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If you thought earthworms are earthworms are earthworms, then think again. These marvelous creatures are so varied and interesting, even in the UK, that there is an Earthworm Society of Britain, as they say, digging into the world of earthworms.

This society has drawn up a list of the 31 species of earthworm known to occur in natural environments within the British Isles. Of these 29 species are known to occur in Great Britain. You may have realised that identification of local earthworms in West Dunbartonshire is not a straightforward process. 

You may also have realised that the Earthworm Society of Britain takes things very seriously. It hold seminars and courses for would-be worm enthusiasts and those wishing to hone their skills. Their technical information can be daunting.

But the NatureScot website is more on the level of most of us. It tells us: 

‘Worm’ is used to describe any invertebrate that has evolved a long, slender body shape. But the term covers a range of different groups, which you can tell apart by how they move.

For example:

earthworms wriggle, using bristles along the length of their body

flatworms slowly glide with the aid of ‘cilia’ (tiny hair-like structures)

roundworms (nematodes) move frantically in S-shaped curves

In his book THE GARDEN JUNGLE or Gardening to Save the Planet, Dave Goulson dedicates a whole chapter to "The Wriggly Worms" and goes on to worry about them. Too little is done to care for them in this age of dependence on industrialised agricultue. "... these lowly creatures peform an unglamorous, but vital job in keeping our soils healthy and recycling dead organic matter; without them crops and wild plants would grow much more slowly, and ultimately there would be less food for humans and everything else with which we share the planet". 

So the humble earthworm needs more respect. Its a hard life down there. And there is also the added threat of a hungry mole or a bird pecking its hungry beak down a hole.

EARTHWORM SOCIETY OF BRITAIN : https://www.earthwormsoc.org.uk/species-uk

THE GARDEN JUNGLE or Gardening to Save the Planet : Dave Goulson. Vintage. 2019. ISBN 9781529116281.

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