A Guide to Common British Earthworms

Earthworms are great for soil. They speed up decomposition by consuming lots of dead plant material, and their burrows help aerate the soil and let water through easily.  Worm casts (faeces) are rich in recycled plant nutrients that help to maintain soil fertility.

I have been involved in the production and testing of a new Field Studies Council publication – A Guide to Common British Earthworms (this link includes slides of several different species).


There are different ways of obtaining worms to identify.  You can hand search by moving leaves, logs and other ground cover, dig out a section of soil


and search for worms


or you can mix a solution of water and mustard and pour onto a metre square of ground


and as the mustard solution is a mild irritant, the worms will come to the surface.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Once you have your specimens you use a magnifying glass and the identification key to identify each species.



5 thoughts on “A Guide to Common British Earthworms

  1. We used to use washing up liquid and water to pour over the lawn for worms we used for fishing. Similar to your mustard mix.
    This reminds me of a worm ditty..
    Nobody likes me, everybody hates me
    just cos I eat worms
    long ones, thin ones, fat ones, short ones
    all kinds of worms
    bite their heads off, suck their juice out, throw their skins away
    nobody likes me, everybody hates me
    just cos I eat worms..

  2. Jonny that’s mean.

    Kevin, that was very interesting and I am ashamed to say that I didn’t realise there were so many types of worm out there. Cheers xx

    • There should be a piece of video as well but I just cannot get it to appear in the post!!

  3. Hey Kevin,

    I have recently found a fond place in my heart (and compost bin) for these little blighters. Having spent most of this year digging a veg plot at our new place I’ve been re homing 50/60 percent of the worms in earth removed from the veg plot into the composter, whilst leaving the remainder in the (soon to be) veg plot, wishing them a long and happy life in there and hopefully to produce plenty of cast and worm eggs (which I have been spotting when removing compost from the lower part of the bin :D)

    I too, like the above poster, didn’t know we were home to so many species!

    All the best with the field study Kevin.


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