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Dangerous Beast in Garden Flatworms


Dangerous Beast in the Garden – Breaking Story


On the way to feed the dogs this morning, I spotted a problem.  Flatworms were all over the walkway.  As you can read below, this is a hard to get rid of, destructive pest that will kill earthworms.  I first tried dusting them with natural diatomaceous earth.  That didn’t kill them, neither did a mild mix of orange oil and molasses that I had for spraying minor insect problems.  All that I know that works for sure is to crush them or pick them up and put them in jars with full strength orange oil in the bottom.  A strong spray of orange oil will probably work on hard surfaces, but hitting the plants will cause burn.

                                Land Planarian (Flatworm)

An unusual worm may be in your garden that you need to know about.  You also need to kill it.  It’s the land planarian, a slimy iridescent flatworm with a hammer head.  I once thought that it was a neutral animal in the garden – eating some beneficials and some pests, but that is wrong.  Rather than helping control termite larvae, grubs and other pests, etc., it seems that it is only a destructive pest that needs to be gotten rid of.   

The predatory land planarian is no friend of earthworms.  In fact, they are parasites that eat earthworms and can wipe out entire populations. 

It can stretch out up to 20 inches long, gliding along on a layer of mucus secreted from glands along its underside.  This gruesome worm feeds by extending its throat out of its mouth and into the earthworm.  Small bits of the earthworm is swallowed a little at a time.

Land planarians are native to Indo-China, but have been transported to many other parts of the world in the soil of greenhouse plants.  They can survive in freezing climates but don’t do well in dry climates.  They are primarily nocturnal, but can often be found out and about early in the morning, especially on wet surfaces.  They can also be found on the trunks of trees. 

Smashing this pest is the thing to do, except for the fact that it grows back from small pieces.  A better solution is to spray it with orange oil to completely destroy it and prevent it from returning.

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                                    Photo by Nadine Haefs.

Even more than usual, I welcome your suggestions on the best way to get rid of this worm. 
Please send me your suggestions to

Naturally yours,
Howard Garrett
The Dirt Doctor

P.S.  My Saturday show this weekend (10/13/07) on KSKY 660AM 
is preempted due to a college football game.  Join me on Sunday (10/14/07) from
8am - 11am CST on stations all across America.


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