Invasive Australian flatworm found in West Cork

Invasive Australian flatworm found in West Cork
Photograph of the Australian Flatworm discovered in West Cork by Caroline Lewis from Friends of the Irish Environment.

Gardeners are being urged to be extra vigilant after an Australian flatworm was found in a garden on the Beara peninsula.

The discovery was made by Caroline Lewis, from Friend’s of the Irish Environment (FIE) who found the flatworm in the garden beside FIE’s offices near the village of Eyeries.

Ms Lewis has now registered the discovery with the National Biodiversity Data Centre’s Invasive Species database.

The Australian flatworm is considered an invasive species and is known to eat earthworms, and can affect their presence in gardens.

As the name suggests, the worm is flat in form and is orange or pink in colour.

It is 3-8mm wide, and can measure 4cm while moving while it is smaller when resting. 

While flatworms from New Zealand were first recorded in Ireland in the 1960s, the Australian flatworm was not recorded here until 1981. 

The New Zealand flatworm is now widespread across the island of Ireland, but the Australian flatworm found in West Cork is only the 33rd recorded nationally.

Friends of the Irish Environment are urging gardeners to be on the lookout for the species.

“Many people are working in their gardens under the current conditions and this is a prime time of year for these invasive pests. While ultimately elimination of any invasive species is challenging, it is important that we track their progress and do all we can to protect our own earthworms because of their vital role in soil fertility,” said Ms Lewis.

This can be done by regularly checking for and removing flatworms from under pots, stones, logs, she says.

“Where containers stand on black polythene or capillary matting, frequently check the underside of the polythene or matting for flatworms. Like slugs, flatworms adhere to the underside of the pots” Ms Lewis added.

Meanwhile, Ms Lewis said outlets selling plants should also ensure regular monitoring is in place to prevent further transmissions.

"All outlets should have sanitation measures and regular monitoring in place to prevent further transmissions as well as warning signs alerting gardeners to the possible presence of contaminated material," she said. 

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