Not too long ago I joked about being scared by the ‘scorpions’ in my worm bin. Well today I am writing about a creature that would genuinely strike fear into the hearts of any worm farmers that found them in their beds – we are talking of course about the dreaded land planarian (aka ‘flatworm’ or ‘shovel head worm’). Our vermi-friend, Dwayne, shared some of the fantastic images he captured after finding one of these slimy suckers in one of his outdoor worm bins a little while ago.
He emailed a University of Florida entomologist (and flatworm expert), Dr. Paul Choate, to find out what exactly it was. Dr. Choate identified it as Bipalium kewense, a relatively common flatworm species in Northern Florida.
I was actually in contact with Dr. Choate myself last year, requesting permission to use some of his great planarian images. Here is one showing what can happen when you put an earthworm and predatory flatworm together in a petri dish! Pretty scary.
Image courtesy of Dr. Paul Choate, University of Florida
Land planarians can be a serious earthworm predator in certain parts of the world – generally they are more of a threat in warmer regions, but certain species are found in more temperate zones as well. They are particularly dangerous because they can reproduce incredibly quickly, and have been reported to wipe out an entire worm population (in a worm farm) in a matter of days.
Long-time worm farming expert, Larry Martin, shared his experience (in a Casting Call interview – Vol. 2, #4, p.6) with flatworms after moving to Florida, claiming they wiped out 3,000 lbs of worms in less than seven days, before proceeding to feed on eachother!
Unfortunately there isn’t any reliable solution for getting rid of these worms once they become established, since their requirements (moisture, darkness etc) are similar to those of the earthworms themselves. If you start seeing any of them, be sure to remove and kill them right away. It’s probably not a bad idea to move some of your worms to a more secure location (an indoor bin perhaps) so you at least have a partial insurance policy.
Dwayne apparently found his specimen in an above-ground wooden bin, sitting on a concrete pad – so they certainly don’t just find their way into exposed windrows (although, perhaps they would be more of a threat in those sorts of beds).
Thanks again to Dwayne for sharing his images!
[tags]flatworm, planarian, worm bin, worm farm, worm bed, vermicomposting, vermiculture, bipalium kewense, earthworm[/tags]