By Bernie Bell
Readers of ‘The Orkney News’ might remember this article…… https://theorkneynews.scot/2019/07/16/whats-happened-happening-to-the-worms/ , in which I wrote about how the New Zealand Flatworm had taken over in our garden to the point where seeing a native earthworm had become a rarity.
However, we knew that eventually the NZ worms would run out of native worms to eat, and would, we hoped, fade out of the picture.
And now….some good news in this year of gloom……Mike has dug over and prepared this year’s mixed veg patch and tattie patch and….ne’er a NZ Flatworm did he find!!! What he did find were some big, fat, healthy native earthworms, which will draw rotting vegetation down into the earth to enrich it, and aerate the soil whilst doing so.
We’re seeing worm casts in the grass too – so they are enriching the soil, right through the garden.
The NZ flatworm does nothing – it just eats the native earthworms. Even the birds don’t want to eat it – while lots of things feed on the native earthworm, from beetles to birds.
In the whole scheme of things this might not seem like a big cause for celebration – but to us it is – as, for the sake of the soil it is, and that leads on to the general ecological state of the land……..it is a big deal – The Return of the Native. https://www.earthwormsoc.org.uk/
Maybe next the Orkney Voles might come back to our garden. I think possibly they reached optimum population levels – it really was crazy how many there were in our meadow – then they crashed – disappeared. Maybe not helped by the presence of neighbourhood cats – but the cats had always been there.
We thought the voles might gradually return, but then the stoats arrived https://theorkneynews.scot/2018/01/28/be-ware-of-stoats/
The wheel might turn, and the Voles come back to peek at me from their vole-holes when I’m gardening.
I can’t help relating this to the Coronavirus. Surely it, too, will run its course – run out of ‘prey’ and….go away – like the New Zealand Flatworms.
Bernie, our two blackbird families are already reaping a bountiful harvest of worms, type unknown but they seem to be thriving. It would be good to see the voles recovering too.
Mike took photos of some of the worm casts, possibly for inclusion in the article – but they are just too yukky!
The soil conditioner produced at Bossack is great for improving soil condition and increasing the population density of Earthworms.
Flatworms have few native predators. I think charity plant sales and plant swaps are the principal vectors for dispersal here. Ideally folk should inspect any plant material they take into their gardens but it or its eggs very difficult to find amongst congested roots. They can also survive for lengthy periods with out earth-worms.