How to identify and count earthworms


A new publication from AHDB can be used to identify and count the common earthworm species found in soil.

The 10 common earthworm species found in agricultural soils can be allocated to one of three ecological groups – epigeic, endogeic and anecic.

The ‘How to count earthworms’ publication explains how each group has a unique and important function and gives top tips on how to identify and count each type.

Epigeic (litter-dwelling earthworms)

Small (<8cm), dark, red-headed, fast-moving worms. They play a key role in carbon cycling and are prey for native birds.

Endogeic (topsoil earthworms)

Small to medium, pale-coloured and green worms (not red) that often curl up when handled (green worms may emit a yellow fluid). They play a key role in soil aggregation and nutrient mobilisation. They represent the most common earthworm group found in arable fields.

Anecic (deep-burrowing earthworms)

Large size (>8cm), dark red or black-headed worms. They make deep vertical tunnels (up to 2m) and help improve aeration, water infiltration and root development. They forage the soil surface at night and are often found below surface earthworm casts or midden residue piles. Commonly found in grassland, they are often absent from ploughed fields and where there is no surface litter.

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