Earthworm predators in the UK

November 21, 2010

in Gardening For Wildlife, Wildlife, Worm composting and worms

Australian flatworm on left of picture

All my articles, videos and work are funded by my teaching and sales of award winning bumblebee nest boxessolitary bee boxes,  and wormeries.

Earthworm predators in the UK

Many vertebrate and invertebrate animals consume earthworms. Their inclusion in a diet will depend on many reasons such as : availability, opportunism, season, life cycle of predator and food shortages of their preferred foods.

Here is a UK wildlife selection…..there are many more species!

Australian Flatworm (Photographed with brandling)           Badgers

Birds: robins, blackbirds, song thrushes, starlings, woodcocks, curlews, gulls, crows

Carabid beetles e.g. black ground beetle               Centipedes

Foxes               Frogs               Grass snake              Hedgehogs            Leeches ( e.g. Trocheta subvirudis)

Lizards            Mice                 Minks                         Moles                      Newts

New Zealand Flatworm         Pigs                            Pine Martins          Red foxes

Shrews            Slow worm        Smooth snake        Staphylind sp. (rove beetles)

Stoats              Toads                 Wild boar                  Wood ants (unless they live in the wood ants nest!)

and…..SLUGS!!!! Carnivorous slugs!!    Believe it or not, there are at least 3 specimens of slugs that feast on earthworms here in Britain! They belong to the Testacella family of slugs……

Spider eating worm!!!!

A most unusual search of the scientific literature found a species of spider, in Switzerland feeding on an earthworm, with a photograph of it trying to pull the worm on to its web!

See it for yourself and download……  Spiders feeding on earthworms

Some species of parasites and pathogens also attack, infest or infect earthworms…..

Bacteria, Fungi, Mites, Nematodes, Parasitic fly larvae, Platyhelminths worms, Protozoa and Rotifers.

 Refs: Beside my own experiences and observations;

Edwards C.A. & Bohlen P.J., (1996), ” Biology and ecology of Earthworms”, Chapman & Hall, London

Laakso J. & Setala H., (1997), ” Nest mounds of red wood ants (Formica aquilonia) hot spots for litter dwelling earthworms”, Oecolgia 111, p 565-569

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Martin June 14, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Came across a very large worm with a big black Rove beetle trying to kill it, it was really a pretty disturbing thing to watch, have never had any phobia of insects but can honestly say that Rove beetles now make me seriously uncomfortable.

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nurturingnature June 16, 2011 at 8:23 pm

It is known that predatory ground beetles will predate upon earthworms if they are hungry. I wonder if it was a devils coach horse beetle, the largest rove beetle a real fearsome beast that eats anything it can overpower. Including slugs and large cabbage white caterpillars! They have to eat too!!

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Natalie Windsor December 10, 2012 at 5:06 pm

I like worms!

I’m trying to make an amateurish booklet / project on them!
(Aimed basically at knowing best conservation techniques).

17 pages and counting.

Have just joined the UK Earthworm Society 🙂

Reply

nurturingnature December 10, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Welcome aboard as a worm lover Natalie! Its a while since I looked at that small article…..have learnt a little more now re the word press site so may gizz it up a little!

Worms and bees….both vital to soil and plants eh!! Oh and you use a mac as I do!! Cheers George

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Jannis Pinzone September 28, 2013 at 7:34 am

I live in the United States, in northwestern Pennsylvania, and found these Austrailian Flatworms in my earthworm trap eating my earthworms yesterday! They totally creeped me out having never seen them here in the States before. I had to do extensive internet research just to figure out what they were & the fact they are eating up my precious earthworms does not sit well with me. I’m not sure who or where to report the finding of these flatworms to here in the States let alone if any wildlife authorities here even know these flatworms are here (let alone in my backyard, lol) as an invasive species.

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nurturingnature September 28, 2013 at 9:50 am

Hi Jannis, Oh what bad news.They are horrible things and even give me the creeps. I would contact your National Environment Protection Agency or similar, your local council, Worm Digest magazine, any wildlife organisations and Prof Clive Edwards from Ohio University who is a world renowned earthworm expert. Send photos of them for ID. Good luck and keep me posted. George

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