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category national | environment | press release author Sunday May 03, 2020 22:40author by foie Report this post to the editors

Press Release - Friends of the Irish Environment 3rd May 2020

Invasive Australian flatworm reaches west Cork
Sellers of plants should warn public of dangers of contaminated garden matter

The invasive Australian flatworm has reached the Beara peninsula in west Cork. Flatworms from New Zealand were first recorded in Ireland in the 1960’s but the Australian flatworm was not recorded until 1981.

Flatworms are top-level predators of soil organisms. They eat earthworms and appear to have met no natural enemies of their own in Ireland. According to the National Biodiversity Centre, the implications of its indefinite spread for the drainage and fertility of our soil ‘pose a threat to Ireland’s biodiversity and economy’. Japanese knotweed and the zebra mussels are examples of invasive species now out of control in Ireland.

PRESS RELEASE
FRIENDS OF THE IRISH ENVIRONMENT
SUNDAY 3 MAY 2020
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Invasive Australian flatworm reaches west Cork
Sellers of plants should warn public of dangers of contaminated garden matter

The invasive Australian flatworm has reached the Beara peninsula in west Cork. Flatworms from New Zealand were first recorded in Ireland in the 1960’s but the Australian flatworm was not recorded until 1981.

Flatworms are top-level predators of soil organisms. They eat earthworms and appear to have met no natural enemies of their own in Ireland. According to the National Biodiversity Centre, the implications of its indefinite spread for the drainage and fertility of our soil ‘pose a threat to Ireland’s biodiversity and economy’. Japanese knotweed and the zebra mussels are examples of invasive species now out of control in Ireland.

The National Biodiversity Data Centre urges gardeners to be vigilant when transplanting plants purchased from outlets, as contaminated garden matter is the primary source of the spread of the species.

While the New Zealand flatworm is now widespread across the island of Ireland, the Australian flatworm found in west Cork is only the 33rd record nationally. It was found in the garden beside the offices of Friends of the Irish Environment, who are located at the end of the Beara peninsula near the village of Eyeries.

‘Regularly checking for and removing of the flatworms from under pots, stones, logs etc. in your garden is the best way to try and control their numbers’, advises FIE’s Caroline Lewis, who made the discovery and has registered it with the National Biodiversity Data Centre’s Invasive Species database.

‘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.’

‘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.’

‘Trapping them by laying out black plastic on the ground with weights on edge to keep down and checking periodically under that is also possible. Many websites advise on different ways to kill the flatworms. They may simply be put into hot water or placed in a sealed container and put in the freezer.’

‘DIY stores now supply an equal share of the market with garden centres while supermarkets also play a role in the spread of invasive species. 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.’

European Union legislation listed the New Zealand flatworm on its invasive species legislation in 2019. In the United Kingdom it is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act to knowingly distribute either the New Zealand or the Australian flatworm, but no such legislation exists in Ireland to date.

ENDS

Contact: 353 (0)87 2176316

Australian flatworms have an elongate, strap-like body. The eyes are absent or minute and arranged along the body margins in a single row from along the body. Charles Darwin wrote that ‘In general form they resemble little slugs, but are very much narrower in proportion, and several of the species are beautifully coloured with longitudinal stripes’. Photographs are available on the National Biodiversity Centre’s website.

See:
https://www.biodiversityireland.ie/projects/invasive-species/
Artioposthia triangulate – New Zealand
Australoplana sanguinea – Australia
EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation 1143/2014

Copyright © 2020 Friends of the Irish Environment, All rights reserved.
Press Release

Our mailing address is:
Friends of the Irish Environment
Kilcatherine
Eyeries, Cork P75 CX53
Ireland

Related Link: https://www.friendsoftheirishenvironment.org/press-releases/17795-invasive-australian-flatworm-reaches-west-cork
author by foie - Friends of the Irish Environmentpublication date Sat May 09, 2020 01:09author address author phone Report this post to the editors

PRESS RELEASE
FRIENDS OF THE IRISH ENVIRONMENT
FRIDAY 8 MAY 2020
IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Gardens in south west ‘riddled’ with invasive flatworms
Radio appeal for ‘Citizens Science’ to address earthworm loss

A west Cork based environmental organisation is calling on gardeners to become ‘citizen scientists’ and test for the presence of invasive alien flatworms that they say are decimating earth worms in the gardens of Cork and Kerry.

Speak on local radio C-103 FM’s Cork Today, Tony Lowes of Friends of the Irish Environment explained that the flatworms, from New Zealand and Australia, eat our native earthworms and have met no natural enemies of their own in Ireland. ‘The earthworms that these invasive species consume are vital for soil fertilizing and drainage. According to the National Biodiversity Centre, the implications of their indefinite spread for the drainage and fertility of our soil pose a threat to Ireland’s biodiversity and economy’, he told C-103’s JohnPaul McNamara.

FIE, which found the Australian flatworm in their garden last week and reported it to the National Biodiversity Centre Alien Species Register, said that they had never experienced such concern with a Facebook posting, which was viewed more than 17,000 times in four days.

‘Comments on our posting show a widespread presence of these flatworms. We have been told that one gardener found more than 200 under a plastic ground sheet - with almost as many the following day. Another gardener on the Beara peninsula reports he has lost all his earth worms and is left only with these flatworms.’

The National Biodiversity Data Centre urges gardeners to be vigilant when transplanting plants purchased from outlets, as contaminated garden matter from the global horticultural trade is the primary source of the spread of the species.

‘However, the national data base records only 31 records of the Australian flatworm and we think ‘citizen science’ could be very useful in both determining the extent of the problem, and of raising awareness.’

“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 Caroline Lewis of FIE, who made the discovery when checking at night for slugs.

The experts recommend people search underneath anything lying on the soil surface such as logs, plant pots, paving stones, stones, planks, plastic compost bags, chipboard etc. The characteristic eggs are oval, black and shiny, with the larger ones resembling blackcurrants.

Hugh Jones, the international expert who has been advising FIE on the issue, says that suitable traps are black bin-bags with a couple of spades full of soil or sand, knotted and dumped firmly on the ground so as to be close to the soil surface. They can easily be lifted at intervals to search. Log sections are also quite good with the flat surface on the ground. They retain moisture and flatworms will seek refuge underneath, he advises.

‘Appropriate legislation’ needed, says West Cork Garden Trail
The West Cork Garden Trail said it would be ‘concerned to preserve and enhance the overall health of soil. Earthworms are like underground worker bees in this regard and Flatworms attacking and eating them and not having an attack predator of their own is of great concern to us. So WCGT will work with Friends of the Irish Environment on this matter and will join in pressing for the enactment of appropriate legislation in Ireland to counter the threat."
ENDS

CONTACT: Tony Lowes 353 + (0)87 2176316 / 353 (0)27 74771

NOTES
Australian flatworms have an elongate, strap-like body. The eyes are absent or minute and arranged along the body margins in a single row along the body. Charles Darwin wrote that ‘In general form they resemble little slugs, but are very much narrower in proportion, and several of the species are beautifully coloured with longitudinal stripes’. New Zealand flatworms are orange and covered in sticky mucus. Photographs are available on the National Biodiversity Centre’s website.

Flatworms hunt actively in the soil, moving along crevices and burrows, as they follow the scented trail of their prey. The mouth of a flatworm is not on its anterior (head) end, but halfway down the length of the body, in the centre of the ventral surface. The flatworm feeds by attaching itself to its prey with mucus, secreting digestive juices, and digesting the prey externally. Small prey can be swallowed whole. When food is not available, flatworms appear to be able to survive for over a year without feeding.

IDENTIFICATION
British Land Flatworms, Hugh Jones, British Wildlife 2005
http://www.record-lrc.co.uk/Downloads/5-2005%20-%20jones%20-%20british%20land%20flatworms%5B16012014%5D.pdf

REPORTING
If found, gardeners should photograph the flatworm beside a ruler or a coin, sending it, with a report on the number and location, to the Biodiversity Data Centre and copying it to Friends of the Irish Environment. Once collected, the specimines will degrade within hours.
https://www.biodiversityireland.ie/projects/invasive-species/
admin@friendsoftheirishenvironment.org

MAPS OF RECORDS
Artioposthia triangulate [Arthurdendyus triangulatus] – New Zealand
https://maps.biodiversityireland.ie/Species/187040
Australoplana sanguinea – Australia
https://maps.biodiversityireland.ie/Species/28072

 
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