We are teaming up with the fantastic and very experience Orkney Field Club (OFC) for this project. It is one that everyone across Shetland can get involved in in their own garden/allotment. We would like you to tell us about sightings of the invasive NZ Flatworm (and indeed earthworms) to find out more about their current distribution and abundance in Shetland.
The NZ Flatworm is an invasive, non-native species that is spreading rapidly across the UK with serious consequences on our native earthworm populations which are predated by the NZ Flatworm. They arrived in Scotland in the mid-60s and have been in Shetland now for a number of years but we do not currently know the extent of their distribution or in what numbers and that is why we need your help. We would like as many records from all over Shetland including the outer islands to see how far they have spread. Negative records are also very important as this indicates areas that may not yet be populated.
If you are not familiar with the NZ Flatworm, here is a description taken from the 2013 OFC bulletin by B. Boag and R. Neilson of the James Hutton Institute, Dundee:
“New Zealand flatworms are usually found during the day, often curled up like a Swiss roll, under pieces of wood, stone or polythene lying on bare earth. They are relatively flat compared with earthworms, are pointed at both ends and covered with a sticky mucus. They can vary in colour but usually have a dark brown upper surface with a lighter beige speckled border which extends to cover the ventral surface. Flatworms can also vary greatly in shape from long and narrow (up to 15 cm) to short and relatively fat. They produce egg capsules which look like small, shiny blackcurrants.”
The NZ Flatworm and its eggs may be found under stones, plastic and wood etc. We would also like you to record the numbers of earthworms you are finding in your ground as their lack of abundance may be an indicator of the presence or absence of the NZ Flatworms.
We would like you to complete the Recording Form and answer some Short Questions and email them back to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to add any other information that you feel may be of interest.
We will be sharing data with the OFC to get a full picture of the distribution and abundance around the whole of the Northern Isles region. We will also share your records with the Shetland Biological Records Centre.
Some useful information on earthworm species can be found on the OPAL website www.opalexplorenature.org/earthwormguide and there is some useful information on NZ Flatworms on the RHS website www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=975.