Microscolex phosphoreus

During 2006 I was contacted by several Golf Course Managers regarding small earthworms that were casting on their greens.  These earthworms looked like the 'normal' earthworm but were much smaller in size and produced smaller casts on the sward.  In all cases, these earthworms appeared to show little adverse effect to applications of carbendazim containing products.

Samples of the earthworm were identified as Microscolex phosphoreus  by Dr Trevor Piearce, Lancaster University.  

This earthworm is not native to the UK. It is indigenous to South America, south of the Tropic of Capricorn (Sims & Gerard, 1999). By 1913, a published article recorded that this earthworm had been recorded in 'market gardens in Nottinghamshire, Jersey and Worcestershire' and also under compost in Dublin.

This is one of two Microscolex species that are known to have spread to many other areas including South Africa, Australasia, North and Central America and Europe but so far, only M. phosphoreus has been introduced into the British Isles.  M. phosphoreus exhibits marked phosphorescence when disturbed, especially at night (Sims & Gerard, 1999)  - i.e. if disturbed, it glows in the dark!

It would be interesting to know how extensive this earthworm is across the UK so please let me know if you have it inhabiting the greens (or other areas) on your course.

Friend, H. 1913. Annelid hunting in Notts. Report and Transactions of Notts Naturalists' Society, 61, 20-38.

Sims, R.W. & Gerard, B.M. Synopses of the British Fauna (New Series) No. 31 (Revised) Earthworms. 1999, 169pp.


I would like to thank Dr T Piearce for his initial identification of this earthworm and for his continued interest in this new turfgrass pest.