Earthworm (Lumbricus terrestris) Poole's Cavern Wildflower Garden, 24/03/21 (D Purchase)


Under development. Photos needed. Contributions from BFC members welcome. Watch this space.

About earthworms

Earthworms are animals, in the order of Ophistopora within the subclass of bristleworms (which are in the subclass Oligochaeta). This subclass evolved within the class Clitellata from the phylum Annelida (ringed or segmented worms). Leeches are another subclass (Hirudinea) that evolved within the class Clitellata. Both earthworms and leeches are segmented worms which possess a clitellum, or saddle, but the two subclasses have very different feeding structures, and a number of different internal features too.

Earthworms can be seen as  ecosystem ‘engineers’, improving soil aeration and drainage through their burrowing, and enhancing soil crumb structure and nutrient availability for other lifeforms through their soil gut passage and through pulling organic matter into their burrows. 

They are categorised into 3 ecological groups, distinguished by their behaviour, food and appearance:

Epigeic earthworms

Live in the topsoil and litter layer or in compost or in dung. Often red or brown for camouflage, small and often writhe and wriggle when touched. Species include: Dendrobaena, Bimastos, Lumbricus rubellus, Lumbricus castaneus, Eiseniaa and Satchellus.

Anecic earthworms

Make long vertical burrows, into which they pull leaves and detritus during the night. Ecologically important in breaking down leaf litter. Dark heads and pale tails, which stay in the burrows. Species include: Lumbricus terrestris and Aporrectodea longa.

Endogenic earthworms

Live permanently underground in (mainly) horizontal burrows. Always pale, but can have pink or green hues. Species include: Allobophora, Aporrectodea, Octolasion, Proctodrilus, Helodrilus, Murchieona.

Earthworm species generally prefer alkaline soils with relatively high humidity (damp without being flooded or waterlogged). Although there are some species which thrive in more acidic environments and some are more drought tolerant.

Earthworms in the High Peak

Takes you to the up-to-date list and photo galleries of all earthworm observations within the High Peak area, as recorded on iNaturalist

Takes you to the up-to-date list and photo galleries of all earthworm observations within the ‘Buxton polygon’ area, as recorded on iNaturalist and collected by the Buxton Biodiversity Recording Group project

Photos of earthworm species needed

Identifying earthworms

Key to the Earthworms of Britain and Ireland

Emma Sherlock


Another excellent guide in the FSC archives.

Earthworms: Photographic guide to the species of Northwestern Europe

Anne Krediet

Jeugdbondsuitgeverij 2020

Excellent photographic guide (in English) with key to identification.

The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms

Amy Stewart

Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill

An entertaining inquiry into the habits and lifestyles of worms.

Information and guidance

Website name and link