently you shouldn’t touch these flatworms as their mucus can be irritant (it dissolves earthworms after all!)

*nb – because of the settings with the Fera website, these link directly to the pdfs of the factsheets via google, alternatively you can go to the GB Non Native Species Secretariat site and search from there.

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6 thoughts on “My first flatworm :(”

  1. Maybe not a cause for celebration but still interesting. Here in Minnesota where I live there is a problem with introduced species of earthworms (Lumbricus terrestris and Lumbricus rubellus) in maple forests. The activities of the earthworms change the nutrient cycling in the forest and reduce the thickness of the forest duff layer. Strange how such small things like earthworms here and flatworms where you are can cause big ecological problems.

    1. Hi Andy. Do you live in the uk ?
      I found an identical worm to the above on top of some soil.
      I actually thought it was a tape worm, never seen anything like it before.

      1. Unfortunately I’ve got them in my garden too, Lou, and live in the North West of the UK. Found my first one a couple of months ago. Have a suspicion they may have arrived via manure. When it’s cold, I find them hiding underneath stones and empty compost bags. One was even in the lid of the dalek compost bin. They are exterminated on sight, ground to a paste between two bricks.

        Doubtful they’ll ever be completely eradicated now, given that they can burrow quite deep to escape temperature extremes and go a long time without feeding. They can lay an egg every week and each egg contains 6 young or more. I have read that they are eaten by frogs and ground beetles. Hopefully the log piles and pond encourage a decent predatory population. Otherwise I intend to keep checking the usual spots every day to try to keep the numbers down. Leave my earthworms alone, you fiends!

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