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RHS announce Earthworm Survey

Earthworm CastsGardeners and nature lovers are being asked for their help in recording the country's population of earthworms. The aim is to find out more about a garden creature that is essential to the health of our soils, yet largely remains a mystery.

The survey, organised by the Royal Horticultural Society is the first of a series of such projects run by Opal, a three-year initiative supported by more than a dozen organisations including the Natural History Museum, Imperial College London and the Environment Agency. It enlists ordinary people to carry out research into subjects, such as soil, air, biodiversity and climate change.

There are 26 species of earthworms in Britain, of which about 15 are common, but virtually nothing is known about where they live and the types of soils they prefer. There has been little research into their habits since Charles Darwin first identified their vital importance to soil function 130 years ago.

Those who take part in the earthworm survey will receive full instructions including a free identification chart and a sachet of mustard – essential equipment for getting worms to come to the surface.

“It brings up worms that are deep burrowers, which you wouldn't see any other way,” says Natural History Museum entomologist Steve Brooks. “It does irritate them but it doesn't do them any harm.”

Other ways to look at earthworms include digging a pit and sifting through the removed soil and also looking in compost heaps, among leaves and under fallen branches. You can enter results straight onto the survey website, where they will be added to an interactive map showing population distributions and soil types.

“We're expecting tens of thousands of responses from all over Britain,” says Steve. “It will be the first time we've had an idea of the general distribution across the country – which worms are local to certain areas and soil types.”

The survey starts in March 2009, but you can register for a survey pack now by visiting the website at www.opalexplorenature.org.

Should you have an Earthworm problem in your lawn, please view this technical post on the subject of Earthworm Casts and their control

Buy a Worm Cast Deterrent Product from

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