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Indian Blue earthworm in New Zealand

Geoff Read g.read at niwa.co.nz
Thu Oct 24 19:35:51 EST 2002

 Indian blue worms set up in competition to 'tigers' in compost

[News release from New Zealand Institute of Crop and Food Research]


Wellington, Oct 24

A "new" exotic earthworm species, the "indian blue" has been quietly 
spreading across the nation [New Zealand] in worm farms, soil biologists 

The indian blue, scientifically known as Perionyx excavatus, is now thought 
to be widespread, and a second exotic species, Dendrobaena veneta, has 
been identified from one site.  

Crop and Food Research earthworm specialist, Trish Fraser, said it was 
unclear how or when the species arrived in the country.  

"Most of the earthworms that we find day to day in New Zealand are 
introduced from Europe but the indian blue is actually from Asia," she said in 
a statement.  

"These 'new' species may have been here for a while though, if they have 
been, I'd be surprised they were not found before," Dr Fraser said.  

It was possible other earthworm species were present without having been 
recorded, she said.

"At the latest count we had 197 species... but the last time an extensive 
survey was conducted was in 1959," she said.  

The indian blue prefers to live in high amounts of organic matter and is 
probably the second most popular species, after Eisenia fetida (the tiger 
worm), used worldwide in worm farms. It was possible the indian blue would 
compete with tiger worms for food in worm farms.  

"The Indian blue is also known as 'the traveller' because if there's an 
unfavourable shift in environmental conditions it will rapidly move to find a 
new home," she said. Because it was commonly found in warmer climates it 
was more likely to survive in the warmer areas of New Zealand.  

However, the other species found, Dendrobaena, came from Europe so was 
likely to survive right across the country. It also preferred an environment 
high in organic matter, such as compost heaps.  

Both earthworm samples were supplied by an Auckland worm farmer with 
Dr Fraser and colleague, Jacqueline Piercy, making the initial identifications, 
later confirmed by an Australian earthworm taxonomist.  

  Geoff Read <g.read at niwa.co.nz>

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