CAN YOU HELP IDENTIFY FLATWORMS IN YOUR GARDEN?
We would like you to turn detective and check your gardens, school grounds, or farm land, for the invasive flatworm, in order to help us with our survey.
What are flatworms?
Flatworms are small invaders that have travelled to the UK from Australia and New Zealand as stowaways in plant pots. They are voracious predators of our native earthworms and, as our earthworms are the key to keeping our soils fertile; these invasive flatworms could be a big problem. Without earthworms pulling leaves into the soil to break down and provide the nutrients for plant growth, soil fertility and the crops growing in them will decline.
Where have they been found in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly?
In 2003 two different invasive flatworm species were found in Penzance and Newquay and identified by Dr Andrew Smart, Head of Maths and Science at Cornwall College, as the Australian species and South African species. We also know they are present around Fowey and the Isles of Scilly, but we would like you to let us know if you have found one where you live.
Where should I look for flatworms?
Flatworms can be found on the surface of your garden, so we would like you to check under your plant pots, rocks, ornaments, and other garden materials, to see if you can find any of these invasive species. While looking for flatworms please be careful and avoid lifting things that are heavy and use safe lifting procedures, also be aware that occasionally other animals such as rodents or snakes such as adders may be under boards or corrugated tin. Children should be supervised by an adult while looking for flatworms.
How can I identify them and find out more?
In order to help identify flatworms have a quick look at the video footage and the photo on this page and get hunting. There is also an excellent guide to identifying flatworms with more pictures, including the two native UK species, on the FERA website.
What should I do if I find a flatworm?
Once a flatworm has been identified the next step is to take a photo of it and send it to email@example.com, along with your contact details, where the flatworm was found and, if possible, an Ordnance Survey grid reference. Alternatively send a photo with the above details to Flatworms Survey, Cornwall College Newquay, Wildflower Lane, Trenance Gardens, Newquay, TR7 2LZ.
What happens next?
On receipt of your photo the College will collate all the records and start to map where in Cornwall the flatworms have colonized and will follow up some records with visits, where possible, during the Autumn to see the extent of the problem. The website will be updated with new information as the project develops.
Why are you carrying out the survey?
The aim of our survey is to gain an understanding of where flatworms are in the County and to find out more about them. In particular we want to be sure we don’t have any colonies of the New Zealand flatworm which is larger and has caused significant concern in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Finally, thank you for helping us with our survey.