OPAL Community Scientist Annie Robinson talks to Countryfile Spring Diaries about the creepy critter, New Zealand flatworm.
Why not take a short break and watch her in action (skip to 2 minutes in if you don’t have time for the full show).
The Countryfile presenter, Keeley, explains that 'earthworms are the unsung heroes of our countryside, their underground excavations improve quality of soil, and they're a ready meal for many birds and animals.'
The problem is that they are under threat and New Zealand flatworms could have a lot to do with this. Population strongholds are in Scotland and Northern England but they are spreading. A flatworm could kill, dissolve and suck up one earthworm worm per week, which may not sound like much, but in 2017 in Northern Ireland flatworms cost the local economy £34 million.
Do you have them in your local area? Why not take part in the OPAL New Zealand Flatworm Survey and spend 10 minutes checking in dark damp places such as under logs, plant pots and through the soil.
You can use these handy tips to work out if you've found one:
- As the name suggests, flatworms are flat, as opposed to earthworms which are cylindrical
- They don't have any segments like an earthworm
- They are purplish-brown in colour
- They have pale speckled edges and are light underneath
- They are pointed at both ends
- When resting, they are normally curled up like a swiss role and you may see the evidence of their slime
We would love to hear whether you find anything so Annie and her colleagues can keep a track of these mini assassins. Knowing where flatworms haven’t yet reached is just as important as finding out where they are currently wreaking havoc so please do submit your results.
Keeping an eye out will help collect valuable data and if you are buying new plants then do take a look around the rims of pots, check out the soil for eggs and dunk the new addition in warm water before you plant out. Prevention as well as monitoring is key for saving our native wildlife!