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last updated Feb 4, 2014
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Earthworm (Allolobophora sp.) casts on a lawn. Credit: RHS/Entomology.

Britain has about 16 species of earthworms likely to be found in gardens. They vary in size and colour, but all have a role to play in creating good soil structure and fertility.

What do earthworms do? Back to top

  • Earthworms can be active throughout the year but are quiescent during cold or hot and dry weather. They occur in most soils, but are scarce in soils that are extremely acidic or prone to waterlogging
  • Earthworms eat decaying plant material and do not damage growing plants. They are important to soil structure and fertility
  • Some earthworms emerge at night to feed on dead plant material on the surface, and will pull fallen leaves and other plant debris into their tunnels
  • Some species such as Allolobophora nocturna, A. longa and Lumbricus terrestris live in permanent burrows and it is mainly these species that produce worm casts on the surface

Specialist species and wormeries Back to top

Some earthworm species live in accumulations of organic matter, such as compost heaps. One such species is Eisenia fetida (brandling or tiger worm), recognisable by its stripy appearance, another is Dendrobaena veneta. These are the species most commonly used in wormeries, as their feeding activities speed up the composting process.

Problems Back to top

Worm casts consist of soil and waste excreted by the worms as they feed on organic matter. Worm casts can be a nuisance on lawns and gravel paths.

Earthworm (Allolobophora sp.) casts on a lawn. Credit: RHS/Entomology.

Soil casts from earthworms (Allolobophora sp). These can be a nuisance, particularly when they are smeared with a mower. Allow them to dry and brush them away before mowing.

Quick facts

Earthworms eat decaying plant material and do not damage growing plants
Britain has about 16 species of earthworms in gardens
Earthworms occur in most soils
Earthworms can be used in wormeries to make compost
Worm casts can be a nuisance on lawns

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