News June 2024

FlatwormWatch: help detect invasive flatworms

The National Scientific Secretariat for Invasive Alien Species (NSSIUS) is launching the FlatwormWatch project together with INBO, UHasselt and the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. It aims to use citizen science to make detections of land flatworms and raise awareness around invasive flatworms. Interested in getting involved? Leave your details here.

In recent years, alien land flatworms have been turning up in Europe with increasing frequency. They are flattened, smooth and shiny and have no rings. You can find them under stones, planks, rotting wood and leaves. In gardens, you can find them under flower pots or pieces of plastic. Flatworms get here by hitching a ride on potted plants or soil material. Most fail to escape from heated greenhouses and garden centres, but some species can still survive and spread outdoors. Some of them exhibit known invasive behaviour. For this reason, Europe, for example, placed the New Zealand flatworm on the Union list of invasive species of concern. If detected, the species must be removed quickly.

Invasive land flatworms mainly have earthworms on their menu, but they also prey on other soil fauna, such as woodlice and snails. This makes them a threat to soil quality, in nature but also in agriculture and horticulture. Once established, land flatworms are very difficult to remove. Therefore, prevention and timely detection of new introductions is crucial. The first species surfaced in Brussels a few years ago, but in the meantime three species are already on the rise in Flanders. At least five species already occur in Belgian gardens.

Jan Soors, Tim Adriaens

>> FlatwormWatch Website,


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