A flat worm, also spelled “flatworm,” is native to Indo-China, but it makes its way around the world by traveling in greenhouse plants. For the most part, flat worms can survive just about anywhere, so no one region is 100% safe. While this unique worm can survive in scorching hot to freezing climates, they may suffer somewhat in drier regions.
The flat worm can reach up to 20 inches long and its body is very slimy, which allows it to move along the ground in a gliding motion. The body secretes mucus from glands on its belly or underside. Flat worm sightings are common in the early morning hours, especially after a hard rain. They are nocturnal however, and they love wet surfaces. This means that they will stick to just about any surface that’s wet or moist, as well as on tree branches and trunks. Keep in mind that there are several varieties of land planarians.
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Two of the most common sightings are the hammerhead flat worm and the flat worm with a pointed head (instead of a hammerhead), with a dark brown body. The flat worm is usually medium-brown in color with dark markings or stripes. Some worms may appear gray to greenish/gray as well. All types feed on earthworms, so beware.
If you have a flat worm infestation, there are several ways to get rid of or control populations. The first thing to keep in mind is, if you attempt to chop a flat worm in half or even smash them, the pieces will only regenerate into new flat worms. So, if you chop a flat worm into 7 pieces, you will end up with 7 new worms! You must dissolve the flat worm completely in order to get rid of it.
Flat worm treatment methods include: salt, vinegar, and citrus oil. These products must be applied directly to the flat worms in order to be effective. Spreading them around the soil or areas where you the worms have been spotted won’t dissolve these parasites completely. You can use a spray bottle for the vinegar and citrus oil methods and you can simply pour the salt over the worms to dissolve them.
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In general, most garden worms are quite harmless and in most cases they can be beneficial to your garden, plants, and trees. Most garden worms help to control destructive termite larvae and grubs, as well as other destructive garden pests. They can also help mix the earths soil by burrowing into the ground or even writhing around in topsoil. While most garden worms are helpful, so they should be left alone, there are some (such as the flat worm) that are dangerous and should be eliminated.
The flat worm does not help to control other pest populations as most worms do. They actually kill and eat earthworms, exclusively. The flat worm is considered a parasite and it devours its only prey by pushing its throat outside if its mouth and snapping up any part of the earthworm’s body. It melts the earthworm’s body with an enzyme and slowly eats it until the earthworm is completely consumed. It is important to remember that earthworms are the most important creatures on earth.
Earthworms play an important part in fertilizing the soil and they also help with oxygen and water flow into the soil. Earthworms excrete tons of castings (excrement) each year, which is a powerful fertilizer. Just think, 25 earthworms per square foot of soil equal 1 million earthworms per acre. In healthy soil, 40 tons of castings per acre pass through earthworms’ bodies daily. A new U.S. study suggests that there are 1.5 million worms per acre, which move 20 tons of earth each year.
Earthworms also burrow into the soil creating passageways for oxygen and water. Because earthworms are so important to the survival of the earth’s plants, trees, and crops, when trying to get rid of destructive creatures such as flat worms, you must take special care not to harm the earthworms.